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The Beauty Of Arabic Culture

By Ava, published on 28/05/2018 Blog > Languages > Arabic > All about Arab culture

Learning about the Arab world is about more than just getting on a plane and visiting a different land. It is also about understanding and noticing how integrated Arab culture is with our daily lives and being open to learning about new and different customs than our own. With respect, understanding, and active gratitude for the uniqueness of Arab culture in our world today.

In the thousands of years since the birth of the Arab world, they have invented and influenced the world for the better. Although we may not know it, we interact with the Arab culture every day. Practically the entire morning routine of the world was inspired by the Arabs. Toothbrushes, hygiene, soap and coffee are all discoveries shared by the Arab world.

Arabs through thousands of years of history have changed the world for the better with inventions, influences and inspirations that we still use today. From clocks to chess, from universities to mathematics, from the checking account to the fountain pen, the list is a very long one.

The Arab culture, one of the ancient civilisations in the world today. Has a lot to be recognised and celebrated for, but many of these great gifts have become lost and part of a forgotten cultural heritage. Today, just like in the past, we can learn a lot from the Arabic culture, the importance of its culturally rich history, conservative customs, and a unique heritage.

This intercultural exchange is an achievement that makes the world a better place. Allowing us to open our minds and hearts to new ideas and grow stronger together as human beings.

How Are Arabs Defined?

An Arab person is not called an Arab because of their ethnicity, race, genetics or religious beliefs. An Arab is a term used to describe people who speak Arabic as their first language or mother tongue. They also share a rich cultural heritage that collectively includes countries in the Middle East, Africa, and West Asia.

A crowd of Arabs in a public space. An Arab is a person whose native language is Arabic. Photo Source: Unsplash

Where Is The Arab World?

The Arab world is represented by countries which speak the Arabic language as their national language. These countries are almost all a part of the Arab League. The Arab League is a regional organisation which organises it members Arab states with the aim of promoting better relations between the member states.

There are 22 members of the Arab League with a further 5 Arab speaking countries which remain outside of the league.

 Countries of the Arab world Arab League Member Part of the Arab WorldOfficial language *
1Egypt
YesYesArabic
2Algeria
YesYesArabic
3MoroccoYesYesArabic
4SudanYesYesArabic
5IraqYesYesArabic
6Saudi ArabiaYesYesArabic
7Yemen
YesYesArabic
8SyriaYesYesArabic
9TunisiaYesYesArabic
10SomaliaYesYesArabic
11LibyaYesYesArabic
12Jordan
YesYesArabic
13United Arab EmiratesYesYesArabic
14MauritaniaYesYesArabic
15PalestineYesYesArabic
16LebanonYesYesArabic
17Oman
YesYesArabic
18KuwaitYesYesArabic
19QatarYesYesArabic
20ComorosYesYesArabic
21DjiboutiYesYesArabic
22BahrainYesYesArabic
23Eritrea
ObserverYesArabic
24ChadNoYesArabic
25IsraelNoYesArabic
26SahrawiNoYesArabic
27SomalilandNoYesArabic

*May have more than 1 official language.

Arabic Language And Its Influences.

The fifth most spoken language in the world is the Arabic language, with over 22 countries having it as their official language. These speakers originate primarily from the Middle East and North Africa regions.

Arabic is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic and was developed primarily through poetic and oral traditions, over thousands of years. When listening to Arabic, you can hear that it is a very unique language, as contains sounds that do not exist in any other language in the world. There are many accents and dialects of the Arabic language, the universal style of Arabic is known as Modern Standard Arabic.

A surprise about the Arabic language is how much it has influenced the English language. It is likely that words starting with the letters  ‘AL’ such as algebra, alcohol, alchemy, alkaline, all have Arabic origins. Also, there are many more words that fall outside of this ‘AL’ structure that can be recognised as being descended from Arab countries, such as loofah, amber, tariff, arsenal, coffee, sofa etc. these words were also acquired from Arabic. Additionally, the number system as we use it today was introduced to the western world by Arab traders.

Find out about the different Arabic words we use in English.

Arabic Religions

Arabian culture has mostly been influenced by Islam. Although Arabs are religiously diverse, the rise of Islam throughout Arab countries has made it the main religion. However, it is important to note that there are Christian Arabs, Jewish Arabs and Arabs who have other faiths also.

The religion of Islam believes in the holy god Allah,  whose teachings and beliefs are written out in the Holy Qur’an. A Muslim person practices Islam as their religion and prays to Allah.

Religion Follower Holy book Practised by ArabsPractised by Non-Arabs
Islam MuslimQur’anYesYes
Christianity Christian BibleYes Yes
Judaism Jewish Tanakh Yes Yes

Arabian women looking out over a valley. Arab families will spend a lot of time together. Photo Source: Unsplash

Family And Society in Arabic Culture

Aside from religion, the family is the most important thing to an Arab. Arab families are close-knit and will share a lot of time doing different activities together. The family often comes first before that of the individual, especially if the honour or reputation of the family unit is at stake. The Arab family work together to support each other and for the recognition of the family.

Families typically have structured, and traditional gender roles, where the men are responsible for making the income for the family and the women are responsible for bearing the children and taking care of the home. This varies depending on the country and times are changing as in the rest of the world.

Despite how old you may be, you must always honour your parents. This goes for within the family and society, the eldest person always gains the most respect; this respect for one’s elders is unwavering and is exercised formally and actively.

Decorative Interior walls in Arabic culture Calligraphy is used in architecture to decorate walls. Photo Source: StockVault

Arabian Literature, Calligraphy And Tattoos

The Arab language started as a verbal language where stories and poems were exchanged and passed down through the generations by use of memorisation. One of the most notable works of poetry and literature in the Arab culture is a series of works collectively called the Mu’allaqat. It is a group of 7 poems written by different authors and is considered to be some of the most notable works after the Qur’an.

When calligraphy was later developed, it was used primarily for religious text such as the Holy Qur’an. This lead to much of the population learning to read and write and eventually lead to some people learning calligraphy. There are 6 key Calligraphy styles which are used in varying forms from architecture, to literature, to modern 21st century uses such as websites, art pieces and tattoos.

Arabian calligraphy has been popularised in modern culture, and art because of its beauty, unique form and striking design. Find out about the different Arabic tattoos.

Expressive blue tiles and arched windows show traditional Arabic styling. Vibrant colours and arches are common in Arabian culture. Photo Source: Unsplash

Beautiful Architecture

Arabic Architecture is easily recognisable, for its bold style, symmetrical design points and bright geometric interiors. Like many other things in the Arabian culture, the architecture is very unique and is enhanced by characteristic design styles.  The four most common and traditionally used architectural styles in Arab buildings are.

  1. The Minaret is a tall, slim tower-like structure found outside of mosques as a symbol of Islam, Minarets are often carved with Arabic Calligraphy.
  2. The magnificent Domed roof, found in a variety of buildings, highlights space and gives a dramatic appearance to any structure.
  3. MuqarnasVaulting which can be seen on all kinds of buildings is a purely decorative element, based on a 3d geometric stacking design.
  4. Arches are a standard feature which plays both an aesthetic role and a functional role in The pointed arch is the most recognisable and stunning design feature.

Five Beautiful Arabic Cities

Now that you know more about the Arab culture let’s take a look at five beautiful cities in the Arab world. Where you can partake of and experience Arab culture first hand.

 CityCountryFeatures
1 Dubai United Arab Emirites Unique architecture
2 Petra JordonNon-traditional city
3
Manama,BahrainOld Forts
4
Istanbul
Turkey European and Asian
5 Giza EgyptArchaeological Park
  1. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a modern city, which is naturally evolving. New and old architecture exist side by side, giving you feeling of being in the future and the past depending on where you are in the city.
  2. Petra in Jordon is known as the lost city because it has only been partially excavated. It has breath-taking architecture and has a lot of chances to discover something new. It is not a living city but historical tourist attraction.
  3. Manama in Bahrain is the city on the small island of Bahrain, it is focused on highlighting art and culture and is well known in the region. With galleries and museums springing up all over the city.
  4. Istanbul in Turkey straddles both Europe and Asia in a unique position which is also reflected in its culture and the neighbourhoods within the city.
  5. Egyptian Giza needs no introduction, it is the location where you can see the pyramids and sphinx in the Giza archaeological park. It sits on the edge of the Sahara and provides unlimited opportunities to explore Arab culture.

At the centre of this historic and beautiful culture lies a generous and hospitable society. For people keen to learn more about Arab society first hand. You will have many surprises as it is not uncommon for Arabs to pull up an extra chair or invite you to their home for a meal. They are so happy to open themselves and their culture to you to help you to have a great time.

Of course, there are critical points of etiquette to observe to ensure favourable cross-cultural exchange. As Arab culture tend to be much more conservative when compared to Western culture. But if you put a smile on your face and open your eyes and your heart it will be hard to go wrong.

When in Arabia just do as the Arabs do.

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