This past summer, I went on a solo trip to the Middle East from Malaysia for the first time. It was an amazing experience and completely different to what I thought it would be. What the Middle East has been portrayed by the media is completely the opposite of it and they are also these stereotypes about the Middle East which are not particularly true. So, here are some of the things you would not know about the Middle East unless you have been there yourself.

First of all, where is the Middle East? The Middle East  is the region around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is  the home to 22 countries with Islam being the main religion where 93% of the population are Muslim. The region is very well known for its desserts where the Arabian desert is one of the largest in the world. So, this is some of the things you most probably know about the Middle East. I am gonna share some of the things you may not know about the region.

Most people likely imagine the region to be uncultured and undeveloped however the Middle East is surprisingly very well developed in terms of  architecture and most people of the people are educated and progressive. In fact, three out of the top five richest countries in the world are from the Middle East. It is also the home to big metropolitan cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and so on. Most people would tend to associate the word poverty with the Middle East but guess what only 20% of the entire region actually lives under poverty. So, think twice before categorizing the Middle East as the poor region.

Secondly, you might have heard the Middle East is not the right place for women where women are not given the right to express their thoughts and ideas, are not given the right to education, are brutally treated and will be punished violently for any actions that goes up against men well these might be a bit over exaggerated.  It may be true like 30 years ago but now there has been an enormous change in the social structure in the Middle East. Most countries have closed or nearly closed the gender gap in youth literacy and the women’s labor force participation in the Middle East has increased dramatically too. The region has witnessed some encouraging developments in the area of women in politics where the proportion of seats held by women in parliament increased from 3.9 percent  to 8.8 percent in the past few years.

Despite the positive fact, I do admit, gender inequality in the Middle East still exists.  women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive and in countries like Bahrain and Yemen women are not given child custody right. In Lebanon, abused women do not even have the right to file for a divorce unless an eyewitness is willing to testify. However, gender inequality is everywhere. For example, women are still not allowed to be in frontier combat in the UK.Even in developed countries like USA and Germany women are still at a  disadvantage when it comes to salary, especially in the workplace. In India, rape laws do not apply to married couples clearly illustrates the sexual subjugation and violence that women, unfortunately, remain exposed to. So, inequality exists everywhere but why is the Middle East always the main target. Where has equality gone?

Lastly, the most common thing who hear people say about the Middle East is that it is the land of terror and most people tend to have fear and hatred towards those from the Middle East. You might have heard this but NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORIST. Did you know that 5 out of the past 12 Nobel Prize winners are Muslims from the Middle East? So, do not discriminate an entire population out of the mistake committed by one percent of the population. Not trying to say that the Middle East is the safest place in the world but it is not as dangerous as most people fear of and it is okay to be friends with people from the region as well. Try not be blinded by the disparity from media coverage because we are smarter than that.

In conclusion, I just hope everyone has a better idea and understanding of the Middle East and realizes that it is not that bad after all. There are bad people doing bad things everywhere and it is not right to generalize. Like Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”. So spread love and strive for peace.