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We knew Urfa was conservative, but it was surprisingly so. Despite dressing in an appropriate manner for the ME (long skirts, loose tops with long sleeves), we (two reasonably pretty girls, early 20s) were stared at by the men A LOT (most of the time). With occasional attempts to be chatted up as well as followed.
I'm not sure if this was because they were trying to figure out where we were from (my friend is half Syrian so we don't quite scream tourist as much).
It was completely different from our experience in Syria and other places of Turkey, where, despite stares, we felt safe at all times. In the old town of Urfa, we did not really feel comfortable being out after dark - any cafes/restaurants were predominantly filled with men. Some (all?) cafes appeared to be split into men & family sections, which was surprising.
Tip - err on the side of caution in terms of dress. As for night time activities, maybe frequent a different part of town!
Written Dec 26, 2012
I'm not one of those people who are so centered and self evolved that they never experience culture shock, but I learned that a woman doesn't really venture out alone, it's considered savage it seems. After we checked into our hotel (I was with a family from Van, friends), after a full day of traveling by car, we went to a restaurant, to our own private room with table on the floor, rugs and pillows. Sounds idyllic, no? I began to feel uncomfortably claustrophobic. close to panicky. I wanted a beer or a glass of wine or something, for godsakes I'm on vacation .... hello! ..... but nary a drop of alcohol around. I felt shamed as though I had asked for a heroin or an abortion. Or equality. This whole thing of the man at the head of table got to me too...in a closed room. Wholesome lifestyle. The complacency! I wanted to flee. I tried to excuse myself but everyone at the table insisted that I not walk around alone (it's only 7:00 p.m.) Stubbornly i insisted that I go, explaining I needed to walk, please not to feel obligated to be with me ... I even threw in that cliche I need my space. They reluctantly let me go. Well, I ventured out and as soon as I was away from my companions I had that "what the @#$ do I do now?" moment. I felt as conspicuous as a giraffe on the streets of Wichita. Eyed warily by men in kiosks selling cigarettes and sundrys. I tried to buy a pack of Salems. No comprehension. Salems, I repeat. Mentollo? They laugh at me. Cigarettes? I say in a frosty tone. They chortle. Salim! Salim! Salim! She wants Salim! they say in a language I don't understand, or was it salami? They are all laughing, and not in the nicest way. I find my way back to the hotel, defeated. At sunrise I take a walk, only to be slowly followed by a poliz car. So that's my warning, & my lesson in adjusting behavior and perceiving circumstances that are alien to me. But that's just me, could be completely insignificant for someone else. So that's travel.
Updated Dec 27, 2003