10 Facts You Didn't Know About the Arab World
By: Emily Devereaux/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Arab World is home to many different breathtaking and interesting landmarks, people, and customs. However, the Arab World is typically grossly exotified in the media. Many people know the main landmarks or current events. However, many of them do not know the customs and treasures hidden within the Arab World. Continue reading to learn about spectator games, a feminist utopia, and one of the brightest places on earth- all in the Arab world!
1. Camels Ridden by… Robots?
Camel racing has been a long tradition in Qatar. It initially began as a tradition for weddings and entertainment, but it became a professional sport in the 1970s. Since then, this sport requires camel training twice a day and is a large source of revenue for Qatar. One of the best places there to enjoy camel racing is in Al-Shahaniya, which is accompanied by gorgeous desert scenery. In Al-Shahaniya, the camel racing is so interesting because the camels being jockeyed by robots. These robots are approximately 25 kilograms and are strapped to the camel’s back cloaked in colorful fabrics and controlled by a remote belonging to their owner or jockey! These robots were utilized after 2004, when children jockeys were banned.
2. Winston’s Hiccup
Saudi Arabian legend says that after World War I when western powers were redividing the map of the Middle East, Winston Churchill was tasked with demarcating the territories that were to be controlled by the British. In the year 1921, Churchill, who was known for enjoying a drink a little too often, sat down after his lunch and began what was known at that time as the Trans-Jordan territory. Upon drawing, he hiccuped and accidentally dragged his pen inward. This accounts for the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This border is not significant for geographical nor political reasons. From then on, this is famously known as “Winston’s Hiccup”.
3. Eating in Iraq
Per Islamic principles, the left hand is used to remove dirt or to clean, and therefore cannot touch food. If you are eating a meal in Iraq or with an Iraqi friend, do not touch the food or pass the food with your left hand! Instead, use your right hand. Additionally, your Iraqi friend that worked hard and cooked a great meal for you won’t be offended if you eat your meal with your hands (specifically your right hand!) because it will signal your host/hostess that the food they cooked is delicious. Don’t be surprised if you are given seconds or even thirds! As your Iraqi host/hostess is the epitome of cordial and “the host with the most”(this is true also in other Arab regions)
4. Jesus Christ’s First Miracle was in the Arab World
If you aren’t sure where the expression “turning water into wine” came from, this is a reference to Jesus’ first miracle- the Wedding at Cana. At this wedding, Jesus’s mother turned to him and said: “They have no wine.”After a short deliberation, Jesus ordered the workers to fetch baskets of water, that he would turn into wine. It’s debated whether the wedding was in Qana (7miles from Nazareth), or at Qana, Lebanon which is eighteen miles outside of Tyre.
5. Mermaid of the Mediterranean
Libya’s capital city, Tripoli, was founded in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians. Therefore, it was coined “Mermaid of the Mediterranean” because of its turquoise shoreline and beautiful white buildings. While Libya is home to the longest coastline in North Africa, the shores of Tripoli were popular enough to get a nickname, as well as have films and board games named after this beauty! While Tripoli is a beautiful symbol for all of Libya, it is also a commercial hub for the country as well as home to leading tourist attractions.
6. Home to the Oldest Inhabited Place
Historians tend to hold that Oman is the oldest human-inhabited place on the planet, estimating people have been living in Oman for at least 106,000 years now. This can be attributed to Oman’s strategically important location on the southeastern coast of the Arabian peninsula. The strategic location was regarded as a prime location for building an empire, which was evident in many historical power struggles between European empire-builders and Arab empire-builders.
7. Bahrain is a Glutton for Electricity
Per statistics released by the International Energy Agency, Bahrain is said to consume the highest amount of electricity in all of Asia. In comparison to other parts of the world, Bahrain comes in third overall, following Iceland and Norway. This can be attributed to the generally more affluent members of society, a higher standard of living, and a hot and arid climate.
8. Jinwar, the Female-Only Village in Syria
Syria’s feminist utopia sits in the plains of northern Syria. This symbol of freedom is called Jinwar. This collection of agricultural fields and thirty brick houses has been built up over the past two years with the mission of women can stay, but men cannot. Jinwar was built on the principles of protecting women from capitalism and patriarchy. Many of the women that have come to this self-sustaining village are women seeking to spread out a feminist revolution, in the face of war and losing loved ones.
9. How to Say Thank You in the Arab World Without Speaking
In the Arabic language, it is common for people to rely on hand gestures. Sometimes, it is said: “To tie an Arab’s hands while he is speaking is tantamount to tying his tongue.” Therefore, there are many ways to express phrases in the Arabic language and in the Arab world. For example, in order to say thank you, one would place the palm of the right hand on the chest, bowing the head a little and closing one’s eyes. This is a physical expression of thank you (in the name of Allah).
10. Home to One of the Sunniest Places in the World
Africa particularly is home to a few of the sunniest places in the world. But the Arab world has Aswan. Egypt! Aswan sees an average of 3,863 hours of sun a year. In comparison, most of the United States sees well below 3,000 hours of sunlight a year. Due to the high amounts of sun daily, Aswan is also one of the aridest places, with less than half an inch of rain annually.