The Sex and the City ladies didn’t start the Middle Eastern traveling trend with their trip to Abu Dhabi. But they did show how fascinating — and frustrating — that region can be for women travelers. Don’t forgo your travel to the Middle East out of fear, though — there’s so much to see. Just follow these easy tips for women traveling to the Middle East and you can have safe and fulfilling travel throughout the region.
6 Tips for women traveling to the Middle East
Leave your sleeveless shirts and mini skirts at home and make sure your shoulders, elbows, knees and upper chest are covered at all times. Choose long, flowing skirts or loose jeans and a cardigan. If you visit a religious site, be sure to cover your hair. Dying for a dip in the pool? Only put on a bathing suit if you’re sure it’s allowed.
Ignore harassment from men
As a Western woman traveling alone in the Middle East, you’ll definitely be noticed. Do not return the stares of men in the streets and dismiss men’s offers to show you around. If they persist, respond with “Imshi!” (Go away!) or “HShuma!” (Shame on you!).
Save the PDA for home
By PDA, we’re not talking “personal digital assistant.” Traveling with a guy may make you feel more secure on the streets, but only if you keep the public displays of affection under wraps. Do not kiss or even hold hands in public. Remember that Middle Eastern society tends to be conservative, in some cases very conservative. If you’re an unmarried couple, you may want to introduce yourselves as relatives or as husband and wife.
Steer clear of men-only hubs
Men and women in the Middle East can lead very separate lives, particularly in public. Dying for a coffee or Diet Coke? Make sure you’re not entering a male-only café or bar. When visiting a mosque, head to the women’s side.
Check out women-only venues
In the Middle East, you’ll gain special access to the women’s world — simply because you’re a woman. Tired after a full day in the Moroccan heat? Recoup at a women-only hammam (bathhouse). When you’re refreshed, enjoy a belly dancing class in the area.
Never buy without a bargain
An afternoon at the souk (outdoor market) promises a whirlwind experience for your senses. With multicolored spices and leather bags lining each storefront and eager merchants beckoning you from every corner, you’ll be reaching into your wallet from the get-go. But before you buy, make sure to bargain. Prices are intentionally hiked up for tourists, so don’t be afraid to stand your ground.