January 15, 2016
It was a small hole-in-the-wall convenience store cum café that I met him. Gazi and his cousin Odai work there making coffee and dishing out small cups of steaming corn that seems to be wildly popular among the locals. We had chatted when I was in Madaba before and they bade me welcome now that I am here briefly again. Yesterday I was invited to his home and met not only his mother, brother and sister but also his extended family of aunt, uncle, cousins and a hatch full of rabbits.
I was made warmly welcome and had to make a concerted effort to down the glass of tea that kept getting refilled. And then came dinner – several platters were set down on the floor as we sat around it. Beans, greens, stuffed eggplants, french fries, hummus and fresh sliced tomatoes, were all scooped up in bread warmed atop the gas stove. Gazi’s mother is one of those women that can keep one in stitches. I barely understood a fraction of the Arabic she spoke but she has a talent for matching words to actions and had us roaring with laughter.
She is an amazingly talented woman – there were carpets that she had woven on the loom that I admired but there was more. Seeing my interest, she showed me a dozen or more abayyas that she embroidered. The colours, details and workmanship on each of these long dresses is a vision to behold! I was duly trussed into one of them and had to strenuously object to her wanting to make a gift of one.
And she has extracted a promise from me – the next time I visit Jordan, I am to come straight to Madaba and stay in their home. There are five teachers in this extended family and they laughingly told me that they would have me jabbering in Arabic in no time at all. In a country where this kind of hospitality is rarely seen from the tourist trail, it meant all the more to me.