Bayt Baytuk: The art of Giving and Receiving


Saturday 29th June 2019, 16:00 - 17:30



This event is about Arab hospitality in its many different forms from accepting  a glass of tea in the Sahara desert, to staying with newly-made friends in Syria, to receiving a bag of olives bought in the souk….


Artists/Speakers and biogs: Sole speaker is Mary Russell is an Irish writer who, when not travelling,  divides her time between Dublin and Oxford. Of her five published non-fiction books, the most recent is about her travels around Syria mostly (by bike) which included an overnight taxi ride from Damascus to Baghdad.

She always travels alone as this allows her make contact with people in the countries through which she travels. 

For this proposed event, she will read from her book  My Home is  Your Home which is about travelling round Syria, including al Raqqa, Deir eZ Zour and Abu Kamal. 

She will also talk about her travels in Palestine, Sudan, Algeria, Western Sahara, Iraq and Lebanon.

She will talk about the hospitality she was offered in war-torn Baghdad, in the Sahara Desert, with nomads in eastern Syria.

She will illustrate her event with coffee cups from Palestine (made in Hebron), with desert cups and coffee pots from Sudan (made with rounded bases so that they stand upright in the desert sand)… she will  talk about the customs she learned in Palestine, in Aleppo, in Damascus. Of how she was offered a screen in a café al Raqqa because she was a woman on her own…. And much more. The Saharawi drink three cups of coffee with lots of sugar and say the first cup is sweet as love, the second one is strong as life, and the third is as smooth as death.  

She will contrast the idea of western hospitality with that practised in Arab countries and in particular she will refer to the role of sharing food as a vegetarian in an Arab country. 

She will look at the way in which, in the western world, we receive hospitality and gifts in a manner which is often hurried, which pays little attention to the giver.  We take rather than accept what we are buying often without grace.  She will illustrate this by talking about the man in the souk in Damascus who carefully wrapped the bag of olives she was buying first in one bag and then in a second bag to prevent the olive juice leaking. This was a very slow process and we need to remind ourselves that in the hurried and often frantic way of life in western culture we have forgotten how to be mannerly.