How Do You Meet And Greet Like A Saudi?

I’ve noticed that when Saudis greet one another, they smile, grab hands, say, “Salam Allekum,” get animated, kiss, and ask many quick personal questions without waiting for answers. 

It is an odd, almost comical scene to witness. I have quizzed several Saudi men about why they do this, and they do not seem to know.

However, in stark contrast, it is not how we do it in the United Kingdom. In my country, people occasionally offer a lukewarm “hi” or an awkward handshake.

So I gave it a shot, and it worked. Today, when I meet a Saudi, I greet them the same way they greet each other, and they always respond well. 

It took a while to get used to, but I am glad I made the change.

When you visit Saudi Arabia, I also want you to learn the secret of how to greet different people politely. Knowing this will help you make a great first impression. 

Khaled Al Ameri Demonstrates How Arabs Greet and Kiss See Video Demonstration Below

So, How Do You Meet And Greet Like A Saudi?

You should shake hands with the right hand and offer the right cheek. Relax your arm, move close, and allow your right shoulder to touch theirs. Kiss their cheek in a light dabbing fashion one, two, or three times. Ask general questions about their health, children, work, and life.

Alternatively, plant one kiss on their right cheek and then two or three on the left. See Khalid Al Ameri’s excellent and funny demonstrationOpens in a new tab..

However, do not greet everyone in this way. For example, a man should never shake a Saudi or Muslim woman’s hand unless she offers it. Also, he must never get up close to her and kiss her cheek.

The following is a quick guide to appropriate ways to greet others (Saudi or otherwise) in the Saudi Kingdom. I will show you proper social etiquette based on my more than two decades of experience living in Saudi Arabia.

Who Can Give Whom A Formal Greeting In Saudi Arabia?

Offering Formal GreetingsYes / No
Men With MenYes
Women With WomenYes
Men With WomenNo
Women With MenNo
Men With BoysYes
Men With GirlsNo
Boys With BoysYes
Girls With GirlsYes
Boys With GirlsNo
Girls With BoysNo

Best Ways To Greet Men, Women And Children In Saudi Arabia -Post Pandemic

(Click to jump to the item and then arrow to return to the list)

1. The Best Way For Men To Greet Other Saudi Men

When meeting other Saudi men for the first time, smile, offer your right hand, and say ‘Salam Allekum,’ meaning ‘May Allah’s (SWT) peace and blessings be upon you.’ 

If you already know the other person and are on friendly terms, you can fully greet them as described in the answer paragraph above.

If a man greets you with ‘Salam Allekum’, you should reply with ‘Wah Ley Kum Salam’ or ‘May Allah’s peace be upon you too.’

It is the standard way of greeting Muslims and people in general. On the other hand, if you are a non-Muslim, many people will only say “Hi” or “Hello.”

Greetings Elderly Men Or Showing Great Respect

It shocked me the first time a young student greeted me by kissing me on top of the head, (crown). I learned that this is out of great respect and quite common.

Young Saudis often greet fathers and grandfathers in this way. They also use it to greet older men and those they regard with high esteem.

To learn all about Saud men, their characters, attitudes, and customs concerning guests, click to read Inside Saudi’s What Are Saudi Men Really Like?Opens in a new tab.   

2. The Best Way For Women To Greet Other Saudi Women  

The way that women greet other Saudi women is the same as described above for men. Women are different in that they touch each other more and are more expressive in their salutations.

3. Men Greeting Other Women And Vice Versa

Except in formal settings, you should never shake hands to greet a Saudi or Muslim woman. If she offers her hand, you may accept it.

As you take her hand, your grasp should be very light, and you should quickly pull away within one or two seconds. 

Do not ever try to get close or kiss her cheek. This gesture will irritate and even enrage those around you.

4. The Best Way For Men To Greet Saudi Women

Justin Trudeau Showing Great Courtesy Knows How To Greet Muslim Women

In my experience, the best way to greet Saudi women is to do the following: 

When you meet, say ‘Salam Allekum,’ meaning ‘May Allah’s (SWT) peace and blessings be upon you.’ 

If she says it to you first, reply with ‘Wah Ley Kum Salam’ or ‘May Allah’s peace be upon you too.’

At the same time, hold your right hand up to your chest. Place your palm against your upper body for a few seconds as you make your greeting. 

If she says “Hi” or “Hello,” then reply in kind.

5. The Best Way For Women To Greet Saudi Men

Saudi men will not try to shake hands with women (Saudi or otherwise) unless they are in a business or formal situation. 

Educated men will understand if you offer to shake hands, but it is poor etiquette for women to do this with men. 

Actually, it will upset many men and women, causing them to believe you are too forward and easygoing.

It is not a good way to start. 

In my experience, the best way to greet other men is to position yourself a short distance (1-2 meters) from them and make a verbal greeting.

Do not try to shake hands, kiss, get up close, or make any friendly touching gestures.

Muslim Women Showing How Men Should Greet Them After A Western Visitor Holds Out His Hand

6. The Best Way For Men To Greet Saudi Boys 

Saudi boys greet others in the same formal way as adults do. When you meet, shake hands and greet as you would with Saudi men. 

Of course, the situation will determine the level of formality and type of greeting. If a father introduces his son to you, he will expect him to make a formal greeting.

Note: Muslims assess a father’s or mother’s character in part based on how their kids behave and greet other people.

7. The Best Way For Men To Greet Saudi Girls 

Saudi girls greet other girls and women the way boys and men greet each other, as described above.

However, as a man, you should greet Saudi teens and young girls with the same deference you show to women.

As for Saudi women, it is inappropriate for you to reach out, shake hands, or touch young girls in any way whatsoever.

Khaled Al Ameri – How To Greet Like An Arab

Related Questions

How Do I Address Saudis With Titles? You should use the title and then their first names. For example, you would call Dr. Mohammed Al Shammari by his title and first name: Dr. Mohammed. Conversely, in the West, we would use the title and surname: Dr. Al Shammari

In Saudi Arabia, How Do You Address Strangers in Public? In Arabic, Saudis and other nationalities address me in public as brother, shaikh, ustadh, or tayeb. I also address them using the same names. Likewise, I refer to Saudi females as sisters. Saudi customers routinely call shop proprietors or employees “Mohammed” in shops and public spaces.

Saudis are constantly inviting me to their homes. Is it usual? Yes, it is! Both men and women are very hospitable. It is an important custom to invite others to their homes, where they sit on the floor in a living room (Majlis) and enjoy freshly made Arabic coffee. Always say yes when they invite you, but if you can’t make it, ask for a rain check.

Why Do Some Arabs Touch Noses When They Greet? Arabs of the same tribe or locality greet by dabbing each other’s nose (Khishm) two or three times. This kind of greeting is common in the Gulf countries and in Yemen and great fun to watch.

Two Yemenis Greeting By Dabbing The Nose (Khishm) – Quite A Common Site In Saudi Arabia

Salam Allekum! Hi there! Thanks for reading. Contact the Editor Mohammed Francis directly at with any questions or queries.

Mohammed Francis

I am a UK national, a college teacher, father of 3, writer and blogger.

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