Most Common Items Arab Americans Bring Back From the Arab World
By: Noor Almohsin/Arab America Contributing Writer
Travelers always like to carry things that remind of the place they visited. The number of these items grow when they return from visits to their home countries. Arab Americans, in particular, tend to carry many different things whether gifts for family and friends or for personal use. This list contains various elements Arab Americans bring back from different Arab countries.
Gold is one of the precious materials that Arabs highly appreciate as gifts and for personal use. The designs and the gold carats of jewelry in Arab countries are different than those in the U.S. In Arab countries, carat gold varies between 24, 22, 21, and 18 carats. In addition, the designs there combine Indian, European and modern styles that satisfy all tastes. You know you are precious when you receive a piece of gold whether it’s a necklace, earring, bracelet or ring.
Although local ethnic market sells different food and cooking elements Arab Americans prefer, many Arab Americans still insist bringing some things from their home countries. Just because they believe things from back home are better quality or simply reasonably priced compared to these in local stores.
3. Herbs and Spices:
Many Arab immigrants, especially the elders, believe that herbs and spices from back home are fresher, richer, and not modified like the ones available at local markets in the U.S. Also, some herbs and spices may not be available here, among those they bring are cardamom, cinnamon, black lemon, saffron, vulgar, fenugreek, Zuhoraat and goat rue (Galega officinalis).
4. Za’atar and Olive Oil:
Arabs, especially of the Levant area, always come back with local Za’atar, which is usually a special blend of thyme, sumac, sesame, salt and other things. And of course, Za’atar is never complemented without the excellent fresh squeezed olive oil that all Arabs agree it is unique when it comes from back home. Those two are yummy healthy and always brought together.
5. Dates and Date Cookies:
Arabian dates are the best in terms of taste, texture, and size. And because the Arabian Peninsula is the home of excellent dates, many Arab Americans make sure they come back with dates, especially for the holy month of Ramadhan. Dates come either fresh, frozen, compressed, or dry. They all taste amazing and different types of dates are at different level of sweetness. Therefore, some get the packed dates or spread paste. Date cookies or (Ma’amool) is the favorite for many people whether it is homemade, or ready from shelves.
6. Arabic Sweets:
Similar to Ma’amool, Arab sweets including, baklava, fingers, mshabak, man o salwa, alraha (Turkish delight) and many others. Many Arab Americans prefer to get these Arab sweets from their home countries because they are authentically made, and perfectly balanced. There is always something too sweet or less flavored when bought from ethnic markets in the United States.
7. Mukasarat (Nuts and Seeds):
Nuts from the Arab countries are very tasty and unique. Almond, cashew, walnuts, peanut, pistachio, hazelnut, seeds and many others come raw, fried, or roasted. They also come flavored, spiced or smoked. Many Arabs enjoy Mukasarat at their evenings or provide them as a form of hospitality for guests.
Arabic coffee is different than other coffees. It usually comes raw or slightly roasted, and many Arabs like to roast and grind their coffee beans by themselves. Therefore, some Arab Americans like to bring raw coffee beans, or with special blends from their hometown. Yemenis, who drink Qishr, usually bring back coffee husk from back home. In addition to the coffee, many people come back with coffee cups, pots, and decorative copper accessories.
Many Arabs believe honey from their hometown is the best in terms of nutrients and taste. It is believed such honey is all natural and without any additive elements. Thus, many Arab Americans come back with jars of natural honey that some like it flavored with black seeds, cloves or cinnamon. Daw’an honey from Yemen Mountains is considered very popular for its rich taste and heavy texture, it is usually found in many honey stores across Arab countries and ranked the best worldwide.
10. Musical Instruments:
Arabs don’t just enjoy listening to Arabic music, they also like to play with Arab musical instruments. Musical instruments Arab Americans bring from Arab countries include oud that comes with 11 or 13 strings, and the darabukka, which is a goblet drum, both make rhythms for most Arabic folkloric and modern music. In addition to these instruments, Arab Americans especially the elders still come back to CDs of classic and latest Arabic songs
11. Souvenirs and Antiques:
Arab antiques and souvenirs are not necessarily used for decoration, some items are still useful whether were made of brass, wood or ceramic.
12. Brassy Decorations:
Brassy antiques are very popular in the Arab culture. Therefore, the first thing comes to mind when presenting gifts from Arab countries would be brassy camel or palm tree. In addition, brass burners, hookah, and coffee pots are not just decorative, they are also used, and make nice gifts presenting the culture. In addition, some brassy designs contain Nazars (kharaza zarqa), which is a charm against the evil eye.
13. Wooden Decorations:
Especially from Levant area, Arab Americans bring back with them olive and cedar wood designs. Those could be religious such as, mangers, crosses, Qur’an holders, and wall piece religious scripts. They also come in personalized and useful designs such as napkin holders, name tags, and mashjab for bukhoor.
Hookah could be very beautiful for decoration, but for those who smoke it, they like to bring it from back home. When it comes to buying hookah, Shisha or pipe from any Arab country, the varieties and options are endless. Whether it’s made of glass, brass or they color, size and design options fit every taste. In addition, tobacco comes in many different flavors or simply unflavored, which believed to more natural than the ones available in the American markets.
15. Traditional Outfit:
One of the most common items Arab Americans bring back from Arab countries is traditional clothes. Men like to bring thobes, tarboosh, kufiyah, hattah (shimagh), bisht (shawl), or farwah. In addition, women like to get embroidered jalabiyah, headscarf, dancing belt, prayer clothes, abaya or accessories. Some Arab Americans wear these garments on special cultural occasions, and others enjoy showing off their culture at any time.
16. Persian Rug:
Some Arab American parents swear those from back home are made for a lifetime. In Arab countries, Persian rugs with eastern decorations are somehow reasonably priced compared with how much they are sold for in the U.S. if you can fit some in your luggage don’t say no to it!
17. Masbaha (Beads, Rosary):
Whether used for prayers or just style, (Masbaha) beads are an essential accessory for many Arabs. Some roll it on their wrists, wear it as a necklace or simply play with it in hand, masbaha has its own touch of style. In Arab countries, there are many beautiful ones made of wood, stones, gold, and silver. My favorite is those made of agate instilled with silver.
18. Perfume Oil and Wood Scents:
The smell of Bukhoor is one of the features that distinguish the scent of Arabs. Whether by using essential oils or burning chips of wood, the aromatic smell is unique and rich. Therefore, many Arabs bring with them their preferred fragrances, scented oil, and wood including, Oud, Musk, and Amber. In addition, some Arabs also like to bring back scented soaps, and sometimes simply natural unscented soaps made of olive and laurel soap.
Arab countries have different things that satisfy the five senses. Whether gifts or for personal use, Arab Americans bring food, scents, clothes and more. What other things do you come back with?