Arab cities after sunset
You will find in most Arab cities that there is a rhythm to activities after sunset, which is quite different from, say, Europe or America.
The cool of the evening is, of course, appreciated greatly during all seasons, but especially so in the hot summer months. What you will often see is people simply enjoying the fresh air and cooler temperatures without necessarily going to a café or restaurant.
Cafés and restaurants
Where there are cafés and restaurants, you will immediately notice some striking features. Many Arab countries do not serve alcohol at all and that clearly makes a huge difference. East Beirut has a very lively night scene with bars and a Casino, but downtown Riyadh is peaceful by comparison.
Another feature is that in many cities you will see men and women smoking the ‘hubble-bubble’ or water-pipe. This is also known as ‘shisha’. There is quite a ritual attached to this, with the tobacco being carefully tended either by the smokers or by the waiter.
You will also notice that it is common for families to have very young children out with them to a late hour. Clearly, late nights will have an effect next day, and this is part of the reason for having a ‘siesta’.
Football is king!
Even football can become a vital part of the night scene, because of the coolness of the evening. In the summer months, especially in the Gulf countries, it is impossible to play football in the afternoon and so matches are switched to the evening.
Football is the most popular game in the entire Arab world and creates enormous enthusiasm among the supporters of the local club or the national team.
In many countries, because there is little political activity in the sense of belonging to a party, the support of a football team is in some ways a substitute for politics. This is particularly the case when in some oil-rich country a VIP owns a football team and a stadium.
When it comes to the national team, the enthusiasm sometimes gets almost out of control. Just before the 2010 World Cup finals, the crowd problems were so bad in matches between Egypt and Algeria that the two countries almost pulled out of the competition.
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