Making an Arab guest feel welcome is about cultural sensitivity and home cooking.
Ask Ali: how to be hospitable to an Arab guest
Dear Ali: How do I show hospitality to an Arab visitor in my home? CM, USA
Dear CM: The answer to your question is simple - be as hospitable as you can. Most Arabs tend to be a bit conservative and won't readily accept an invitation to a private home, so insisting that they come will show that you are sincere. If your Arab guests have already accepted your invitation - done! It means they want to get to know you better. Just be yourself.
If your Arab visitor is Muslim, then there are things you'll want to keep in mind: Muslims are forbidden from consuming pork or alcohol. Briefly mention that you considered this beforehand and that you prepared dishes without those ingredients. If you do serve pork or alcohol, clearly point out the foods that contain it. Your guests will really appreciate this gesture, since they might be too shy to ask and then hesitate to try your cooking.
Serving food is always a good sign of hospitality and generosity, so send out the invitations and encourage your guests to try all your favourite dishes.
• More queries for Ask Ali
Dear Ali: Two of my friends want to stop over to visit us for a week on their way to Australia. They are traveling with South African passports. If they have a letter of invitation from me, can they purchase visas at the Abu Dhabi airport and at what cost? LV, Dubai
Dear LV: Your friends will need to sort out their visas before they come to the UAE, otherwise they might not even get on the flight. If they are travelling via the UAE and plan to stay just a short time here, they might be able to get a so-called stopover visa. If they are travelling, for instance, on Emirates through Dubai or on Etihad through Abu Dhabi, it is possible to get the visa through the airline. Check with the carriers for specific prices. Etihad even had a free-visa promotion recently.
Have a good time with your friends.
Dear Ali: We live in Umm Suqeim 2 and are surrounded by mosques. The call to prayer from the one just behind our villa goes for much longer than the others. Wouldn't calls to prayer be the same length? I remember reading that Dubai was looking at having all the mosques synchronised. Is this still in the pipeline? CB, Dubai
Dear CB: The call to prayer is given by a man, live or recorded, and each man has his own way and style of conducting the prayer. Some choose a longer tune while others make it shorter. Some take longer and deeper breaths to hold a beautiful melody while others might lack as good a voice and finish it quickly.
The end result, either way, is that Muslims know it's time to pray.
Remember, the call to prayer comes in two parts: the first call is the longer of the two, called the Adhan, and the second is shorter and called the Iqama. The Iqama is usually separated from the Adhan by 10 to 15 minutes so Muslims can prepare for prayer before the second call, which is the main announcement signaling that this is the time to pray. The Iqama is done just before the start of prayer, also so that people inside mosques can start lining up. The Iqama is sung in a faster variety of tunes.
Abu Dhabi has implemented the strategy of synchronising the call to prayer. This might spread to the rest of the country some day, but not as yet.
How I love this word, because travelling is one of my top three favourite hobbies. In Arabic, "I am travelling to Australia" is said like this: "Ana msafer ila Australia". And for females we say: "Ana msafrah ela Australia"; notice the verb "msafer" becomes "msafrah".