16 Fascinating Arab Superstitions

Are you the kind of person that throws a pinch of salt over your shoulder believing it will ward your bad luck away? If yes, then you believe in superstitions!

A superstition is a belief that one event is caused or prevented as a result of another action that has no natural (or logical for that matter) connection or link whatsoever. But who cares?! It’s always amusing, not to mention interesting to hear the superstitions and how they actually originated.

Superstitions are common around the world, but sometimes the same action can produce different results, according to the country or culture believing in it. Here are some superstitions believed in the Middle East:

The Evil Eye


Are you feeling ill all of a sudden? Has your new car just been scratched? Did you just lose your job? All these are believed to be the result of the evil eye in the Arab world!

The evil eye is a magical curse that roots back to ancient times, with fear inherited from generation to generation for centuries. It’s believed that the power of the evil eye can knock down ancient antiques, strip one of his health or even lead to death in some cases just by inflicting a look upon an object or person with the intention of harm, suffering or any form of bad luck.

The evil eye originates back to Ancient Greece and Rome where any misfortune was believed to have been a result of the evil eye. Many forms of protection against the evil eye exist, but the most common form that is believed to ward off negativity and evil intentions is the amulet.

To this day, Arabs believe in the power and dangers of the evil eye, so don’t be alarmed if a compliment leads to an immediate response of “mashallah” or if you see parents dressing their children in shabby clothes or pointing out their problems. All these are believed to be trials of warding off the evil eye.


Speaking of the evil eye, another very common protection against any forms of intentional or unintentional harm is the universal sign of “Khamsa”. Spreading your right hand in the face of the accused is believed to cast off the evil wards.

When it comes to superstitions and the evil eye especially, Arabs take it pretty seriously. They “bless” their new cars or houses by sacrificing an animal to the Gods and printing the “khamsa” sign with their own bare bloody hands all over their new possessions.

So if you’re sensing someone casting an evil eye at you, just spread your right hand wide open in their face to ward off evilness.

Found your shoe lying upside down?


You’re in for some bad luck, my friend! Finding a shoe upside down will definitely render some shrieks and screams from most Arabs until you turn that shoe the right way up! It is believed to bring bad luck and lead to unfortunate events.

This superstition dates back to when people used to live in houses with dirt floors. Deadly spiders and scorpions would crawl into someone’s shoes, leaving the owner with a very nasty surprise, not to mention hundreds of deaths before something was actually done about it, turning it into a superstition that brought bad luck.

Is walking under a ladder good or bad luck?

In many cultures, it is believed that walking under a ladder will bring you bad luck. Come to think of it, if a carpenter is working on a ladder, wouldn’t it be dangerous to walk beneath it? So is this superstition just common sense? We would love to think so, but apparently there is a deeper, more irrational explanation.

When a ladder leans against the wall, a natural triangle is formed. Many Christians believe in the Trinity – that God is made up of three parts: the Holy Father, the Holy Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus, triangles were sacred because of the importance of the number three.

Walking under a ladder was considered to be walking through the triangle and breaking the Trinity, which was seen as an unforgivable sin and in league with the devil. In the old days, these accusations could lead to being tried and hanged for witchcraft.

On the other hand, in the Arab world it is actually believed to be a form of good luck! In Ancient Egypt, ladders were placed in tombs to helps the souls rise up to heaven. This was one of the reasons that pyramids were made in step form, so that the Pharaohs’ souls could easily find their way to heaven and enjoy their after life.

Spilling coffee

Coffee cup in mid air with coffee spilling

While the act of spilling coffee in the real world could lead to burns and stains that would be difficult to remove, it is actually considered to be a sign of good luck and a blessing to those spilling coffee as well as the place being spilled on!

So if you’re visiting someone in the Middle East, don’t be afraid to spill your coffee, it will actually be welcomed with acts of joy and celebration.

Looking into a broken mirror

Breaking a mirror is believed to bring you bad luck for seven years, but don’t you dare look at your reflection in a broken mirror, ever! Superstitions has it that seeing your distorted reflection in the mirror could mean that the end is soon.

Reflections are images of one’s self, so it is only logical (for a change) that seeing that image shattered means that you or someone from your family would die soon.

Opening an umbrella indoors


Not that we use them much anyway, but if you do, be sure to open that umbrella once you’re out the door or else bad luck will come your way!

The umbrella in ancient Egypt was used as protection from the sun, so opening an umbrella indoors was considered offensive to the God Of the Sun, thus bringing his wrath upon you.

Whistling at night

Before you compliment a pretty lady passing by with one of your whistles, make sure it’s not night time! It is said that whistling is a way of calling the evil spirits that are roaming around at night waiting for their next prey.



If you’ve just spilled some salt, hurry up and throw a pinch of it over your shoulder!

Whether it is because salt is a religious symbol and is used to make holy water or just because it was a valuable commodity in ancient times, spilling salt is believed to be a bad omen.

To reverse the consequences of the spill and ward off the bad luck, a pinch of salt should be thrown over the shoulders. This belief dates back to the dark ages. Salt was thrown over the left shoulder because that was the side of evil, thus binding the evil spirit lurking behind you. 

Pinching newlyweds

Want a pinch of good luck on your wedding day? Be sure to make everyone literally pinch the bride before the wedding. It is believed to cast off bad spells or evil eyes and bring a load of good luck dancing their way.



They might be the symbol of wisdom or even a trendy accessory for people in the West, but Arabs sure don’t share those views! Owls are believed to be a bad omen and if it hoots, your misfortune is even greater.

The ancient Romans linked owls to evil forces due to their nocturnal nature. They also believed that an owl hooting signified death, and it was this omen that preceded the deaths of Julius Caeser, Augustus Caeser and the Roman general, Agrippa.

Itchy palms

If your hand is feeling itchy, don’t scratch it! An itch in the right hand could mean that a financial wind is blowing your way, but if you scratch it, the green bills just disappear.

An itch in the left palm means the exact opposite, that you will be probably heading to a downfall where your finances are concerned.

What if both palms itch? Well, then that’s an indication of a lucky and fruitful day ahead of you.

Is that where the expression “having an itchy palm” comes from?

Beetles in your house?


Yes, seeing insects can be kind of creepy. But don’t be afraid if you find a beetle roaming around the house. Arabs believe that it is a sign that guests are coming and, being as hospitable as we are, who wouldn’t welcome that?


Though black cats are widely looked upon as bad omens or the devil in disguise, ancient Egyptians considered them as sacred and anyone who killed them was executed.

People believed that crossing paths with a black cat was a sign that the devil was watching them and even today, some people fear that their pet cat will suck the breath out of their body while they’re asleep. To prevent this, they shut the cat out of the bedrooms at night.

Right foot or left foot?


Choose which step to enter with very wisely! It is believed that entering a new home with the right foot brings good luck and blesses the new premises, whereas bathrooms should be entered using the left foot or else bad things will happen to you.

So much for getting off on the “right” foot!

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