The Intricate and Distinctive Culture of Qahwa

Bran Castle, Romania
Bran Castle, Romania | Photo by Nomadic Julien on Unsplash
Gehad Medhat

You haven’t experienced real Omani culture until you’ve been invited to the Omani Qahwa. Yes, this unique word means coffee, but there is so much more to it than a simple cup of brown, hot drink. It is a complete course of hospitality that reflects the exceptional essence of Omani heritage. Here are all the distinctive wonders you need to know about this splendid culture of Qahwa.

What is Qahwa

Qahwa (or kahwa) is the Arabic word for coffee. Nevertheless, Arabic coffee has a specific taste that distinguishes it from how it is served in other non-Arab countries. The way coffee is prepared is also different, and sometimes almost every Arabic country has its unique method of making it. In Oman, for example, Qahwa covers a bigger meaning of hospitality than in other countries. Qahwa in Oman refers to what guests are served when they are invited to an Omani house. It includes the Omani coffee, different Omani dates (fresh and dried), fruits, Omani halwa (dessert) and cakes and bakery. Omanis even use the word “qahwa” as a verb to invite people to their houses.

How Qahwa is made

Omani Qahwa uses spices and flavors to give a unique taste to the coffee. The main ingredients include: saffron, rose water and cardamon. However, some people also like to add cloves and cinnamon. These ingredients are boiled in simmering water to mix flavors.

What to do when invited for Qahwa

Omanis are some of the most generous Arabs. They love inviting people to their houses, and serving them with their best food, desserts and drinks. They are so hospitable that they’re known to welcome people into their homes every day. For all the love, welcome, and respect they offer their guests, guests must never be late for the visit. Omanis respect time and are very organized, so a guest should always be punctual.

Omanis usually sit on the floor in a circle, where the food is in the middle. They sit close to each other, and make guests feel welcomed and treated like family. You can ask to sit on a chair if you can’t sit on the floor for a long time. Make sure that you don’t eat before you visit Omanis, because they will offer you a lot of food. It is disrespectful not to eat what they offer, but more importantly, they will feel sad that you didn’t try their food.

Omanis are very generous, and they will keep serving guests and bringing different types of food and drinks to them. They might even offer them lunch or dinner afterwards. Nevertheless, as a guest, you must be mindful of what time it is and when you do need to leave, because they usually sleep early and have work and other things to do.

What to expect

The traditional course of hospitality in Oman usually starts with Qahwa and dates. Beside the dates bowl, there will be a water bowl. You should gently wash your fingers in that bowl before you start eating dates.

Then, the host will serve coffee in a small cup. If you want another cup of coffee, you simply give your cup to the host. If you don’t want to drink anymore, make sure you shake your cup before you give it back to the host.

Fruits are then served with other desserts like cakes and Omani bakeries. However, the coffee and dates will remain until the end of the visit.

What accompanies the Omani Qahwa

Omani Qahwa can be considered the country’s national drink. Omanis take such pride in their coffee that they present it to visiting leaders, guests in their homes, and during weddings and special occasions. Qahwa represents a sign of love and respect, and must be served at all times. Omanis themselves drink coffee throughout their daily routine.

The Qahwa is always served with dates, fruits, cakes, bakeries and desserts. Nevertheless, it is never served without dates. During weddings, Qahwa is served with Omani halwa, with tradition stating that guests should eat the halwa first before drinking the coffee.

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