Middle East Gift Giving Customs

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[edit] General Customs

  • Avoid pictures of people or dogs; Islam prohibits images of the human body and dogs are considered unclean.
  • Avoid alcohol and products made of pigskin, because pigs are considered offensive to Muslims.
  • Avoid giving gifts to the wife of an Arab colleague, and never inquire about her.
  • In Arab culture, gifts are given or received with the right hand, not with the left. Using both hands, however, is acceptable.
  • An elegantly-made compass can be a good gift. A compass enables devout Muslims to always know where Mecca is, even when traveling.

[edit] Egypt

  • If invited to an Egyptian home, bring a gift of baked goods or chocolates. Flowers are acceptable for very Westernized Egyptians, but they were traditionally used for funerals and weddings.
  • Small electronic gadgets are popular gifts.

[edit] Israel

  • Avoid giving gifts until you know the individual/party better.
  • If giving a gift of food, make sure it is kosher if being given to an Orthodox person.
  • If you are familiar with the recipient's interests, a book can be a good choice for a gift.
  • If you are invited to an Israeli home, good choices include a simple arrangement of flowers or box of candy. If you know that children will be present, bringing them with a small gift will be appreciated.
  • If a holiday is being celebrated, familiarize yourself with the practices and traditions of the Jewish home. For instance, honeycakes are a traditional gift during Yom Kippur.

[edit] Kuwait

  • Extended family or very close friends may exchange gifts for birthdays, Ramadan, Eid, Hajj and other celebratory occasions.
  • Crafts or picture books from your home region is always appreciated and liked.
  • Gold pens and business card holders are good gifts.
  • If a man must give a gift to a woman, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other female relative.

[edit] Saudi Arabia

  • Flowers do not make good gifts from a man, although a woman could give them to her hostess.
  • The recipient is likely to open and minutely examine the gift in the presence of the giver as well as any others who happen to be present.
  • Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends. For a Saudi to receive a present from a lesser acquaintance is so embarrassing as to be offensive.
  • Never buy gold jewelry or silk garments for men, as both are deemed effeminate in Islam. Platinum is more acceptable but, as it can be confused with white gold, silver is safer.

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