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Arab Cultures and Custom

posted on: May 3, 2022

By: Diane Bou Hamdan/Arab America Contributing Writer

Edited By: Nouha Elyazidi / Arab America Contributing Writer


The Arab world and MENA region are typically categorized into one large group, but each Arab country has its own dialects, foods, traditions, and culture. Despite the differences among the Arab countries, they share common customs and demonstrated in various cultural elements. Let’s explore some of the largest similarities between the countries of the Arab world


The traditional manner for proposals across the Arab world is the groom will to ask for the blessing of the bride’s father before asking for her hand in marriage. When the father approves, he requests the groom to come with his parents to their house and officially ask for the daughter’s hand in marriage. 

During the engagement process, the two families meet at the bride’s home, and the family gets to know each other and discuss details of the engagement and marriage.

When everything is settled, the bride and groom set a date for the engagement party. Arab tradition for an engagement party includes the groom purchasing his bride-to-be a set of gold jewelry. In regards to the engagement party, the families then come to an agreement on who will pay for it whether that be the groom’s family or possibly the bride’s parents will pick up the tab, and present it to the couple as a gift to them.


When meeting a relative or a close friend, Arabs will shake hands and kiss on the cheeks. In some countries, the number of kisses on the cheeks differs. For example in Lebanon, the number of kisses on the cheeks from side to side is 3 times, but in Kuwait, the kissing on the cheeks from side to side is 2 times. It is important to greet guests warmly with a smile in order to show respect and friendliness. 


The way many Arabs will demonstrate their love and appreciation is through food. It is very common for Arabs to prepare very large and extravagant meals, even for casual gatherings and events, and encourage everyone to eat. The way many Arabs like to take care of the people they love is through ensuring they are well-fed, so being told to “eat more!” a few times during dinner is something that can be expected

Refusal to Ear/Drink at First:

Guests offered food or drinks, will notice Arabs across the Arab world tend to refuse a number of times before accepting. This is done in order to be polite but eventually accept the offer. 

Guest and hosts must stand when new people arrive:

When everyone is seated both guests and hosts will stand when a new guest or host recently walks into the room. They stay standing until the person would walk around the room and give their greetings to everyone. Once the newly arrived person has their greetings, the group will then sit down. 

The host must be the one to place food on the guest’s plates

Many Arab hosts feel the obligation is to add more food to the guest’s plate before pouring it on their plate. Also, once a guest nearly finishes their food on their plate, they must pour more food on their plate and they will not take no for an answer! 

Regardless of where you visit in the Arab world, you are bound to be greeted with these unique customs.

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