He Said/She Said: Escaping the Middle East

He Said/She Said: Escaping the Middle East

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Going from the Middle East to Latin America was a breath of fresh air.  While the sites and experiences of the UAE, Oman, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Turkey were wonderful, the constraints of daily life wore on us.  Here’s what it felt like to escape the Middle East.

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HE SAID…

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The Middle East is different.  While China may be different because of people’s actions, or India different due to hygiene, or Brazil different due to liveliness, it’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is different in the Middle East.  It’s not so much an attribute, but a feeling.  Being in the Middle East feels different.

No matter where I went I couldn’t get over one thing: half of the population is imprisoned in their clothing.  While some places were “more liberal”, almost everywhere we went women had to wear a burqa and head covering.  Claim all the “cultural differences”, “religious” and “historical” reasons you want, but to me it is wrong.  While the burqa’s fashion disaster itself is reprehensible, what it represents is worse: that women are second-class, they cannot make their own choices.  Imprisonment in clothing and culture is the only way I can truly explain it.

Argentina is the polar opposite.  Women and men alike are free to choose what to cover and what to leave exposed.  Women are allowed to act independently, travel freely, choose their education, and responsible for the consequences of their own actions.  While the Middle East is about limits, Latin America is about a life without limits.  The attitudes, personalities and styles of Argentina were a much needed break from the Middle East.

All day, everyday, I’d rather be in Latin America, full of it’s infidels and fun than the Middle East.

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SHE SAID…

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Every time I tell people we went to the Middle East, they ask where we went and if I felt safe as a woman.  After traveling through six countries in the Middle East I can tell you that it’s not easy travel for a woman, however I never felt in danger.  I have to admit there were many times I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t ever feel physically threatened, unless looks can kill.  The staring was terrible and made me want to cover up, just to avoid the constant leering.

If you aren’t wearing one of these in the majority of the Middle East, then you’re showing too much skin.

The sights in the Middle East are stunning and I wouldn’t have skipped it, however it’s so refreshing to not worry about donning a head scarf.  In fact I don’t even have to worry about wearing a shirt in Latin America.  Landing in Argentina was like getting a new lease on life, the lively street culture with excellent music, pork freely available and women walking around town in nothing but swimsuits.  Whether it was coming from the Middle East or just the colorful streets I fell in love with Buenos Aires.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting the Middle East, but as a woman in particular be prepared for lots of looks and dress conservatively.  So, if you want to avoid all of that head South to Latin America and enjoy a culture where there are no rules restricting your dress or your food.  I would rather enjoy a bratwurst in the street, while wearing a bikini rather than sport a burqua and be escorted by a man.  Life is too short to spend it wrapped in black.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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