What an awful situation this is - a European lady having her drink spiked and raped in Qatar, only to find that after reporting it to the police she was arrested for extra-marital sex.

Yes, Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup, and yes it is an often-visited part of the Gulf, but this may leave travellers to the region with a feeling of comfortable over-confidence that can get them into serious trouble.

If you are responsible for people travelling to the Gulf states you have a moral and a legal obligation to prepare them as best you can, and this includes the cultural and legal differences they will encounter.

I've spent over 12 years in the Middle East and have fond, even nostalgic, memories of the area. But it is a very different place to most Westernised countries, with different belief systems (I'm not only talking about religion here), different legal structures and different social rules of accountability. Learn about these as best you can, or consider not going if you cannot.

I found during my years in Bahrain and the UAE (both neighbours to Qatar) that the locals were actually very accommodating to Western culture in day-to-day life. The news stories one might read about arrests made for lewd behaviour in public were often describing events that I doubt would have been tolerated in the home countries of those involved, let alone in a Muslim state. Yet, you cannot live there and escape the other stories of more serious interactions with the authorities that genuinely shock our cushioned Western sensibilities.

I feel a deep sympathy with this poor victim in Qatar, and with the tens of other similar cases I've heard about during my time in the Gulf that weren't reported in the Western media. Now it is time for us to prepare better for travel and business in these areas. There is a lot to gain from going to the Gulf, and there is a lot we must learn in order to keep safe whilst doing so.

This article identifies an excellent pre-travel training course program offered by beTravelwise, and there are other strategies that can be used to ensure employee resilience in new locations.

Assess the risk. Choose a strategy to combat it. Prepare your people.