Western Asia or Southwestern Asia is a culturally rich region with as many as 18 member countries. Located directly south of Eastern Europe, the region is bounded by few major seas namely: the Arabian Sea, the red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea along with the Aegean Sea and the Persian Gulf. The region is also known to be adorned with convolution of cultures and an enchanting fusion of old and modern world charm that will mystify its visitor to another level.
Rich old cultures. Remarkable architectures. Nature beauty. Beautiful landscape. Dazzling skylines. Fusion of old and modern world. Heritage sites. Rich history. Delicious food.
Political instability as some places. Civil wars in some countries. Petty crimes on streets.
Western Asia comprises of 18 countries each one adding a new character to the region. UAE is a perfect example of fusion between European and Asian culture all the while preserving the old world charm and adding to the modern day wonders. United Arab Emirates exhibits a dazzling skyline of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and traditional charm with Sharjah. Check out the scenic beauty of Oman and one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the desert country of Jordan along with extremely salty Dead Sea. Israel adds to the cultural and historic charm to the region with being a birthplace of both Christianity and Judaism whereas Azerbaijan is a place to explore beautiful old palaces and temple while offering excellent hikes amid dense and lush forest of hilly north and south. Georgia is yet another lush green land of culture, diverse landscape, ancient architectures and mouth-watering cuisine. Other than that, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Lebanon, State of Palestine, Kuwait, Armenia and Bahrain forms part of this region.
The range and quality of hotels vary enormously in the region from cheap hotels to extravagant and lavish Atlantic in Dubai. Almost all the big cities in the region offer plenty of international hotels chains and luxurious resorts. However, smaller cities and some countries are quite conservative and do not allow unmarried or homosexual couples, which can pose problems for travellers. In some countries, there is a provision of guesthouses, home stays, camping and rent-out furnished apartments and villas.
Family culture can be strongly observed in the Western Asia countries. Children are taught from very early age to respect their parents and elders. Apart from that, culture in the region is deeply religious, conservative and traditions oriented. Western Asia is a birthplace of three main religion of the world i.e. Christianity, Judaism and Islam. However, Islam is the dominant religion in the area followed by Christianity, Jewish and minority of Hindus. Arabic is the official language of most of the countries in the region. Apart than that, other official languages are Persian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Kurdish, Hebrew, Turkish and Greek. English is understood in some big cities or major tourist places. Following are some common phrases in Arabic: Hello: as-salam alaykum Please: min fadlika Thank you: shukran Sorry: asif!
When it comes to food, the cuisines of the region are diverse yet quite similar in ingredients. Olive oil, olives, mint, parsley, pitas, honey, dates, sumac, sesame seeds and chickpeas are some of the common ingredients of the region. Along with that, cereals including wheat and rice are part of staple food along with wide use of barley and maize. Bread of various varieties is universal basic part of dishes. Lamb and mutton is favourite protein in the region whereas pork is banned in both Islam and Judaism. Vegetables and pulses such as cabbage, spinach, onion, garlic, carrots, turnips and beets are common to the region. Some of the famous dishes of the region include grilled meats, kebabs, kabsa, meat and vegetable stews served with rice or bread.
Make sure to seek permission before taking a photograph of a person or their property. Beware of petty crimes in public places in some countries of the region. Avoid going out along after dark, especially in case of female travellers. One should avoid wearing tight-fitted clothes beyond the hotel premises. It is recommended for women to dress modestly i.e. long skirts and dresses and men should wear trousers and shirts with sleeves. Avoid wearing shorts in public and restrict beachwear to beaches only. Homosexual behaviour is strictly illegal in most of the countries. In some countries, foreign women may become subject of flattery. It is advised to avoid giving hints of encouragement. Carry along the medication for minor ailments like colds, fevers and stomach upsets. A pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion, brimmed hats, toiletries, flashlights and spare batteries.
Nightlife in Western Asia is quite varied and mostly limited to major cities. While some countries offers good cinema including Kuwait, other countries such as Georgia are known for its folk theatre, or bars and nightclubs restricted to international hotels. Countries such as Oman, Azerbaijan, UAE and Armenia have no shortage of bars, nightclubs, playing local bands and DJs along with other options including fancy restaurants, opera and ballet houses, cinema halls etc. Other places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen have almost no nightlife.
Shopping in the Western Asia is an amazing experience with beautiful and colourful handicrafts exhibiting the culture of each country. Pearls and red clay pottery are speciality of Bahrain; Iraq offers copperware, silver, spices, carpets and bright coloured rugs; traditional carpets, silk or woollen are must buy from Azerbaijan. Check out the markets of Oman for silver and gold jewellery, khanjars, coffeepots, saddles, frankincense, hand-woven textiles, baskets, goat-hair carpets and camel straps.
Tourists can enjoy burst of festivals in the region with countries celebrating the festivals with great zeal and fervour. One will find festivals of many religions including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Jewish etc. Eid, Christmas, Tisha BÕav, Rosh Hashana, Hannuka, Ramadan, Ashura and many more such festivals are graced with colours, lights and great enthusiasm.
The medical facilities in Western Asia region varies greatly from country to country. Where UAE offers world-class options, few countries in the region may not up to the standards. In addition, in some countries healthcare system are good in large cities whereas have poor facilities outside. No specific vaccinations are needed to enter the region. However, tuberculosis and hepatitis B shots are recommended. In some other countries diarrhoeal diseases, hepatitis E, tick-borne encephalitis and rabies are commonly present. Tap water in the region is usually not fit for drinking and is advisable to buy packaged water.
In most of the countries, handshake is the most common way of greeting. However, way of greeting a person of opposite gender may differ from country to country. Taking photographs without permission is considered impolite and can make people angry. Make sure to learn some polite Arabic phrases. Men should dress modestly and avoid wearing shorts while women must carry a headscarf and should cover their arms and legs. However, the dressing may vary slightly from country to country and sometimes in different cities as well. In most of the countries tip is expected in restaurants and by hotel staff. Most of the times 10% is fine but rounding off the amount is also acceptable at some places.