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Saturday, September 24, 2011


Ahlan wa sahlan.

Arab hospitality is the warmest of its kind. At once make you feel home. The pamper you with their good food. I feel at home in Syria three times I had been in that great country.

The Arabs had fought against the crusaders about 9 centuries ago. In fact Salahuddin al-Ayubi who recaptured Baitul-Maqaddis died in Syria and buried at Damascus.

It was towards the end of 1999 after attending a 2-week course at Aleppo (Halab) that I met my host family introduced by a colleague who also attended the course.

They live in a small pastoral village by the name of Qassabin (The Butcher in Arab) some hours drive to the southwest of Aleppo. I stayed with them for a week.

In September 2007 after visiting my god-daughter at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon close to the border with Israel this taxi driver drove me from Beirut across to the border into Syria and from there took another taxi to Qassabin.

Along the way to Syria we passed a bridge being repaired after being bombed by the Israel airforce during the war against Hezbullah.

Lebanon-Syria border check-point and immigration office.

Nejmo, head of my host family(extreme left), his son Mohammad and his grandchildren who were on summer holiday at his house.

Since I don't know Arabic I could not communicate with Nejmo. However, every now and then he would asked his wife to prepare thick Arabic coffee for me. At times he would roll a cigarette using locally growned tobacco, offer and light it for me. I smoked out of courtesy.

Little did I know that he was going blind with cataract in both eyes. He passed away about a year ago.

Mrs Nejmo, always a forlorn look in her eyes.

Overseeing ploughing her vegetable garden at the back of the house.
Children going to the village school.

Picnic under the shade.

Olive farm (R).

Raspberry (R).

After a week stay with the Nejmos, I took a flight from Latakia to Damascus to KL, and home.


  1. Similar hospitality practiced here too, sad, it is slowly dying.

    I remember my grandparents, their kitchen was open all day long. People from the village dropping in for chats at all hours, then enjoy meals together (those days there were no clubs or restaurants nearby I suppose) and everyday you see different faces - social networking eh?

    Even kids from poor families, if they were hungry may just come into the kitchen and will definitely get a nice meal from our elders.

    The spirit of CARING and SHARING came so naturally.

  2. Katrina,
    Yes, people in the rural East lead simple lives and offer warm and informal hospitality, but not so much in the urban areas we are too hurried with the demands of everyday life.