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What to wear in Israel and Middle East?

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East What to wear in Israel and Middle East?

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1. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 6y

Hi all,

Not been on here for a while! But good to be back!

I'm going to Israel this summer doing children's and youth work in Jerusalem, Nazareth and a variety of other places for two weeks followed by another three/four weeks travelling independently, hoping to visit Jordan (Petra), Syria (got a friend at university there in Damascus) and potentially, maybe Saudi Arabia. I was wondering what would be appropriate clothing to wear, particularly with working with Muslim children or religious sites in Jerusalem. I own a thobe, keffiyeh and a galabeya from my travels in Egypt. I brought the keffiyeh and wore it under my hat in Egypt since my neck started burning and found it worked very well. I wear my thobe regularly around the house at home because it is comfortable, even if it does stick out a little bit in Southampton.

Would me, as a western white man, be accepted wearing traditional Arabic dress, particularly if I do make it to Saudi Arabia? I wouldn't want to come across as patronising or cause any offence, it is simply because when travelling I like to become invisible in the culture I am visiting, I do not like feeling like a tourist. If I can meld into the culture as far as possible (skin colour is something I cannot change) then I am happy. I've heard that some cultures find it disrespectful if an outsider wears their traditional garb.

For working in Israel I've been told just to bring normal, practical clothes and suntan lotion but for my own independent travel would donning a thobe be acceptable? They are very comfortable, and, naturally, adapted for the desert heat!

Sorry for the long post, many thanks for taking the time to read it!

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

Thobe would be ok in Saudi-Arabia and the UAE, but not elsewhere. You'd be quite the laughing stock with it.

For working in Israel I recommend long, lightweight trousers that style-wise might be part of a suit, slippers or sandals and loose-fitting short-sleeved button down shirts or polo-style shirts, usually with some sort of pattern. Modest and conservative (think mummy's litte choir boy) and very subdued in pastels and shades of brown and grey, but nothing that would make people look twice at you if you walked down the streets in Western Europe or the USA. Seersucker or plain cotton shirts, pants polyester, cotton or poly-cotton mix. Your legs and upper arms should be covered. You can wear t-shirts, but better avoid those that are "punk" or "hip-hop". Muscle-shirts and strappy tops are complete no-go. Jeans would be ok and expected from a European unless it is high-summer.

BTW, do you know about the restrictions you face when you have an Israeli passport stamp?

3. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 6y

Thanks for the reply and good advice!

I've not done a lot of research yet into travelling between countries in the middle east. I don't know about any restrictions but I have just done a quick internet search and got this: url=http://http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/your_say/article1084353.ece/url]

I was unaware that I would be unable to visit Syria with an Israeli stamp, Saudi Arabia isn't a huge problem, I don't think I'm an experienced enough traveller to go there by myself quite yet but I would like to visit Syria. I also had plans to visit Iran as well at a later date to visit another friend from university who lives there. I already have an Egyptian stamp and visa in my passport, will that affect me? I flew directly to and from Luxor airport and didn't make any side trips to Jordan or anywhere else.

Is there a way in which I could visit Syria from Israel in the same trip? I've not done a huge amount of research yet to be honest.

Thanks again,

Sam

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

No, you cannot visit Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and a bunch of other countries after you have gotten an Israeli passport stamp or one of the relevant border stamps for Jordan (Wadi Araba Eilat-Aqaba, Sheikh Hussein near Hamat Gader) or Egypt (Eilat-Taba) that indicate a stay in Israel.

Syria is still officially at war with Israel, they are very strict about not letting anybody in who has been in Israel or plans to visit Israel in the future. Situation is similar with Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Look here, but note that the list is not complete.

Saudi Arabia isn't a huge problem, I don't think I'm an experienced enough traveller to go there by myself

Since you mentioned going to Saudi Arabia as if it was a fact I automatically assumed that you were a pro, fluent in Arabic and with an in-depth knowledge of all things Middle East! Or at least a muslim since you were the thobe around the house.

It is freaking difficult to get a visa to Saudi Arabia if you aren't going there for business with an official invitation from a Saudi company or for hajj.

5. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

I already have an Egyptian stamp and visa in my passport, will that affect me? I flew directly to and from Luxor airport and didn't make any side trips to Jordan or anywhere else.

No, you'll be fine

Is there a way in which I could visit Syria from Israel in the same trip? I've not done a huge amount of research yet to be honest.

You can visit Israel and Syria in the same trip, many people do it. Here is the way it is done:

First rule: always go to Syria first.

Second rule: Go to Jordan, enter and exit Israel through the The Allenby/King Hussein Bridge. You will not be stamped out of Jordan at this border point. If you manage to convince the Israeli immigration authorities not to stamp your passport on entry and exit but place the stamp on a piece of paper instead you can hide your visit to Israel.

Another alternative is to fly in and out of Tel Aviv (even if it is from Amman or Cairo) and again try to convince the Israeli authorities not to stamp your passport.

But the best solution to the Israeli stamp problem is IMO to use a passport that is about to expire in the next year. Have it stamped and then get a new unmarred one.

6. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3713 posts) 6y

Quoting t_maia

If you manage to convince the Israeli immigration authorities not to stamp your passport on entry and exit but place the stamp on a piece of paper instead you can hide your visit to Israel.

Do the Israeli authorities still do this Maria? I thought I'd read somewhere that they are not willing to do this anymore.

7. Posted by Sam2000 (Inactive 121 posts) 6y

No, not a Muslim, I just find thobes comfortable! One of my housemates is from the UAE, a British ex-pat and he too wears a thobe regularly. I know it's unusual!

I can't speak Arabic, save for a few basic phrases. My friend in Syria is an Arabic student and her Arabic is very good. My Iranian friend can speak fluent Arabic and Persian. I'm not sure my skills in English, Irish and Welsh are much good for Middle Eastern travel. I do know people in Saudi Arabia, unfortunately they are Muslim converts to Christianity and thus are very, very careful about what what they do and say.

I have a huge interest for the history of the region, particularly Persian, Mesopotamian and Egyptian history. There are plenty of places in Saudi Arabia I'd like to visit but maybe not quite yet! Maybe I'll have to convert to Islam briefly to visit Mecca or Medina...I have a feeling that won't happen though. Hopefully one day Jews and Muslims will learn to get along...I hadn't realised quite how closed the borders were to one another...

Thanks again for the advice, I have a feeling a lot more planning will have to go into this trip, definitely a lot more than went into a long weekend CouchSurfing in Stockholm.

I'll be following up the method of visiting Syria and Israel...with a side trip to Petra perhaps.

Sam

8. Posted by vanessa (Travel Guru 257 posts) 6y

Hi Sam!
t_maia already answered you most of questions and did it very detailed.
I allow myself few adds - I'm kind of "aborigen" - live in Israel for 20 years.

1. Dresscode - maia is right. You'd better don't play with traditional arabic dress. It's not only about looking silly (until ur not Lawrence of Arabia), but you can find yourself in very unpleasant position because of wearing "wrong" color of keffiyeh or anything else. You can't become invisible, but you'll feel better if you wear something that meet their expectations. t_maia already wrote it in details.
Summer is terribly hot. Syria, Jerusalem and Nazaret very hot, but they are in the "north". Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are oven. I hope for you that at least part of time you will be in AC.
Sunblock cream is must, you can also buy it everywhere. You also need good sunglasses, hat and comfortable shoes.

2. I heared about the trick with stamp on Israeli border, not sure it will be possible - it sounds kinda illegal. U can move between Isr-Jordan-Egypt with no any problem. If you enter Israel at the end of your trip - prepare yourself to be asked "what you did in Syria and Saudi Arabia?". Nothing to be stressed about this interview, just take it as a part of Middle-Eastern reality and be patient. Syria and Saudi Arabia don't allow you enter at all after visit Isr.
If you plan visit USA later - these stamps in passport would make you lotsa trouble in border control in America.

3. Need drink about 3l of water/day. It's very serious.

good luck with your trip!
:-)

9. Posted by joffre (Respected Member 157 posts) 6y

Hiya, in terms of clothing, I'd suggest your usual travel stuff, just don't do what I did, buying & wearing clothing from an Israeli army disposal store & then travelling through other Middle Eastern countries! In regards to the passport stamp, I had mine put on a separate piece of paper, but that was a while ago now... enjoy your trip!

10. Posted by vanessa (Travel Guru 257 posts) 6y

Quoting joffre

Hiya, in terms of clothing, I'd suggest your usual travel stuff, just don't do what I did, buying & wearing clothing from an Israeli army disposal store & then travelling through other Middle Eastern countries! In regards to the passport stamp, I had mine put on a separate piece of paper, but that was a while ago now... enjoy your trip!

ohhhh! I dont believe you did!