Unfortunately, mainstream media often paints a rather grim, depressing image of the Middle East. People who have not visited it before may come to conclusions about what a life in the Middle East is like, with part of that being that being thoughts like “Do you have to dodge bullets on the way to work?” or “Do you have to ride camels to school?” But the MENA region has so, so much more to offer. So we listed just a few of the endearing things we love about life in the Middle East.
1) Men sitting in the street playing cards or backgammon. This can be commonly found in the Levantine countries (where the heat is a bit more bearable than the Gulf) like Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and even Egypt. Men gather in front of their homes or shops with small tables and smoke shesha, play common games like Tarneeb or backgammon, and socialize.
2) The importance of the neighborhood corner store. Though larger chain supermarkets can now be found in most countries in the region, there is still quite a reliance on your friendly neighborhood corner shop. Families rely on them for their daily needs, kids collect coins and go to buy little packaged gums or candies, and friends get sodas and sit in the streets hanging out and talking.
3) Taxi driver camaraderie. It always seems like taxi drivers have one really cool, top-secret club just for them. Whenever riding in one, they’ll often pass by other taxi friends saying things like “Habib Albi!” (My Love!). This sweet interaction is not commonly found outside of the region, and it builds on that deep sense of community.
4) Family day. Every weekend, there should be one day (usually Friday, unless you’re in Lebanon) that is dedicated to spending time with the family. Everyone gets together, has breakfast or lunch, talks politics and neighborhood gossip, and spends the day together.
5) Hospitality. Arabs are generally known for their hospitality. Very little is as touching as when you go to a shop and the owner is inviting you for a tea and a chat, even though you may not end up buying anything. Arabs also enjoy inviting country newcomers and foreigners to dine at their home, as they relish in that sense of creating a comfortable, welcoming space for everyone.
We would love to hear some of your favorite parts of the MENA region! Tell us at Editor@Barakabits.com!