Local traditions and culture in Middle East

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Middle East

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    THE FLAG OF AZERBAIJAN

    by DAO Written Aug 25, 2012


    The flag of Azerbaijan was officially adopted on February 5, 1991. This is actually remarkable in itself because until September/October of the same year they were still part of the Soviet Union. The current flag is actually based on the Azerbaijan flag of 1918 – when they declared independence from the old Russian Empire. This only last a couple of year and they had a nice big red USSR flag with a small stripe of blue at the bottom for decades.

    The flag consists of three equal horizontal bands of blue, red, and green. There is a white crescent and an eight-pointed star centered in the middle red band. The blue band represents the country’s Turkic heritage, red is for progress and the green represents Islam.

    November 9th is National Flag Day in Azerbaijan.

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    Eid -Islamic celebrations

    by Mel_H Updated Oct 22, 2010

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    Eid is the Islamic celebration . Eid Al fitr or small Eid as it is sometimes called is the 3 day celebration following the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
    Eid Al Adha or the big Eid ( Eid Alkabeer ) or the feast of sacrifice is the 4 day celebration that proceeds the Haj ritual or pilgrimage to Mecca , actually the first day of the four coincides with the pilgrims standing on mount Arafat followed by 3 consecutive days.
    It is called the feast of sacrifice because toward the end, the Haj ritual involves slaughtering a sheep to mark the sacrifice that Nabi or Prophet Ibrahim made upon god to spare his son Ismail by slaughtering a sheep instead.Households usually slaughter a sheep and it is usually distributed as follows ,one third to the household,one third to the neighbors, one third to the needy which is the most important .Every household slaughters a sheep pending they are financially capable whether they went to the pilgrimage or not.
    Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam .
    Both Eids meaning celebration in Arabic move forward 12 days every consecutive year according to the Arabic lunar calender and there is about 2 month gap between them the Eid Al fitr being the first.

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    Ramadan the Holy Fasting Month

    by Mel_H Updated Jul 21, 2010

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    The name of the month comes from pagan times in Arabia . Ramadan is a month when Moslems fast from Azaan Al fajer meaning the early morning call of prayer before sunrise till Azan Al magrib at sunset which is the 4th evening call of prayer as during a day there are 5 calls of prayer.This month is marked by many rituals from the special prayers called Salat Al taraweh after iftar , the late night prayer called keyam al leel ,lailat Al Qadr (the night of destiny) and payment of the Zakaat Al firt or alms given to the needy, the Zakaat has a specific calculation in Islam on the overall wealth ( cash ,gold ) and is distributed to the needy , that`s beside Zaakat Al fitr .
    Ramadan is a very significant month ,it`s a time for reflection and compassion ,a chance for a person to get closer to the creator ,change for the better & start anew , a time to feel for others in need .
    The break of the fast involves different kind of food & drinks some of which are associated
    only with the month itself .Suhoor is the light meal eaten late at night befor dawn.
    Children in some Arabic countries carry special Ramadan lanterns at night , it`s a mesmerising atmosphere throughout when relatives and friends hatch up differences and gather.
    The month moves forward 10 to 12 days every year based on the Arabic lunar calender and it`s end is marked by the sighting of the full moon for the Eid Al fitr celebration.
    During the month greetings are exchanged by saying Ramadan Kareem ( meaning Ramadan the generous ) or Ramadan Mubarak ( Ramadan the blessed ).
    Various Ramadan & Eid greeting cards are on offer during this period to send to relatives and friends or business associates within the country or in other countries.

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    Arabic Islamic Calender

    by Mel_H Updated Jul 19, 2010

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    The Islamic calendar , Al -taqwīm al-hijrī or Hijri calender in Arabic is the calendar used to date events in many Arab Moslem countries, and used by Moslems everywhere to determine the proper day on which to celebrate Islamic holy days. It is a lunar calendar having 12 lunar months in a year of about 354 days. Because this lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, Islamic holy days, although celebrated on fixed dates in their own calendar, usually shift 11 days earlier each successive solar year, such as a year of the Gregorian calendar. Islamic years are also called Hijra years because the first year was the year during which the Hijra occurred— Prophet Muhammad's(PBUH) emigration from Mecca to Medina. Thus each numbered year is designated either H or AH, the latter being the initials of the Latin anno Hegirae (in the year of the Hijra).
    The Islamic months are named as follows from pagan times.Their names are derived from and relevant to occurances in pre-Islamic tribal Arabia:
    Muharram - محرّم
    Safar - صفر
    Rabee al-awwal - Rabee 1st - ربيع الأول
    Rabee al-thani or Rabee al-Akhir - Rabee 2nd ,ربيع الآخر أو ربيع الثاني
    Jumada al-awwal -Jumada 1st - جمادى الأول
    Jumada al-thani or Jumada al-akhir/Jumada II, جمادى الآخر أو جمادى الثاني
    Rajab رجب
    Sha'aban شعبان
    Ramadan رمضان also called Ramadan Al Mubarak meaning Ramadan the blessed
    Shawwal شوّال
    Dhu al-Qi'dah ذو القعدة
    Dhu al-Hijjah ذو الحجة
    Meaning of the months:
    1.Muharram( a holy month where no warfare or fighting is allowed)
    2.Safar (Safar literally means ‘the void month’as when the pagan Arabs went on their looting expeditions or persued tribal reprisals or wars since they could not do that in the four sacred month,they would leave their houses would be empty or ‘sifr’ meaning void.
    3.Rabia al awal ("First spring")
    4. Rabia Thani ("Second spring")
    5. Jumaada Awal ("First freeze")
    6. Jumaada Thani ("Second freeze")
    7. Rajab ("To respect" - this is another holy month when fighting is prohibited)
    8. Sha'ban ("To spread and distribute")
    9. Ramadan ("Parched thirst" - this is the month of daytime fasting)
    10. Shawwal ("To be light and vigorous")
    11. Dhul-Qi'dah ("The month of rest" - another month when no warfare or fighting is allowed)
    12.Dhul-Hijjah ("The month of Hajj" - this is the month of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, again when no warfare or fighting is allowed)
    Days of the week are named:
    yaum al-ahad يوم الأحد (first day - Sunday)
    yaum al-ithnayn يوم الإثنين (second day - Monday)
    yaum ath-thulaathaa' يوم الثُّلَاثاء (third day - Tuesday)
    yaum al-arbia`aa' يوم الأَرْبِعاء (fourth day - Wednesday)
    yaum al-khamis يوم الخَمِيس (fifth day - Thursday)
    yaum al-jumu`a يوم الجُمُعَة (gathering day - Friday)
    yaum al-sabt يوم السَّبْت (Saturday)

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    THE CAMEL - PART 2

    by DAO Updated Jul 4, 2008

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    OK. Let’s stay focused here people. Now for part 2 about the most useful, yet despicably foul animals in the world. For those keeping up, we are still on the Arabian Camel with 1 hump. That hump is were these guys store their food so to speak. They can live off their stored fat for week! When they do start to run out their hump droops to the side. I have never seen this, but I have also never been with nomads in the desert for weeks either.

    So Mr. Camels can lose 40% of his body weight then just suck up 32 gallons (145 litres) of water to re-hydrate. Wow.

    Then he has an inner eyelid, in addition to his outer, which protects the eyes from sandstorms while still letting in enough light to see where they are going. They have huge eyelashes on their outer eyelids to keep out sand and can even close their nostrils completely for the same purpose. The last bit? they have broad feet so they do not sink into the sand!

    A few stats:
    * Life span of about 50 years
    * Gestation is 12 to 14 months
    * Offspring are usually 1 at a time. 2 sometimes

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    THE CAMEL - PART 1

    by DAO Written Jul 1, 2008

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    Camels are know as the ‘Ships of the Desert’ and rightfully so. They can easily survive where other animals cannot. They are amazing strong, versatile, useful, but inherently vile and evil beasts. Just remember that they are foul tempered and will happily bite you and/or spit in your face. Just keep to the sides or rear and you will be fine. There are 2 kinds of camel – the Dromedary Camel (also known as the Arabian Camel) with 1 hump and the Bactrian Camel (or Asian Camel) with 2 humps. 90% of the world’s camels are Dromedaries and these are the ones you will find all over the Middle East.

    How useful are they? They can carry 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of weight, walk 20 miles (32 kilometres) a day in the desert and go without water for over a week and without food for months! Their coats can be used for wool; you can drink their milk, eat the meat (tough!), make leather from their skin and burn their droppings for fuel. Very versatile indeed!

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    GO DIZZY! A FOOD TIP FROM IRAN

    by DAO Written Jun 20, 2008

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    A 'Dizzi' is also known as 'Abgousht'. This is a meat (usually beef), bean and potato stew. But it gets more interesting. It’s all cooked in a pot that is brought to your table. The juice is pored out into a separate bowl (pictured) and is like a kind of soup you eat with flat bread. Then the waiter puts a masher into the small pot and sirs around furiously to make an almost sort of puree placed into a second bowl. I know the word is actually Persia, but I like to think it’s called a Dizzi because watching the waiter stirring can make your head spin. It tastes good and is almost 2 dishes in one.

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    Men's jewelary

    by Doctor38 Updated Jan 9, 2008

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    No body wares them any more. 50 years ago used to carry around Daggers and guns. Nowaday you might see one or 2 in special ocassion in Naibouring Oman but in Yemen it is still very common site

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    Tips for Women Travellers

    by JohnniOmani Written Feb 18, 2007

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    The Middle East is viewed as a mans world and that it is difficult to travel around for solo women. The ME is a mans world but travelling shouldnt be difficult if you take the proper pre cautions. You dont need to run to the nearest store and buy a black chador or abaya but modesty is essential here (ie mens dress shirt and baggy pants or long and baggy dress) if you want to have a great time. After speaking to my female Western friends in Oman and observing tourists in the country for three years, I ve decided to post these tips in the Middle Eastern section of VT. 1. Wear a wedding ring if you are not marred. 2. If you are travelling with a man say he is your husband to avoid any extra attention. 3. Avoid direct eye contact in conservative areas and sunglasses help out a lot. 4. Dont respond to idiotic comments because most of the younger men are looking for a reaction, it is better to just keep walking or ignore them. 5. Dont sit in the front seat of the taxis as many of my friends have been touched or assaulted by taxi drivers looking for a cheap thrill. 6. On public transport, sit next to women if possible. 7. If you need directions, ask women and if this is not possible ask hotel workers or Indian men as they are more likely to be somewhat used to foreign women as opposed to Arabs. 8. If you are eating alone, sit in the family section to avoid stares and unwanted attention. 9. If you are being followed by any creepy men, they duck into a shop or Petrol station or hotel lobby. There are dozens of tips I could write but I think this list is an initial good start to your journey. Good Luck :)

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    Eating and Visiting Etiquette

    by JohnniOmani Written Feb 13, 2007

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    One of the highlights of the ME is if you get the opportunity to visit someones home and experience the true Middle East. Sharing a meal is a great way to cement a friendship but the etiquette can be intially complex if you are unfamiliar with the customs. If you are invited to someones house there are some general rules to follow that will ensure you have a great time such as arriving at the house. When you first arrive at the house you should ring the bell or knock and step to the side of the door to avoid direct vision inside the house (because you dont want to make direct eye contact with the women in the house before entering). You should also bring a small gifts such as sweets etc. Second, if you washed your hands before arriving you should do it again to show you are clean and courteous. Only use the right hand when eating or accepting food because the left hand is used for other activities. Avoid licking your fingers or touching your face and nose. Do not put food back on the table as it is considered really rude to the host. Reaching is inconsiderate and eat at a slow pace because Arabs like to enjoy their meal at a slow pace unlike Westerners. The host will usually put the best dishes in front of you so you should sample each of them no matter if you like them or not. The best parts of the meal ie the meat or chicken are usually saved for the last part of the meal so eat the rice or dates first. If you are full then pat your belly and say enough or if you had too many teas then tip your glass side to side to show that you dont need any more. If you are offered tea or coffee after the meal, it is really rude to leave before everybody at the table is finished. Other than these few simple rules, the experience is wonderful :)

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    My favorite ! Bargaining

    by JohnniOmani Written Feb 11, 2007

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    Oh my how I love to do this activity. It is by far one of my favorite things about this part of the world. In the Middle Eastern countries, bargaining is a way of life. People in the West are really used to fixed prices but in the ME anything in a souq, market or bazaar is up for a good round of bargaining. In markets selling basic items such as fruit or vegetables are rarely bargained for but for souvenirs, the price you pay is directly linked to your bargaining skills as well as your command of the language. If you decide to pay the asked price then you must realize that you are actually hurting the game for the rest of travellers that come after you because the bazaaris figure that every traveller after you is willing to pay 3 or 4 times the asking price. It is very important to not walk around assuming everyone is going to rip you off (other than in Egypt) but it helps to ask the price from different sellers before committing to the buyer. Bargaining is a fun way to learn the language and I learned a lot of Arabic from going to the local souq in my town and bargaining with the locals. Not only will you have fun and get a good price but you might end up meeting a new friend or get invited to a house or a wedding etc. Great great fun :0

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    Tipping

    by JohnniOmani Written Feb 11, 2007

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    Tipping is expected in almost every Middle Eastern country other than Oman and Yemen where the practice does not exist. Baksheesh is staple in all of the countries and depending on your past experiences it can be irritating or an experience that you will get used to right away. The worst countries by far for requests for baksheesh are the folks in Egypt and Turkey. Salaries and wages are a lot lower than in Western countries so it is way of supplementing their income rather than depending on it. For Western travellers who are not used to tipping in unfamiliar circumstances, baksheesh can be given to a person for opening a door or pointing out the nearest toilets. One tip is to carry around a lot of small change so that you never have to snub a local in a situation where he has helped you out. Ive been asked for baksheesh in every situation ranging from a man supplying me with toilet paper to turning on my lights in a hotel room. Get used to because it is a fact of life here ;)

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    Addressing elder people

    by DunaKal Written Jul 20, 2006

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    As a child I was taught to address all my parents friends and distand family members by either uncle or aunt,even when I am an adult myself now,but it`s inappropriate to address senior citizens by their first names.

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  • The Greeting of Kissing

    by Manyana Written Mar 2, 2006

    Usually Arabs greet each other with cheek-to-cheek kissing either women or men, and that varies from an Arab country to another. The more you go East toward the Gulf countries, the less the kissing is between the two genders and it varies as you go West toward Egypt, Sham or the countries of al-Maghrib al-Aqsa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia).

    In Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, kissing would be woman to woman or man to man only, unless women and men are related by blood, then it's ok. Look after this because some people don't like to receive the greeting of kissing from the other gender.

    The number of kissing and which cheek to kiss first varies from a country to another. Remember, it's ONLY cheek to cheek (no lips to cheek involved here) and you're supposed to make a noise of kissing in the air. So meaning, as you kiss cheek to cheek, you make the noise in the air.

    - In Saudi Arabia, you gotta kiss the other person 3 times as follows:
    1 time on the right cheek, 2 times on the left cheek
    - In Sham (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine):
    1 time on the right, 1 time on the left, and again 1 time on the right

    (P.S. in London, i found it different, 1 time on the right cheek and that's it.)

    Also in the Gulf countries, the greeting of nose kissing is common especially among men; that would be to let your nose touch the nose of the other person one time. In the region I come from (Western Saudi), this tradition of kissing is almost never carried out. It's only common in central Saudi and probably Northern and Eastern regions. So again it may vary when to do nose-kissing and when not.

    The easiest is just to say 'salaam alikum', this is the most common verbal greeting and it will win you the hearts of your hosts;^)
    Good luck with your kissing!

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  • Drumming and Belly Dance

    by Manyana Written Feb 13, 2006

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    The Middle East has a long history in drumming and belly dancing. The well-known Arabian drum called darboukah or darbekeh (depending on the dialect).
    There are several famous beats or beating tune...just right click then save target as:
    - maqsoom
    - ayoub
    - saaedi
    - baladi
    - malfuf
    - masmoudi
    - taqseem tabla--my fav!

    I used to attend classes on darbouka drumming but I almost forgot all. Now I just strike my darboukah when I get angry,lol.
    Please if any link does not work, let me know.

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Middle East Local Customs

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