Professor Rania Habib Shared Insights About Arab Culture at Rio Salado Event


Some text as placeholder. In real life you can have the elements you have chosen. Like, text, images, lists, etc.
Monday, May 20, 2024
Arab Culture A Conversation with Doctor Rania Habib

On Thursday, April 25, Rio Salado College hosted a special event in honor of Arab American Heritage Month. Titled “A Celebration of Arab Culture & Dialogue,” the event featured an insightful presentation and Q&A with Professor Rania Habib. Dr. Habib is a professor of Arabic and Linguistics at Syracuse University. You can watch the YouTube recording now.  

Habib introduced herself by explaining the linguistic meaning of her name as, “Someone who is looking at the beautiful scenery and contemplating the scenery.” She held the audience’s attention with an engaging slideshow that offered a general overview of Arabic cultural practices and mores. One of the most engaging sections was her breakdown of the “societal cleavages” that divide Arabic people into different communities: urban, rural, and nomadic Bedouins. Despite the great cultural differences between these three groups, Hadid stressed the importance of family ties and extended family networks that are a bedrock of Arabic culture.

Habib also touched on religious differences, addressing the misconception that Arab people are mostly Muslim (on the contrary: they share a diverse array of spiritual beliefs and practices). She also discussed how Arabic people can often be emotionally warm and effusive in public but shy away from getting too personal. According to Habib, a raised voice in that culture isn’t necessarily a sign of anger but could often be a sign of someone being passionate or gregarious. She also talked about how important hospitality and haggling are in the Arab world.

Habib discussed the complicated social interactions between Arab men and women. In many of their cultures it’s not uncommon for kissing, hugging, and handholding to happen during same-sex greetings but those signs of physical affection and closeness are considered inappropriate for members of the opposite sex. 

She wrapped her presentation with a fun tangent about cultural attitudes toward pets. Cats are beloved and respected while dogs are often not allowed to be house pets (but are acceptable as guard and guide dogs).

During the Q&A, Habib talked about the Arabic approach to business (they tend to favor personal relationships and close connections over metrics and data) and how much they value cooperation, loyalty, and consensus as cultural values. She also addressed an audience member’s concerns about whether it’s okay to break fasts during Ramadan and how institutions can better support students who are fasting during the holy month.

Learn More About Arab American Culture

You can continue to learn about Arab American Heritage Month even though it is over. To learn about the fascinating cultural and historical contributions of Arab Americans, check out some of these resources to stay informed and broaden your horizons.

Arab American Associations

Looking for networking opportunities? Eager to meet other students and working professionals that share your cultural background? Check out some of these associations:

Volunteer Opportunities  

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Explore these opportunities for giving your time and talents to make the world a better place:

  • Refugee Focus: Part of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, this program in Arizona offers a chance to help refugees from the Arab world with English language tutoring, job search assistance, and cultural orientation.
  • Arizona Community Centers and Mosques: Offering volunteer opportunities in community services and educational programs. These centers often host language classes, cultural events, and support services for new immigrants from Arab countries.
  • Arab American Family Support Center: Provides opportunities to assist in programs that support immigrant families from the Arab world.
  • Islamic Relief USA: Engage in projects and initiatives aimed at providing relief and support to communities both locally and globally.
  • Local cultural festivals and events: Participate in organizing and volunteering at events like the Arab American Festival in Phoenix, which celebrates Arab culture, food, and music.


Article by Austin Brietta