The Middle East is an incredibly diverse region, with each country having their own customs and traditions. Nevertheless, there are still some cultural tips that apply throughout the Middle East, from dressing appropriately to who you are not allowed to take photos of, and these should be kept in mind whenever you are travelling to a Middle Eastern country. OROGOLD Locations highlights the most important cultural tips for visiting the Middle East.
Middle Eastern countries are generally quite conservative, so every woman should make sure to pack a lightweight scarf that can double as a headscarf, even if you are going in the summertime. Although the rules in cities are more relaxed, you will still need to cover your head if you want to look around any of the mosques. Dress as modestly as possible, trying to avoid any daring outfits, or even garments such as short skirts and tank tops.
Haggling is a huge part of buying items from souks and markets, and is also important in Middle Eastern culture. Don’t be put off by the thought of haggling, as it can end up being a fun activity for visitors if you approach it with the right frame of mind. It can sometimes be viewed as offensive if you choose not to haggle, so rather than feeling put off by it, make your own price offers and question all of the prices that the merchants offer. Buying items from markets can sometimes take some time, often with a break for tea or snacks, but you can build up a great relationship with the merchant this way, something that could be useful in the future.
People in the Middle East, especially in Arab communities, place a huge emphasis on hospitality, and it is considered impolite to refuse this, whether it be an invitation for a cup of tea or an elaborate meal. Always be polite and gracious, following the actions of others in the room if you are unsure of what to do. In Muslim communities it is best to use only your right hand when touching food or other people, as your left hand is meant to be used for personal hygiene. As a guest, you will always be offered the best parts of the meal, and this could also include local delicacies which may seem unusual to you, but it is usually best to accept them graciously.
In most Middle Eastern countries, Muslim women cannot be photographed, so make sure to always ask permission if you want to take photos of other people. Most are likely to say no even when asked, and it is important for you to respect their wishes. If you are caught taking sneaky photographs, the consequences could be quite severe. It is also important to remember to never take any photos of military or government staff, or of any heavily guarded buildings.
These cultural tips can be applied to many destinations in the Middle East, but each country will also have their own form of etiquette. Before travelling to the Middle East, spend some time researching the local customs in the country you will be visiting, as you will find that if you are respectful of the culture, you will be welcomed and treated in a much warmer and genuine way.