The Arabic culture dates back to the 9th century and holds some of the colorful and most spectacular achievements in the world history. The long and dynamic history of this community has surpassed the times of war and peace while creating and exploring their own literature and sciences. Arabic culture is greatly influenced by religion. The latter is responsible for the intact and well-preserved norms across the Arabic nations. That goes without saying, there are elements of the Arabic culture that have remained unaltered for centuries and some have also changed to blend into the modern times and space.
Insights into the Arabic culture
Before taking a deep look into the Arabic culture, it’s important to note that the Arab world is full of rich and diverse groups, communities and sub-cultures. Differences exist, to a larger or lesser degree not only among nations but within countries as well. While this article attempts to be as specific and accurate as possible, it contains some inevitable generalizations. The usefulness and accuracy of these generalizations will depend majorly on the context and specific circumstances.
Arabic culture is dominant in 22 nations across the world; it stretches from Morocco across Northern Africa to the Persian-Gulf. Arab nations are ethnically and religiously diverse with Islam as the dominant religion. There are over 200 million Arabs worldwide. The identity of being an Arab isn’t about lineage. It’s like being an American; more of nationality and cultural trait than racial.
One misconception is that all Arabs are Muslims- in fact, there are Arab Christians and Jews; only that they are limited in numbers. The other misconception is that all Muslims are Arabs; it’s approximated that 17-20 percent of the Muslim world are Arabs.
The early inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula were the first to speak Arabic during the pre-Islamic times. Nowadays, Arabic is the official language of most Arabic nations and it’s the language of the Holy Quran; the sacred book of Islam. Spoken Arabic comes in various dialect; North African, Gulf (Saudi Arabia, UAE), Egyptian and the Levantine dialects.
In Arabic culture, family is the center of honor, it is loyalty and more of a reputation that needs to be kept. Males are always the head of the family and this is often non-negotiable. Arabs honor friendships, clan, and tribes but family come above all in the entire social loop. Male offspring are always favored and they strongly believe that a son can bring honor to the family and a daughter is shame-prone and highly susceptible to failure.
Not all Arab women are veiled, however, Islam requires that women wear veils. In some countries such as Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt; dressing in veils isn’t imposed and women have the freedom to choose whether to wear them or not. In other countries, wearing veils is mandatory even for the non-Muslims due to the fear of harassment by fanatics and those pretending to be guardians of Islam.
Men don’t seem to be affected much by the dress code. They can switch from the traditional flowing robes to fashionable blue jeans, western business suits, and t-shirts. A headdress is another provision for sun protection and at times an indicator of which clan, family or tribe the person comes from.
Literature, Poetry, and music
Written Arabic literature emerged around the 6th century from a rich oral background. Most Arab cultures initially passed down stories, legends, and poetry through memorization. A series of seven Arabic poems called the “Mu’allaqat” was an important aspect of Literature before the Quran.
Another medieval folk tale that has roots in the Arabic literature is the “one thousand and one nights”. It’s a collection from Iraq and has made it into the western culture. Arabic folk dances are a part of the diverse Arabic culture and identity. ?Dabke’ is one of the common traditional Arabic folk dances often seen in the Levant area.
These cultural aspects are part of the other ethical norms and beliefs that are deeply intertwined within the Arabic lifestyle. The other elements of the Arabic culture that distinguishes them from the rest of the world include; eating etiquette, hygiene, body language, and greetings.