Arabic food is one of the most flavorful cuisines of the world. With a heavy Mediterranean influence, olives, dry fruits (like pine nuts, cashews, pistachios and dates), cheese and other milk products are a big part of many Arabic dishes.
Hummus is a popular side dish made of chickpeas eaten with pita bread called khubus. Baba Ghanush or Mutabbal is the same as hummus but with an added flavor of smoked eggplant. Felafels are also fried chickpea dumplings that taste great with hummus. Chicken and lamb are the most popular forms of meat eaten by Arabs. Shawarma, a lean pita wrap filled with skewered meat pieces is an all-time favorite snack amongst the Arabs. Kebabs, rotisserie grilled whole chicken are some of the other main Arabic dishes that usually go well with rice and tomato puree. Flat breads called fatayar filled with choice of lebna (yogurt), zaater (oregano), jiben (cheese), dijaj (chicken) or leham (lamb) make a great meal. Arabs believe in eating their greens especially in the form of salad called tabouleh (similar to greek salad).
No cuisine is complete without sweets. Bakhlawa, a kind of pastry filled with layers of dry fruit and sweetened milk is a worldwide hit. Kenafa is also a special kind of fried pastry with baked cheese where as Umm Ali is a delicious Arabic bread pudding. Arabs are shaay (tea) and kahwa (coffee) drinkers and take one or the other after almost every meal throughout the day.
Arab men usually wear a white (or brown or grey) one-piece cotton garment called the disdasha or thobe and a head cover known as the ghutra or smagh supported by a black ring namely the igal. Bisht is a long over coat worn over the disdasha on special occasions like weddings.
Arab women are traditionally dressed in an abaya, a simple long black maxi like dress with a headscarf called the hijab and sometimes even a face cover called the burkha or niqab. Mostly western gowns are worn for weddings. Most women like to dress up in bright colors with a lot of gold jewelry and shimmer. Children are usually seen wearing western outfits.
Festivals, holidays, Celebrations:
Eid is the biggest holiday celebration in the Arabic culture. It is the Arabic New Year that is celebrated with lots of food, sweets, exchange of gifts and shopping.
The holy month of Ramadan is celebrated by fasting without food and water all day for the entire month. During this time of the year businesses and shops remain closed all day and open in the evenings until after mid-night.
Famous Stories or Epics:
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp is one of the most famous folk tales of the Arab world. It is a story of a boy named Aladdin who comes across a magic lamp and is granted all his wishes by the genie, or Slave of the Lamp, that lives within. From food to a lovely palace and the King’s beautiful daughter as his bride, all of Aladdin’s wishes come true and finally he defeats the evil wizard and lives happily ever after. This story is a part of the Arabian Nights series.
Mancala is believed to be the oldest board game that is played using colored marbles or beads. It is played with six playing pits and one scoring pit. You begin with three marbles in each pit. The object of the game is to place all of your marbles in the scoring pit and capture your opponent’s marbles. It is an entertaining game played by children and families in the Arab world.
Verbal or nonverbal communication:
Arabs usually greet each other verbally with Salaam Alikum. Cheek-to-cheek kissing is a normal gesture of non-verbal greeting amongst friends of the same gender. Arab men and women usually maintain distance and do not display affection in public. However, style of greeting and communication varies from one Arab country to another.
Arab families like in many other cultures live together in one house. They are usually big sized families with many children. Arabs are known to be religious and God fearing people. They are warm and hospitable people who look after their guests very well.
World famous form of dance, belly dancing, originated in the Arab world. It is mostly performed by Arab women and involves movement of mainly the shoulders, belly and hips. One has to be quite flexible to perform belly dance. Women dress up in a special costume with a waist or belly chain for this dance.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Egyptian Pyramids, are a must visit. They are the oldest and the most impressive tombs of the Pharaohs (rulers) of Egypt. Some of the biggest pyramids are found in Giza, Egypt.
Dubai is one of the most popular Arabian cities in the world. It’s known for it’s amazing architecture with the world’s only seven star hotel called Burj Al Arab situated here. Dubai is often called the land of opportunities. Many foreign immigrants live here. It is a great shopping and tourist destination.
Arabs are known for their art and handicrafts. Hand woven Persian Silk rugs and carpets are world famous. Arabic furniture, antique jewelry, tea/coffee pots, calligraphic (a style of fancy lettering) wall art and incense burners (for fragrance) are examples of beautiful Arabic home décor items. Arabic henna is also a popular kind of tattoo body art mainly applied to hands in many designs.
Important Note: This article was written by a person who is familiar with Arabic culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.
We are wondering what you know about Arabic culture…Why don’t you tell us what you know by leaving a comment below? (make sure your comment is written in a language that can be understood by small children)