Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lunch Gulf Style

By the time we arrived at the Camel Festival Saturday at 12:30 p.m., the morning contests had ended. Most traditional activities in the Gulf follow this schedule: they begin early and close for the hottest part of the day - between 1 and 4 p.m. - and resume when the weather cools and people come out for the evening.

We toured the souq (above), a series of tents selling coffee pots, incense, etc., set up for the weeklong Camel Festival.

As we passed the tent above, the ladies inside said hello in Arabic and invited us in to their tent, even M and our boys. Though we'd only been outside a few minutes, the shade of the tent was a welcome respite from the hot sun.

The ladies inside - four sisters and their aunt who I believe were from Qatar -served us Arabic coffee, which is lighter than American coffee and has cardomom, saffron and cloves in it. Next we were given water and then a hot, sweet drink that looked like tea. Soon a man pulled up in a truck and gave the ladies two covered platters of cooked poultry on big beds of rice.

"Come," one of the ladies said, gesturing at the platters. She began pulling the meat off the bones of what I believe was goat and leaving it on the rice for us. She and her sisters began to eat. When I reached for some food with my left hand, she stopped me and pointed at my right hand. I regretted that I'd forgotten that many Arabs consider the left hand unclean and only use their right hand for eating.

Though I felt awkward eating with only my weak right hand, even spilling some of the rice on my lap, I noticed our hostesses never dropped a bit of food on their clothes. They were completely covered but for their hands and their striking brown eyes. They lifted their veils just enough to bring the meat and balls of rice they'd formed with their hands to their mouths.

Again I was impressed by the hospitality and graciousness of these Gulf ladies. Posted by Picasa


American Muslima Writer said...

Wow don't you love how increadibly generous and friendly most Arabs are. I've never seen hospitality like theirs. It's lovely that you got to eat with them -whole family style too not segregated. It must have made your day even more special to have been invited on the fly like that. Great pictures

rosh said...

It's true - I've never experienced more hospitable culture, than the Arab. It's quite giving, and think most folks shall just settle in quite comfortably.

Frances Gunnison said...

I hate to disappoint you two, but the incredible hospitality of the Arabs reminds me of the equally generous hospitality of the Irish. (I'm not the least bit biased even though my heritage is Irish, of course.)
All joking aside, I think these two cultures put a high premium on being good hosts and I've learned a lot from both of them.