majlis

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Majlis is Arabic for ‘council’ or ‘sitting place’, with this space playing the role of a top-level meeting place. In Abu Dhabi, the traditional majlis - historically a tented meeting place where warm Arabian hospitality was offered ahead of negotiations - has been the setting for business meetings since the Silk Route was first established thousands of years ago. Today, majlises are just as important as they’ve always been, with many Emiratis having majlises in their homes.

Being a place of welcome, there is a certain etiquette to be maintained in a majlis. Emirati greetings are derived from the religious and cultural makeup of the Arab world. Long, genuinely warm welcomes with handshakes, embrace and generous praise can be expected for male-to-male and female-to-female greetings. Physical interaction between men and women is more conservative.

With that in mind, male visitors should not take the initiative to shake hands with an Emirati woman. She will make it clear if she expects a handshake. Likewise, some Arab men may not wish to shake hands with women. Of course, a smile is universally accepted.

Culture
Tradition