There are parts of the world where women absolutely must keep covered up. Find out exactly how you will be expected to be dressed before you begin your trip. A country like Saudi Arabia is very strict about how women must behave, and in Egypt they are much more relaxed. Female travelers should be aware of local customs because ignoring them will make a difference in how you are treated. Showing respect for local customs will in turn garner respect for you as a traveler. Dress modestly, covering your shoulders and legs, avoiding tight clothing. Always have a scarf with you to cover your head, neck, and ears, especially if you are a blonde.
Don’t Travel Alone
While the rest of the world sees you as a fierce businesswoman, if you are traveling alone in some Middle Eastern countries, you may be seen as someone looking for a man. You should always travel with a man, or at least another woman. If you are propositioned, be firm about rejecting it. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. In some countries, like Iran you will be expected to sit with other women on public buses, even if you are traveling with a man. However, on long distance trains and buses it is customary for married men and women to sit together. There are women only sections in parks, restaurants, and even in private homes meals will be segregated.
Vive La Difference
Respecting cultural and religious differences is a two way street. In Dubai, I felt like all the people I met were courteous, and very tolerant of Westerners. In turn, I felt compelled to follow local customs carefully so as not to embarrass our hosts. We were there during Ramadan, so during that time we adhered to their strict code of fasting in all public places. Fortunately for us, the private yacht club still served lunch to the expat community.
You may find that if you are traveling with a man, you will be ignored, because everyone will assume that he speaks for you and is going to make all decisions anyway. It’s a good idea to be more reserved than you are used to being at home because smiling or eye contact with a man can be interpreted as an invitation.
Also on WeAreTraveller: Family-Friendly Things to do in Dubai
About author: Lizzie Evans loves to travel. She is currently learning Arabic online and getting ready for her third trip to Dubai.
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