A Travel Guide for the Arab World
By: MacKenzie DiLeo/Arab America Contributing Writer
With quarantine and travel restrictions beginning to loosen amid the weakening pandemic, I chose to write a travel guide in light of summer quickly approaching. Typically, summer is the optimal time to travel with the warm weather as well as kids and teachers being off from school. Travel may be a bit different this summer, but some travel tips to keep in mind will never change. My traveling experience is not extensive, but I have picked up a few tips along the way that I would like to share. The following guide is not explicitly restricted to traveling in the Arab world, but it is tailored – as best I can – to (hopefully) heighten your interest in exploring the Arab world and its broad culture. Let’s start with the first step of any traveling endeavor: packing.
Packing for your Travel in the Arab World
No differently than summers in the U.S., the weather is warm in the Arab world during the summer, which definitely means packing your shorts, T-shirts, and bathing suits. While different regions may be more conservative than others, this does not mean you will be out-of-place for wearing western-style swimwear as many Arabs also do so. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes as well, since you will be doing a lot of walking to see the amazing sights in the region. Aside from clothing, you should also consider packing jet lag relief pills as you will likely be adjusting to a time difference and do not want exhaustion to get in the way of your trip. Especially important to not forget is a universal power adapter, because many Arab countries use different outlets, and you do not want your electronics to be uncharged for the duration of your travel or have to struggle to find a new power cord.
Some other important miscellaneous items include a backpack, extra film or an extra memory card for your camera, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, face masks to protect against any possible air pollution, and a money belt. The money belt is an extra precaution you can take to protect yourself against any possible pickpocketing, as well as it being a convenient place to store all your essentials. It is important to note that while there is some pickpocketing throughout the Arab world, this is the case for most places all across the globe and is not specific to the Arab world. Taking these safety precautions should be the same as if you were traveling to Europe, Australia, South America, or anywhere else.
Choosing a Hotel
Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing worse than trying to save a buck or two when picking out a hotel, but then being highly disappointed with the condition of your room. While it is up to your own discretion, I would suggest picking out the better hotel options across your travel even if it means digging a little further than you anticipated into the budget. Some highly regarded hotels across the Arab world include the Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, the Hilton Hotels and Resorts, the Sheraton, Rotana Hotels and Resorts, Radisson Blu, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, and Four Seasons. You can definitely expect cleanliness, safety, and comfort with these brands.
In the event that you are feeling nervous about the condition of your room, be sure to check for bed bugs, and feel free to use any cleaning supplies you may have brought with you. Use your disinfectant wipes on commonly touched surfaces such as the door handles, around the toilet, around the sinks, and around the nightstand. I also learned from my grandmother, a germ-killing connoisseur in my family, that it is smart to put the television remote in a Ziploc bag and then control it through the plastic as the television remote is the dirtiest item in the room (most cleaning crews forget to wipe it down).
Eating Across your Travel in the Arab World
It is important to know that eating in the Arab world is a much different experience than what you would typically have at an American meal. For one thing, meals are often more communal. This means that friends and family eat together, not with separate plates, but out of just one dish. In North Africa, you can expect to be served couscous on Fridays along with vegetables and meat. You will also gain the experience of eating with only your fingers. You should only ever eat and drink with your right hand. It is also polite to use just your thumb, index finger and middle finger to pick up the food.
Some delicious dishes you should really try during your travels throughout the Arab world include Mansaf (a dish made with lamb, yogurt and rice), Kibbeh (a beefcake made with onions and bulgur), and Warak Enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice, onions, tomatoes and mint). If you are interested in some sweet treats, I would also recommend Qatayef (a sweet dumpling filled with nuts and cream), Kanafeh (a pastry soaked in rose water), and Turkish delight (dates and nuts bound together by gel and flavored with rosewater or lemon).
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy your travel in the Arab world!
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