Private appointments

Making private appointments, for example agreeing when to meet for a meal in a restaurant, is not always that easy mainly because Arabs have a flexible attitude to time in such situations. You will find that friends and acquaintances are not very punctual when it comes to free time activities, sometimes arriving long after the agreed time. Interestingly, as a European, you will be expected to arrive on time at an agreed location, such as a restaurant or friend’s house, even if your Arabic partner could well be delayed.

A useful phrase:

When shall we meet? mata naltaqee?

Appointments with business partners

When making appointments with friends, sometimes even with business partners, you must be aware that in the Arab world the concept of time is different to that in Central Europe. Consequently, you may be on time, but might have to wait for your Arab counterpart. Don’t interpret this as a sign of disrespect.

However, interestingly, your Arab partner will expect you to be punctual, especially if you are from Germany or Great Britain.

If, for whatever reason, you are delayed and can’t arrive at an appointment on time, this phrase will provide a polite and formal excuse:

a3tadhar 3an at-ta’akhkhar – Please excuse my delay.

A less formal phrase is:

3afwan, ta’akhkhart. – Sorry for being late.


  • Don’t be offended if your Arab aquaintances are not very punctual and arrive long after the agreed time.
  • If you have a business meeting, be sure to arrive on time.
  • Be aware of the national or local customs with regard to dress.
  • Be aware that the role of women in society varies from country to country. Find out what the situation is in the country you are visiting or the company where you are doing business.


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