Yalla y'all: Surprising Similarities between the American South and the Middle East

Published August 22nd, 2016 - 01:26 GMT

At a glance, the American South and the Middle East are polar opposites. The two regions have different politics, religions, terrains, barbecue preferences - the list seems endless!

Despite being over 6,000 miles apart, the southern United States and the Middle East actually have quite a lot in common. Like we say in the South, "a stranger's just a friend you haven't met yet." Could it be that these two cultures are more compatible than clashing? Albawaba takes a look at 13 surprising similarities between the two!

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blue laws

Booze is bad: Alcohol is hard to come by in the Middle East; it's mostly banned in Gulf states. Over 400 municipalities in the US south are “dry,” meaning no alcohol is sold - including the county where Jack Daniels is distilled! Even areas that sell alcohol may be subject to “blue laws,” prohibiting or limiting the Sunday sale of alcohol.

seersucker

Seersucker: The quintessential southern fabric, celebrated by the US Senate on “Seerksucker Thursday” and worn in the south all summer long… originated in the middle east! The name “seersucker” actually comes from Farsi: šir o šakar, meaning milk and sugar, as a reference to the smooth-and-raised pattern of the fabrics

obesity

Obesity: According to a report from the Telegraph, five Middle Eastern countries fall in the “fattest in the world”: Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. The South isn’t much better: Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia all have obesity rates over 35% !

mandolin

All about that twang: The mandolin, popular in American folk and bluegrass music, has an eastern counterpart: the oud! Both have 2-for-1 strings that result in a full, reverberating sound.

Footloose? Some strict religious sects in both the southern United States and Middle East forbid dancing and listening to music. Both groups voice concerns that dancing can "let the devil in" or promote promiscuous behavior!

Footloose? Some strict religious sects in both the southern United States and Middle East forbid dancing and listening to music. Both groups voice concerns that dancing can "let the devil in" or promote promiscuous behavior!

day of rest

Everything shuts down on the day of worship. In the Middle East, many groceries and shops are closed all day Friday - or at least in the morning - so people can attend the mosque. Likewise, popular fast food restaurant Chik-Fil-A and many smaller, local shops will be closed on Sundays for people to attend church.

Driving down the back roads: cars are very popular in both cultures. Many Arab youths spend entire weekend nights cruising around with friends, or park at scenic overhangs with shisha and loud music. The South has a tradition of “tailgating” - eating and drinking in the back of cars before sporting events.

Driving down the back roads: cars are very popular in both cultures. Many Arab youths spend entire weekend nights cruising around with friends, or park at scenic overhangs with shisha and loud music. The South has a tradition of “tailgating” - eating and drinking in the back of cars before sporting events.

tea drinking culture

Tea, please: Southerners prefer their tea iced, while Middle Easterners serve it boiling, but both iterations are packed with sugar and served at every possible social gathering.

modest dress

Modest is hottest: While the Middle East is more known for female modesty with hijabs and abayas, conservative, Southern Christians stick to strict dress codes too. Colleges such as Pensacola Christian, Liberty University, and Bob Jones all require women to wear skirts or dresses that cover their knees, and no tank-tops or “revealing” dress.

large families

Marrying young and large families: Massive families in the South were brought to national attention with the wildly popular TV show 18 Kids and Counting, documenting the daily life of the Duggar family in Arkansas. While not as large, it’s quite common to see Middle Eastern families with five, six, or even more children!

gun culture

Gun culture: Southerners love their guns - hunting, skeet shooting, and attending gun shows are all popular hobbies. Similarly, Middle Easterners have a tradition of shooting off guns in celebration for major life events - weddings, graduations, etc.

Churchgoing people

Nominally religious: In the South, churches are everywhere - the same is true with mosques in the Middle East. Despite the prevalence of places of worship and the pressure to attend religious services, both cultures see an undercurrent of religious rebellion.

Southern hospitality

Southern hospitality and Arab hospitality are world-renowned. In both cultures, it’s not uncommon to invite a new friend over for a huge dinner and hours of conversation. Both cultures place a huge emphasis on treating guests with the upmost care - and not letting them leave until they've eaten a week's worth of food!

blue laws
seersucker
obesity
mandolin
Footloose? Some strict religious sects in both the southern United States and Middle East forbid dancing and listening to music. Both groups voice concerns that dancing can "let the devil in" or promote promiscuous behavior!
day of rest
Driving down the back roads: cars are very popular in both cultures. Many Arab youths spend entire weekend nights cruising around with friends, or park at scenic overhangs with shisha and loud music. The South has a tradition of “tailgating” - eating and drinking in the back of cars before sporting events.
tea drinking culture
modest dress
large families
gun culture
Churchgoing people
Southern hospitality
blue laws
Booze is bad: Alcohol is hard to come by in the Middle East; it's mostly banned in Gulf states. Over 400 municipalities in the US south are “dry,” meaning no alcohol is sold - including the county where Jack Daniels is distilled! Even areas that sell alcohol may be subject to “blue laws,” prohibiting or limiting the Sunday sale of alcohol.
seersucker
Seersucker: The quintessential southern fabric, celebrated by the US Senate on “Seerksucker Thursday” and worn in the south all summer long… originated in the middle east! The name “seersucker” actually comes from Farsi: šir o šakar, meaning milk and sugar, as a reference to the smooth-and-raised pattern of the fabrics
obesity
Obesity: According to a report from the Telegraph, five Middle Eastern countries fall in the “fattest in the world”: Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. The South isn’t much better: Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia all have obesity rates over 35% !
mandolin
All about that twang: The mandolin, popular in American folk and bluegrass music, has an eastern counterpart: the oud! Both have 2-for-1 strings that result in a full, reverberating sound.
Footloose? Some strict religious sects in both the southern United States and Middle East forbid dancing and listening to music. Both groups voice concerns that dancing can "let the devil in" or promote promiscuous behavior!
Footloose? Some strict religious sects in both the southern United States and Middle East forbid dancing and listening to music. Both groups voice concerns that dancing can "let the devil in" or promote promiscuous behavior!
day of rest
Everything shuts down on the day of worship. In the Middle East, many groceries and shops are closed all day Friday - or at least in the morning - so people can attend the mosque. Likewise, popular fast food restaurant Chik-Fil-A and many smaller, local shops will be closed on Sundays for people to attend church.
Driving down the back roads: cars are very popular in both cultures. Many Arab youths spend entire weekend nights cruising around with friends, or park at scenic overhangs with shisha and loud music. The South has a tradition of “tailgating” - eating and drinking in the back of cars before sporting events.
Driving down the back roads: cars are very popular in both cultures. Many Arab youths spend entire weekend nights cruising around with friends, or park at scenic overhangs with shisha and loud music. The South has a tradition of “tailgating” - eating and drinking in the back of cars before sporting events.
tea drinking culture
Tea, please: Southerners prefer their tea iced, while Middle Easterners serve it boiling, but both iterations are packed with sugar and served at every possible social gathering.
modest dress
Modest is hottest: While the Middle East is more known for female modesty with hijabs and abayas, conservative, Southern Christians stick to strict dress codes too. Colleges such as Pensacola Christian, Liberty University, and Bob Jones all require women to wear skirts or dresses that cover their knees, and no tank-tops or “revealing” dress.
large families
Marrying young and large families: Massive families in the South were brought to national attention with the wildly popular TV show 18 Kids and Counting, documenting the daily life of the Duggar family in Arkansas. While not as large, it’s quite common to see Middle Eastern families with five, six, or even more children!
gun culture
Gun culture: Southerners love their guns - hunting, skeet shooting, and attending gun shows are all popular hobbies. Similarly, Middle Easterners have a tradition of shooting off guns in celebration for major life events - weddings, graduations, etc.
Churchgoing people
Nominally religious: In the South, churches are everywhere - the same is true with mosques in the Middle East. Despite the prevalence of places of worship and the pressure to attend religious services, both cultures see an undercurrent of religious rebellion.
Southern hospitality
Southern hospitality and Arab hospitality are world-renowned. In both cultures, it’s not uncommon to invite a new friend over for a huge dinner and hours of conversation. Both cultures place a huge emphasis on treating guests with the upmost care - and not letting them leave until they've eaten a week's worth of food!