Culture can be defined as the cultivated behavior that is socially transmitted. It involves the accumulation of knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, religion, relations, concepts of the universe, values, meanings, roles, notions of time, relations, material possessions and objects acquired and a way of life of a group of people throughout the generations. This way of life is accepted by all the individuals in the group without thinking about it and is passed from one generation to another through communication and imitation. It can therefore be considered as a group's traditional ideas and values that are attached and followed by all the generations. (Hofstede, 1997)
There are many different types of culture but this paper will generally focus on 3 types i.e. Pluralism, Dualism and Salad bowl.
This refers to the type of culture whereby smaller groups of people within a large society tend to maintain their unique culture identities and their values, behaviors and identities are well accepted by the wider society or culture. The minor groups of people participate fully within the dominant society while still maintaining their cultural differences. It involves coexistent of different cultures in a location without the domineering of one particular culture. The human differences that exist are accepted by the majority and hence it eliminates discrimination in the form of racialism or sexism.
This is a term that describes a society embracing two cultures and being comfortable with them. E.g. Canada having been colonized by the French and the British has embraced the cultures of these two nations (The Canadian Encyclopedia).
This is a concept that is used to describe the integration of many cultures which combines like a salad as compared to the prolific notion of a culture melting point. In this model, the various cultures are juxtaposed but they are not merged together into one homogenized culture just like the salad ingredients. Each culture maintains its distinct values and qualities. The society is therefore composed of many individual pure cultures (Sullivan, 2006)
Arabs are a grouping of various independent, self identified and self sustained ethnicities of various ancestral origins, religion and historic identities and its individual members are identified based on similarities in Language, culture genealogical or political grounds. Most Arabs have multiple identities with a local ethnic identity e.g. Egyptian, Palestinian or Lebanese. These may be broken further into tribal, village or clan identities. The main feature unifying all Arabs is the Semitic language, Arabic which has its origin in Arabia. The Arabs are not a single nationality even though they have had nations and nationhood. There are 22 Arab nations from and the Arab world crosses from Africa Asia and Europe. There are about 130 million Arabs worldwide. (Haddad, 1999)
The Arab identity is a cultural identity that links the people of Middle East and North Africa via language, traditions, history and the Islamic religion. The Arab world is composed of the states that are associated with the League of Arab states.
In the modern world the Arab identity has been narrowly identified with the Islamic religion. The western world unfortunately believes that being an Arab means being a Muslim. But this is a mistake that they do make. The Arabs represent only a minority of the worlds 1.6 billion Muslims. (Mohdad, 2004). In real context, the Arab identity is identified independently from the religious context. This is because it started even before the rise of Islam. There has been historical evidence attesting that there were Arab Christian and Arab Jewish kingdoms in the pre -Islam period. Even though, most Arabs today profess the Islamic religion.
Arabs can be defined based on genealogical, linguistic and political grounds. Genealogically, an Arab can be defined as some one who can trace his ancestral origins to the original inhabitants of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Peninsula i.e. the Arabian tribes. Linguistically, an Arab can be identified as someone whose cultural expression and first language is Arabic and its varieties. There are those who reject this definition criterion on the basis of non-Arab ancestry e.g. the Egyptians (Jankowski, 2004). There are 300 million people who can fall under this definition. Politically, an Arab can be defined as any person who is a national of a country with Arabic being a national language or it is one of the official languages. It can also refer to a citizen of a country which is a member of the League of Arab states. This identification though the simplest is the most contentious as it excludes the Arabs in Diaspora and it includes other peoples not of the Arab origin e.g. the Berbers of Morocco and the Somali of Somalia. The best identity of an Arab would be one who is a citizen of an Arab state, has a command of the Arabic language and has knowledge of the Arab traditions that include the various customs, manners and social systems of the culture (Sheehi, 2004).
This is an all inclusive term that puts together common themes and overtones found in the Arabic speaking cultures (Hooker, 1999) Most of the Arabs hold the traditional values and morals close. The culture of loyalty to the family is a top priority among the Arabs. Most Arabs are Muslims and they hold religion as a guide to how they live their lives. The Qur'an is followed in all aspects of their lives including how they are governed and how the live their social life. Their language is Arabic and it is uniform in the entire Arab world. Arabic is a unique and complex language. Aish, a form of bread is the staple in most Arabs' diet. The pastoral Arab nomads who herded camels and sheep are quickly fading and they are being replaced with professionals who are working in the cities. Many Arabs are employed in the oil companies and oil fields based in the middle east and other large manufacturing organizations as well (Barakat, 1993). The culture of the Arab world is therefore defined by the distinct religion, art, and food.
The Arabs have a set standard for clothing based mainly on their religion Islam. Islam has minimum standards that are set for personal modesty and these are reflected in the styles of clothing that is worn among the Muslims. Most of these standards and guidelines on the modes of dressing may be seen as outdated or conservative but the Arabs view them as the values of public decency and therefore infinite in terms on when they will cease to be followed. The Arabs buy their clothes in the Muslim world or they sew their own. The Islam religion just outlines the minimum standard of modest dressing but does not outline the style, color or the fabric that one should wear. The distinctive style that women wear has been an issue of controversy for a long time especially in the western world. The women wear the traditional Abaya with a full head and their face covered though some women now opt not to cover their faces. Many women in the Arab world dress conservatively. Some may cover their faces while others may not. The more conservative women wear long black garments called Abayah and these cover the whole body from the shoulders all the way to the feet. Inside this covering she may wear a traditional Arabian dress that may be full body length and with long sleeves and it may be decorated with beautiful beads. She can also be wearing a very fashionable dress from an international designer. A conservative woman will also wear a face and head covering in addition to the Abayah. The less conservative women wear the Abaya but do not wear the face and head cover. Some may wear the Abaya and a scarf like cover that covers only the hair but not the face. This cover is called a Hejab.
The men's clothing includes a long sleeved one piece dress that covers the whole body. It is called a Dishdashah or a Thoub. It is tailored in such a way that it allows air to circulate and this aids in cooling the body when the weather is hot. When the weather is hot especially during summer, the Thoub is made of white cotton. This helps in reflecting the sunlight and hence maintaining the body temperature to normality. When the weather is cold e.g. in winters, it is made from heavy fabric e.g. wool and it is usually made from darker colors e.g. black or grey. The men also wear a 3- piece head cover with this Dishdashah. The bottom piece of the head covering is a white cap. The cap is called Thagiyah and is sometimes filled with holes. Its purpose is for holding the hair in place. A scarf like head cover is worn on top of the Thagiyah. This is referred to as Gutrah which is a light white head cover that is worn in winter or Shumag a heavy head cover that is checked in red and white and is worn in winter. The purpose of these head covers is to protect the face and the head from the direct sunlight. They are also used as coverings for the nose and mouth in times of sand storms and cold weather. The Ogal, a black band surrounding the head top is worn on top of the Thagiyah and the Gutrah and it is used to hold them into place. (Mohammad Al-Sabt, 1995). The male children are taught on how to wear the heads covering when they reach puberty. This is usually a sign of entering manhood. The head covering is not worn while one is in the house but it is worn when one has guests in the house as a sign of respect.
Most Arab music puts emphasis on melody and rhythm rather than on harmony. The Arab music is characterized by an Arab tone, rhythmic-temporal structures that produce a variety of rhythmic patterns, a number of musical instruments, specific social contexts and an Arab musical mentality. Classical music is the most popular in the whole Arab world and its superstars are very popular (Maalouf, 2002). There are also regional styles of music that are popular in their specific regions e.g. Moroccan Gnawa and Egyptian el gil. Most of the Arab music has been dominated by Egypt and in particular Cairo which is a cultural center. Beirut has in the recent years become a major center of the Arab music (Amnon, 2001). The Arab music is composed of several genres and styles and it ranges from classical, pop, sacred and secular music. It is usually very independent and alive with a long history of interaction with other regions styles and genres. The Arab music is usually a composite of the music from the Arabs of the Arab Peninsula in conjunction with the music from the Arab world at large. The music has been highly influenced by music from other regions like the Egyptian, Persian, Assyrian, Swahili and European music (Touma, 1996). The Arabs developed and translated works of music from the Greek texts and thus mastered the Greeks musical theory. In the 21st century, the genres of music that are very common in the Arab world include Arabic pop, Franco-Arabic, Arabic Jazz, Arabic rock, Arabic electronica, Arabic R&B, reggae and hip hop.
Arabic pop- The Arabic music began to take a more western style in the 50s and 60s with artists like Abdel Halim Hafez leading the way. Arabic pop consists of Arabic instruments and lyrics but the songs are sung in a western style. Many Arabic artistes took up the style in the 1990s and it was in 1996 when Amir Diab released the song Habini that become a hit and a success in the Middle East, the Arab world and worldwide at large.
Franco- Arabian. This is a blend of western and eastern music that was made popular by Dalida from Egypt, Sammy Clarke from the Lebanon and Aldo from Australia. This genre describes a cross cultural blending of middle east and the west though there are some songs that have incorporated Arabic- Italian, Arabic-French and Arabic -English lyrics and styles.
Arabic hip hop- The Arabian music has been influenced by R&B, reggae and hip hop especially in the last 5 years. This involves featuring a rapper in an Arabic song e.g. Ishtar in her song Habibi Sawah. Some artistes have also used full R&B and reggae styles and beats e.g. Darine. This has however been greatly criticized. Hence this genre of music is not common in the Arab world.