How to Kiss, Saudi Style


When arriving in Saudi Arabia as a newcomer, one must be prepared for the “Art of Kissing, Saudi Style.” Whether male or female it is not unusual for Saudis to greet guests with a kiss. However that being said, in business most Saudi men will extend a handshake to a Western expat before giving them a kiss. But Saudis greeting Saudis will inevitably always kiss as that is part of the culture. I wrote an earlier post about women greeting women and how they kiss. So to be fair I realized I needed to cover the same topic for the men as well.

A Saudi man greeting another Saudi man whom he knows and respects will likely shake nose-kissinghis hand, embrace him and kiss him. Usually like with the women, the kiss will take place on either side of the cheek. Sometimes they will exchange multiple “air kisses” to the sides of each others neck. Other times Saudi men who are well known to one another may share a brief “nose kiss” which is the tips of the noses touching. Or if a Saudi man is an elder, the younger male may show his respect with a kiss to the shoulder, the hand or perhaps on the forehead. This manner in showing of affection is a natural custom and tradition in Saudi Arabia.

However as we all know, a video in fact can say a thousand words or more, so to help illustrate how Saudi men may choose to kiss, I’ve included this “helpful” video.

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35 Responses

  1. That is soooo HOT!!! If I wear a thobe & pretend to be a guy, would I also be kissed just like your pictures? :-P

  2. Gloria–you WANT to kiss George Bush? :(

  3. Nope. He is gay so he wouldn’t like me. ;-)

  4. Okay. Got it. It’s the thobe thing again, right? :D :P

  5. As a Westerner with a love of “personal space” this is something that has taken a long time to get used to, as well as the Middle Eastern tendency of men to get within three inches of you to talk.

    I do, however, love the respect it imparts, especially to older people. I have kissed my Mother in Law’s hand many times.

  6. lol@Chiara: It is always the thobe thangy. I knew it is fitna inspiring the first time I saw one. :-p

  7. :-P

  8. But only Gulf Arabs…I am kind of picky that way. ;-)

  9. When I was a kid I used to hate it when older women kissed my cheeks. Somehow they were always after it…& those kisses were always watery..Yucks! LOL :-P

  10. Gloria–good then my thobeless North African is safe!

    Abu Sinan–I would guess this is an adaptation for most Nordic or North American men, Bush’s hand holding not withstanding. ;)
    I find both the respect and the affection expressed are admirable.

  11. @Abu Sinan

    It’s not just Saudis, Spanish speaking men like to get very close to you.

  12. Is the picture of Bush and King Abduallah kissing for real, becasue Saudi men almost always kiss on the cheeks and not smack on the lips. As far as the nose touching, it’s mostly an Emarti trait, Saudi usually don’t exchange this sort of greeting.

  13. “As far as the nose touching, it’s mostly an Emarti trait, Saudi usually don’t exchange this sort of greeting.”

    That’s what I was thinking. Maybe there are regions where they do that kind of kiss. Kiwis also kiss on the nose. I think it’s cute…I just want to know how & why that came to be: Why did some people decide a kiss was going to be this way, & others decided it was going to be that way? It would be interesting to find out.

  14. It’s me, mimi. Just put up my blog :p. Soooooooo fad’yah.

  15. Yeah… that Bush and the King photo looks a bit suspicious…

  16. Ive never been able to do the whole arab kissy kissy thing…just feel uncomfortable with it. A simple handshake for the ladies…maybe a hug if they are friends etc.

    It was always awkward in the beginning because they would try and pull me in for the “physical assault” and I would be clumsy and hesitant…so eventually those who know me learned what Im all about when it comes to greetings and dont push my boundries…I just have to beware of strangers…lol.

  17. Video was very funny
    I Strongly reject the first photo (King Abdullah and George Bush)
    it is not funny at all
    iam really angry

  18. Video was very funny
    I Strongly reject the first photo (King Abdullah and George Bush)
    it is not funny at all
    iam really angry
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  19. its an internet Photoshoped picture, nobody should be angry at it. Its a poor edit as well. Fact is though, Bush is familiar with Saudi traditions.. Al Saud Family and Bush Family have some really strong ties.. I am not sure though if Jeb Bush will jump on the wagon though.

    Aside from that, thank you Carol for taking the time to explain such traditional coded formality. Sometimes even the cheek kisses are different.. in the Central Region for example the kissers alternate cheeks between each kiss.. in the Eastern Region hey stick to one side when greeting each other.. usually the right side of the Cheek.

  20. I was very surprised while holidaying in Dubai to see man nose kissing. I liked it, I thought it was a very warm way to salute or wellcome friends or other people.

    I like to see too the differents ways of kissing, depending on the relation held, I find the article very interesting.

    It surprised me as I found it paradoxical.

    @ Jerry M

    You’re right, we spanish, man and woman, are used to salute or wellcome people in a very affectionate way, shacking hands, kissing, touching, even when just speaking or in business we’re very affectionate, we get close and touchy, with no other meaning than wellcome or salute, it’s in our genes :0)

  21. I think the photo of Bush ( oh, I mean Shrub) and King Abdulla is fake one. Shrub might be ignorant, but he is familiar with Saudi tradtions. I am sure on the way to KSA he was briefed and even had to look at the map to find KSA as quiz. ( He most likely pointed to the South Pole knowing him…ha, ha,)

  22. I agree the Bush photo is photoshopped. There is a similar real photo with an appropriate distance between the 2 heading for the cheeks, and this one looks as though that one was cropped to eliminate the distance. If you look at the points of contact they are unnatural.

    The multigenerational ties between the Bush and Al Saud families would argue against such a faux pas–even by Shrub.

    Perhaps Primrose finds the fake photo offensive, which is fair enough, but not worth spending alot of emotional energy on (in my opinion). :)

    I like the Arab kissy thing but then it’s in my (Italian) genes. :D

  23. no wonder, most saudi men are so queer
    @abu sinan:
    you said you kissed your mother in laws hands many times?? why??? that sounds so unmanly and meekish—in fact i attended an egyptian friend marriage last year and he was ordered by the imam to kiss the feet of his father in law—i considered that to be very very strange even for arab culture—i mean i understand that as muslim (i am non-arab muslim) we are suppose to show respect for elders especially those who due to marriage will become special relations, but dont you think kissing the feet of your father in law is just too much?? i could tell that my egyptian friend felt very embassarred but couldnt sum up the courage to refuse and besides traditions are tradition no matter how old and its not easy to refuse to follow them lest one commits an affront in the eyes of the community and of course God himself. but still it was very weird as well as extremely humiliating to observe such a scene.

  24. LOL@Chiara: Sure thing. :-)

  25. >>>>To the editor of this blog,

    I have been reading your blog for a long time on a daily basis and I appreciate expressing your thoughts. However I found some Un-Ethical behaviors -I really hope its not meant to be- such as the photo of the US ex President and King Abdullah. Clearly you can tell the photo has been edited to show both gentlemen as they were kissing lips.

    Pls. If you want to keep such a respected blog, don’t make any foolish or shameless behaviors. I hope this was an accident matter and wish you all the best!!!

    Regards,

  26. i did not say great post – Do you allow me to say that I want?
    but i really can’t wait to read your next one!
    This fabricated image and it is so clear no doubt
    but do you think it is good or respect be put here
    please donot try to change that I wrote
    if you dnot want me to continue writing, I agree
    Say that only

    glint
    If you do not read except that you like you will not benefit
    shahad-primrose

  27. @primrose – I’m a little confused….comments are not edited on this
    blog! Unless you are referring to what someone else said or asked?

    -if- a comment is completely inappropriate (such as broad use of
    profanity) then they are simply deleted…but editing, no.

  28. Primrose

    Perhaps you started a comment and then edited it yourself, and accidently submitted 2X. If there is even a slight difference between the 2 versions both will show. If they are absolutely identical only one copy will show.

    After reading both your comments at 3:21 and 3:29. I think this may have happened to you in this instance.

    American Bedu has a rather high tolerance for dissent, so you needn’t worry your comments need to conform to a specific viewpoint.

  29. You must always show respect to your elders always…or bad things happen to you:
    http://super-trainer.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/kiss-the-ring.bmp

    Anyway, the nose kiss is actually a more Bedouin tradition.

  30. Mohamed S–LOL Thanks for sharing the ways of my people. LOL :D :P

  31. Don Vito Corleone is in the awesome tier on the badass scale. :D

  32. Mohamed S–Come è vero! Lei parla bene! Siamo paesani!

  33. Thankfully during my time in the UAE, I was never made to kiss or rub noses with another man. I guess they are more sensitive to the different multicultural expectations there.

  34. It’s partly similar to the Western custom of opposite sexes as well as women greeting each other by kising – in West Asia it has to be the same sex kissing. Mine is a non-touching society in public – kissing anyone in public is quite rare. It’s not regarded as good. Once I was taken by a Spanish friend to a Spanish gathering and she asked her Spanish male friends to kiss me by way of greeting but I refused and my friend was quite angry!

  35. I’ve learned that at least in some places in Saudi this post is blocked! Now I’m curious…can others read it in Saudi? Hope the blog didn’t get blocked!

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