What to have in your backpack when travelling to the Middle East

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The Middle East is diverse, historic and beautiful.  From countries that have stringent laws and regulations to those that are more liberal, Middle East is the birthplace of the world’s greatest religions including Bahai, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This part of the world is historically rich, and attracts travelers from the world over.

When travelling to any Middle Eastern country, it’ll be useful for travelers to read through its history, socio economic conditions and cultural norms. Apart from Israel, this region is mainly influenced by Islamic teachings, therefore, knowledge about the local customs will help in navigation within each country.  Like travelling to any other part of the world, it helps to be sensitive to local culture and customs. Now, let’s get to the cumbersome task of packing for international travels, more specifically to the Middle East. Following is a list of items to help you remember everything that needs to go into your backpack:

 

Clothes

Picture courtesy: http://www.thewanderlusteffect.com/packing-list-middle-east-travel/

Climate in the Middle East is usually hot and dry, with the winters being mild with light rain. Therefore, you’ll need to carry clothes which are covered but airy. Except Israel and some other countries like UAE, other countries encourage (and sometimes enforce) fully covered clothes.

The trick is to remember to cover your knees and shoulders in most cases. Particularly for female travelers, it would also be wise to carry a scarf; it will save you from the intense sun and can also be used when visiting religious or sacred sites.

For your feet, keep in stock some sneakers for long walks, sandals for days that are too hot and maybe one pair of fancy shoes to compliment your dress for the evenings. Your bathing suits will come in handy for the beaches which you’ll thoroughly enjoy due to the sunny weather. Sunglasses, hats, caps and bandanas will be your weapons against the heat.

Most travelers prefer to travel light, and it’ll be practical to do so too. The intense heat can put you off and make carrying heavy baggage a huge hassle. Clever combinations of skirts, pants, and shorts with a good selection of blouses/shirts can be enough for all your day and night activities.

Male travelers can sport a tank top too but it may not be a good choice for when you plan to visit religious sites. Although men are not really bound to a certain dress code, most religious sites will prefer them to wear covered clothing too.

Electronics

This may vary from person to person but certain electronics will definitely make your travel easier. For example, power bank for your cellular devices, a camera to capture your memories, and maybe laptop/tablet chargers if you plan to carry them too. Convertors are also a must have, so you don’t have to run around town looking for one.

 

Accessories

When planning a vacation tour in the Middle East, be sure to keep a sunscreen (with high SPF), sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, wipes and a portable fan.

You will also need to keep a close check on your hydration, so rather than wasting plastic bottles, go green and carry a water bottle with you that will not only keep the water cool but can also be refilled. As always, deodorant and a light moisturizer should be on your list of must haves as well.

Medication

Finding suitable medications in other countries can be quite problematic, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, apart from carrying your daily medication (for diabetes, migraine etc.), it may prove to be useful to carry a mosquito repellent, paracetamol, band aids, etc. If you suspect jet lag, then you’ll need to keep some medicines to rid yourself of it.

Female travelers should pack some tampons or sanitary napkins as the culture in conservative countries can make shopping of sanitary items quite awkward. If a couple is travelling, condoms could be another item to carry in your back pack.

Must-not-haves

Here are some items that you may want to avoid carrying to conservative countries in the Middle Eastern region:

  • Immodest clothes: Although the culture norms of this region boast of warm hospitality and therefore the locals may ignore if your choice of clothing disturbs them, it is always better to be conscious of local sensitivities. Therefore, it’s a good idea to refrain from wearing revealing clothes.
  • Flashy and expensive jewelry: You can never be too careful about your jewelry. For this reason, leave the expensive ones at home and prefer carrying artificial. In case you end up losing it, you won’t have to worry about it.
  • Alcohol or other intoxicating material: In most Islamic countries, drinking publicly is forbidden. It’s better to go alcohol free when travelling to this region or ask your travel consultant for alcohol friendly eateries.
  • Clothes with curse words: It may be acceptable in modern societies, but it is best avoided in conservative ones. You don’t want to invite confrontation on the streets.
  • Unnecessary documents/items: Credit cards, check books and other items that will be useless in a foreign country are best left behind.
  • Weapon-like tools: Anything that may seem threatening to others like pen knives or blades should not be displayed publicly or even carried. You don’t want someone to get the wrong idea.
  • Pornographic material: This is another bad idea when packing for the Middle East. It is looked down upon and may even agitate others. You may even end up attracting unwanted attention which may leave you with some bitter memories.

Some tourists prefer travelling to countries that are more or less similar to the culture they belong to. But the true spirit of travelling lies in experiencing all the different cultures this world has to offer. These diverse experiences not only build your travel diary but also enrich your life because you realize how often our sentiments and values are the same; it’s just the expression that varies.

About  Erica Silva

Erica Silva is a blogger by choice.  She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.

Find her on Twitter:@ericadsilva1

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