Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies. In addition, Arabic coffee symbolizes the generosity so highly valued in Emirati society to the extent that it is firmly ingrained in Emirati tradition.
In 2015, the Unesco added majlis and Gahwa to its list of Intangible Cultural History of Humanity, underscoring the importance of cultural traditions that need to be preserved.
Preparation of Arabic Coffee
Traditionally, coffee is prepared in front of guests. Coffee-making begins with the selection of beans, which are lightly roasted in a shallow pan over a fire, then placed into a copper mortar and pounded with a copper pestle. The coffee grounds are placed into a large copper coffee pot; water is added and the pot is placed on the fire. Once brewed, it is poured into a smaller coffee pot from which it is poured into small cups. The most important or oldest guest is served first, filling a quarter of the cup, which can then be refilled. Common practice is to drink at least one cup but not exceed three.
Etiquette of serving coffee
- After preparing the coffee, it is served in small cups to the guests.
- The person serving the coffee to the guests or family members (muqahwi) must be a mature one, at least 15 years and above and not a child so he’s able to speak well with the guest.
- The muqahwi should hold the dallah in his left hand and about three small cups with no handle on the rights.
- He should serve the coffee starting from the person sitting on the right of the majlis and should not skip anyone.
- If there is a very important person in the majlis, like a Sheikh or a religious scholar, he should be served first. The muqahwi should then serve others starting with the person on his right.
- After drinking, the guest gently shakes the small cup to show the muqahwi that he’s done.
- The muqahwi always remains standing until all guests have finished drinking the coffee. And it is prohibited to serve coffee while people are eating food.