There are several ways to greet when you are in Dubai. It is always nice to address a group of people, but also give everyone a personal greeting, is also better. Salam alaykum”, Peace be upon you, is the most common greeting to which the reply is “Wa alaykum as-salam” and upon you be peace. Middle Easterners often greet each other with a number of ritual phrases and fixed responses. A casual exchange should include an inquiry about a person’s family, children, and health. These quick-fire conversations are ended when one or both parties says “Alhamdulillah” which basically means “Thanks be to God”.
Another way to greet that can be used for anyone at any time of the day is to put the hands together as you approach a person, and kiss on the cheeks saying “Ahlan”. Cheek kissing in the Arab world is relatively common, between friends and relatives. Cheek kissing between males is also very common.
However, cheek kissing between a male and female is usually considered inappropriate, unless within the same family; e.g. brother and sister, or if they are a married couple.
Women normally exchange kisses on alternate cheeks, usually three times. The most common reply is “Ahlan bik” to a male or “Ahlan biki” to a female. To reply to more than one person, say, “Ahlan bikum. Marhaba, which means welcome, is also another way to greet people. The common reply is “Marhaban bik”, “Marhaban biki”, and “Marhaban bikum” to a male, female, and more than one person respectively.
Time greetings during a day, are as follows.
Good morning is “Sabah al-khayr”. The most common reply is “Sabah an-noor” meaning, “morning of light”. The speaker may tweak, “Morning of the rose”, “morning of light” to “Morning of joy”, “Morning of beauty” and so on.
“Good evening” is “Misa’ al-khayr” and is replied to with “Misa’ an-noor”.
The “an-noor” can be replaced depending on the mood.
“Good night” is expressed with “Tisbah ‘ala khayr” which means “wake up to the good” and the responding reply is “Wa anta/anti min ahloo” meaning, “and may you be one of the good”.
As for greetings in the Gulf countries, including the Emirates, men very often greet each other by touching their noses to one another. It goes without saying that this greeting happens between Emiratis only. Men beat their noses together one, two or three times.
This kind of greeting has its cultural origin and reason.
The nose is the symbol of pride and superiority in the Arab world. It has been mentioned in many verses of poetry and folk proverbs, and it is linguistically linked to a large number of qualities that embody characteristics cherished by the Arabs in general and Arab men in particular.
In some tribes, a son greeting his father should also kiss the latter’s head.
In case of apologising, a man very often kisses the other person’s nose, and very often might just say ‘Khashmak’ (your nose) as a symbol of appreciation, respect, and high regard.