What to Expect When Invited to an Arab Home

-An invitation to an Arab home should be treated with utmost honor and should be accepted. The standard greeting extended to a guest upon his arrival at a home is: “Ahlan wa sahlan,” which means “welcome.” Unexpected arrivals at an Arab’s home are generally not well-received, especially if women are at the house. Upon entering the majlis (the reception room for visitors), a gentleman should remove his shoes. (He should therefore be wearing clean, presentable socks). If the gentleman is accompanied by a lady, he should expect that he and his date will be seated in different rooms during the duration of the visit. Refreshment and/or something to eat will typically be offered upon arrival. It should be accepted.

-A gentleman should not sit or position himself such that his back is towards anyone. If such a placement is necessary, he should beg the indulgence of the person to whom his back is facing.

-Whenever a person temporarily takes leave of company to obtain food or drink for himself, he should offer to bring some back for those in his company.

-Meals are served in and from dishes place onto the floor. Guests sit cross-legged (yoga-style).

-The sexes eat separately.

-There is little conversation during meals, the rationale being that the food should be enjoyed.

-Food is eaten with the fingers. Only the right hand should be used for eating. (The left hand is considered unclean).

-Most Arabs are Muslim; consequently, the presumption should be that alcohol and pork are not consumed.

-During the month of Ramadan, fasting takes place between dawn and dusk. (“Iftar” is the meal that breaks the fast). During the fasting period, there is no eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing of gum. And it is impolite for non-Muslims to eat, drink, smoke, or chew in public during Ramadan.


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