Arab world is known to be the birthplace of the most ancient cultures. Arab culture possesses a long dynamic history and rich cultural heritage. Arab world always welcomes foreign guests and is ready to reveal its secrets. Arabs respect and preserve their traditions. Therefore, visitors should be knowledgeable about the accepted rules of etiquette. Our review will shed light on the mysterious world of Arab culture. So, let us dwell on the three major areas of the Arab world: culture, formal interactions and religion.
Arabic is the common language of all the Muslims and English is another widely spoken language in the UAE. In different Middle Eastern countries various Arabic dialects are spoken, however, there are numerous similarities in the lexicon, especially in basic vocabulary items.
There are numerous greetings, responses and other polite formulas, which are common throughout the Middle East. For example all the Arabs say “As-salamu alaykum” when meeting each other (what means “Peace be upon you”) and response “Wa-Alaikum-us-Salaam” (“And unto you peace”). Another polite formula is “Ahlan wa Sahlan”, what means “Welcome” and is very common among Arab hosts.
Women, who come to the UAE for a trip, do not have to wear traditional Muslim clothes. However, in mosques, women traditionally put on abayas, and the head must be covered too. Usually, you can ask for an abaya in the mosque.
Arabs treat joint eating as an outward expression of amiability and friendship. You will be always treated with some tea or coffee and you should accept this gesture not to offend the hosts.
Eating habits of the Middle East have some peculiarities. For instance, you should not eat with the left hand, as it is considered unclean. When finishing meals a bit of food is usually left on the plate.
Both pork and pork products are prohibited in the Middle East. Observant Muslims are allowed to consume Halal food because it meets their beliefs and is suitable for consumption. Halal food is permitted under the Islamic Sharia law. Halal meat products undergo a special preparation.
Drinking alcohol or smoking is not accepted by observant Muslims. You should not ask for strong drinks if they are not offered. However, alcoholic beverages are usually served in hotels.
Taking photos is inadvisable in many places. We need to clearly mention that it is prohibited in mosques, some governmental institutions and military objects. Be sure to ask for permission when taking a photo of someone on the street, especially if it is a woman.
An outward appearance is an important indicator of your respectfulness towards the Muslim traditions. Modest clothing, for example a modest dress, is an ideal garment for both males and females.
Some gestures can be offensive. One may hurl an insult at another simply by showing the bottom of a foot. No questions arise when both feet are kept on the floor.
Muslims are laconic about their families, and you should restrict yourself to the general questions when talking about family members. Asking about someone’s spouse is inadvisable at all.
Relations between males and females seems to be more hierarchical than in the Western society. Gender relations are conformed to a “moral order”. You will hardly see men and women walking together holding their hands, unless they are married or related. However, in contrast to Western culture, this gesture is common among men.
Handshaking is a gesture commonly used by men. However, women can be involved too. Women never initiate handshaking. They can shake hands only when the man holds out a hand. Handshaking is more restricted among pious Muslims, as men never shake hands with women. Regarding women, they may not shake hands or even touch men unless they are family members. In order to express hospitality, Muslim women usually put a hand over the heart.
Arabs are social and gregarious people who respect generosity and thoughtfulness. Arab hosts treat their guests like family and can always render assistance in various situations.
You will never suffer from hunger as Arabs always welcome their guests to eat. You will be offered a meal even when it is enough only for one person. You may politely decline the offer, but it is important for hosts to extend it.
Arabs respect elderly people and greet them first. They also stand up when new guests are coming or a woman enters.
Eastern cultures view time as an endless cycle of events. The time is fluid for Arabs and they may be carefree about an agreed time of an appointment. It concerns both work and social events. It is typical that visitors are kept waiting and it is not viewed as impoliteness or disrespect. However, visitors are expected always to come on time and notify hosts about possible delays.
Week scheduleIn the UAE, the workweek lasts five days, and there are two weekends, respectively. Friday is viewed as a holy day. Therefore, Friday and Saturday are weekends.
Arab world can be regarded as monoreligious. Islam, being a primary religion, has a direct influence on almost all the spheres of life. Arabs are adherent to the Islamic faith. The five pillars of Islam include confession of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage.
Muslim prayer or salah is observed five times a day: near dawn (fajr), at noon (zuhr), in the afternoon (asr), just after sunset (maghrib) and around nightfall (Isha). It is allowed to pray in public places. And in the workplace, there is usually a room or space designated for prayer.
Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar) is observed by Muslims as a month dedicated to fasting and festivities. Muslims may not eat, drink or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Food and other stuff may be served for non-Muslim guests at hotels, and it is advisable to refrain from it in public places.
“Ramadan Kareem” (what means “Happy Ramadan”) is a typical greeting during the month.
As it was mentioned above, a daily fast ends in the evening after the sunset. Dates are usually the first food to serve for a huge meal, which is called iftar. Community iftar is a right place to get acquainted with the Middle Eastern family life traditions.
Islam is recognized as the official religion of the UAE. Its status is ascertained by the UAE’s Constitution.
The Government of the UAE welcomes visitors and tourists from all over the world and aims at creating conditions favourable in all respects. Today, there are numerous Christian churches and a Hindu temple complex in the UAE.