Generally men in the Middle East treat women with respect.
That said, we found that certain behaviours seen as totally normal in the west can be read in a more promiscuous way in this region – perhaps influenced by a lot of bad American movies and pop videos where women are dancing around in skimpy clothes and even free access to adult TV channels from Europe.
It’s wise to be aware that smiles and normal cheerfulness can be seen as flirting.
Despite being dressed modestly, Friedel occasionally found that in Syria and Turkey a smile would be returned by a desire to hold hands, plant a kiss on the cheek or things of a similar nature – something that these men would not do with a local woman.
Good practice includes:
- If you are cycling with a man, let him do the talking until you get a feel for someone’s character.
- If you’re on your own then try and find a woman to talk to or seek out a well-dressed businessman if you need help.
- Be extremely cautious of truckers. We found they were prone to be the worst offenders (too much time alone on the road??).
- If you feel at all uncomfortable, never hesitate to flag down passing traffic. These men know they are doing something not-quite-acceptable and will clear off very quickly if you attract attention.