Happy Women Who Wander Day! Women Who Wander is a series I have on my blog where other solo female travellers share their stories and experiences. I absolutely love reading all of your wonderful tales and it inspires me to no end to see more of the world! This week, Melissa is sharing her time of solo female travel in the Middle East and why you shouldn’t be scared to explore this beautiful part of the world!
High Heels & a Backpack is a travel blog written by Melissa Douglas, a wandering Digital Nomad who left her corporate job in the UK in favour of leading a more adventurous life. She started writing a blog as a hobby and managed to turn it into her full time career. She likes to push the boundaries of solo female travel by challenging herself to visit destinations that are not so common for women travelling alone. By doing this, she hopes that she can correct some of the stereotypes that a lot of people have about certain countries in the world.
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Solo Female Travel in the Middle East
I have travelled a lot by myself. I have spent the best part of the last six years wandering around the world alone like a weird wolf. Though I am now an experienced solo traveller, there is just something about travelling to the Middle East right now that makes a lot of people nervous.
When I announced that I would be travelling solo in this region earlier this year, a lot of people were horrified and considered it foolish. Since I had visited the Middle East previously, I couldn’t really understand what they were so concerned about. Before the Arab spring I had visited Morocco and Egypt. On this return solo trip I started in Israel and from there travelled on to Palestine, Jordan and Egypt.
Only Positive Experiences
I travelled cross country through Israel – from Tel Aviv, through Haifa, Akko and smaller Israeli towns and settlements and onto Jerusalem. From Jerusalem, I took a bus across the West Bank into Palestine. As I sat on the Palestinian bus alone as the only westerner, I was debating with myself as to whether or not it was actually a good idea to go to Palestine as a solo female traveler. I sat unable to make a decision for a good while until the bus started pulling out of the station. At which point it was too late – I was on my way to Palestine.
As I explored Bethlehem, locals were coming out of their houses and businesses to talk to me. Suggetsing things for me to do. When I walked into a local falafel restaurant, the owner insisted that I ate for free. They sat with me telling me about life in Palestine. When my travels led me to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, I explored crumbling ruins and fascinating cities and had most places to myself, only encountering a handful of other tourists. In Cairo, I strolled through crowded back streets and bustling souks. I had only positive experiences with friendly locals who were happy to see tourists in their country. All of these experiences really bought home to me just how much we are missing out on if we are too scared to travel to certain places.
If it bleeds, it leads
The entire Middle East is considered a grey area. And due to occasional bouts of conflict and political unrest, many people deem it as being unsafe.
The image that the media portrays of countries around the world is not necessarily an accurate representation of the situation on the ground 99% of the time. Essentially “if it bleeds, it leads” . Meaning that the most horrifying, violent and sensational stories are the ones that sell and make the headlines. Whereas the countless tales of people having positive experiences just aren’t juicy or interesting enough.
The sad truth about this is that the damaged reputation and therefore the reduced number of tourists travelling to these regions means that those working in the tourism industry in these particular countries who struggle to make a living. It really broke my heart to see resilient locals setting up their stalls every day in Jordan trying to sell their wares despite the fact that travellers never came.
Preparing for Solo Female Travel in the Middle East
Travelling solo in the Middle East, particularly as a woman is definitely a different experience. Say to travelling alone in the likes of Europe or Asia. You may receive a lot of attention. This is purely because it is so uncommon to the locals to see a woman travelling alone. That isn’t to say that the Middle East is dangerous for solo females. But simply that women travelling alone should take more precautions.
Dress is more conservative – with the exception of Israel which is a very liberal country. You should expect to cover your arms down to your wrists and your legs down to your ankles. It’s not necessary to cover your hair unless you are travelling to extremely conservative countries like Iran. You should prepare to assert yourself and just use general common sense. No walking alone at night, or veering off the tourist trail in open sites such as Petra. If you are open minded, and prepared to be blown away by a completely different culture, then travelling to the Middle East will definitely be an enjoyable experience for you.
Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to share your stories
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