Internationally known gym franchises operate from Beirut to Doha. (There’s even a health club in the Makkah Royal Clock Tower so you can squeeze in a workout before perambulating the Kaaba!). But while Middle Eastern health clubs may look like their EU and US cousins; activities inside are expected to adapt to more conservative Arab cultural norms, especially for women. Gym rats, don’t be alarmed, all is orthodox when it comes to the exercise — you can expect the routine staples in sets and reps, cardio and classes, nothing alien there! But look again at some of the subtext to the stretching, spotting and squatting!
Inside the ladies locker room, expect to encounter the quirks and foibles of the more body-shy but no less body-obsessed culture. Nudity is haram, and you’ll be eye-balled as potential wife material for a stranger’s distant cousin! Things can also get strange on the exercise floor machines until you’ve found your feet. Gird up your loins for the eccentricities of the MENA female gym experience! It will help you get back in the zone to offset that sleepy and sedentary lifestyle.