- Posted August 31, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
100 Ways to Travel Better: Your tips
Your Journey to Europe and the Arab World
As a young Egyptian high school girl who lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 14 years and is now living in Egypt, studying the American curriculum ever since kindergarden, touring Europe once every year for 3 years now, I've had my fair share of global interaction. Therefore, what you are about to read now will give you first-hand insight on how to deal with locals in not only the Arab world but also European nations.
Upon landing in the airports of European or Arab countries, you can never be left baffled, not knowing the exits from the entrances. Thankfully, every sign posted in the local language is also translated to English. Also, most locals nowadays know conversational, though sometimes crummy, English by which you can communicate to get yourself to your hotel or place of residence. Once you reach your new residence, there's a 99.9% chance that you'll be granted free Wi-Fi in the lobby so you can remain in contact with your relations.
Shopping tips, likewise, are communal between European and Arab countries as "Always Bargain" must be your motto until you return to your homeland. Unless you're in a multinational retail-clothing store, you can lower the price of absolutely anything by at least HALF. If you must know the reason, locals of any country "hunt" foreigners, with the false ideology in mind that foreigners have unlimited bank accounts and wouldn't mind sparing a couple hundreds as charity. Only you and I know that's far from reality. Therefore , I believe it is my utmost duty to advise you and tell you, "ALWAYS BARGAIN". It only takes courage, confidence, and persistence, qualities that, once possessed, can wittingly save a few bucks. Speaking from experience of living in both KSA and Egypt, my friends and I never bought anything from kiosks or local stores without bargaining. Needless to say, we always manage to exit the store with our heads held high, proud of the couple of bucks we saved. Likewise, in Italy, my father bought a mini Venetian boat souvenir for 6 Euros instead of 20 Euros! Again, I feel the need to stress on the fact that you do not bargain with global brands like H&M, Zara, or Mango, unless you want to be a laughing stock for all the locals.
As for malls in the European countries, they're simply there for shopping enthusiasts. Period. indeed, you can find couture brands and upscale chains as well as affordable ones. However, in KSA and Egypt, the smallest of malls usually has at least twenty shopping stores (many of which are international), restaurant chains (also international not just local), grocery stores, and a huge arcade area full of family-friendly recreation games. Let alone, of course the big ones which are, to say the least, five times the description above. It is extremely unlikely that you do not find everything you could possibly need in one of these malls.
As for traffic, the practice of hailing a cab in European and Arabian countries is pretty much the same. All you have to do is raise your arm up when a taxi approaches. It will stop and ask for your destination and take you in. However, in most Arab countries, I advise you to not waste your time looking for the one-or-two bus stops in the country. Instead, take a stroll down the street pavements until you spot one then you raise your arm and it's all yours. On the other hand, in European countries, you are not allowed to stop a taxi unless you're at a registered bus stop. Also, unlike most Arab countries, European cab drivers generally do not permit taxis to drive more passengers than the car's capacity. For instance, if the cab has one couch in the back, only four passengers can ride (one shotgun and three in the back). Now for all of you tourists coming down to Egypt, here are two tips you better keep in your pockets. a) don't drive unless you know the streets and areas well. Traffic lights are awfully limited and thus, drivers are awfully impatient. Stop for a second and you'll find everyone honking at you. b) read the following paragraph.
Many of my American or European friends seek my advice on what kind of clothes should they pack when they visit Egypt. And my answer is always "the same." Yup. Just the same. Wear exactly what you wear in your homecountry since Egyptians do not really care how "conservative" you are. Many locals wear pantacore and tank tops so you wouldn't be the only one. Yet, try to refrain from wearing short shorts and keep them for the beach. Make sure that the society you are about to mingle with is a little over middle class. In other words, pick your destination well.
However, Saudi Arabia might be a tad different when it comes to demeanor. If you're a woman, I must tell you that you're expected to keep a low gaze, low profile, and, a modest dressing. Although Islamic head scarves are no longer obligatory for non-Muslims in all cities save Mecca, you are required to wear a Hogwarts-like cloak, called the Abaya, wherever you go. You may also find it a tad uncomfortable not being able to drive yourself around. As for men, you can pretty much wear whatever you desire as long as you do not flirt with all the girls or attract unnecessary attention. P.S. Non-Muslims are not allowed into two cities: Mecca or Medina. Aside from all that, I must tell you that you must forget all the stereotypes of people living in tents and going to schools on camels. Yes, unfortunately, some people still think so.
And that is it for your journey to any of the European nations or Arab countries. I hope that the information I presented above suffices for a long, relaxing trip to these beautiful nations. Please feel free to contact me for any further inquiries.
This report has been written based on my touring of several cities in France, Italy, Austria, Spain, Belgium, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
I hope you enjoy your journey! Tah-Tah!
|This iReport is part of an assignment that we created with Travel + Leisure: 100 Ways to Travel Better: Your tips|