Friday, July 16, 2004

A Visit of Condolence

Yesterday the brother of my in-laws’ friend passed away because of health problems. So my husband and I went with my in-laws to attend the Aza’a, which comes from the verb (yo’azzi) i.e. to express sympathy to someone who has experienced grief. Aza’a comes after the funeral has already taken place of course. This is the first time I go to Aza’a in Tunisia. So as sad as the fact of losing someone is, it was interesting for me to notice the differences in traditions between the middle-eastern culture and the Tunisian culture.
One of the differences is the clothes. It’s true that sorrow is in the heart, and colors of the clothes don’t necessarily reflect the inner feelings of a person, but in the Middle East, colors of the clothes of the grieving family or the people visiting them vary from black to really dark blue and dark shades of gray. Women are most likely to wear normal clothes that are not shiny or too revealing to respect the situation. Here, I noticed people don’t give any importance to colors, which is ok, but I just found it odd to see women wearing very bright colors like: shiny pink, bright turquoise, orange, clear white and red. Some young ladies were wearing extremely revealing clothes, which I found so inappropriate. Another thing is makeup, in the Middle East, makeup is out of question, no woman should be wearing makeup in such a sad occasion. Yesterday many girls were wearing full makeup… it’s just so different.
Another difference is the Quran and prayers. For Muslim people in the middle east, one can hear the Quran verses played loud on tape, for many reasons: to announce that this family has lost someone, so the news spreads, and secondly to wish him mercy and bless his family after his death. On the other hand when people meet they pray for his soul to rest in peace and wish him forgiveness for any sins or bad things he might have done. Yesterday, I was the only one praying for the man! Others were just gossiping and getting to know each other :P It happens in the Middle East too, that some ladies gather and start their little gossip, but if they’re noticed, other ladies would warn them to keep it low and pray for the dead person instead. Here it’s so normal if they take the chance of gathering to talk about any topic they want loudly, no one complains. As for Quran, a group of people were sitting in a room inside the house reading Quran, which I found great, only if their voices were louder than those of the ladies chatting. But well, as I heard, usually Quran is heard just like in the Middle East, so yesterday was an exception.
Anyway, despite the differences, each culture has its own way of expressing itself. Each culture finds other cultures a bit odd. But they all share one thing all Arabs have: supporting each other and being there for each other in happiness and sorrow, in strength and weakness. Another thing I adore about being an Arab.