Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"...come to our home..."

"You are ladies, so you must come to our home...because most of our life is in our home." - Amal

And so we did. Tonight's adventure was to a student's home for tea, and another home for dinner. WOW! I don't want to ruin the surprise for the photos we'll post, but I will say that our trip would not have been complete without this adventure in the Emirates!

"Tea" at Hamda's house consisted of a full meal of delicious traditional foods of the region, several of which are eaten during times of celebration or during religious occasions such as Ramadan. We ate seated on the floor, and got some friendly coaching on the customs. The family was SO welcoming, giving, friendly, talkative, and appreciative of our visit. Her sisters were very kind and friendly, her mother very sweet and giving (though she did teasingly communicate through Hamda that if eating were a competition I'd lose for my slow pace and lack of consumption!). Hamda's Uncle tells us he'll greet us or our families at the airport next time we come to Dubai, will take us around the area, and we can stay in his home. Sounds like a plan! When it was time for us to leave they gave us the traditional gift of perfume on our skin...a custom that leaves you smelling nice and conveniently gives you the message that it's time to go (though in our case they actually wanted us to stay longer, whew.)

Dinner at Alia's was just as amazing in different ways. New foods to try, prepared by her father (very unusual for this culture) were all delicious. Alia's 4 brothers were very cute...with 2 of the younger ones paying more attention to us and entertained us the whole night. Her sister and mother joined us, as well as Hamda and Amal. I learned a lot about the customs of the family from her mother, a native of Boston, MA. I'm sure my fellow bloggers will tell the tales or post the photos of us getting dressed up in abayas and shailas (black dresses and head scarves), or the more colorful traditional costumes - whoa! Never have I been so jeweled or so bright! I'm feeling pretty plain these days, Petite Sophisticate just doesn't compete with this traditional garb. Her mother would have kept us there all night to keeping feeding us and dancing 'Egyptian Dance' as new scarves and belly dancing costumes appeared every few minutes!

The most fascinating part of the evening was seeing our students without their abayas and shailas. Off came the covering when we got to their homes, since they don't cover for family, only male in-laws or men they don't know. And they look great! Fashion is very important, hair is beautifully done, and while clothing isn't revealing, it's more flash than I imagined! It's a choice to cover, fully their choice to embrace this custom and to what degree (scarf &/or dress, etc). As with any "choice" family has influence, certainly, and it's likely not a "choice" for all. But these women wear the coverings as way of carrying on tradition, and because for them it's what they prefer. We've seen varieties here, and have learned a lot about the custom.

Tonight was a true gift to our group. We have definitely received as much or more than we have given to Dubai.

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