The Significance of Coffee Rituals in Emirati Culture

Rashid Al Tamimi, public relations manager & senior presenter at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, explains more about the role of coffee during Ramadan...
Importance of Coffee in Emirati culture
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Importance of Coffee in Emirati culture
April 24, 2019
By Tiffany Eslick

Does coffee have a significance in Emirati culture?

Arabic coffee is the most important thing ever, for everything. If there is no Arabic coffee, there’s no deal! It plays a huge role in our hospitality and the manner in which we serve it is an important custom. Every majlis [sitting room] has coffee and dates, and drinking coffee brings Emirati families and friends together, while connecting us to our heritage.

How is Arabic coffee traditionally served?

The person serving the coffee is called Muqahwi, and there’s an etiquette to the way in which the dallah (coffee pot) is held (always in the left hand) and the coffee is poured (only a few sips are poured – it is never filled to the top). The coffee is usually served, starting with the person on the right and no one should be missed out. If we have an important person in the majlis, he or she will be served first. Once we’ve drunk the coffee, we shake the finjaan cup to show we have finished.

How does Arabic coffee differ across the Middle East?

Recipes can vary slightly from one country to another. In Saudi Arabia the coffee is lighter and more yellowish in colour because they add more cardamom. Emiratis and Omanis tend to like their coffee darker. Sometimes we add cloves and saffron, but never sugar! Why? Because we don’t need it, we’re sweet enough! And because we usually serve coffee with dates, which bring natural sweetness.

Is there a specific ‘Ramadan’ coffee?

No, locals in the Gulf in general like Arabic coffee. When we break the fast we have water, but some of us choose Arabic coffee straight away.