Learning a language means learning a culture. And today, it is all about understanding the cultural background and aspects of the Middle East. This will not be another Arab culture essay, but rather a small something to tell you all about the lives and traditions of Arabic speakers.
Hop on the boat of understanding Middle Eastern culture.
What is the Middle East?
The Middle East is special in so many ways. This vast region that pretty much stretches from North Africa to the Persian Gulf includes 22 Arabic-speaking countries or areas. Uncommon to popular belief, this does not include Turkey and Iran as they are not Arab countries.
Interestingly enough, Turkey and Iran share similar cultural traditions and customs even though they don’t speak the Arabic language. Instead, Turkey speaks Turkish and Iran speaks Farsi or Persian.
Middle East Culture and Religion
Like every culture in the world, there are a number of misconceptions on Arabs and their culture. One very common one is Arab culture and marriage. Many people tend to believe that Arabs marry traditionally all the time. This is true still, but not all the time.
Culture and religion are highly intertwined. This automatically turns marriage customs around as it also extremely connected to religion.
There are the two main religions that people practice in the MENA region are Islam and Christianity. Islam, is of course, the dominant one. In Islam, it is common practice to show respect for the woman by showing up at the door and not through the window. In other words, things need to be more official than a simple “guy meets girl” scenario.
With Christianity, it is a little bit different. Although some Christians are more religious than others, the variations of marriage are more or less the same. The man and woman meet but can be unofficial for a while before it turns into the real deal.
Time changes everything. With the world turning from a universe to a small village, thanks to the internet, customs change. This includes marriage and even the intensity of religious beliefs. Automatically, marriage customs are much more loose than they used to be and matters are not as serious as they used to be taken.
The customs did not die. However, they did calm down with their intensity.
Arabic Culture History
History of Arabs started with women and men dressing very differently. It would take forever to cover every country and every region as dresses differ from one place to the next. However, common principles are shared. For example, men would tend to wear trousers and a thoub on top. This is long piece of cloth that is open from the bottom.
Women on the other hand, wear dresses and/or skirts. In the Gulf region such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, women wear Abaya’s. They pretty much black dresses. But don’t be fooled. Some of these Abaya’s can be thousands of Riyals based on their fabric, how they’re made and many other factors.
This one aspect of Arabic culture history that is quite interesting. With the world changing, people noticed the changes in clothing all around the world. Although outfits and trends come and go, Arabs have maintained the traditional customs when it comes to attire. Nonetheless, they are within the trends of the world as well without letting go of their customs.
Arabic Customs and Etiquette
One of the most important parts of Arabic customs and etiquette is hospitality. It is very important to place the guest in the highest rank when visiting your home or a place that is owned by you. For example, someone might visit your farm.
Another important part of etiquette is respect of the family and the entire family unit. This includes everyone from the grandfather to the baby cousin. It is common to have big families as children are considered a blessing and bring happiness and welfare to the family unit. However, this did change with time and families opt for smaller families due to financial and economic reasons.
Individually is important but the unit of the family always comes first. This is a primary difference between Middle Eastern culture vs American culture. On the other hand, matters like friends are the most vital to Western culture, but not to Arabs. They value friendship and seek it, but it is not the primary focal point of their lives as per Westernized standards.
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