Heightened Meaning in the Middle East, Part Two

by bria4123 on October 7, 2011


After we drove into Amman from the airport, my guide and I stopped at a restaurant that looked like a desert castle. We were escorted into the courtyard, where all the tables sat on crimson carpets under dark goat-haired tents.

The food was carb-heavy. PeopleĀ ate delicious breads that they dipped into sauces. Most men smoked hookah pipes. Nobody seemed to exercise much. The focus in Jordan and Egypt was on sitting with the family and sharing human warmth.

This love of emotional intimacy and community is as common in the Middle East as worshipping the awesome being that created nature. In this landscape of magnificent extremes, people bond closely and share resources. This has been common since cities were first formed.

The glorious divine and the coziness and safety of the human community–these are the two poles that most cultural patterns have revolved around in the Middle East.

This emotional closeness was often apparent when I evaluated merchandise in a shop. Many times, I would look over a book or a small sculpture, and just when I was about to put it on the shelf, the salesman sweetened the deal. He did this the second I shifted from indecision. How did he know when I was exactly at that point?

I felt as though my mind was being read. There are signs of course. I had read that Arab merchants can detect interest by seeing the pupils dilate. But they don’t grow in a split-second. Many people I met in the Middle East seemed to have many antennas up when they were together.

This human closeness made this region a very lively place throughout my trip. Reality here is not as much of an abstract grid as a carpet with lots of colors woven together. Immerse yourself in it and you might get addicted for life.


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