True Middle Eastern Hospitality

Three hours. In the span of three hours, I had been welcomed into a traditional Jordanian household, stuffed myself with food and drink, sang around a campfire, and been “adopted” into the 14,000-member tribe of Bani-Eissa. What in the world?

That night, in a village in Irbid, Jordan, I had the privilege of witnessing traditional Jordanian hospitality first-hand at the house of Abou Nidal, a respected leader in his tribe. For dinner, Abou Nidal’s family members served us ginormous—and I mean GINORMOUS—plates of mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. We were taught how to lump chunks of lamb, yogurt, and rice into little balls—balls I was meant to mould with a mere three fingers and flick into my mouth. I can’t say I was extremely successful at my attempts, but it was definitely an experience!

After being absolutely stuffed from dinner, our hosts still offered us cups of hot coffee and tea, which we readily accepted on that cool spring night. Now seated around a campfire, Abou Nidal proceeded to tell us an animated, entertaining story about how he met his wife. A time of show-and-tell followed, and I sipped on my cup of tea as I listened to his children and grandchildren sing us melodious Arabic songs. We also chimed in with a hymn or two of our own.

It felt surreal. How beautiful to witness traditional Jordanian culture in such a context, where guests were treated with honor and family members of all ages interacted with each other on such an intimate level. Although I was in a brand new environment, although I was among people I hadn’t known for very long, I felt welcomed. I felt at ease. That night in Irbid is and always will be one of my most cherished memories of the Middle East.

- Eliza Tan, Asbury University, MESP Spring 2018