Hello and congratulations on arriving to the Middle East, kind stranger! The oracles have foretold your arrival (Just kidding, we checked your Facebook). You will see beautiful, weird, funny, and perhaps some downright bizarre things. You will make some new friends and acquaintances (or you may already have some Arab friends, apparently you made your friends list on Facebook private, DAMN YOU FOR BEING PRIVACY CONSCIOUS!!!). However, one thing is for certain, you will get invited to an Arab home – Arabs are quite famous for their hospitality – and trust us, you will be glad you’ve accepted the invitation. This is a small list of what to expect:
It is a tradition in most Arab homes to greet the guest with a cup of coffee. Dates, biscuits, dried fruits, candy, or chocolates are usually served alongside it. Arabic coffee is usually served unsweetened, and it has a somewhat bitter taste to it. Some people add milk, however this is rare, while others add cardamom. A small layer of foam tops the coffee, and some Arabs wouldn’t even consider looking at a cup of coffee that doesn’t have this foam. Do not expect a Big Gulp sized cup however, Arabic coffee is usually served in small quantities, because it is served boiling hot and a large amount would take a long time to cool down. So sit, grab a handful of dates, and enjoy your coffee while the food is being prepared.
Yes, no one mentioned anything about food. But that’s the thing about Arab hospitality, if you’re invited to someone’s home, you’re going to have a meal there. The kind of food served differs based on the time of the meal. But, most usually, you will be invited over for lunch. It is not unheard of to be invited over for breakfast, however. (Our own Asma Abu Latifa has a wonderful article on Arabic Breakfast, be sure to check it out!) While each country in the Middle East has it’s own signature dish, expect to see rice, cooked beef or lamb, a variety of vegetables either alone or incorporated into the dishes, and a kind or two of soup. (Try ordering this at your local Mcdonald’s!)
Tea and Sweets
The moment you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. At long last you get to taste the famous Arabic desserts. In addition to that, sweet hot tea is often served. You might eat Baklava, Knafeh, Luqmat Al-Qadi, or any one of the delicious Arabic desserts. (If you’re reading this at work and your lunch break is still two hours away, I’m sorry). Homemade biscuits or cookies are also usually served.
This brings us to the end of our journey, and what a journey that was! We hope that you’ve had a good time, a wonderful meal, and made good memories that will last a lifetime.
Don’t forget to leave a smile