Etiquettes of Drinking and Presenting Arabic Qahwa

Qahwa is famous for being an Arabic specialty and is equivalent to coffee in the Arab world.  If you thought Arabic Qahwa is known for only its distinct taste, here's a surprise. Everything about the Qahwa from its serving etiquettes to its pouring methods is unique. There are proper, unspoken traditions regarding how it is served. The Saudis are generally known for their deference to authority and respect for elders. Hence, while serving guests, age and closeness of relation are considered. This means that closer relatives will be served first and older people will be given a preference over the younger lot.[irp]

Similarly, in parties, if guests are seated in rows, the server will begin serving from the front row and right side. When entertaining guests, if both father and son are present, the son will always be the one serving out of respect for a father. Similarly, in welcoming delegations, Qahwa is often served to the delegates and it starts with the King himself and then the others are served based on their positions and ranks. It is necessary to serve every individual. Leaving someone out is considered very disrespectful and against the code of hospitality.[irp]

The Qahwa pot, with an extended spout, is called Dallah or Al-Malqamah. The small handle-less cups used to serve Qahwa are known as funjal. Cups that have cracked or are chipped from the edges should never be used. Pouring the Qahwa itself is an art. It is done while standing, in form of a small stream with about a foot long distance. The Dallah is to be held in the left hand while the cup (funjal) is in the right hand. The cups should always be held in hand at the time of pouring.[irp]

Filling them while on the tray is against the etiquette and shows inability. It is a complicated process and requires practice. While the Saudis are trained in this art from childhood, people moving there learn it over time with practice. It is desirable for the server to keep a considerable distance from the guest being served to ensure that no accident occurs that would cause harm to the guest in case of spillage. The server should say tafaddal or samm while offering the cup to the guest which is basically a request to accept the cup of Qahwa.[irp]

He should maintain an erect posture the entire time. The cup is only filled one-fourth to allow room for the Qahwa to cool but the server should be watchful and should keep refilling the cups as soon as they are emptied unless the guest indicates he does not want more. Forgetting to serve one of the guests or not refilling their cups in a timely manner is considered an act of humiliation for that guest.

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