Somehow we are all connected together, no matter our nationalities, our beliefs, our place of birth, this earth brings us together in a simple humane way.
Receiving a simple greeting or a smile from someone always brings about a smile on one’s face. It ties us together not only as humans but as kins.
A greeting, in a way, confirms your existence in the universe. It tells someone “I see you” and “I acknowledge you.” Probably the most outstanding feature of Arab customs is that of generous hospitality. To the Arabs, extending good hospitality is more than just an admirable thing to do; it is a matter of honor and also a sacred duty.
Anthony Shadid wrote in House of Stone: “There was a part of Islam in every Arab Christian. Whatever their beliefs, they acknowledged sharing a culture that bridged a faiths, joined by a common notion of custom and tradition and all that it entailed – honor, hospitality, shame, pride, dignity, and a respect for God’s power.”
No matter which village you are visiting; the Druze from Baaklin, the Christian from Douma, or the Muslim from Khiam, you are always welcomed with “ahla, tafadal.” As you walk on the streets of most villages and smile to people, as a local or a tourist, the villagers will always return the smile with a smile and a “t’fadal,” greeting you to come into their homes or shops.
Tf’adal can also mean “here you go,” a polite way of giving something to someone.
Tfadal is another one of those words that is very indicative of the wealth of our culture and how our language, even our every day spoken one, carries it through. “t’fadal” as we say in Lebanese comes from the word fad’dal. Fad’dal is similar to the adjective preferential, where one gives preference to someone. By saying “tf’dal” what one is actually implying is, “welcome, since you are my guest, I will give you preferential treatment and make sure that your needs are met before mine.” Sometimes “t’fadalo sharfouna” is said. Sharfouna comes from the word sharif which means honor, practically meaning your presence honors us. What an evocative four-letter word, that conveys such connotation of its culture, people, and country! Country means the land, but it means so much more too.
In Lebanon, we welcome you and recognize you. We welcome you in friendship and in love, and ask nothing in return but merely that you stay long enough to show you true Lebanese hospitality, which means putting your needs and comfort before ours.
To my Lebanon and all its magic!