More than mosques
The Arab world is a travel destination which has grown in popularity over recent years. As the simplistic caricatures stereotypes of old have worn off, people are keen to visit places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as the beaches of Lebanon and Egypt. This type of trip provides great opportunities to experience life in totally different cultural contexts, although Face Book and Twitter are still widely used! People are often surprised when they actually visit majority Muslim countries by just how friendly the local population are, and we recommend visiting one if you get chance.
Yet, Issues relating to women and the family within Islam continue to cause controversy in the west as the dominant Western narrative repeatedly stresses the subordinate role of women in Muslim societies. Issues such as polygamy, wife repudiation, forced marriage and, perhaps most of all, restrictive dress codes, seem to support this narrative when they are regularly reported in the media. Islamic law plays a fundamental part in shaping their national laws. These laws tend to be favourable to men and include: polygamy, giving priority to the husband in divorce proceedings, enforced period of widowhood, wife repudiation and non-recognition of civil or inter-religious marriage; in addition, fathers are entitled to custody under Islamic law and extreme cases such as female genital mutilation, sexual and domestic violence, forced marriage and honour killings shape a negative, archaic image of Islam in which women are at best subordinated to male rule.
Having said all of that, western women are as free as they are at home when on holiday in these countries, although in some cases it may be avoidable to cover up hair and to dress conservatively in public – don’t show too much skin. Overall though, there is plenty of fun to be had and lots to learn for the more adventurous travellers out there who wish to get a sample of another world. Alcohol is not usually drunk in these countries, although with the World Cup taking place in around a decade, those rules may soon change in order to accommodate the inevitable influx of foreign visitors which will be arriving in their millions. Discussions are under way at the moment on how best to keep cool during the World Cup, as it will take place during the summer and in a country famous mostly for desert! Surely players wont be able to cope, although this may benefit local teams immensely!