What is the best arab country
I was expecting a beach vacation. No joke. My first Arab country was Tunisia, that was in 2013. I thought we would lie on the beach, walk through souks, buy scarves and clothes and eat lots of chicken. But I was also lucky enough to be on the road with a real expert for the Arab world. She successfully prevented me from throwing myself into every faux pas like an ignorant German.
Today I always have to smile when I read the question in forums and on Facebook: What do I have to consider in the Arab world? After all, it was exactly the same for me. The question is justified because there is great uncertainty. In many places, however, it is unfounded.
That is why I asked Rebekka Schrimpf and Marc Frings the question. Rebekka Schrimpf is a TV producer for GTV in the United Arab Emirates. Marc Frings heads the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's office in Ramallah, Palestine, and has traveled to many Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf region.
What was your first experience in an Arab country?
Rebekka Schrimpf from Dubai: In 2001, shortly after graduating from high school, I traveled to Israel to take part in a two-month summer program at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. There I experienced the desert at 50 degrees Celsius for the first time, learned history under every stone and was able to follow the problems between Israelis and Palestinians live. A new, exciting world that made me curious about more.
Marc Frings from Ramallah: My first country was Palestine. It's made easy to gain a foothold here. The cultural proximity is great, this is due to the level of education, the Internet, satellite TV.
Are conversations about religion or politics taboo?
Rebekah: I have been living in Dubai since January 2012. During this time I learned that in public conversations with locals and emigrants one should ignore religion and politics. For example, it is better to start with family and the weather at business meetings and then get down to business. When politics and religion are talked about, for example on social media, then never negatively or aggressively, but positively and emphasizing the advantages.
Marc: That depends on the country in which you are traveling. The Arab Spring did not gain a foothold everywhere - and neither did freedom of expression. But sometimes you can't escape the situation at all. In the Palestinian Territories, for example, many people have a keen interest in expressing their views on the Israeli occupation and the actions of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah; Dealers or taxi drivers would like to talk to visitors from the west. Precisely because Westerners are important multipliers.
When you move around Israel and Palestine, you should be open to it. Arriving here feels like being in a washing machine. You are confronted with so many impressions, you are tossed around so wildly that you first need time to process all of this and read it again. Years later, I'm still surprised by new perspectives.
What clothes should you wear as a woman - and do you really have to pay attention to it?
Rebekah: The dress code in the United Arab Emirates sounds stricter than it is. Those who stick to it will not have any problems - and also show respect for religion. In public buildings such as malls, the shoulders should be covered as much as possible, and the skirts should go over the knees. Bikini is allowed on the beach and pool - but only there.
However, there are always tourists who do not adhere to this dress code and are then approached by locals about it. When visiting a mosque, women are given an abaya (traditional black robe of local women) and a headscarf. Otherwise, abaya and headscarves are not compulsory for foreign women in Dubai.
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What should one know about alcohol?
Marc: In many Arab countries one should be cautious. You can tell from the fact that alcohol is not so readily available. In Ramallah's nightlife you will be surprised by the parallels between here and every major German city. Outside of the trendy district of Ramallah, things are more conservative. One should take this into consideration.
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It is made easy by the fact that alcohol is mainly available in the Christian parts. Where there is none, it should not be consumed.
Incidentally, Palestinian wines also find their way onto European supermarket shelves. The market for breweries is very exciting: the beer from Taybeh, a Christian village north of Ramallah, had a virtual monopoly for a long time. Today there are more varieties - including craft beer.
What should travelers watch out for when getting around?
Marc:The Palestinian transportation system is as good or bad as in other major cities. Once you understand it, it works very well. The infrastructure of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and towards Israel sometimes makes it difficult to get around in a time-efficient manner. But you always get the result!
Rebekah: The UAE is considered to be one of the safest Arab countries. They are also right at the top of the ranking worldwide. The crime rate is very low in Dubai. This is certainly also due to the high penalties that threaten even small crimes.
As a woman in particular, I feel very safe in Dubai, it is not a problem to be on the streets in the evening.
The best mode of transport is the metro or taxi, both cheap. From the elevated metro you have a wonderful view of the city. If you choose the taxi, you should avoid the rush hour in the morning and evening, the traffic jam can last for a long time.
Dubai offers pink taxis for women especially for women, which are driven by women in pink uniforms. Men can only ride in these taxis when accompanied by at least one woman.
In addition to public taxis, there are also private luxury taxis, mostly Lexus, without a taxi sign. Tip: Use these taxis to negotiate the price beforehand and negotiate a good rate.
How do you deal with someone - unexpectedly - asking for additional money for a service?
Marc:You have to weigh that in the situation. If it's too late and the situation feels dire, you'll have to pay for the tourist riot. Otherwise, the very clear announcement at the beginning applies that you would like to participate - but would like to state the conditions in advance. You can certainly start the conversation with an offer: Then I'll invite you to tea. Or I announce a certain amount and ask for consent.
You should be in control of the situation yourself. The people here can live with contradictions. That's the exciting thing. There is an open culture that is open to discussion in the Arab world. Incidentally, the Islamic sense of honor tends to deter people from being too demanding.
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Would you advise me to travel to Dubai right now?
Rebekah: Yes, in any case. Dubai is worth the trip. The best time is from October to March. There is a lot to see and do here. From the gigantic structures to the traditional bazaar and the creek as the lifeline of Dubai, everything is there. Arab hospitality is also very important. Bon Appetit!
And what would you want to sensitize me to beforehand?
Rebekah: Please do not take photos of locals without prior permission, they are not so fond of that. Do not take pictures of government or military facilities. That could be problematic.
Have a small tip ready for waiters and taxi drivers and round up the price. They are very happy about it - and it will be a highlight for them after a twelve-hour shift.
There are seldom house numbers on buildings, some streets have no names, so when taking a taxi, always speak of landmarks that are close to the destination.
Is it actually dangerous to travel to Palestine?
Marc: No, Palestine is not a dangerous travel region for foreigners. Even if the violence breaks out from time to time, Israel and Palestine are not an acute conflict area at the moment. But of course that doesn't comfort anyone who hasn't been here yet. The subjective impression also counts: I have to get involved with a region that is also characterized by instability. You can't take that worry away from anyone.
But I myself have the feeling that you can live very well and safely here. It is not only an Arab, but also a predominantly Muslim society. Anyone who has been traveling between Morocco and Indonesia will have experienced this kind of hospitality before.
And if I want to go to Bethlehem tomorrow - is that a good idea?
Marc: Yes, we are currently in a very stable position. You get very close to people in Palestine because English is spoken very well here. In addition, the infrastructure allows good travel. Of course, you should always look at the latest developments.
Such trips should never be taken completely unprepared. The special thing is the political situation. You are not only faced with cultural differences here, but you may also feel called upon to position yourself in a conflict that is not your own. From my point of view, however, it is important to open up to the positions and arguments of both sides. That is why travelers should always visit cities in the Palestinian West Bank when visiting Israel.
Tip for every trip
Have a look at the website of the Foreign Office beforehand - and pay attention to the wording. The embassies usually know very well about current problems and where exactly they are occurring. Conflicts in particular are often regionally limited. The current news situation can also give you a good picture of the country.
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