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In my travels around the Gulf states, I have noticed a disturbing trend among a few of my fellow travellers.

Just recently I was in a Gulf state for a short stay and on one occasion when I dragged my semi-sleepy body to the breakfast hall at 8am, I was greeted by a loud cacophony of voices and the patter of running feet of children.

After filling up my plate with my breakfast fare and making my way to a secluded area in the large breakfast hall, I was soon surrounded by a large family with several kids, each staring at me intently as if I were an alien commodity.

It was slightly uncomfortable, but I focused myself on the plate in front of me and carried on. The staring continued by the younger children, but I just moved on, chewing my food perhaps a bit more quickly.

The family soon started shuffling towards the large breakfast buffet tables, and I could see them returning with plates loaded to the max. For their body size, I wondered if they could take all that food in.

And then the noise started. Initially from another large family group of Asians from around the corner of the dining hall, but soon that din infected the table near me and this family began their own particular chorus of noise and chatter, with each member trying to outdo the other group.

The annoying thing was that several other patrons in the dining area had, from the expressions on their faces, begun to get annoyed but these people were immune to all and continued almost like they owned the bloody hotel.

Read more by Tariq Al Maeena

How wasteful could some people be!

On my way to refill my coffee cup, I noticed a teenager from this particular table reach into the fruit bowl with his hands and begin to eat pieces of chopped melon.

I could not keep quiet anymore and admonished him rather loudly for doing that. My actions were noted by his father who gave me an unfriendly stare but silently rose from their table, followed almost immediately by the rest of his clan and left.

I let out a sigh of relief as I began my coffee in peace and somewhat less noise with their departure. I couldn’t help staring at the mounds of uneaten food carelessly left on their plates, enough food that would undoubtedly feed a family in some impoverished country for more than a week.

Half-eaten or some left untouched only to be disposed of by the hotel staff as they cannot be returned by law for hygienic purposes.

I would have thought that the family elders would have advised their children to take what they thought they could finish and not be wasteful, but from the looks of it, the parents’ plates were just as filled with leftovers. Added to that was the litter of scrap food they left on the floor.

Today, in the era of low-cost airlines and budget tourism, one would run into all classes of people staying at 4- or 5-star hotels and taking full advantage of a package deal. In the process, some manners are forgotten when they arrive at foreign lands.

Food wastage
Everyone should strive to minimise food waste and promote responsible consumption

“Refugees welcome; tourists go home”

And badly behaving tourists come from all over the world. In New Zealand not so long ago, a pair of picnicking European tourists left so much litter on the shores of a public beach which was captured on video and went viral. Soon more than 10,000 New Zealanders signed a petition demanding that they be deported immediately for their lack of etiquette.

In Barcelona the call against foreign visitors has been promoted by left-wing nationalist activists, who express their anti-tourist sentiments with graffiti around Barcelona that reads “Refugees welcome; tourists go home.” In New York, two South American teenagers were arrested for spraying graffiti at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Sara Verde, the founder of Rome Tour Guide, which arranges tours of Rome and the Vatican, lamented the conduct of tourists in recent years. “In July and August, the city becomes a huge sewer and the people don’t care about any rules."

Her horror stories involve a tourist who emptied their bladder shortly after getting off a bus to the Vatican and someone throwing up on one of the seats. “Rome is a place where you can’t control the tourists anymore,” she adds, stressing that the behaviour does seem to have worsened over time.

Be respectful of the norms of the country you are in and follow the rules that are meant for everyone. Being a visitor does not grant you the liberty of circumventing laws of proper behaviour.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator.