Sunday, March 19, 2006

Honoured Guest

A week in to my bachelor status and things are falling in to a routine. You’ll all be glad to know that I’m not wasting away here on my own. Arabs are renown for the hospitality shown to guests and this has been liberally applied. I’ve noticed that many people from the east know how to honour their guests and it reminds me of Michael Palin’s comments after returning back to Blightly after his 80 days around the world trip that people were less gracious and caring in the UK more than anywhere else (or words to that effect).

A conversation in a Middle Eastern/Sub Continental/African/Central Asian/Far Eastern household between a guest and host might go something like this:

Host: Would you like something to drink?
Guest: No thank you, I’m fine.
Host: Really, tell me its no trouble, I insist?
Guest: No honestly its fine, I’m OK.
Host: Well how about some water then, at least that?
Guest: No need really.
Host: Please you would insult me otherwise?
[And so on for about five minutes until…]
Guest: Some water will be great, but only if its no trouble, thank you.
[Host goes to kitchen and wheels out a five course meal made up of the freshly sacrificed goats, exotic specialities and the best food in the house, including jelly.]

A similar scenario in the UK might be slightly shorter:

Host: Would you like some tea?
Guest: No thank you.
Host: OK [and goes to make himself a cup and drinks in front of guest]

I do of course exaggerate slightly, there have been plenty of times I’ve not even been offered tea! The honouring of the guest or traveller is greatly praised in many cultures, and the Islamic tradition is no exception to this as can be seen from the following translation of a verse from Quran and narration.

Allah says, "Has the story reached you of the honoured guests of Ibrahim? When they entered his dwelling and said, 'Peace! 'He said, 'Peace! O people unknown to us.' So he slipped off to his household and brought a fattened calf. He offered it to them. He exclaimed, 'Do you not then eat?'" (51:24-27)

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day should honour his guest. Anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day, should maintain ties of kinship. Anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak well or be silent." [Agreed upon]

Anyway this tradition is keeping me well looked after although on the converse side there are etiquettes of being a good guest and not being a burden to ones hosts. At the moment I don’t think I’m near that threshold but I would like to buy a present for them to show gratitude – any ideas anyone?


Blogger fudgebumpkin said...

A jelly mould.

They've probably worn theirs out.

12:02 am  
Anonymous dazey said...

totally agree. its so outrageously true how unhospitable people can be out here in comparison. at least muslims havent lost that trait (yet?!)!

9:40 pm  
Blogger tails of a mad cow said...

he blogs again!

I had almost given up on this blog.

Hospitality in BD tends to become something one dreads though. I remember many a times in bangladesh when I had eaten my fill only to be forced another half a chicken, kilo of veg, rice and a partridge in a pear tree.

It's very nice to be hospitable, however some cultures tend to go overboard and you have to stretch your stomach muscles in order to not offend people. I hear you have a way of avoiding this Mr C, do share.

I haven't seen the arab people be TOO pushy though...

9:35 am  
Blogger tails of a mad cow said...

oh also, French people seem friendly enough in beauty and the beast, they even have a little song about it, 'be our guest". one of my favourites.

9:36 am  
Anonymous Little Miss C said...

I agree with Cow again...having spent much of my uni life with Arabs I didn't actually experience Arabs to be as Bia described, or indeed 'TOO PUSHY' as Cow i imagine Bia is very lucky at the moment....unless (I hope I don't offend) there is an ulterior motive of course...I think the Eastern Asian tradition of hospitality of offering four or so servings per meal is much more the norm for me anyway.

Anyway, alhamduillah it's good to know you're being fed, it had crossed my mind that you may return as sticks...

As for ideas for presents, I think the biggest, most colourful and most expensive bouquet of flowers would be most appreciated by the lovely lady who has been so kind...

..and for the male, I'm still thinking about it.

1:47 pm  
Anonymous Ide said...

Making Tea !! A time honoured tradition that you will have to get back into the habit of avoiding

8:07 pm  
Anonymous Little Miss C said...

Lol...I hope such traditions would naturally inspire the Financial Manager of Major Projects to attaining excellent 'Tea Boy' work and at home please...can see myself getting used to that one...bring it on!!!

12:24 am  
Anonymous Ezzat said...


Maybe basboosa, or some similar sweet?
Cadbury's chocolates is a favourite gift of mine..


7:10 am  
Anonymous dazey said...

if your gona do chocolate-it SO has to be galaxy! methinks galaxy jewels boxes are readily available in the mid east, no? and while your at it, feel free to get me one...

2:25 pm  

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