Arabic Language Blog

Cultural Awareness الوعي الثقافي Posted by on May 28, 2011 in Arabic Language, Culture

       Just like American cultures, Arab customs are rooted deep in tradition. Many Arab values affect how Arabs communicate with each other and with non-Arabs. Today, we are going to look at some facts about the Arab culture that  foreigners should be well-aware of when visiting any Arab country or when dealing with Arabs.

  • Arab Countries are religiously and ethnically diverse with Islam being the dominant religion in most countries.
  • To be an Arab, like an American, is a cultural trait rather than racial.
  • The Arab World includes Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
  • Any person who adopts the Arabic Language is typically called an Arab.
  • Arabic is the official and original language of the Qur’an; the Islamic holy book.
  • Islamic practices are based on the lunar calendar and a new month begins at the sight of a new moon. The holy day of the Muslims is Friday and it is the main weekend.    
  • Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs; Muslims are everywhere.
  • The Arab world represents a highly developed culture and civilization where modern cities mingle with ancient ones.
  • There are various types of political systems in the Arab world.
  • Arab dress for men ranges from the traditional flowing robes to blue jeans, T-shirts and western business suits.
  • Arab dress for women ranges from traditional dress that covers the full body (Abayah or Jilbab and veil or hijab) to blue jeans, T-shirts and western business uniforms.
  • Concerns of modesty are the main reason for the traditional dress. Women wear headscarves as a show of respect even if wearing western clothing.
  • The most devoted women cover their faces as well as their bodies in veils and robes exactly like nuns and sisters.  
  • Women are respected and protected in the Arab world and are directly related to men’s honour.
  • A foreigner male is expected to respect the protected role of women in Arab societies.
  • A foreigner should not expect women to socialize in the same public place unless with a family company.
  • A foreigner male should not shake hands with an Arab woman unless she offers her hand first.
  • A foreigner male should not stand close to, flirt, hit-on, touch, or hug with women.
  • A foreigner male should not try to engage a woman in conversation unless he has been formally introduced to her.
  • A foreigner male should not stare at women or maintain eye contact.
  • A foreigner should not ask an Arab questions about his wife or other female members of his family unless you are close friends.
  • Arabs honour and respect their families and they highly value friendships.
  • To an Arab, the family is the centre of everything. Males are often the head of the family.
  • To an Arab, honour will be protected and defended at all costs.
  • To an Arab, shame (especially against family) is to be avoided at all costs. Insults and criticism are taken very seriously.
  • To an Arab, religion is central to all things.
  • To an Arab, age, wisdom and wealth are honoured.
  • Most Arab governments are secular, but still emphasize religion.
  • Arabs usually believe that all things in life are controlled by the will of God.
  • Arabs value justice and equality among Muslims and non-Muslims. All actions by non-Arabs will be weighed and judged in comparison to tradition and religious standards.
  • Many Arabs are suspicious of any western interest or intent in their land.
  • The majority of Arabs have “hard feelings” against Israel.


Adapted and modified from: “Arab Cultural Awareness : 58 Factsheets”.


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About the Author: Fisal

Well, I was born near the city of Rasheed or Rosetta, Egypt. Yes, the city where the Rosetta Stone was discovered. It is a small city on the north of Egypt where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. I am a Teacher of EFL.