The art of Arabian hospitality

The Arab world — pause a minute — ask yourself, what did reading this evoke?

Did you imagine deserts, camels, beaches, souks, luxury, Burj Khalifa … and everything else that we are shown on television? Probably.

While all of that is certainly a big and important part of the Arab world, my belief is that the people — without which the Arab world would not exist — are left in the shadows of the ever-growing modern luxury. What I mean by that, is that underneath the physical and material luxury lies a great deal of traditions and values which are far richer and more precious than the physical beauty which attracts tourists. It is not surprising that people from different countries tend to express hospitality in different ways; however, the Arabs are without a doubt masters in the art of hospitality and generosity.

According to Abu Dhabi’s Culture and Tourism website, ‘much of Abu Dhabi’s charm lies in the old-world courtesies lost to many destinations‘. Upon your arrival at an Arab household, you will immediately feel the warmth with which you will be greeted. While it is true that all over the world people may urge you to ‘make yourself at home’, in the Arab world, hosts generally tend to go above and beyond to ensure that they make you feel at home.

As soon as you arrive, you will be greeted warmly and offered the traditional greeting dish of dates with tea or coffee. Noah Chani, writer for ArabAmerica.com, explains that ‘the pot’s first cup of tea or coffee is poured for the guests as a sign of respect and [the hosts’] willingness to protect them‘. After this, the guests are often presented with multiple and various dishes — regardless of whether they are hungry or not!

As an extension of Arabic hospitality, hosts generally tend to refuse to take no for an answer; for example, if you are offered more food and you decline, you will most likely still be handed a plateful of food — and if you try to leave early, you will most certainly be persuaded to stay longer. The reason behind this is the hosts’ understanding that most of the time people decline offers out of politeness or fear that they may have overstayed their welcome. The warmth of the Arabian hospitality therefore works to completely eradicate all feelings of discomfort as the hosts always ensure that their guests not only know they are welcome but that they also truly feel it.

So the next time you travel to the Arab world, make sure that its physical and material beauty does not hinder you from noticing the kindness of the people all around you. There is a lot that the world can learn from their hospitality and generosity.

If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have a little, give of your heart.

Arabic proverb

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