The Arab world has become one of the top tourist destinations in recent years. Known for its great transport connections, the airlines have really opened up this part of the world, and with high-quality hotels having outstanding service, there is a lot to see and do. There is even more to do when you speak Arabic.
Swim with the Dolphins in Dubai. A top attraction for many in Dubai is to get up close with one of the most majestic and mesmerising animals on earth. Swimming with the Dolphins in Dolphin Bay in Dubai has to be a bucket list item for many people, and this is surely one of the best places in the world to achieve this dream.
The Burj Khalifa Dubai. This is not just a top ten of the Arab world but a top ten of the entire world. At 828m tall, The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. There are 160 stories in this outrageously tall building and tours to the very top are a popular tourist attraction. From the top one get perhaps the best view anywhere in the Middle East but if you suffer from vertigo it is perhaps not the place to visit.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. There are multiple reasons to visit this spectacular and unique museum. The museum is an immaculately collated collection of Islamic art and History. With impressive Georgian rugs, restored and preserved remnants of Damascan palaces as well as relics and porcelain relics from across the ancient Islamic world there is a lot to take in. By learning to speak Arabic your tour of the museum will become more impressive as the Arabic language will enable you to understand what you are seeing better. However, there is another reason for visiting this outstanding museum and that reason is a few steps away in a courtyard. Here in the left-hand courtyard is arguably the best view oh Doha possible.
Dune Riding in a Buggy or on a quad bike. For those who seek a little more thrills and spills from their visit to Dubai, Doha or any one of the cities in the Arab world escaping to dunes is where to find it. Many Arab countries have turned their biggest natural resource, sand, into the ultimate adventure playground. Groups can be taken on dune tours in a large, luxury 4 x 4 but to experience the sand dunes up close one needs to bash through them in a buggy or on a quad bike. The sand dunes and it, of course, camels are iconic symbols of the middle east but hitting the dunes by buggy or bike has to be the top thing to do for anyone with a sense of adventure.
Speaking Arabic can open up many more places in the Arab world. Small coffee shops where local sit and while away the morning sun can open up an opportunity for conversation that lifts the cotton sheets on the almost mystical society. If there is one top thing to do in the Arab word then surely it must be to speak to an Arab in his native language.
Ask anyone who has travelled to the Middle East to describe the region and they will struggle to create a picture that comes anywhere close to their experience. Spices dominate the Middle East, their fragrance, colours and in food, their taste. One cannot really define the Middle East unless one is familiar with the spices of the region and this is also true with food.
Middle Eastern food can be sophisticated, and with a barrage of exotic tastes hitting the tongue, or simple, with something special about them. Food in the Middle East is something every tourist has to try and here are a few dishes and items worth looking out for.
Iraqi Masgouf. Let’s start with something unusual, Carp. This freshwater fish is something most people would very easily turn their noses up to, and quite rightly so, carp is not the most appealing of foods. However, when carp has been slow-cooked for three or four hours leaving none of the fishy fat carp is known for, and then served with lemon, pickles and maybe a salad carp takes on a whole new meaning.
Baklava. Okay, let’s go to another extreme far away from carp. Baklava is a Middle Eastern sweet dish that is known and loved worldwide. Chopped nuts, lashings of sweet syrup and honey with filo pastry mad with plenty of butter make a dish that is so amazing that it is little wonder it is one of the most popular in the world but it is best eaten in the Middle East.
Mansaf. This has been described by many as the Middle Eastern Pizza, but is quite a bit different from the average piece of pie found on a New York street. This Jordanian and Palestinian dish is a culinary delight made from lamb or mutton, sprinkled with pine nuts and almonds, that float in a layer of rich creamy yoghurt. Mansaf can be served on a plate, but for a real experience it is eaten at a celebration, and the table becomes the plate. It is a simple dish but the slow cooked tender mutton is something fit for a king.
Moutabal. The Middle East is famous for Hummus but there is a dip that surpasses Hummus hands down. Moutabal is a spiced up dip made from Eggplant, a little tahini and yoghurt. It is smokier and more flavoursome than Hummus and will become your new favourite dip very quickly.
The Middle East is well known for its different foods and many tourists never get to try them simply because they don’t know what something is and don’t know how to ask for it. Speaking Arabic can open up the culinary delights of the Middle East allowing you to explore new tastes with ease. Even a few words help, but a full control of the language gets you more experiences than you could ever dream of.
The Middle Eastern Arabic speaking countries are fast becoming tourist hubs. In the past, destinations such as Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the UAE have been seen as places for business, but they are now attracting fun lovers. Speaking Arabic can make your vacation to Arabic speaking countries special, and achieve the feeling as if you have just been upgraded.
Tourists, whether entering Arabic speaking countries purely for pleasure, or on the back of an extended business trip, are made to feel very welcome by Arabs. Hospitality comes naturally to an Arab and is extended liberally, generously and lovingly, even more so when Arabic is spoken.
One of the biggest tourist attractions, particularly in Qatar and the UAE, must surely be the markets. The markets come to life when the scorching Middle Eastern sun goes down, and every human sense is nudged and woken up like never before. Spices and the smell of coffee often fill the air and locals sit and relax as the hustle and bustle flows around them.
Sitting down and taking in the atmosphere with locals, feels almost rude if you cannot speak Arabic. A few words here and there will help, but a full grasp of the language will open up a world of stories, fascinating people and a culture steeped in history. Blending in with language is something many tourists do not understand, but for those who take their travel seriously, language and speaking it is what makes the vacation a true vacation.
In the markets, haggling is a way of life. Locals haggle over bales of hay, next to feeding donkeys and maybe camels next door, to a market stall selling tourist trinkets and gifts. Nothing it seems has an actual price tag; everything is negotiable. Haggling in English is ok, but if you want to take it seriously, speaking the native Arabic will quite likely get you a better deal.
Many Arab nations are proud of their heritage, culture, and Muslim faith. These elements of the Arab world are perhaps what create the great mystery that seems to flow like smoke around the Arab world. Arab countries may well be small, but there is a lot of magical mystery that many tourists are hungry to discover, language opens up the possibilities.
Getting beyond the tourist hub is challenging. The hotels and amenities are designed to attract tourists and release an abundance of enjoyment and relaxation. However, there is more to an Arab country than luxury hotels. In true Lawrence of Arabia style, with language, you can begin to explore, and dare to go further. Camel rides in the desert are touristy, but getting to know those who own and keep the Camels, is something few tourists are able to do. Speaking Arabic changes the whole experience, respect is shown and your touristy thing again feels upgraded.
The Arab world beckons the tourists from all over the planet. Speaking Arabic opens up a host of opportunities and possibilities that will turn an average vacation into something magical… who knows, if you speak Arabic you make be able to make a carpet fly!
The importance of being multilingual should not be overlooked by frequent travellers. It becomes essential in some parts of the globe, just like your passport or mobile. Learning a new language reaps benefits beyond the reach of tourist maps, guides etc… Books and internet are of no use when you have to negotiate prices with a street vendor who doesn’t speak your native tongue.
There are many official excuses about why you should avoid learning a few foreign languages. Most excuses include being too busy or too lazy. Nevertheless, we have come up with a few reasons why you shouldn’t excuse yourself from enriching your travel experience through leaning a language.
Learning any foreign language is easy:
Learning any foreign language with VLLC is much easier than it sounds. It can be accomplished much more quickly than you expect. The key is to know what you want. You don’t have to be proficient enough to write poetry and you don’t have to be intimidated by the strange looking alphabets and never ending grammatical rules. For starters, you don’t have to be fluent in the language to survive in any country. The ability to communicate and have a decent understanding of the language goes a long way. Learning a language specifically for travel can include relevant vocabulary in a short period of time is really possible with VLLC.
Learning local language makes life easy:
When you speak their language, you can have a far more valuable experience with the locals. Knowing how to order food and drinks at hotels alone can save you money. It’s logistically easier to navigate a city through trains, buses or walking, when you know some basics in the language. You can also protect yourself from scams more readily if you speak their language as you do when you speak only English. Being able to speak the local language helps you to be accepted more readily for the most part. Not looking like an Uber-tourist in any foreign land has its benefits. Learning a few words to enable you to ask for directions doesn’t demand too much preparation.
Language is the gateway to culture:
If you have ever tried learning a foreign language, you would know language isn’t the only thing you would absorb. Along with the language, you would learn some history and culture of the country. Even being able to read a passage in a short story would open your mind to various aspects of culture or folklore. Some cultural values would appeal to you and stay forever. Difference in the depth of understanding of a poem or story would vary with the way you learn it. Reading mere translations and reading the original passage would show the difference. Foreign music can also take your experience to a whole new level.
Local language keeps loneliness at bay:
It’s common to feel lonelier when you are away from home. Homesickness can creep in subtly. When you know the language, you can make friends more easily. Sharing a story is a lot better than just a smile. Developing lasting relationships in a safe and pleasant manner can be a real life changing experience. Knowing the local language gives you more options to do something interesting than just following the run of mill tourist plan. Your ability to experience local life in a new country would increase dramatically. There wouldn’t be any need to resort to the lonely international traveller lifestyle.
Learning reflects your gratitude and courtesy:
Leaning the local language makes you appear more interested and courteous toward the locals. It shows the respect you have for foreign countries’ and their people. When visiting a country, you need to learn at least some basic language, out of respect. The benefits of learning a new language are far more reaching than you think. New language rewards you with new acquaintances and memories. Contact VLLC for more information on how you can prepare for your next overseas trip.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.