What is it like to dine in the Middle East?

It’s been awhile since there was a post…. You may have been wondering, why isn’t there a story YET?

Living in the Middle East, you grow accustom to a different type of life than what we are used to and to what we expect. Here we learn to live a ‘life without’ bacon, ham, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. Conversely, we also grow accustom to ‘life with’ water rationing and daily power outages. In fact, electricity is out more than it is on, most days. So adapt we must, but when the power goes out, so goes the internet and most venues of communication to the outside world.

Of late, the outages are becoming longer in duration and the hours are stretching into the double digits. I guess you could say, I now have more time to think creatively about how to establishing communication in such situations. It reminds me of a time when Jesus looked straight at his disciples and told them, “This is impossible for human beings, but not for God; everything is possible for God” (Mark 10: 27). But because this story is truly Gods’ story of rescue i.e. He being God, will be the one creating this living breathing story in real-time, live… and we passively participate by praying.

With all this in mind, I sit patiently wanting to send a story via a text…and God does not disappoint as I hit ‘Send’!

The other day, we received an important invitation. It was unexpected, but it was the kind of invitation you don’t want to miss…. Massoud’s family asked us to dinner.

We were very excited at the opportunity of being invited into their home and to fellowship together. We had met Uncle Achmed a week or so back and had enjoyed his company and carrot juice. But to actually come into his home and meet all the cousins and nieces and nephews was going to be an over-the-top experience. Massoud had told us much about them and we had seen pictures of where he grew up in the mountains, so suffice it to say, the anticipation for the evening was palpable.

Uncle Achmed is in his mid-thirties, is married and has two beautiful children. As Achmed greeted and ushered us into his home, we beheld the beauty and lavish accoutrements prepared and designed intentionally for the comfort of his guests-namely us. Sinking down onto the deewan-a couch with fluffy pillows in the mafraj (living) room, we were further welcomed by the intoxicating aroma of cooked meat and fresh bread that filled the house.

Massoud quickly introduced his brother Rakan, who is a bit younger, also very handsome, but quieter than Massoud. Rakan and I discovered that we have a common love for working with computers and uses the same edit tools I use, so right away; we knew we would be kindred spirits. I hope we can spend more time together just comparing notes and talking shop.

My son-in-law speaks fluent Arabic so he was able to converse freely with the men about his recent move to a new home, the city and studying Arabic. Massoud translated for me as they talked. The men, Achmed, Massoud, Rakan and two cousins, were open minded, educated and passionate about change, but change targeted towards the betterment of others and their country. Uncle Achmed, like Ishmael is readily willing to share what he has to help others. Both men believe in putting people ahead of money and personal gain. “This was the point of Arab Spring and we were and are an integral link to promoting and working towards a peaceful resolution towards this vital outcome”. In the near future men such as Uncle Achmed, will assist tribal leaders to come together in consensus so that new leadership will be appointed for the purpose of tackling important issues facing the future of their country and to improve the conditions for the common man.

Lively discussion makes one hungry, so before we knew it dinner was ready. We moved downstairs to the less formal deewan and our meal was already spread out on the floor. There was chicken roasted in rice, salta (vegetable stew), three types of bread, wahseed (mashed potatoes and sause-gravy and spelled like that) and green salad with yogurt.

We continued to converse, although the discussion turned towards lighter topics such as life in the city, water and power outages. At the end of the meal, chai (tea with milk and sugar x 4) and crepes with rosemary, thyme and honey was served. Although, when the sugar was passed, I declined and drank mine without sugar. They were in awe! “Do you drink coffee without sugar too?” Wow!”

At the end of our evening and during our good-bying, Uncle Achmed turned to me and while warmly shaking my hand, he said, “My home, my house and my life is yours. Ma sallah ma! Peace go with you and come back soon with your family”. It was such a lovely evening and such a lovely good bye. I am confident he meant it too.

Uncle Achmed was the perfect host and his hospitality was unequaled. What’s more, I am saddened as I contemplate the type of reception, he and his family would receive coming to dinner in the average American home. Would he be judged and thought suspect because he was a man from the Middle East… you know ‘one of those people’ .

I wish with all my heart that the average American could have seen and experienced what I experienced tonight and feel as I do while driving back to my son-in-laws home. I am full and sated from the glow of eating a lavish meal, welcomed by a gracious people who are unafraid to share their homes, their dreams, their culture and their inner struggles with us.

I have been truly blessed to come to this country and to meet Massoud, Ishmael, Rakan, Achmed and so many others. And my first thought was, how ironic? So many have said to me, “Allah a yebarreck feek alf (A thousand blessings to you)” but in all truth, a thousand blessings have been given to me.

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