Guest Author - Rachel Schaus
Middle Eastern Culture...for many it conjures up exotic mounds of spices, the mysterious glimpse of a female form under flowing fabric, the ancient call of the muezzin wafting from the minaret down over the village, mixing with the smells of baking bread from the tandoor.
There are many differences between the various countries in the Middle East. However, these countries share numerous commonalities. Culture and people in the Middle East are fascinating, and while we can identify some shared characteristics, there is no one "expert" on all aspects.
Middle East Religions
The predominant religion is Islam. Within Islam, there are numerous subgroups and sects which vary broadly within the region.
Differences over how Islam should be lived out in daily life are a major cause of the constant flare ups, tensions, and ongoing wars in the Middle East, including in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran - the four countries dominating the news.
Some of these subgroups we will be discussing are Sunnis, Shias, Ismaelis, Wahabism, Orthodox Jews, and others.
Middle East Business
How business is conducted is very different from western ways. Tea-drinking, socializing, and showing honor are all elements in successful business transactions.
The rules of behavior between men and women should be observed carefully in business dealings, to ensure that the wrong message is not communicated.
What are the rules?
Some of these include:
1. If you are a man, do not inquire about another man's wife and daughters.
2. A man may extend his hand to another woman, but should make sure to have a short handshake.
3. A woman should not smile to big or hold a man's eyes for very long. Keep a distance in communicating emotion.
4. Women - dress modestly, to ensure you are doing what you can to not draw undue attention to yourself.
Middle East Food
Rice, lentils, and flat bread are all elements of many of the Middle Eastern cultures. Lemon, cilantro, cumin, curry are commonly shared herb and spices. I will be uploading a full food section by country. Middle Eastern food is delicious!
It's important to not be intimidated of Middle Eastern culture, but remember that communicating compassion and kindness through smiling and care - women with women and men with men - will reap warm and loyal friendships with people from the Middle East living among us.