Malaysia Casts Itself as Friendly Destination for Arab Tourists

Malaysia Casts Itself as Friendly Destination for Arab Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you might be forgiven for thinking you had landed in the Middle East: In addition to English and Malaysian Bahasa, arrival and departure announcements are made in high-flown Arabic, just one indication that Malaysia is fast becoming a favorite holiday destination for Arabs.

From June to October, Arab tourists increasingly flee the furnace-like temperatures of the Gulf for Malaysia's green landscape and pristine coastal waters. While many hotels all over the country -- from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to Langkawi near the Thai border -- cater to Arab tourists during the summer season, the trend is most evident in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the capital city's countenance is gradually losing some of its traditional Southeast Asian features and acquiring Middle Eastern traits.

The bistros that dot Kuala Lumpur's "Golden Triangle," the business heartbeat of the Malaysian capital, are frequently patronized by Arab customers smoking shisha (water pipes) and sipping black tea in tiny transparent glasses. An "Arab Street" in the neighborhood caters to Arab tastes in shopping and fast food.

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