From formal interactions, to personal presentation, Vincent Miccolis from The Ascott Limited reveals the top 6 etiquettes that first-time travellers to the GCC need to keep in mind

If you haven’t already travelled to any country in the GCC yet, chances are that you may find yourself in one of the six GCC nations soon. According to recent statistics from investment bank Alpen Capital, the hospitality industry in the GCC countries is forecast to grow to $35.9 billion by 2018. However, when traveling to the GCC and the Middle East, there are several traditions and customs that both men and women need to take into consideration.

With seven properties across the GCC, and eight more in the pipeline, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), currently the world’s largest service residence owner-operator released a travel guide for visitors to the different countries in the GCC. Commenting on the etiquettes that need to be followed by foreign travellers, Vincent Miccolis, the Area General Manager of The Ascott Limited (GCC) stated that Middle Eastern society is considered to be more formal and more traditional than western society.


Burj Al Arab

“People less familiar with the region should be more aware of the different rules, norms, and etiquettes practiced by people of the GCC. We at Ascott have chalked out a few guidelines for business and tourist visitors to the GCC,” said Vincent. Here are some of the guidelines that have been inspired by the Middle East Institute for visitors to the Middle East:

Dress Code

  • Men and women across the GCC prefer wearing their traditional attire.
  • Men wear the thiyaab (ankle-length traditional Arabic male dress, singular thawb), accompanied by a ghatrah (folded headscarf) and an iqal (black rope, plural uqul) to hold it down.
  • Women wear the abaya, a simple, loose over-garment, a robe-like dress and a hijab (headscarf).
  • It is respectful to dress more conservatively while traveling in the GCC
  • It is considered an insult to show the bottom of your foot to another person in GCC culture; keep both feet on the floor

Formal Interactions

  • The most widely spoken languages are Arabic and English
  • Greet a local by saying: Salaamu aleikum (“Peace be upon you,” used like “Hello”)
  • The response: “Wa aleikum a-salaam” (“And unto you peace”)
  • Ahlan wa s ahlan (“Welcome,” very common of Arab hosts)


The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi


  • When asking about an Arab person’s family, keep questions general and do not ask specifically about the spouse


  • Men shake hands and women should wait until the man extends his hand
  • Religious Arab Muslim men may not shake hands with women and pious Arab Muslim women do not shake the hands or touch men, unless they are family members
  • They might simply put their hand over their hearts to show their sincerity in welcoming the visitor

Prayer and Ramadan

  • Muslims pray five times a day: dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and night
  • Muslims may pray in public places, however prayer facilities are made available in Ascott properties across the world
  • During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset
  • When visiting during Ramadan, refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public or in front of staff or business associates

Food and Dining

  • The act of communal eating is a highly recognised outward expression of friendship across the Middle East
  • Do not eat with your left hand, which is considered unclean
  • Do not ask for pork or pork products
  • Observant Muslims consume Halal food
  • Avoiding consuming alcohol for a formal dinner party that involves Arabs
  • Refrain from drinking and swearing in public

Do you think you may be affected by the travel ban on electrical appliances?  Read our article here to find out.