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The heart of Jordanian culture: Ahlan wa Sahlan

bedouin hospitality serving coffee in tent in desert

“Ahlan wa Sahlan” (meaning, be as one of the family and at your ease) or “Welcome to Jordan” sounds familiar to every foreigner who visits Jordan. Welcoming people is something we do from the core of our being. It is a habit almost all Jordanians master to perfection. We want our guests to feel at home in our country, our cities, our villages, and our houses.

In response, we often hear foreign people say things like, “Jordanian people are incredibly friendly, kind and hospitable. They show what generosity and solidarity are. They take great care of their family, their elderly, and strangers like us. They don’t say no”. Especially people from the individualized Western world are not used to customs like this.

To us, hospitality, generosity, and solidarity are essential components of our culture. They originate from both the Bedouin culture and our religion, Islam.

The Bedouin roots of Jordanian hospitality

Making family, friends, and guests happy and provide them with whatever they need comes from our Bedouin culture. The harsh reality of living and surviving in a desert landscape learned us, Bedouin, that we all depend on each other. “It is better to have friends than enemies” is a saying that applied to survival in the desert. Although survival in modern times is easier, our mentality is still the same. Hospitality is very much part of the Jordan psyche and our social behavior.

While traveling in Jordan, you will not only be welcomed over and over again. You will also get numerous invitations for having tea. If you accept the invitation, you most likely end up at someone’s place to have at least three cups. Your host probably will serve you some food too. He will go out of his way to make sure you are feeling comfortable. And you can stay as long as you want. Learn from this cultural exchange. Enjoy the unique inside we give you in our lives. And show your respect and gratitude to your host. It surely will be an enjoyable experience you will not forget.

Generosity is intrinsic to Jordanian life

Giving and sharing is also a habit that originates from Bedouin culture. It has the same direct link with living in the harsh desert landscape. In the past, they even killed their last sheep or goat to feed a hungry guest arriving at their tent. Do you wonder what they would be eating the next day? They relied on the knowledge that others do the same for them. Our generosity is also closely related to our religion. In the Quran, we can read about the good things that we will receive if we show our kindness 34:39.

You would not be the first to be given a valuable present by a Bedouin family that hardly possesses anything. In return, you will see that Bedouin will stubbornly refuse gifts at first. You will have to offer the present at least three times before they even consider accepting. Having said that, Bedouin are slowly changing to a more ‘modern’ way of living. Which also affects these traditional ways of exchange.

Solidarity comes to us naturally

Our hospitality and generosity can also be seen in our strong sense of solidarity. Whether it is about family, friends, or guests, in times of need, we show our solidarity. Although our resources are limited, our country always has been a haven for refugees from neighboring countries. In the past, we gave refuge to Palestinians and Iraqi’s. Right now, we do the same for Syrian refugees. Currently, we shelter more than 618.500 people, which is 10% of our countries population. How much is 10% of your countries population? Imagine offering refuse to that many people. It is a big challenge for every nation.

We genuinely hope that you wish to experience our hospitality, generosity, and solidarity yourself. Come to Jordan and explore the beautiful Wadi Rum desert with us.

Ahlan wa Sahlan!

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