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Wadi Rum coffee rituals

I have never drunk coffee (not even a sip) but I have always been fascinated by the rituals surrounding it. My father would drink about five cups a day and I loved watching him prepare and enjoy each cup. I will never forget the sound and aroma of the beans as he poured them into the grinder, the shaking of the table top when he turned it on, and the pulsating coffee machine that let off bursts of steam as it created a perfect cup of espresso. He would then savour every drop.

For many in the West, coffee is how we wake ourselves up, but the importance ends there. For other cultures, coffee is a sacred ritual that bonds people together. One such culture is the Bedouin tribe of Wadi Rum (Arabic for “Sand Valley”), a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan.

Here the way coffee is served and received can express many different meanings – happiness, anger, hurt, delight, even answering a marriage proposal – all without the use of words. You can seriously insult a guest by serving them with your left hand and don’t ever let anyone catch you without a hot cup of coffee on the stove, day or night.

While I’m not saying we should all stock up on coffee beans and start communicating this way, I do think we can learn something from the Bedouin. Their coffee rituals are essentially about how to be a good host and make people feel welcome. This is more important than ever in an increasingly impersonal world. As Maya Angelou said:

“…people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you go out of your way to make someone feel special they will repay you many times over. It is important to realise that in every interaction you are either adding to it or taking away from it – there is no middle ground. If you keep this in mind you will be much more conscious of your contribution and the results might surprise you.


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