The informant is a good friend of mine who attends California State University, Northridge where she is studying to become an occupational therapist. She is a second generation American citizen who was born and raised in Burbank, California. Her parents came to the United States from Egypt shortly before she was born. She is a Muslim and can read, write, and speak Arabic fluently.
When I was growing up and even till this very day my parents constantly nag my sister and I about how we place our shoes when taking them off or where the bottom of our shoes are facing while wearing them. The reasoning for their nagging is that in Arab culture, if shoes are not placed with the bottom facing down it is considered a sign of disrespect. My mom always flips out especially if the bottom of our shoes are facing up towards the ceiling. She says it is disrespectful to God and that it will bring bad luck. My dad’s pet peeve is when the bottom of your shoe is facing towards someone while wearing them. So let’s say that you were sitting with your foot rested on top of your knee, and it just so happened to face him. He would have the biggest fit, most likely storm off dramatically and start screaming in Arabic like a psycho. (laughs) Anyways, the whole idea is that you are showing disrespect to whoever the bottom of the shoe is facing It symbolizes that they are not worth the ground you walk on. Basically saying they are worth nothing. The belief is way more common among the older generation of my family. The young ones could honestly care less (laughs). My cousins and I see how some of our parents react to this and were all like damn dude chill out! It’s an easy way to piss them off.
I find it interesting how the simple placement of one’s shoes can be so drastic. It is interesting to see how superstitious other cultures can be compared to my own and others. In my eyes, the one dealing with God is understandable, but the one about having the bottom of your shoe face somebody from the way you are sitting is a little over the top. Although this whole custom shows how extremely symbolic the Arabic culture is. Furthermore, the culture is also very conservative in some areas, which can explain why they have such a strict custom and belief. From knowing my informant for quite some time, it is apparent that parents stress respect a lot because their children are a reflection of them to their adult peers. If their children were constantly breaking this custom, parents may be embarrassed.