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Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time................LOL

When I first arrived in the Middle East, I became good friends with a Sheika.  She taught me a lot about the custom and the tradition of her people and her country

After the end of Ramadhan, she explained to me the tradition of the last 20 years or so of opening the palaces to the public for a feast to celebrate it.

My newly found friend decided that I should experience this tradition on the first day of Eid. I was excited and dressed up wearing my finest to go to my first *official* outing minus my husband. It was a ladies day out

The Sheika explained to me the protocol. The palaces are opened to the public.  A feast of rice, roasted lamb, mezza spread, sweets and desserts will be placed in the dining hall for the guests.

Before the *feast* they will all be seated in the huge living room and greeted by the members of the royal family who will then be seated on one side of the room for questions and answers. Then the first batch of guests will be led to the dining hall.

It was an open house so there were waves and waves of crowd coming in to greet the family with well wishes etc.

I arrived with my friend early to the first palace on our list. She explained to me who was who. When the palace was built and which member of the family was there etc.

I saw many cars and vans lined up in the driveway with guests eagerly waiting to have a look in the palace

I was stunned and appalled when I was there to find most of the expatriates coming in pair of shorts and sandals on that day. It was a public holiday though

I was led into the hall where I sat quietly while I watched  my friend's facial expression.  I could see her eyes looking, watching and observing. She didnt utter a word but just smiled at the guests.

She then led me to the dining room.  It was magnificent. Maybe a bit too gilded for me but it was beautiful. There were rows and rows of richly covered tables of food.

I turned around to look at my friend enquiringly thereafter. She knew what I was thinking.

She sighed and she said to me that they use to serve their guests with fine crockery and cutlery.  But over the years, many of the cutlery had gone missing.  So they now use paperplates and plastic spoons for the occasion.

I was speechless

I stayed on for a while to chat with the older Sheika and her family.   She sat in her abaya and burqa with piercing eyes that I thought could kill (oops LOL). When I asked her a question, I was stunned.  She spoke in a received English accent. The English governess was there too and smiled at me, knowingly. She told me that the Older Sheika was able to speak in 4 languages

After a wonderful discussion, I had to continue my visit to other palaces. I bumped into a group of sandal and short wearers when I went into my car.

They were laughing loudly and criticising the whole decor.

I approached them and said *You are very lucky to have the opportunity to visit a palace ground while you are in this country.  Please refrain from expressing your views here.  Take them home. I would also like to ask you a question. Would you dress like this if you were going to meet your Queen or your President? Have some respect at least*.

I left--

Every year since then, when I visited the palaces, it was like rerun

I dont expect anyone to wear a suit and tie or a ball gown. At least your Sunday best.

Sad. Very sad.

Duchessforthright.

 

 

deleted deleted 26-30 15 Responses Oct 25, 2009

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They may have not intended to be disrespectful but it shows that when we visit a foreign land we need to be more conscious of our behavior and the message it sends. <br />
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Thanks for sharing this!

Hello Your Grace. If I don't manage to catch you before you leave for Europe, here are my heartfelt wishes for a very very good and pleasant trip! I already miss you.<br />
<br />
Andrew

When I was in Kuaii, I was in the lobby of my hotel. I struck up a conversation with a young Japanese couple. At first, when I spoke to them--they looked alarmed! lol, I explained to the young man that I am a grandmother. He smiled, much relieved and said to his wife, "Mama san." She smiled then too.<br />
He spoke English - she didn't - so he translated. They told me they were on their honeymoon --and many other personal things about their lives. It was a lovely visit.

Beauty is usually expressed with simplicity. The world is becoming a very small place---customs are simply not understood by people who visit different countries......I doubt that most people who visit other cultures, are arrogant, simply uneducated and untaught. Kindness and tolerance are usually recognized by people everywhere---a naked aborigine who shares his shade and water with you, is as royal and gracious as a queen or a sheika.

Thanks for posting this story Duchess , reminds me of a visit to Arlington cemetry while at President kennedys memorial I had tell some people to remove their hats !!!

That'll be a good group to start, milady: I Kissed Online Wearing a Mask.<br />
<br />
I'm feeling so much better, Duchess, thank you. I don't usually suffer from illness a long time.<br />
<br />
Hm, I wonder how it felt, watching the movie without never having watched the series. You could've been their story consultant!<br />
<br />
Will be missing you, take care and bring back plenty of stories! :)

I've seen quite a lot of such happenings, milady. What fascinated me is the fact that most of the time it is exactly such people who get the opportunities, the privileges. Makes you smile a little at the weirdness of the way the world is.

It's so important when we meet people from different cultures that we at least attempt to understand what's appropriate and what's considered rude or even insulting.<br />
While I generally prefer casual, there are times I will always "dress up." The obvious funerals, weddings etc. and any religious ceremony....a Lincoln Center concert requires a far different dress code than Bob Dylan...and I love both.<br />
But your strory Dutchess is sad...we are representing our country when we travel and many may not even realize that their casual dress and loudness can be viewed as lacking respect...even perhaps insulting.

Hello again. I've been enjoying the comments left since I posted. Had a good think about it. I think that we can't only blame expatriates. Here in Singapore, I see a lot of it in the younger people. And it's not entirely their fault either; they have all grown up in a very casual and informal society where "Asian" manners are becoming unknown.<br />
<br />
Your Grace, when I was a conference organizer my work involved projects in maybe twelve different countries, and I was always struck by how the "foreigners" dressed more neatly. It seemed more respectful.<br />
<br />
I used to feel embarrassed when foreign visitors/ VIPs travelled thousands of miles to visit my country, and the Singaporeans who received them didn't even bother to put on a shirt with a collar -- let alone a tie -- to welcome the people who were paying a courtesy call on their institution. On more than one occasion, we arranged a talk by an eminent academic on their campus and I was really ashamed when students strolled in to the lecture hall wearing bermudas and rubber sports sandals. <br />
<br />
Singaporean culture is definitely very "rough". And getting rougher. The contrast is clear; I organized similar talks in Korea, Thailand, Belgium, France, Germany, and Denmark, and the undergraduates always turned up neatly dressed, some in blazers.<br />
<br />
Once, our local partners and we were hosted by the Singaporean Ambassador in that particular country (not naming names, or the year), and the Ambassador's children -- aged 8 to 12 -- wandered downstairs in bare feet and pyjamas to say hello to the guests. It was shameful.<br />
<br />
All I can say is that those were the days when the training manual of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed, "Personal hygiene is important. You should shower daily." When what they *really* needed was advice like, "V-necked sweaters -- even if they are cashmere -- are NOT equivalent to a blazer and tie" or "Please do not re-apply your lipstick at the dinner table when you are being hosted for a working meal by the PM's Conseiller Diplomatique". I remember taking my interns out for beers to cheer them up after I had to tell them that if they are going to doodle during a meeting, it's probably not a good idea to position their notebook so that everybody can see what kind of "notes" they were taking.<br />
<br />
Oops, another hijack. Sorry Duchess!<br />
<br />
:P<br />
<br />
AP

Thank you for sharing the story Duchess .. very interesting. A very typical one though ... although I am not one for formality and would always prefer to be casual in dress and manners, I do think there is a need for manners and respect at all times. Unfortunately,I think it is an extension of the now common attitude of folks being aware of their rights and completely oblivious of their responsibilities. Something which is far to obvious in behaviour generally speaking.

Yes - I am inclined to the same view, Duchess. I'd rather be a little too formal than a little too casual!

You're right, Duchess, that was a wasted opportunity on their part.<br />
<br />
One should never waste an opportunity to receive kindness with good grace and good manners... :)

My father was involved in business, on behalf of our government, with Middle Eastern countries and he often witnessed similar disrespectful acts by expatriates.<br />
<br />
He would always mutter under his breath " Damn Yanks"

P/s: The behaviour of the visitors wearing shorts to the "open house" is what Peranakans call, "tak tahu jadi orang" ("being uncouth").<br />
<br />
AP

Oh dear, Your Grace. I gather that those expatriates were probably *not* Muslims...<br />
<br />
Thanks for sharing this story, my Duchess. I have a similar story to tell, but don't feel ready to share it yet.<br />
<br />
Take care!<br />
Andrew