Globalization is prevalent in this era. Gone is the time when people would restrict themselves or their business to their own country. Now they believe in expanding it worldwide. Thus they need to travel. Business is not the only reason to travel; planning vacations abroad has also become a trend everywhere. People from all communities have their own reasons to visit Muslim countries. After all apart from business there is vast amount of history to explore, traditional culture, art, food, beautiful beaches, different landscapes, and undoubtedly hospitality & warmth of its natives.
No one would like to get into trouble hence it is advisable to go through “not to do list” of the place you are planning to travel. These regulations vary from one nation to another. Touring without knowledge of “regulations for tourists” can cost you a big deal sometimes. It is a must follow suit in case if you are planning to travel a Muslim country. Some of Islamic countries are quite conservative & have very strict regulations for females of their own nation. Hence tourists at such destinations are also expected to understand the culture & abide by the regulations meant for them to have a nice experience overall.
Breaking stereotypes, we need to understand & respect their culture before we visit their land. One can have the terrific experience by just following certain regulations. On the other hand ignoring them can put you in unexpected troubles. Many Islamic countries have become popular amongst tourists as hub of shopping, their cuisines, culture etc. People from throughout the world are travelling to have all in one, which very clearly tells that Muslim countries welcome their guests. A fair ratio of Muslim countries population is expatriate, living there for work purpose.
Some nations have strict set of rules whereas the others have fluidity in their regulations to accommodate tourists. Here are some guidelines to make your stay safe & comfortable in these countries.
In many Muslim conservative countries like Iran, Oman, Jordon, Saudi Arabia etc., it is mandate for native women to dress up in a modest & conventional way when they are out at public places. It actually means wearing sufficient attires to cover at least half of your arms, shoulders, breast, and legs or in other terms clothing with least visible flesh. Native women at such places generally keep themselves covered from head to feet wearing “Abaya” a long robe. At other countries which are accepting more liberal ways of living allow their women to wear a little more comfortable attires like in Turkey.
While visiting any Mosque, it is advisable to dress up decently, keep a scarf always handy, in case you might be asked to keep your head covered. If females are not allowed to enter without their whole body covered, mosque sometimes may provide them with Abaya.
Actually there are not any defined or carved on stone set of rules for expats & tourists. For men it is more or less same they wear in their own country. At places like Morocco along with females, males are also supposed to cover their knees & shoulders. Females can choose smart dresses to look trendy and simultaneously not hurting the feelings of Muslim religion. They can opt for full length dresses much in trend, which are airy & comfortable along with keeping them covered.
A little research is always mandate for the particular country before you pack your bags for. Like skin tights are not allowed at many places, actually considering the hot weather of these places, one should actually not opt for them.
To avoid unwanted attention & have the respect for you, in the eyes of its natives, it is very important to avoid indecent exposure in conservative countries.
Each Muslim country’s behavioral code of conduct varies. If some countries have conservative approach the others are getting liberal in their lifestyles.
Kissing at public places is not at all advisable. It can lead to prosecution against you in the form of fine or could throw you behind the bars for months. These countries are generally male dominating where a female is not even expected to first extend her hand to shake with a male at times.
Sex before marriage is a punishable offence. It could be even up to six years. Couples have been prosecuted for getting involved in their cars at public places. We can easily find ample of such cases where couples had to undergo long legal formalities. One can easily find such details on a little research.
It is always better to adapt ourselves as soon as we enter any Muslim country according to their code of conduct.
Alcohol is prohibited in Islam. Liberty to have alcohol in hotels, only indoors, out in any restaurant varies in different Islamic nations. It may be allowed only at licensed venues only. It is advised if any hotel is not serving it, its always better not to ask for it. Some Islamic countries have amazing night life whereas a few more are also adapting as per the demands of tourists.
Pork (pig meat) or Pork products are forbidden in Muslim countries. It is even illegal to import or sell it.
They believe in consuming halal food, which involves a particular process from the very beginning in its preparation.
Eating with your left hand is not considered good. They have their own religious reasons behind it. If you are visiting during Ramadan, you are not supposed to eat or drink publically. All Muslims fast in Ramadan. City life is entirely different in these days. Fasting periods follows from sunrise to sunset. Muslims break their fast at sunset & take “Iftar” in community. It is an overwhelming experience with scrumptious food served to all near & dear ones together.
Islamic countries having very strict rules for women, either don’t allow their women in bikinis or they have women-only pools. This prohibition or liberty also varies from nation to nation. In some countries shorts, bikinis are restricted to beach area only. Being a tourist or expat one should act according to their surroundings. If you do not see women in bikinis, do not dare to take bold steps. Keep yourself covered.
There are many big scale industries like petroleum, construction, food, textile etc. Hence there are many foreign residents. Apart from this people from all over the world love to travel these countries. Arabic is the language of Qur’an. MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) is commonly understood as well as spoken by most of the Muslims. English, Pashto, Urdu and even Hindi are also used in some Muslim countries.
If Islamic laws & regulations have been considered strict by many in the world, there are some individuals who believe them as the best way to incorporate zero crime in their nation. Still, certain points we better not to forget while visiting these countries are:
• Never dare to stare a woman.
• Never ever make fun of their rules, even if you do not believe in them.
• Do not try to judge any native or impose your thoughts on them.
• Importing Pork or its products is illegal.
• Be careful while clicking photographs of females & children. Take their permission first.
• Kissing, Adultery, Sex before marriage are major offence.
• Sometimes you may not be given an easy access to legal help hence an emergency help number and a copy of your passport should be in “always carry” list.
• Women should avoid travelling alone to Islamic countries. It is advisable either to travel with any blood relative or in a group.
Such restrictions never mean at all that people here are rude, harsh or are always ready with an eagle eye to catch any prey. My overall experience in Dubai was awesome. People were polite & always ready to help you whether it was hotel staff, Safari people or even a common man on road. In my country when someone is in a Luxurious car, thinks as if “sadak uske baap ki hai” or they own the road. In Dubai, whenever I had to cross the road, people used to stop their posh cars long ahead of us & waived us to cross safely. It was amazing, every time I felt honoured & safe. Nevertheless it is advisable to research behavioural code of conduct or the way we should interact with natives of the place we are visiting.
By : Ashima Munjal
(Ashima Munjal can be contacted on [email protected])