If Arab friends or hosts invite you to a restaurant, they will discuss the menu with you and then give the order to the waiter. It is also likely in such a case that your friends will settle the bill once the dinner is over.

If, however, you are the person who settles the bill in an upmarket hotel or a restaurant, you should remember that taxes and service charges are often added to the bill, and this can add up. This is not the case in local restaurants, and any tip is left to your discretion.

Useful phrases

What would you recommend?
maadha tanSaHna?
ماذا تنصحنا؟

This phrase is especially useful when choosing food in a restaurant. There are so many delicious dishes to experience, so don’t be shy and ask to get to know Arabic food better.

The stuffed vegetables are very good.
al-maHsheeyaat jayyida jiddan
المحشيات جيدة جِداً

maHsheeyaat means ‘stuffed vegetables’. It is a very popular dish which you will find all over the Arab world.
Two popular vegetables are courgettes and aubergines, so you can expect to find the following on the menu:

kuusa maHsheeya (filled courgettes)
Badhinjaan maHshee (filled aubergines)

Another phrase you should know when it comes to ordering food is

uHibb laHm mashwee (I’d like to have grilled meat.)

mashwee means ‘grilled’. Eating grilled meat is a great experience, and this phrase will be very useful.

Shall we order now?
hal naTluba al-aan?
هل نطلب الآن؟

If you are in a group, it is very common for one of the group to order for everyone.

In some restaurants, especially the traditional ones, you might not find a menu, so you have to ask what is available. The question to use here is:

3indak …? (Do you have …?)

Or you can use a very shortened and widely used question:

fee …? (Is there …?)

Possible answers are:

na3am, 3indana / na3am, fee
la, laysa 3indana / la, maa fee

ya ma3allem
يا معلم

You can use this phrase to attract the waiter’s attention

We’ll drink coffee afterwards.
nashrab qahwa ba3ada dhaalik
نشرب قهوة بعد ذلك

It is very common in the Arab world to have water with a meal and then drink tea or coffee after the meal. You can express a preference in the following way:

ufaDDil shay (I prefer tea.)
uHibb an ashrab shay (I’d like to drink tea.)

In some regions you might simply hear ba3aden instead of the phrase ba3ada dhaalik (later on / afterwards).


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