Africa is home to some of the most delicious and diverse cuisines in the entire world, and when you consider the fact that the continent is made up of more than 45 different countries, each one with its own unique traditions, beliefs, and cultures, it’s no wonder why African dining etiquette is so interesting and enthralling. Some of the planet’s most popular holiday destinations are located in Africa, with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Kenya, are just a few of the most popular examples. If there’s one thing you will notice if you visit more than one country in Africa, it’s the fact that the food and drink in each one, although perhaps being influenced somewhat by surrounding countries and regions, is unique and still stands alone, making it extremely authentic. Another thing you’ll notice is that the food and African dining etiquette is very different from what you may be used to, and truthfully, they’re very different in different parts of the continent. Here’s a look at food and African dining etiquette for some of the more popular parts of the continent.
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African Dining Etiquette: Egypt
First up, we have Egypt, which is, without question, one of the most-visited holiday hotspots in the entire world. Egyptian food has to be tasted to be believed, as it tastes truly divine, and is a world away from the tourist-friendly dishes you find being served in holiday resorts scattered around the country, which is why we need to go over the African dining etiquette in this country. Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, and because of this, no pork is allowed, no alcohol is allowed, and you must eat your food with your right hand only. On top of that, all meat must be Halal. What’s more, during Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat during the day. When being served a beverage, you should always accept a cup of coffee and/or tea, and you should never pour yourself your own beverage. If your neighbour at the table’s glass is more than half empty, Muslim/ African dining etiquette requires you to refill it for them. In return, your neighbour should do the same for you. If, however, your neighbour has failed to do so, you should not pour the drink yourself, you should instead refill their drink, even if it doesn’t need topping up, as that should indicate your need to them.
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African Dining Etiquette: Ghana
Next, we’ll be taking a look at the African dining etiquette associated with Ghana. Ghanan cuisine consists of a lot of hot and spicy foods, with specialties including a dish made of root vegetables served with a spicy sauce, known as ‘ampesi’ and ‘fufu’ which is a dish containing fresh spiced vegetables and soft and fluffy dough. Ghana is also a largely Muslim country, so again for African dining etiquette here, the same rules apply as they do with other Muslim countries such as Egypt. You should always remove your shoes before entering a Ghanan home, your hands should be washed before and after eating, and you should hold cutlery in your right hand.
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African Dining Etiquette: Kenya
If you ever find yourself invited for a meal at a Kenyan home, you should always remove your shoes before you enter. What’s more, according to African dining etiquette when dining as a group, men, women, and children, all dine separately, with men being offered the best foods and dishes, then the women, and finally, the children. When at a Kenyan dinner party, the most honoured seating position is directly next to the host. Upon being seated, African dining etiquette in Kenya requires you to ensure that your toes and your feet are not pointing towards any of the other guests. If we follow the rules of African dining etiquette, you should also always wash your hands before and after eating a Kenyan meal. Also, do not be afraid to let out a small burp when you have finished dining, as this is an indication of being satisfied with what you just ate. When dining out, In African dining etiquette it is customary for the person who made the invitation to pay the bill for the meal.
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African Dining Etiquette: Tanzania
Tanzanian dining etiquette is traditionally East African, so generally, you’ll find that African dining etiquette in many countries in the East is not much different from one another. Tanzanian etiquette requires that you always eat with the right hand, even if you happen to be left-handed. When sitting to eat, traditionally, diners will either sit on low stools or on soft mats on the floor. If we follow the rules of African dining etiquette when sharing the same communal bowl, it is customary that you eat from the section that is closest to you. On top of that, you should also ensure that you never place your left hand on/in the communal plate/bowl.
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African Dining Etiquette: South Africa
South African food is traditionally rich, sweet, and savoury, and many barbecued meats and seafood dishes are commonly consumed on a weekly basis. In terms of African dining etiquette, you’ll find that much, or modern South Africa has been westernized and is now heavily influenced by the west. Just like in parts of Europe, your cutlery, which is generally a spoon and a knife, will be held in the same hands throughout the meal. Before eating, and after, the hands must be thoroughly washed, and before entering a home, it is customary to remove your shoes. If we follow the rules of African dining etiquette unless you are consuming something that has to be eaten with both hands, you should always use your right hand to eat. If you smoke, you should never go for a cigarette until everybody in your party has finished eating. Also, in African dining etiquette it is customary to hang around after eating, to engage in conversation and to let the food settle, which again, shows where the Western influences have factored in over the years. Always thank your guest, and if you hosted the party, always remember to stay gracious and humble.
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African Dining Etiquette: Morocco
Morocco is also a largely Muslim country, so traditional African dining etiquette for Muslim countries may apply here. When dining, traditionally, Moroccans will sit and dine on a mat or carpet on the floor, usually around a large communal plate or bowl, which again, you should only eat from the section that is nearest to you. When eating dishes containing meats, i.e., a tagine, if there are any bones present, before discarding them, diners should suck out the marrow. If, however, diners don’t care for the marrow, they are advised to avoid taking the bones altogether. When being served tea, the tea is poured into the glass from a height, where small bubbles will form around the surface. This is a clear indication that the tea has been aerated properly. If we follow the rules of African dining etiquette when you are the guest of honour, you may be invited to prepare and pour the tea for other guests, so again, ensuring the tea is aerated properly, is recommended. Many Moroccan dishes are eaten with the hands, but even so, you should never put your hand directly into your mouth, as you will be placing your hand back into the communal bowl.