Words By: Dana Amwari
Image Credits: BBC
I often joke that my sole – or most important – personality trait is being Jordanian-Palestinian. I am very proud to be Jordanian; which is understandable, because anyone that has ever been to Jordan will tell you that it is notorious for inherent generosity, exemplified in the Arabic greeting “ahlan w sahla” (I Welcome You), heard every step you take. However, the most fundamental asset of Jordan is its wonderful people. Having lived in Jordan my whole life, it is my utmost pleasure to write about Jordan, not just to educate others, but somehow to show off the country I was born and raised in; the best way to showcase how beautiful the culture is would be through discussing its hospitality and generosity.
There are so many aspects of Jordanian culture that reflect the generosity of its people. Among Bedouins (nomadic people of the desert), there is a prevalent proverb that translates to “when a guest is in your house, he is a prisoner, when he sits, he is a prince, but when he stands and leaves, he is a poet.” This is interpreted in the context that the guests will be surrounded by the hosts like a prisoner, so that the hosts can cater to their needs, but then the guests are treated like royalty; privileged and catered for, and when the guests leave, they will recite poetry of the generosity they have witnessed. This sense of generosity makes the guest feel like a provisional member of the house. Among these Bedouins, there is a ritual behind the cup of Arabic coffee that the guests and hosts share. The first cup of coffee is known as al-heif, the unworthy cup, which is served to make sure that the coffee meets the liking of the guest. The second cup of coffee is known as al-deif, or the guest cup, where the guest expresses approval of the guest’s hospitality. The third cup is known as al-kayf, or the leisure cup, which is served for the guests to enjoy and to ensure their comfort. The last cup of coffee served is al-sayf, the swords cup, which is essentially drunk to create a bond and conclude the connection formed by the host and guest. Generosity is a virtue that is cherished not only by Bedouins, but in urban areas too. For example, when walking through downtown Amman, the capital city, one will be met with street vendors clamoring to offer you their products for free, whether it’s food, juice, toys, you name it! It is also very common to see bakeries that offer to give out their bread to anyone that needs it even if they do not have enough money to pay for it, and not as a debt to be paid back. This generosity is indispensable even to the Hashemite royalty, who inherit this hospitality from the most generous Prophet Muhammad of Islam, to whom they are descendants of.
Jordan is the land of benevolence and abundance, and I am extremely blessed to be a citizen of it. Every aspect of the Jordanian culture represents one of its wonderful values. If you were to visit Jordan, do not forget to eat Mansaf, you can thank me later.