All 22 Arab countries offer something beautiful and unique to visitors.
In recent years, North Africa and the Middle East have seen a surge in popularity amongst Western tourists. For those planning a trip to this gorgeous part of the world, we’ve assembled this guide on what to expect from Arab culture, and how to get the most out of your stay.
Here are our tips on how to adapt your way of life during your travels in this beautiful part of the world, especially if you’re looking for an authentic experience.
Dressing to impress
The main religion in Arab countries is Islam, which means there are slightly different expectations regarding dress. As a tourist you may want to consider covering up a lot more of your skin than you do back home.
You’re obviously as a tourist entitled to wear what you like, but you will find the local people find it more respectful – you’ll in turn feel more relaxed – and then you’ll find it easier to get to know the real people and real culture.
Different countries have different expectations when it comes to dress, so do your research before you go. Morocco, for instance, is quite liberal when it comes to clothing; somewhere like Iran expects more modest attire.
Arabic is the primary language in this part of the world, although many tourist-friendly destinations will also be English-speaking. It’s important to learn a few key phrases in Arabic though, and read up on Arabic to English translation before you go.
Making an effort to speak a little of the local language wherever possible is well worth the effort as it will enrich your stay in so many ways, from increasing your ability to shop, ask directions, and ask for help in an emergency. And most importantly help you build a relationship with people that live locally.
One of the main things to be aware of is that social etiquette in Arab countries may be quite different from what western tourists are used to. Therefore it’s wise to research local customs and be respectful of them when you arrive.
For example you may not realise unless you’ve done your research that it’s best to avoid taking photos of strangers, and that people will be very interested in your religion (this is not regarded as impolite).
When dining out in Arab countries, there are a few things to keep in mind: avoid eating with your left hand, blowing your nose while at the table and reaching over the table to get food.
On the other hand take after-dinner coffee freely when it’s offered to you, and pick your teeth teeth till your hearts content, as this is not considered rude.
If you have the pleasure of being invited to someone’s home for food, do bring a gift, make sure you wash your hands before eating and you may even find that you’re required to sit next to someone of the same sex.
These may seem unusual customs to you, but if you’re aim is to have an authentic experience and to be welcomed with open arms into the Arab world, it’s good to know a few useful tips beforehand.
Arab countries have one of the richest cultures of anywhere: a beautiful language, vibrant cuisine and hospitable people. Tourists may be surprised by just how safe they feel in an Arab country, and how welcome they’re made to feel.
Be as aware as possible of the country’s positive aspects as well as its shortcomings, and approach everything and everyone with an open mind: just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad!
As with any adventure, there are a few things to consider before setting off to one of the 22 Arab countries. The best advice we can give you is to be open-minded and respectful of other people’s cultures and customs. If you do that then you’re bound to have a fabulous time.