Say “the Mid East” to Westerners and you’ll likely conjure up visions of explosions, beheadings and armed Taliban at worst and near-empty countries comprised solely of sand dunes, wandering camels and repressed women at best. Decades of continuous bad press have wiped the entirety of the Mid East off the travel map for many people, especially solo female travelers, who tend not to even consider visiting the region alone. In reality the Middle East is largely safe and peaceful, its countries possessing some of the richest historical sights and most fascinating cultures on earth. To travel and never touch the Mid East is to ignore a large and extremely important part of our world.
When solo female travelers travel to the Middle East, you’ll find that you can:
1. Educate yourselves – You learn far more about anywhere by visiting it rather than reading or listening to what others want to tell you. As the popular Western slant on the Mid East is negative, exploring the region yourself will inevitably open your eyes to positive attributes you had no idea existed. Every day you spend in the Mid East can teach you a little bit about the reality of its much-maligned and somewhat feared lifestyle and culture.
2. Dispel Myths – You can help dispel the skewed popular image of the Mid East by sharing your own thoughts, views and feelings based on personal observations and experiences once you travel to the region. Your words can serve as a rich education for people back home as you spread the word about the reality that hides behind the image.
3. Enjoy Safety – Clicking through the United States Department of State website, I’ve found that my feeling of safety and security in the Mid East is not a figment of my imagination. According to their site, crime is extremely low in most Arab countries. Their religion and culture just doesn’t allow for the violent behavior we’re accustomed to at home. Strife in the Mid East is largely confined to a few countries where Westerners are discouraged from traveling anyway. In the majority of Mid Eastern countries no one is blowing themselves up on sidewalks, and they’re certainly not chopping tourists’ heads off. They’re not even starting a fist fight or snatching purses. The Mid East is safe.
4. Enter a world you can’t find elsewhere – You can only experience the Arab culture in the Arab world. In many areas of the Western world you’ll find large Asian, Indian and Hispanic communities which mimic their home countries and can give you a good glimpse into their food, dress and lifestyle. Almost no one outside of the Mid East is wearing the abayas and dishdashas worn by women and men in Arab countries, there are no large, bustling marketplaces called souqs and the friendly and respectful behavior found in their world is all but washed away when they move to ours. You have to travel to the Middle East to experience it.
5. See Sights You Should Not Miss – If you want to see the world’s most impressive pyramids, you need to go to Egypt. If you want to immerse yourself in some of the most powerful religious and historical sights on earth, you must travel to Israel. If you want to experience some of the world’s most expensive shopping in unbeatably glamourous settings while walking amongst some of the wealthiest people on earth, rest assured you can do it in Dubai. The Mid East is full of so many incredible sights, it’s a shame to miss them just because they are…in the Mid East.
6. Experience a Multitude of Cultures – The quiet, dignified and conservative atmosphere of the Persian Gulf differs wildly from the poverty, noise and chaos found in Egypt, both of which are a world away from the somewhat Western-like demeanor of both Jews and Arabs in Israel. You can get a glimpse into several different indigenous lifestyles by visiting just this one area of the world.
7. Enjoy Respectful Treatment of Women – The people of the Arab world are traditionally very conservative in their ideas about male and female interaction. Men and women don’t hang out together publicly unless they are married or otherwise related or possibly, in more progressive Islamic cultures, colleagues. This conservatism can be a plus for solo female travelers, as most men aren’t inclined to even sit near you in public much less hit on you. There are instances of Arab men behaving badly, but my own experiences in this regard in the Mid East are far fewer than what I’ve encountered in other parts of the world, including my own. Dress conservatively so you won’t stick out too much, and you’ll find people’s behavior to be extremely respectful and nice.
8. Meet Friendly people – The majority of the people I meet in the Mid East are genuinely friendly, nice and helpful. The atmosphere is usually quite calm without the aggression and sometimes threatening behavior that we have in our culture. From asking someone for directions to having a conversation about most any topic, the people in this part of the world are generally relaxed and friendly.
9. Enjoy Vacation Time – When Westerners want to escape frozen winters or take a couple of weeks vacation throughout the year, they almost never think of heading to the Mid East. The majority of this region is warmer than most of our world in the winter, making it perfect for relaxing in lightweight summer clothing rather than suffering in layers of wool. Throughout the year, even in the midst of the sweltering Mid Eastern sun, its soft sand beaches and turquoise waters which outline many of the countries offer idyllic beach vacation spots.
10. Easily Plan Your Trip – Unlike some other areas of the world, the Mid East is on-line and waiting for tourism. Many hotels, even locally owned, have web sites and are easily accessible via e-mail and phone, as are many tour and car rental companies. Planning a trip to the Middle East can be as easy as planning a trip within your own country.