The guest room in MENA vs USA

There is a huge cultural difference between Arabs and North Americans when it comes to their guest rooms. Take a look at the two group pictures below and you will quickly spot the difference. Americans have beds in their guest rooms while Arabs don’t.

Arabs pride themselves with their hospitality. They like having guests and they host them well. Every middle and upper class house in MENA has a guest room. Unlike cozy and comfortable living rooms guest rooms are posh but uncomfortable. Group 1 below is a Google search for guest rooms written in Arabic “غرف ضيوف”.

Group 1: Guest rooms

If you are an American, you will notice how different these guest rooms are from yours (See group 2 below). If you are an Arab, yes Americans do put beds in their guest rooms. And they have a valid reason to do that.

Group 2: Guest rooms

In the USA, there is no special room to host non-sleeping guests. They are welcomed in the living room. In the Arab countries, non-sleeping guests are welcomed in a room dedicated to guests (AKA, the guest room).

In Asia and Europe they don’t have guest rooms. In Malaysia, I haven’t seen on in the houses I visited. But I am not sure about Europe, any idea?

The concept of a living room and a guest room in the Arab world has to do with religion and culture:

  1. Arabs have more frequent guests than the Americans, Asians and Europeans.
  2. Generally, Arabs don’t announce their visit or in the best case scenario they might call before they come just to see if the host is at home. And because of this the guest room comes as a rescue. Unlike the living room, where the kids may have their toys and where the family may eat their meals and snacks, the guest room is very clean and tidy. The host doesn’t have to clean up for the guests, there is an already clean room (i.e., the guest room).
  3. Having two separate rooms is also very convenient for the female hosts. In case of a male guest the female hosts don’t have to sit with him and cover their heads.

So, do people in your country have guest rooms? How do they look?


2 thoughts on “The guest room in MENA vs USA

  1. I read books that speak of a parlor. I think they served the same purpose. And I’ve known a few people who have a living room that the family doesn’t really use. (My inlaws have one, for instance. They call the place they congregate in front of the TV, the den.) I guess its purpose is similar to the Arab guest room – or could be.

    Fun post! So glad you shared!


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