Wake up and smell the Arabic coffee
I was reminded by my university days after following the three-day Coordination Forum in Riyadh, which was attended by various GCC universities and institutions. The forum was sponsored by King Abdullah International Center for Arabic language aiming to support efforts by GCC countries to enhance the development and usage of the Arabic language.
The Initiative of the forum was directed toward the dissemination of scientific knowledge among members of society, especially to the scientific community, university students and faculty members. The objective of the project is to focus on the coordination with the relevant agencies both inside and outside the GCC countries to develop Arabic content in this field.
Throughout history, the Arabic language had a major influence over the development of human sciences with the great advancements in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and other such disciplines in what came to be known as the golden age of the Arab civilization. But my generation had to wake-up to the unfortunate fact that we as Arabs, don’t have that leading advantage any more.
In my first year in university studying to be a translator, I remember being astonished by my English professor when he said that nearly everybody on earth thinks in Arabic when they get up first thing in the morning, because they will be thinking of coffee, and coffee originated from the Arabic word “Qahwah.”
In fact, a while ago I did some research about coffee, and how it went on to become the foremost beverage of choice for many cultures around the world. Although we Arabs have come up with the name for coffee, many other cultures participated in giving it the distinctive status it has now. The Ottoman Turks for instance were responsible for introducing it to the Europeans, who in turn transferred it to the Americas and the rest of the world.
I also enjoyed discovering some social characteristics of coffee in Saudi Arabia, such as the fact that serving your guests Arabic coffee is an absolute must, and the guest being able to recognize the origins of their host by tasting the added spices he uses with his coffee. I also found out that there is a funny tradition in many Mediterranean countries, where women love to tease their new husbands by adding salt instead of sugar to their coffee. Inevitably, just as our scientific innovations have mostly taken a back seat, globalization has invaded our coffee traditions. People are into drinking expensive, sophisticated, and sometimes overly complicated types of coffee, frequenting US style coffee houses that we all know very well. However, while we enjoy International flavored Java, true homemade Arabic coffee trumps all others, because it’s part of our identity.
A tweet: “Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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