Arab Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In The Arab World

Arab Faux Pas

-The left hand is considered “unclean” since it is the hand traditionally used for personal hygiene (as when cleaning oneself after a movement of the bowels at the bidet). It is therefore impolite to eat, drink, shake hands, or present gifts with the left hand. Even a left-handed person is expected to eat with his right hand in the Arab World.

-Displaying the sole of one’s feet or shoes is considered impolite as it suggests that the person to whom the sole is displayed is “dirt.” It is, therefore, impolite for a gentleman to cross his legs (as is the custom in the Western World) such that an ankle is placed atop the knee of his other leg.  It is also impolite to touch the foot of another person. Walking or jumping over (thus exposing one’s feet to another person’s body) a person’s reclining body or extremities is also prohibited.

-Non-Muslims should not enter holy sites in or surrounding Mecca or Medina. No non-Muslim should enter a mosque anywhere in the world without first asking permission.

-People should not be beckoned with a finger: That gesture is reserved for the beckoning of dogs.

-During Ramadan, non-Muslims should not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, embrace, or engage in affectionate or celebratory activity in the presence of Muslims during the hours between sunrise and sunset.

-A Muslim should not be offered alcohol or pork unless he is known to consume those items.

-One should not step upon a prayer mat or walk in front of anyone who is engaged in prayer.

-One should not express admiration for another’s personal possessions as to do so obligates the person complimented to offer the item to the person who gave the compliment. (And when the admired object is given, the recipient is then obligated to reciprocate by giving a gift of greater value).

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