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The Importance of Respect and Manners in the Arab World

posted on: Aug 10, 2020

The Importance of Respect and Manners in the Arab World
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By: Ala Abed-Rabbo/Arab America Contributing Writer

Greetings and Handshakes

Although it is an essential part of decent manners anywhere in the globe is politeness.  However, when it comes to Arabs, it’s the most essential part of their culture.  Arab people in America and everywhere must display respect and politeness to all people.  If these aspects are not displayed, then the person is not of Arab origin. The Western world should know that relationships depend on these displayed qualities.

Therefore, if Arabs are in an unsatisfying situation, they try to be patient, approachable, and thoughtful. If someone loses his or her anger as a confrontational mindset, it will not end well. For many Arabs, an uncontrolled face of emotions is a critical and vulnerable concern.

As a sign of good behavior, Arab men should shake hands when officially meeting other men, which does not necessarily apply for women unless the woman reaches her hand first.

Moreover, long handshakes, touching, holding elbows, even walking hand in hand is common in the Arab World. Conversations and customary greetings are typical for Arabs. They often greet each other with many ritual phrases and fixed answers.

Many people from the Arab World give respect to everybody that encounters them during greetings as they share eye contact during discussions, which is often long and direct. Staring is not inherently rude, excluding gawking at women.

Manners in Hospitality

Kindness and offering a warm welcome to family members, friends, or strangers goes back to old Arab traditions. Many Arabs continue to portray this custom by showing courtesy and attention to everyone surrounding them. Friendliness, generosity, and warmth become expressions of individual devotion, even sacred responsibilities.

Moreover, as guests enter a hosts’ home, they are invited to sit on the best seats available. Most Arabs care for respect and do not stretch their legs, sit higher than others, or point the soles of their shoes toward anyone.

They also avoid placing their feet on tables or furniture and refrain from leaning against walls, lounging in chairs, and not keeping their hands in their pockets as a sign of deference. Reverence for many Arabs is also shown in the way of whom sits in their presence.

The Proper Table Manners

The Importance of Respect and Manners in the Arab World
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Arabs usually serve the elderly, guests, and parents first during meals and offer the choicest cuts such as the eye of the sheep, which is a delicacy. Some Arabs do not eat until everyone has finished their plates and will wait on them to make sure that they are filled to repletion.

Normally, dinner time is the best part of an evening in which Arabs have chats and enjoy each other’s company. Therefore, not staying long after the meal can be impolite or a sign of not being pleased with the people at the table.

Also part of Arab manners is the to practice or use of the left hand in the restroom to clean oneself, keeping the right hand hygienic for shaking hands and eating. This tradition has carried over from generation to generation and passing anything with the left-hand makes the food unsanitary and unfit to eat.

Adab (Respect and Politeness)

The Importance of Respect and Manners in the Arab World
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Adab, from the perspective of one’s conduct, refers to specific Arab sophistication, good manners, ethics, etiquette, honesty and humaneness. It became the wisdom of poems, eloquence, prehistoric Arab tribal era, speech, grammar, philology, and non-Arab civilizations that qualified one to be called well-bred.

“Adab hence includes all that is good; every noble characteristic, habit, or trait that is included within the scope of adab.”

For example, if people offer one food, he or she must not refuse as a sign of “adab” to show that what is offered looks edible and should try it whether they know the taste or not. Also, another way adab is shown is when a person does not interrupt as the other person speaks or raises their voice too loud, especially in the presence of the elderly.

The Importance of Assisting and Manners


Some Arabs believe that there is a connection between helping others and finding meaning in one’s life, allowing them to feel good about themselves. Countless of Arabs live by the notion that if they take care of people, their civil actions will shift back to them. In return, others will treat them well at some point in their lives.

For many Arabs, it is not appropriate to ignore an individual’s or a group’s request for support or to pass by someone who needs help. It is appropriate for them to  stop and see what they can offer to help. For instance, if someone is hurt on the streets, most Arabs rush to protect and deliver the best in assistance, which is part of their upbringings or religious beliefs in terms of good behavior.

Also, it is not polite for an Arab to reject one’s call for help, like, financial assistance, comfort during a grieving time, the need to be heard, or babysit. Such factors proves one’s Arab roots that portray respect within the cultural perspective.

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