Monday, January 31, 2005

Return from Mecca

I returned home late this evening and was surprised when Nigora said she’d also just returned home. An old couple, distant relatives, had just returned from Mecca and had invited her to celebrate their return. She said they’d taken a plane (a luxury compared to those who take the 15-day bus trip) and had spent a month in Saudi Arabia. They’d had a good trip, but didn’t tell her anything about it.

“They didn’t have time to tell about their trip,” she said. “Because so many people came to visit. They just fed us all.

At this time of year people are returning from Mecca and the tradition is that they must be ready to meet a stream of guests for several days after their return. I stopped by the home of a wealthy family who had sent a few members to Mecca, as they do every year. Upon their return, they slaughtered a cow and kept a table filled with food – a big pile of lepushka, plates of pistachios, raisins, candies, melon, wafers and delicious Saudi Arabian dates. On a small grill in their courtyard they grilled the fresh beef, bringing skewers dripping with fat and dropped with fresh onion to the table.

Going to Mecca means that a person has enough money for the holy trip, that they are probably a bit better off than average. And greeting people on their return seems to be a way of sharing the wealth.

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