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12 Actions Arab Families Do When They Get Together!

posted on: Sep 27, 2017

By Meriam Helal/Arab America Contributing Writer

Families get together for holidays and birthdays and Arab families have specific traditions and habits that they always do together. Here are some of them.

1. EAT, EAT, and Again, EAT!!!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Arab American family gatherings focus on food and pushing each other to eat. Between eating at family and friends’ houses, going out to restaurants, and always having snacks, desserts, it seems that all we do together is eat. The hosts are always offering something to eat or drink and always say “tafaddal, tafaddali” and it is rude not to accept the food. It is a way of bonding and sharing an experience, as well as sharing recipes and restaurant recommendations.

2. Extremely large portions of food!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Not only do we eat often, but we also eat a lot. Families tend to cook more food than necessary for the number of invited guests because it is considered a tradition to have a feast and it is considered impolite to make just enough food for the number of people attending. Therefore, there is usually a lot of leftovers that some guests take home, or the hosts eat for the next 5 months.   

3. Fight over the check

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

After every restaurant outing, there is a battle on who pays the check. Each family member wants to treat the rest and it becomes a fight over the check. It’s very nice to show generosity by treating everyone, but sometimes it’s awkward, funny, and/or embarrassing when it gets serious and a scene is created in a restaurant setting.

4. PARTY!!!!!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

You know nothing about partying until you party with Arab Americans; they do party harder than others. From belly dancing to the dabke, to drumming; they go at it almost all night. Everyone dances, from toddlers to elders. Once the drum beat is heard, all the guests and hosts are on their feet.

5. Play Backgammon and bizer (seeds)!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

When Arab Americans are not partying and dancing, men mostly are playing backgammon. It is a very old game, maybe 5,000 years old, and is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia, Iraq today. Adults play this game within the family and it gets quite competitive, while the women get focused intensely on“bizer”, the seeds of watermelon, squash, or sunflower.  This habit is becoming popular now among also males, it’s equivalent to the obsession with popcorn in the Western World.

6. Drink tea!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Drinking tea is a big part of the family get-togethers. It is essential after meals and the most offered drink during gatherings. In Egypt, tea is considered a national drink and is named “Shai” as it is in the whole Arab World. In fact, there is a special ritual in making and serving tea; it’s not an action, it’s a process.

7. A lot of family members

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Arab families are usually big with a lot of children, grandchildren, cousins and second cousins to the extent that family gatherings could take up a football stadium. Due to a large number of people, there is a lot going on, from different conversations, different games, and different foods. The number of people present makes it more of a party. At many occasions, even the neighbors are invited to join the fun.  

8. Play drums

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

The Arab Drum goes by many names, darabukka, tablah, or dirbakkeh,  but no matter how you say it, it is in every family get together. The word darabukka comes from the Arabic word “darab”, which means to strike. It is usually played by men while the rest dance. It can accompany other instruments or be played alongside Arab songs.

9. Fight about politics

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Having many family members and friends of the family, there is a variety of different opinions in one place and once politics comes up, all hell breaks loose. Passionate arguments about U.S. government and Middle Eastern issues arise, and only a peaceful fire extinguisher can put it out.

10. Tease young girls about marriage

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

Arranged marriages are a mundane thing in the Arab world and as Arab Americans become more Americanized, they do not practice it as much, yet, they hold the same ideas of expecting the girl to get married after her education, and marry someone the family knows and approve of.  Sometimes, the family would have someone in mind and would tease and joke about such arrangement.

11. Kiss on the cheek, once, twice and sometimes three times, and possibly persistent repetition.

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

When greeting family and close friends, you have to shake hands and kiss on the cheeks.  With some Arab nationalities, they kiss once on each cheek, while with others, they kiss three times or with persistence on one cheek.

It is a very intimate tradition and a bonding moment, but it can get tedious when you have to kiss each family member.  In some communities, avoid kissing those of different sex.

12. Say goodbye and hang out for 30 more minutes!

12 Actions Arab Families do When They Get Together!

After the family’s visit and after all their goodbye’s, somehow the conversation gets re-started again and again. Long talks right in the hallway are continued forever. They again talk about the need to come together again and how next time it will be the visitors’ treat, at their house.  Again, conversations go on about how their third cousins are doing and who got married and who’s having a baby. The goodbyes are repeated again and the host walks the guests to their cars to ensure guests safety.