Arab Americans often bring an assortment of items back from the Arab world as reminders of the homeland. Palestinian embroidery is one of the most popular items. The embroidery is usually purchased as pillow cases or ornaments to be hung on walls or doors. Paintings on papyrus paper and decorative brass plates are most commonly brought from Egypt. Cedar wood ornaments from Lebanon are popular and inlaid wood from Syria is common. From North Africa and Palestine colorful clay pottery decorated with floral patterns are also found in many homes. From Yemen and Iraq, silver jewelry is a favorite. All of these reminders and comforts from an old way of life help new immigrants especially feel a sense of place in their new homeland.


For Arabs and Arab Americans alike, hospitality remains extremely important. Certain dishes, such as stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, cabbage rolls and stews are often prepared in large quantities in order to feed expected and unexpected guests. Arab hospitality demands that hosts offer copious refreshments to their guests, who are expected to partake heartily lest they offend the host! The living room, front porch and kitchen are prime areas for entertaining and socializing in an Arab or Arab American home.


Early Arab immigrants were mostly Christians, with a smaller number of Muslims. Although Muslim Arabs started to arrive in larger numbers after 1965, the majority of Arab Americans continue to be Christian. Some Arab Jews have come to the United States from counties including Yemen, Iraq, Morocco and Syria. Religious artifacts found in Arab and Arab American homes carry not only religious meanings, but also cultural ones; prayer beads, al-kharazeh al-zarqa (eye-agate amulets), wooden engravings of Qur’an verses, are found in both Christian and Muslim homes. Biblical quotes engraved in wood brought from cedar forests in Lebanon or on pottery plates brought from Palestine are found in many Christian homes. Read more about the three monotheistic religions here.