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Arabian Hospitality

( Originally Published 1851 )

Haji Ben Hassuna, a chief of a party of the Bey's (of Tripoli) troops, pursued by Arabs, lost his way, and was benighted near the enemy's camp. Passing the door of a tent which was open, he stopped his horse and implored assistance, being exhausted with fatigue and thirst. The warlike Arab bid his enemy enter his tent with confidence, and treated him with all the respect and hospitality for which his people are so famous. The highest among then, like the Patriarchs of old, wait on their guest. A man of rank, when visited by a stranger, quickly fetches a lamb from his flock and kills it, and his wife superintends her women in dressing it iii the best manner.

With some of the Arabs, the primitive custom (so often spoken of in the Bible,) of washing the feet is yet adopted, and this compliment is performed by the head of the family. Their supper was the best of the fatted lamb roasted; their dessert, dates and dried fruit; and the Arab's wife, to honor more particularly her husband's guest, set before him a dish of " boseen " of her own making. This was a preparation of flour and water kneaded into a paste, which being half baked was broken to pieces and kneaded again with new milk, oil, and salt, and garnished with " kadeed," or mutton, dried and salted in the highest manner.

Though these two chiefs were opposed in war, they talked with candor and friendship to each other, recounting the achievements of themselves and their ancestors, when a sudden paleness over-spread the countenance of the host. He started from his seat and retired, and in a few moments afterwards sent word to his guest that his bed was prepared, and all things ready for his repose; that he was not well himself, and could not attend to finish the repast; that he had examined the Moor's horse, and found it too much exhausted to bear him through a hard journey the next day, but that before sunrise an able horse with every accommodation would be ready at the door of the tent, where he would meet him and expect him to depart with all speed. The stranger, riot able to account farther for the conduct of his host, retired to rest.

An Arab waked him in time to take refreshment before his departure, which was ready prepared for him; but he saw none of the family, till he perceived, on reaching the door of the tent, the master of it holding the bridle of his horse, and supporting his stirrups for him to mount, which is done among the Arabs as the last office of friendship. No sooner was Haji mounted, than his host announced to him that throughout the whole of the enemy's camp he had not so great an enemy to dread as himself. Last night," said he, " in the exploits of your ancestors, you discovered to me the murderer of my father. There lie all the habits he was slain in, (which were at that moment brought to the door of the tent) over which, in the presence of my family, I have many times sworn to revenge his death, and to seek the blood of his murderer from sunrise to sunset. The sun has not yet risen: the sun will be no more than risen, when I pursue you, after you have in safety quitted my tent, where, fortunately for you, it is against our religion to molest you after your having sought my protection and found a refuge there; but all my obligations cease as soon as we part, and from that moment you must consider me as one determined on your destruction, in whatever part, or at whatever distance we may meet again. You have not mounted a horse inferior to the one that stands ready for myself; on its swiftness surpassing that of mine depends one of our lives, or both."

After saying this, he shook his adversary by the hand and parted from him. The Moor, profiting by the few moments he had in advance, reached the Bey's army in time to escape his pursuer, who followed him closely, as near the enemy's camp as he could with safety. This was certainly a striking trait of hospitality, but it was no more than every Arab and every Moor in the same circumstances would do.

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