Souks, eclectic cuisine, stunning landscape, ultra modern cityscape, and vibrant culture – these are just some of the things that beckon travelers to visit the Middle East. Covering different destinations from Dubai to Amman, the Middle East is one of the loveliest places to experience both rich history and lively modernity. However, from climate to local customs, it pays to know more before your arrival.
True, many of them are more “modern” and “open” given the high influx of visitors from different culture, yet it is still important to be wary of their conservative ways. Knowing what is right and wrong will not only save you from innocent embarrassment, knowledge will also ensure your safety and utmost comfort.
The Perfect Time to Visit
The first picture we often paint with Middle East is the desert and yes, the heat can be scourging. During the height of summer, temperature can reach up to 45˚C. Therefore, the first thing you have to plan to make your Arabian nights 100% perfect is to know when is the weather bearable especially if you are coming from a country with a cold climate.
Avoid traveling to the Middle East from May to October, which is summer; instead, wait for November as the weather mellows down until April. During the “winter” months, the nights can get a little bit chilly which is soothing for those coming from the rest of Europe.
During the day, the temperature is perfect set between 15-20˚C. This is the reason why many tourists like those from Russia and Germany come to Middle East to escape the excruciating winter cold back in their home countries. With this, you may expect a little crowd especially in top destinations like Dubai and Jordan.
From climate and weather condition, another consideration when traveling to the Middle East is when your travel period falls during the Ramadan. The Middle East is predominantly Muslim and the Ramadan is the holiest month among Muslims. Depending on the lunar calendar, Ramadan falls between July-August.
Why is Ramadan a significant factor when planning a trip to the Middle East? It is because during this month, Muslims observe some practices that alter their daily routine, which in effect can affect their tourism.
Muslims fast during the Ramadan and depending on the country, it is prohibited to be seen eating even among non-Muslims. Other cities, especially those with high percentage of expats have allocated areas for non-Muslims to eat. Many restaurants are also close until nighttime.
On the other hand, during sundown, Muslims break their fast and turn their day into a festive banquet. Hotels, restaurants, and even fastfood chains offer high discounts to their food after sundown.
Ramadan shouldn’t discourage you to visit. Some take this as an opportunity to observe local customs as well as to avoid the tourist crowd.
Travel Protocols to Observe
How to act while in the Middle East? It doesn’t have to be rigid but keep in mind that they have a more conservative culture. Showing of skin and affection though tolerated in bigger cities is still a taboo in the Middle East. To play safe, keep some distance from your partners and refrain from wearing skimpy clothes even if you feel like your skin needs to breathe from the desert sun.
Making out in public and worse, those adventurous public sexual encounters means jail time. Homosexuality particularly cross-dressing and displaying affection to the same gender is a criminal offense in the Middle East.
Most tourist pack tank tops and skimpy shorts when visiting a tropical destination but leave them at home when traveling to the Middle East. Instead, wear comfortable clothes like those made of cotton and bring a scarf. There are some places where proper dress code is asked. When visiting mosques and other holy places, you may be required to wear an abaya.
Liquor is prohibited under the Sharjah Law and visitors and foreign residents also observe it in some ways. For one, you cannot expect to have some drinking sessions in public. Highly prohibited to Muslims, there are some bars, lounges and club that serve alcohol to foreign guests. Likewise, it is best to drink in your hotel, as being drunk is a criminal offense.
The Middle East has experience a rebirth to their tourism industries from their historical sites to must-see modern attractions. Most of all, traveling is the best way to experience their unique culture but just like any destination, a little research like taboos can make a big difference.