4 Cultural Considerations for Traveling to a Muslim Country
The morning salah was music to my ears.
As devotion to Allah dripped through loudspeakers at various mosques in Doha, Qatar, I slowly rose from my slumber in the mansion.
I deeply enjoyed my first trip to a Muslim country when Kelli and I visited Doha, Qatar in 2017. As Westerners, we had never spent time in a Muslim nation. I found the experience fun, fascinating and freeing.
We also learned a few things to keep in mind when living in a Muslim land.
Keep these 4 cultural considerations in mind when visiting a Muslim country.
1: Have Fun with the the Differences
This is the most important tip by far.
Have fun with the differences. Enjoy playing a different role while living in a Muslim country.
I loved waking up to the salah blaring out of loud speakers when it was still dark, early in the morning. Mysterious-feeling, enchanting, and quite enlightening, this experience was.
Some folks fear differences. I have fun with differences, because if all cultures were the same, life would be as boring as shit.
Celebrate the change up of spending a few weeks or months in a Muslim culture. If a woman walks by in a full burka with only tiny slits for her eyes, it is not good, or bad. It just is. I find it fascinating because traveling taught me to suspend judgment and to simply accept that groups of people around the world come to different agreements which create cultural norms.
2: Cover Shoulders to Knees
Kelli and I covered our shoulders to knees once we left the compound in Doha.
This is the norm is virtually all Muslim countries.
No shoulder skin, breast bone skin, or knee skin showing. Of course, no stomach skin showing either.
This is a conservative culture. Honor it. Cover up.
Whether it is 130 degrees and humid – as is the case in Doha during the most brutal summer months – or 47 and rainy (the wettest month in Qatar in 55 years when we visited in February), dress with respect to local customs.
I find it easy to cover up. Even when I’m in the tropics I’m wearing T-shirts and sometimes long pants to avoid the skeeters and other creepy crawlies that wish to feast on my flesh.
I did spot a few tourists wearing short shorts and tank tops; most Qatari did not bat an eye lash but probably were not elated with the cultural boo boo.
Even if you aren’t scolded, you will attract unwanted attention by not covering up effectively. Wear t-shirts or long sleeved numbers. Don pants. Or at the least, wear long shorts that cover the knees.
Spare us your mid-riff, 80’s club dancers or NFL training camp attendees.
3: Friday Is Chill Day
Friday is chill day in Muslim lands because this is the big prayer day at mosques around the country.
Some businesses were closed on Fridays in Doha. Virtually every store closed from 11 AM to 1 PM.
If you want to shop, focus on the remaining 6 days of the week. Or if you want to grub out, any day other than Friday should be good for you.
Note; some businesses do open on Fridays. But to be on the safe side you can view Fridays as you’d view Sundays in a Central American country; many places of business will be closed in observance of this day of rest, prayer and reflection.
4: No PDA’s
This is not a ban on Blackberries.
I am talking Public Displays of Affection.
Kissing your lover, holding hands or showing any display of affection in public is generally frowned upon in conservative Muslim cultures.
Wait until you step inside the house to get all comfy cozy with your significant other.
This one was easy for me to follow as wifey and I are not big on the PDA thingee.
I did need to catch myself here and there when I tried to hold Kelli’s hand or give her a hug in public.
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