U.K. Ministry of Defence Guide: Understanding the Arab World
The Arab World is a vast area which is home to diverse people, many of whom have experienced considerable change since the start of 2011. The way in which people behave and interact with you will therefore vary greatly across the region. This guide discusses aspects of Arab culture that you might experience in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. Further reading on individual countries is recommended before you deploy.
Most Arabs are Sunni Muslims who speak Arabic. However, there are many different religions, ethnic and social groups in the Arab world, among them Christians, Jews, Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Turks and Berbers. Some of these groups have a difficult time in their countries, but many live happily as Arabs and as part of Arab society. While some Arab countries are very conservative and have strict rules about the role of women, others are more Westernised in their approach to issues like alcohol, religion and education. The familiar stereotype of the Bedouin Arab with his camel, tent, robes and blood feuds is only a small part of Arab identity and history. In fact, this traditional way of life has died out in many parts of the Arab world, and is not significant today in areas like North Africa. Today’s Arab population is mostly young, as seen during the 2011 Arab Spring, and many Arabs are very Westernised.