Friendship, Fridays, and Fasting: Business Etiquette In The Middle East

07 March 2022

We recently stumbled across a poorly written article that claimed that the Middle East is one of the most challenging places in the world to do business. 


And as a multicultural company, operating out of Jordan, (the jewel of the Middle East 😏), we’re here to tell you that this statement simply isn’t true. 


As a language service provider that helps companies all over the world to do better business with the Middle East, we’re in a pretty good position to give you some accurate pointers on Middle Eastern business etiquette, so here are our top three tips for challenge-free business exchanges with the warm and welcoming folk of the Middle East. 


Friends do Business Better 

If you’re in business with an Arab, you’re in business with a friend. 

As Arabs, we give relationship building and good hospitality the same weight and importance we give the actual work we’d like to do with you. Don’t be surprised if your Arabian business associates take a more leisurely approach to the business closing process. Many Arabs today work with a whole host of international collaborators and customers, but that doesn’t change the fact that culturally, the pace of work can be slower, and a greater value is placed on trust and creating a lasting connection. 


Arabs like to do business with people we like, so we focus on good personal relationships, good manners, and mutual respect. 


Friday is Sunday, and Sunday is Monday

Apart from Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, most Middle Eastern countries have their weekend on a Friday and Saturday. In the Middle East, the Muslim majority population in most Arab countries means Friday is a holy day, with congregational midday prayers meaning many people won’t schedule meetings or reply to emails on Friday (typically, a day of work around the rest of the world). While not everyone in the Middle East is Muslim, Friday is widely held as a family day, a relaxing sort of day, and definitely not a working day. 


A good rule to follow

If you’re working with Middle Eastern counterparts, keep business chat from Sunday to Thursday, and be mindful of the possible time difference between you and your distant colleagues. 



Fasting means Ramadan 

According to an interesting statistic from Samer Sunnuqrot, an economist based in Amman, (home of e-Arabization’s HQ 😎), “the productivity of workers declines in the holy month by 35-50% as a result of shorter working hours and the change in behaviour during this month.” 

If you’re working out of the Middle East during Ramadan, then you’ll be aware of the lull in activity that occurs during the daylight hours, but if you’re outside of the region, then it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with longer response times, fewer business transactions, and a less energetic response from your exhausted, fasting friends.


Inside the Middle East, Ramadan provides a great boost for the hospitality industry, with cafes and restaurants experiencing a surge in demand after people break their fast.

During daylight fasting hours though, business can be harder to get done, and some companies even pause signing off on new projects until the holy month is over. Mainly for practical reasons, because reduced working hours in some countries often mean employees can’t dedicate the hours needed to work on new projects. 


Even though Ramadan only affects one month every year, as a company based in Jordan, working with a whole host of companies all over the world, this post provides a great forum to lay down some easy to learn facts about how we work around a Middle Eastern calendar, and how our business cycle differs from other calendars around the world.


In the same way that Christmas creates a slow-but-fast business environment in Europe, America and other Christmassy-nations across the world, Ramadan creates the same phenomenon in the Middle East!


Let’s Localize How we Relate to One Another 

Intercultural sensitivity is something businesses should strive for no matter where they operate. But if you find yourself doing business in any new region, then deepen your understanding and appreciation of the culture you’re going into, and respect the differences between you, and the people you will be working with. 


2020 is, for all intents and purposes, the year of remote work. In the interest of supporting a digital-first approach to communication, we’re challenging ourselves to strengthen our intercultural relationships in the workplace and embrace our differences rather than positioning them as challenges. 


Localization begins in our language, but that’s just the beginning! True localization impacts everything we do, and that’s why at e-Arabization, we bring our local values to our global customers. 

Want to know more about machine translation, or want to drop a quick Marhaba our way? Visit and check out how we use machine translation to turn e-shops into Arabic and connect local businesses with the global marketplace.