I remembered this particular dinner party conversation a couple of days ago and decided it somehow fitted in with Arab-Eurpean cross cultural communication.
We were invited out for dinner one evening at a friend of a friend's house. We arrived at the host's house and entered, were ushered in to the lounge, sat down and were offered drinks. As we sat there and the conversations slowly began we started looking around the lounge and taking in what was on display.
We realised our host had an incredibly large collection of local antiques which could, if you were being unkind, be termed 'junk'. Quite an unusal thing in the Middle East. Both myself and my husband are interested in old objects, especially objects which had previous uses; agricultural, industrial, baking.
We both stood up and started moving around the lounge, picking up and marvelling at the sheer number of items and the age of what we were holding.
Suddenly our host, a man in his early 50's, became quite animated.
He jumped up from his chair and grabbed both our hands and led us to a very specific metal box which was placed on the bottom glass shelf on one of the display units. The box which would've once been made of metal, was now metal joined together with dark, rough rust. It was a fragile, old relic with a lid which was kept in place with an angled and battered hinge.
He picked up the box carefully and started to rub it gently and slowly the look on his face turned to glee, but not quite. Opening the lid as if it contained a powder which would blow away if he wasn't careful, he asked me if I knew what the contents would've been used for.
Looking at the assortment of rust and metal I couldn't tell, I simply had no idea about why this particluar box could hold such rapt attention. All I could see was a dirty old cloth, a very rusty knife and something else which used to be metal, but was also now a dark rusty colour.
Barely containing his excitement he burst out, "It's for chopping willies, it's for chopping willies" and then proceeded to pick up the knife and cut the air.
He then explained, this time with glee, "My grandfather used to travel around the villages in Bahrain and carry out the circumcisions." He continued, "It would be a party when he arrived."
At this explanation another man who had happened to overhear the converstation wandered over and started getting quite animated too, "Oh I remember him." And with a look of pure relish blurted out, "He did mine."
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White Girl, Arab World
For the past 25 years I've called Bahrain home; my life, work and Bahraini husband are all here. 'White Girl, Arab World' is written from a western perspective and aims to pass on, without emotions, cultural differences and explanations.
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