Peace Be Unto You
By Cooper Lambla
Posted on April 20, 2017
Peace Be Unto You
“Salaam Alaikum!” we proclaimed. Of our utterly dismal knowledge of Arabic, the common greeting, which literally translates to “peace be unto you”, had become a pillar of our daily social interactions.
“Alaikum Salaam!” became the response we also had grown accustomed to receiving.
The man on the side of the road stood smiling. Weathered teeth shown through a smile stretching wide across a face toned dark from the desert sun. He stood overlooking the valley we had camped in the night before. Now, pushing our bikes up an incredibly steep dirt road, we were in a world of hurt (and heat) and welcomed any sort of distraction which would allow us a break from physical activity.
Throughout our time in Oman, we were shocked at how much the English language is used throughout the country. Road and store signs are typically printed in both Arabic and English, and the vast majority of people could at least speak a few basic phrases. We began to chat with the man in English. He had spent the morning looking for his goats. They had not returned home from the night’s wander. Despite not having found them yet, he seemed unconcerned.
After a brief interaction, the man asked us to follow him back to his village for coffee and dates. Again, any sort of distraction from the heat and weight of our bikes was welcome. We followed.
We were welcomed into the man’s home and introduced to his brothers and father. Dates and coffee we served, and eventually, we realized that the dates we were eating had been grown and harvested in the village garden. We were then led to the grove of palm date trees next to the town’s mosque. More dates and coffee were consumed as we were introduced to friends and neighbors. Before we knew it, we were being taught how to climb a palm tree with only the use of one’s feet and an Al-Habl - a homemade rope belt specifically made to scale date palm trees in upwards of 60 feet.
We shared laughs and jokes as we each tried out the technique. The belt, which does not not tie or connect to anything around your waist, gently rests on one’s upper back and shoulders. Step after step, it is slid up the tree until you either get scared (as was our case), or you reach the dates.
It would turn out to be a simple afternoon activity. The men’s generosity, patience, and humor reflected our experience with just about every single person we met in the country. It turns out that ‘peace be unto you’ is not just a hospitable greeting, but a way of life.