Serving “Gahwa” or Arabic Coffee to guests as a welcoming drink is a very important aspect of the Arab Culture in the Gulf region. This custom is even added to the list of Intangible Cultural History of Humanity for the purpose of highlighting the importance of a cultural tradition that needs to be preserved.
Offering “gahwa” to guests is a symbol of Arab hospitality and the custom manly derives from the Bedouin traditions. UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kingodom of Saudi Arabia are considered to be countries where this custom originated. The way how and when the coffee should be served depends on the society’s values.
In UAE, “gahwa” should be prepared in front of the guests in a pot called “dallah”.
Then, it is served in small cups which have no handle and are called “finjaan”. The person serving “gahwa” to guests or family members is called “muqahwi” and has to be at least 15 years old, mature enough to speak well with the guests and pour the coffee with confidence from “dallah” into “finjaan” without the risk of spilling it. When serving coffee, “muqahwi” holds the “dallah” in left hand and three to four “finjaans’ (one in another) in the right hand. After pouring the coffee into the “finjaan” which is on top, “muqahwi lifts the “finjaan” with thumb and the index finger and offers it to the guest, while with the other three fingers of the right hand holds the remaining “finjaans”. Coffee is served first to the important people who are present, like Sheikh or a religious scholar, then to elderly and then to the rest starting from the person on “muqahwi”s right. “Finjaans” are only half filled and the guests can have refills. Filling up the cup is considered to be an insult. The guest who finished drinking gently shakes the small cup to show “muqahwi” that he/she is done. “Muqahwi” should remain standing until everyone is finished drinking the coffee. Coffee is not supposed to be served while people are eating. Usually dates are served along with the coffee.
“Gahwa” is prepared using water, rose water, coffee beans and adding cardamom, saffron, cumin and cloves. It has no calories and is loaded with anti-oxidants like Vitamin E. It can keep one hydrated as it has 95% of water. Comparing to the regular black coffee, it has less caffeine and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Although Nescafe powdered Arabic coffee can be purchased in supermarkets, it is not even close to the taste of traditional Arabic coffee that one can experience when visiting a local Arab friend.