Page:A short guide to Syria (1943).djvu/11

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judgments. To bargain intelligently is to show understanding in values. They may treble the price they expect you to pay. If you pay it, they know you don't know the real values. But bargain politely. Most of these tradesmen know each other well and treat one another as host and guest. Friendships result from trade. In the larger "westernized" shops, there is usually a fixed price. So, you won't have to haggle with them.

Hospitality. The result of such contacts may yield you hospitality and friendship. It is customary for tradesmen to offer customers coffee and cigarettes. Do not refuse. Don't leave your coffee half drunk. Should you be offered a second and even a third, take it. But it is considered bad form to accept a fourth cup. If you take a fourth, or refuse a second or a third, your host will put you down as wanting in manners. This may seem absurd to you. So what? Your customs seem just as absurd to him. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, as the saying has been for thousands of years.

A few things to remember about Moslem Syrians is that they do not eat pork and they do not drink liquor. This is a religious matter. Don't ask why. Respect it. You'll see something about this religious question later. As a social matter, politeness demands that you accept these things without question. So do not drink liquor in their presence. It offends them, especially, to see anyone drunk. Even as a joke, don't offer or urge them to drink liquor or eat pork.

A few rules are essential. Never touch the food until your host has said grace ("Bismillah") and then not till he has told you to. Eat only with your right hand— it is considered very rude to use the left, even if you are a southpaw. Do not cut native bread with a knife. Break it with your fingers. A servant will come along with basins and water for all to wash their hands after dinner.

Women. You will not find Moslem women in the company. Ladies generally remain hidden. It depends largely on who your host is, of course. But among Moslems, particularly, women do not mingle freely with men. The greater part of their time they spend at home and in the company of their own families. It is considered a very