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CHILDREN TRAINED In the etiquette of the majlis

There is a Qatari saying which emphasises the educational aspect of the majlis (a reception room, a salo0n for evening gatherings where Qataris entertain guests, and do much more which can be found almost in every Qatari household), and which goes by the name of 'al majalis madares' (or 'the majlis is a school'). Nowhere is this truer than at a majlis etiquette session organised by an educational institution unique to Qatar, the Nomas Center.

Qatar Tribune recently sat in on one of these engaging and informative sessions, and spoke with Abdulhadi Ali al Nuaimi, instructor of the majlis etiquette workshops about these sessions and their ultimate value to Qatari society.

Describing the courses, Nuaimi noted that they are two-week long, and are generally well-attended."This course, for example, was attended by 20 boys," he said.

"For the first four course days, we talk to the children about the greetings to be spoken on entering and leaving the majlis, the manner in which the host welcomes the guest into his majlis, and the etiquette for leaving such a gathering. There are customs and etiquettes to be followed for these things, and we teach the children while explaining the purpose of each step. Needless to say, this is the most important part of the course, and the one on which the rest is built," he added.

The instructions are not limited to the etiquette of the majlis as such, but also address other aspects of Qatari tradition and heritage, according to the instructor.

"We lead the children through a discussion of some of the most important aspects of their traditions, disserting on the major aspects of traditional Qatari ethics, which combines courage and strength with a respect for others," he said on this note.

"We also talk to the children, on their level, about components of Qatari heritage including the place of horses and camels, which today the children are most likely to encounter in races but which were the animal companions of our ancestors, who relied on them for hunting and many other activities, and the sword, which is used in the traditional ardha, but which was once the means whereby our forefathers protected themselves and their families from thieves and other threats," he added.

Nuaimi explained that the next four days of the course are devoted to"the preparation of traditional gahwa (or coffee), from roasting the beans to grinding them and mixing them with the traditional spices, to brewing and serving them to guests in the majlis. We also teach them the different traditional terms for the implements, utensils and ingredients".

The last four days of the majlis etiquette course, Nuaimi said, are devoted to a review, which also include quizzes and graded tests, which evaluate the children's grasp of the course's content.

The instructor noted that such courses are popular precisely because they impart an important component of Qatari traditions and customs, which also make them increasingly important in a contemporary society with different conditions from those in which these local traditions emerged.

"Through this course, we seek to convey the value of tradition to the children, these being the bond that ties us directly to our elders and our ancestors before them. For generations, Qatari society didn't learn these things from books, but rather in a direct manner, exactly as they are taught in this course. This is why I would say that these courses are important, and why I think they are popular with Qatari families and their children," he said, elaborating on the course's objectives and value to Qatari society.


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