Hospitality and etiquette
‘Hasan al-diyafa’ (what we know as ‘hospitality’) is an intrinsic part of Bedouin lifestyle that can be traced back to the traditions of life in the desert. Many also consider that religious beliefs and honoring one’s guests go hand in hand – and these customs are very much alive in Dubai today. We explain the basics.
Marhaba: The Arabic word for welcome, used when entering someone’s home.
Salaam alaykum: “Peace upon you” – to which you reply “walaykum salaam”.
Gahwa: Guests will often be served Arabic coffee before a meal. Remember to hand over your empty cup with your right hand.
Modesty: Visiting a local home? Consider loose, long clothing that covers your body. You would typically leave your shoes at the door.
Nose to nose: In the UAE, many Emirati men will touch noses or peck on the cheek when they first meet. Visitors are not expected to follow the tradition.
The majlis: Many homes have a reception room reserved for special occasions or entertaining guests. It would typically involve low seating and cushions, dating back to life in tents.
Hands and feet: Men would shake hands with everyone present, but be aware that some ladies may not wish to do so. When you sit, pointing your feet towards someone can be considered offensive.
Dinner: Evening meals would typically be served on a huge, round platter – be prepared to use your hands!