Planning a trip to an Arab country? Well whatever you do, don’t be fooled by certain false tales about the region, and be prepared for these 6 facts you might not expect:
1) Arabs dress to impress: Newcomers are advised to dress in conservative, baggy clothing. And while that is generally a form of respecting the regional culture, what visitors are shocked to discover is that Arabs like to dress up real good, while foreigners end up dressed in more “practical” garments. In short: everyone looks stylish while you look like a sack.
2) Taxi rides are not horror stories: Foreigners are often warned about being cautious when hailing a cab with tales of theft, assault and kidnapping. And while it’s always important to be careful when you’re with a stranger in a car, you’ll find out that most taxi drivers aren’t that bad! Sure, they’ll try to rip you off if they can tell that you’re new in town, but if you make sure the meter is running, that can be easily avoided. And speaking of taxis…
3) Public transportation is cheap: They might not always be the most reliable or time effective options, but the public transportation systems, be they taxis, service cabs, microbuses or coaches, in most Arab countries are extremely low cost. We’re talking traveling across cities for mere cents. Talk about getting more bang for your buck! You know what else is inexpensive?
4) Beauty salons are incredibly cheap: This one’s for the ladies; if you compare the costs of getting a haircut, a manicure, a wax or even just blow-dry in an Arab country versus most of the world, trips to the salon can easily become a daily chore. Beauty salons are like one-fifth the price in the US.
5) Shishas are household items: Arghilas might seem like charming novelties you can only find in hookah bars in Foreignerstan, but here in Arabia Land, many people smoke shisha every day, and they’re as commonplace as medicine in a pharmacy, or furniture at an IKEA store, or sinks in bath – okay, you get the idea. (Editor’s note: Smoking is bad for your health)
6) Arabic music is not just Fairouz and AbdelHalim, nor is it Nancy Ajram and Amr Diab. While foreigners may have heard the mainstream tunes of famous singers in the Arab world, what they don’t expect is that we have some truly talented musicians and bands in all genres. You can even check out our own article on four hip-hop artists we highly recommend.
Did you expect these realities when you visited the region for the first time in your life? What popular myths about the Arab world did we miss? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.