How to Prepare for Your First Trip to the Middle East

Are you about to take your first trip to the Middle East? If so, you should be very excited because the region is known for providing some of the best vacationing anywhere on the planet. In addition having marvelous wonders to see and experience, it is also the cradle of civilization and provides some of the world’s most iconic places and monuments.

The Middle East is an area that is rich and culture and pride and going there will be a life changing experience. However before you go, you should take on a few tasks to make sure that you have the best time possible. One smart thing to do first is to book your flights with an airline that knows and operates throughout the region. A great choice of airlines is Saudi Arabian Airlines, or الخطوط السعودية in Arabic which flies to nearly every country in the region and can make sure that you get to where you are going even if it means connecting flights within the region. Booking with the right airline gets your trip started out on the right foot. Here are other things that you should do.

Do Your Homework

You should read up on the country you are visiting and get a sense of their local culture so you understand the what is acceptable and not. Some Middle East countries follow strict religious codes and have traditions that might seem alien to the average westerner. There are many great videos on Youtube that can help you to understand local culture and how best for you to fit in there. Remember each country is different so be sure to focus on the country you are visiting. You might also want to learn a few Arabic words to help you speak to the locals.

Expect an Adventure

One of the common responses people have to traveling in the Middle East is that it is truly an adventure. The countries are all a mix of the ancient and the very modern and there is plenty of both to entertain and fascinate you. When you travel you should definitely take tours to explore that ancient areas and learn about the rich history of the country. You might be surprised at how much history these countries have and how important they are to the growth and development of western society.

Dress Conservatively

Many of the Middle East countries have taboos against provocative dress and you should be aware of this when raveling there.  There are even some countries where it is illegal to wear certain clothing. Because of this reason, the right thing to do is to cover up. For men this means no shorts or tank tops. For women this means no low cut tops or dresses with hems above the knees. It also means no tank tops or shirts with no sleeves.  In some cases women might have to wear a head covering called a hijab. Some westerners have an issue with being told how to dress, but when you dress conservatively it is a sign that you respect the country and the culture. And the truth is that it will not inhibit your fun and in fact it may make you feel more like a local ad part of the culture there.

You Will Not Find Much Pork or Alcohol

When you are in the Middle East you can expect that you will typically not see and pork on the menu. Muslim and Jewish religions view pork as unclean and since most of the food is Halal or Jewish in Israel, you should not expect to see pork. So this means no bacon or pork sausage with breakfast or pork chops for dinner. Substitute with beef or lamb which is very popular ad tasty.

Alcohol is also forbidden in most countries so do not be surprised to not find it available. There are some countries where alcohol is served in some international hotels but if you partake you should do so modestly. Public intoxication is greatly frowned upon in all Muslim countries. So if you find alcohol imbibe modestly.

Sharpen Your Haggling Skills

Middle East countries are famous for their bazaars and markets that house thousands of small vendors selling everything from food to housewares, to clothing. There are some that are quite busy with thousands of foreigners doing their best to find something local to take home with them. In these marketplaces and in every other shop, you can expect that the price that you are told for an item is negotiable and that local vendors expect to haggle over price. So don’t be offended if s vendor gives you a price in a stern sounding voice. You are expected to make a counter offer just as forcefully. You might find that you save 25% or more off the item and both parties are equally happy. So sharpen your bartering skills and don’t be shy.

Wherever you go in the Middle East, whether it is Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan or Egypt, make sure to bring your family and a great camera, and take lots of pictures to show everyone back home. It will certainly be a trip with a lifetime of memories.