If you’re from a country in Europe, north or south America or other places like Australia and you’ve visited countries in the Middle East, you must have noticed that they do things pretty differently around there.
Some talk of the difference between western and eastern cultures whereby western cultures are seen as being more liberal and eastern cultures less so.
Things that people living in the countries listed above would consider normal ad acceptable would often be considered abnormal and unacceptable in the Middle East. This essentially boils down to cultural differences which is a fuzzy way of saying our lives are, in many ways, very different.
Some countries have rules and customs way different to those certain other cultures are used to, and it can come as a complete surprise to some people. When something is embedded in law it’s serious, right? Right and that’s why when westerners hear about legally enforaceble rules in other parts of the world that seem so unusual they feel a bit shocked.
That’s cultural difference for you and it’s actually really interesting to think that although all humans live on the same planet, our experiences on it are so varied largely because of the customs in the place in which we live.
It’s worth doing your research before visiting the Middle East on vacation, especially if you’re going to spend time in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia have some of the strictest laws, rules and customs in the Middle East region, and if you don’t stick to those, you could end up in trouble. Here are some of the most extreme examples!
All forms of pork are banned in the strictly Muslim country of Saudi Arabia, so you definitely won’t find any bacon anywhere.
Since Saudi Arabia is strictly a Muslim country, all other consumable meats are also Halal only.
There’s a ban on showing any skin at all. In fact, it’s completely forbidden by law to wear any dress that shows skin. A Hijab is mandatory at all times for females.
This piece of clothing exposes the eyes and hands only with all other body parts covered by the long, opaque veil.
You can’t go to the cinema or the theater in Saudi Arabia.
The government there strongly censor all forms of entertainment, so there are no movie theaters in the country at all. Coming from a country where films are such a key part of mainstream media it’s hard to imagine a society where they just don’t exist!
Street photography is frowned upon to the point of almost being illegal, as cybercrime laws in Saudi Arabia are notoriously strict.
So remember, if you’re holidaying in Saudi Arabia, you must be sure to check that it is ok to take photographs.
If you’re looking for a boozy vacation filled with all hours up partying, Saudi Arabia is not the place. There is a complete ban on alcohol. If it’s found on you, you could wind up in prison.
It’s easy to see how very different our cultures are – no bacon, no blockbusters and no booze, wow!
Women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. This probably sounds insane to other cultures, but it’s what the country’s leaders have decided much to the backlash of those in and out of the country.
This ban made the recent landing of a Royal Brunei Airlines’ aircraft into the country by an all female, muslim crew all the more pronounced.
Any form of pornography is also banned in Saudi Arabia, including films, magazines and photos. Just what the heck do they look up on the internet there then?
Its not surprising really – in a country where films and theatre are banned due to the potential for their content to be inappropriate the fact that porn is banned is no surprise.
Single men and women are not allowed to be seen together in public, even if they are amongst a group of friends. Just think about that for a moment – you’re only allowed to hang out in couples because as a single person you and other single person must be kept away from each other. I can think of a load of my opposite sex, single friends who I wouldn’t be allowed to see if I lived in Saudi Arabia.
Unsurprisingly then, apart from family, all opposite sex encounters are forbidden.
Even in McDonalds!
Following this ban on romantic dates, wearing red or having red roses is also banned in public. So Valentine’s Day is pretty much a non-starter.
This law has been relaxed slightly in recent years, with stores allowed to sell flowers for Valentines. But they were expensive as heck – probably because it’s still seen as a taboo thing to sell and so only a few are available to buy.
The leaders of the country’s have also banned the sale or buying of cats and dogs, as they view it as a westernised tradition.
I wonder if they do keep any other pets that we don’t?
There is no such thing as religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. You’re not allowed to practice other religions apart from Islam, or carry any other religious symbols.
Music in public is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, so that means no music in places people in the west are used to it being played, like at malls. Music isn’t even taught at public schools, but locals are free to teach themselves or hire private tutors.
For me, this is one rule that I find really difficult to comprehend. Imagine driving down the road and not being able to listen to the radio, or going to eat in a restaurant or bar and having no music played or just walking down the street and hearing a busker – gosh it must feel like a totally different world, but of course it isn’t!
But, since like many Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a tourist boom like never before, many of these laws are being relaxed. For example, women can now access healthcare without their husband’s consent, which has never happened before. This has been implemented by Saudi’s King Salam.
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