Lebanon is famous with its generosity and its hospitality. Authenticity in welcoming visitors and people to their houses is to certain point overwhelming. Most villages and towns in Lebanon go extreme in welcoming their guests. I took Rechmaya as a sample of these villages to visualize the picture –
Rechmaya and a cup of coffee
- Three kisses are a must. If you are new to Lebanese customs, a firm hand shake followed by three cheek kisses are the common greeting applied by all Lebanese. Whether among women, men, relatives, new acquaintances, first-time encounters, the three kisses are a must!! Twice; at the beginning of the encounter and surely at the end. (3 kisses at hello and another 3 at goodbye per person multiply by many persons per day, you do the calculation). Whether you like the kissing part or not, you will feel the sincere welcoming.
- Before, during and after the three kisses, many welcoming expressions are articulated: ahleen ahleenاهلا اهلا (welcome welcome), Ahlan wa Sahlan اهلا و سهلا (most welcome), Ya marhabah يا مرحبا (sincere hello) Nawarto نورتو(something like, you bought light to our house). Sometimes 2 or 3 phrases are used together and most of the times, all of these phrases and more. This is done several times during the first 5 minutes upon arrival and at least twice during the conversation later on. Add to the sincere welcoming compliments and praising: your beauty is Ya BarakAllah Ya barakAllah يا بركالله يا بركالله على جمالك(Grace of God is shown on you). Well, who does not like to be pampered!
- Ma’el Salemeh مع السلامة(Goodbye) is the least said during your departure. Allah Maak الله معك (God be with you), Allah Yehfazak الله يحفظك(May God protect you), El Adrah Tehersak العدرا تحرسك (May St. Mary guard you) are added to the farewell. You are sent from their houses guarded by the divine. Such a wonderful sincere way to end the visit!
- A cup of coffee always means more! A simple invitation to a cup of coffee at a Lebanese house is full of pleasant hospitable astonishment especially at a GenX house. The various kinds of fruits, add to that homemade desserts; Maakroun معكرون, Sfouf صفوف and Namoura نمورة, and 2 to 3 homemade juices and cordial syrups; Lemonade, Sharab Tout شراب التوت(Raspberry cordial syrup) & Sharab El Ward شراب الورد (Flower cordial syrup). For the road, you are loaded with a basket full of homemade Sharab or fruits from the garden. Do not refuse the basket. It would be a loss.
P.S.: if you visit Rechmaya around the harvest season of the olive, you will end up with a bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil. Not bad!
So passing by Rechmaya village and you decided to stop at your friend’s house for a cup of coffee, the scene would be something like this:
After ringing the bell, and before someone opens, you will hear the host welcoming you; Ahlan Ahlan, ya marhabah, the door opens and the welcoming phrases continue with big smile, followed by 3 kisses and another set of welcoming phrases. After been seated and asked about all your family in general and then each person specifically, Sharab is offered, accompanied with a homemade Lebanese pastry. While bringing the tray of at least 6 cups of coffee even though you might be only 3 persons, and a big Raqueh of coffee ركوة قهوة , a set of welcoming phrases are recited too. Extra cups are a must in case someone else decided to drop by unannounced. The minute you start sipping your coffee, a platter of fruit is brought to you apologizing that only 4 different kinds of fruits are available in the house at the moment.(might send one of the children to pickup more kinds of fruits from the garden). One cup of a coffee leads to another one and a unanticipated drop by to have a cup of coffee might lead to a brunch prepared on the spot of delicious homemade mezza. The departure from a Rechmany’s house might take a good 10 to 15 minutes. Regards to each and every member of your family, to the in-laws, and to all the friends you have in common, concluding with several benediction and blessing; Allah yehfazak and Allah Maak, and not to forget the giveaway basket and unquestionably an open invitation to pass by anytime.
Surely is an authentic hospitality. Now you got the picture, so pass by Rechmaya and experience it yourself!