The values of Arab culture are unique and vast, which makes sense since the Arab world is made up of 22 countries. While it is true that the Arabic language and Muslim faith are dominant in the Arab population, and just like with any other region, the ones which are part of the Arab World experience a certain amount of diversity. Several languages are spoken in the territories of the 22 countries such as Darija – a language spoken in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia which, while sharing certain similarities with Arabic, is ultimately its own thing. The same goes for religion. While some countries have more religious diversity than others, it is important to note that it certainly exists within the Arab World. Lebanon, for example, has a huge Christian population.
If you are traveling to an Arab country, knowing certain Arab customs and traditions will make your visit more enjoyable. Even if you’re not planning a trip, it is also fun getting educated about other cultures. Whether you’re studying abroad, just visiting, planning a business trip to an Arabic country or simply want to learn more about the culture, below are some important and interesting Arabic customs and traditions, depending on the occasion:
Attending An Arabic Wedding
From the crazy dancing to the awkward conversations with women telling you, “You’re next!” Arab weddings are just plain fun! When the dabke enthusiasts take over the dance floor, we all know that it’s time to move back slowly until you find yourself standing at a safe distance. That is unless you have the skills to join the dabke party. If you don’t want to dance, try joining the zarghouta professionals, who are blessed with impeccable vocal chords and superhumanly long breaths. There’s no denying that Arab weddings are in a league of their own.
Baptism In Arabic Countries
As we mentioned before, not all Arabs are Muslim. In fact, there is a huge population of Christians, although most of them are found in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. The baptism ritual follows almost the same steps as in the West.
Funeral In Arabic Countries
Where there’s life, you will find death, as well. However, you’ll be surprised how funerals are held. Of course every region will have its own customs, but generally speaking, Arabs view death as a transition from one state of being to another, not as an end. They believe that your actions in this world follow you to the afterlife. So, if you lived a good life, you’ll be rewarded in the afterlife, and in death, you will be separated from the ugliness in this world. On the other hand, if you lived a dishonest and bad life, you will be separated from all the beauty of the world.
The mourning period for a relative is typically 3 days. The family will either open the doors to their home or rent a hall in order to receive guests who want to give their condolences where you will be served with coffee (qahweh) and refreshments.
Regular Visiting In Arabic Countries
Visits among friends and relatives are expected, and they will visit you in return. Unlike the West, some Arab countries have only one free day per week, and that is Friday, when Muslims attend prayers and are usually followed by family visits. In fact, Fridays are considered “family day”. Also, it is custom that when a couple just got married, you visit their home carrying gifts. Same goes for welcoming a new born into this world or buying a house. You could say that this is because Arabs are generally very socially-oriented people.
Everyday Bits Of Tradition In Arabic Countries
The following are just small aspects about day to day life in the Arab community that are not necessarily part of an event:
- It’s common for your host to insist on overfeeding you during a meal, as Arabs traditionally view food as an important symbol of hospitality, generosity, and goodwill – the more the better!
- Don’t feel that you are required to tip your taxi driver, as tipping in such a scenario is not necessary, but is certainly appreciated.
- It is common for an acquaintance of the same gender to ” give you a peck” on your cheeks when greeting you, as Arabs have traditionally kissed each other on both cheeks as a warm gesture of welcome and affection.
- Always accept when Arabic coffee is offered to you by your host, as coffee is an important cultural symbol of hospitality, simultaneously extended and accepted as an act of reciprocated goodwill. Also, when finishing your cup of Arabic coffee, shake your cup from side to side in order to let your host know that you do not wish to drink more. If more coffee is desired, then simply hold your cup out to the person carrying the coffeepot.
- Only use the right hand to eat, touch, and present gifts.
- When sitting, avoid stretching your legs in front of or sitting up higher than others.
- If someone does a favor for you, return the favor in some way.
- The traditional Arab clothing differs from region to region, but they share a common trait – traditional flowing robes and a headdress.
When visiting an Arabic country, it helps to know the customs, traditions and language. If you wish to ease your interaction within an Arab country, we have plenty of other articles about common words in Arabic, greetings and basic words. Please check them out!