“When we have visitors, I give them cooking lessons. I take them to the orchards, and we pick plums, and then I teach them how to make jam. One visitor went back to America and held an Arabic dinner party. She made a lot of dishes that I taught her, like maqlouba and gallaya. They loved it. She put photos of the party on Facebook. The relationship we have with visitors is beautiful.”
When Maysoun and her family first began hosting guests from the Abraham Path in their home, the presence of visitors from around the world seemed strange. Neither she nor her neighbors were used to seeing foreigners around their homes, and they didn’t know how to interact with them. Now, though, Maysoun and her family and community have come to value the tourists who stay with them and the intercultural friendships that are formed during the time they spend together. Maysoun appreciates the opportunities to talk with a broad array of people and to learn about other places and cultures, and she loves watching her children play with other children from around the world. As much as her family enjoys learning from their visitors, though, they are even more eager to share their own experiences – to show guests what games they play, how they harvest olives, what their lives are like. For Maysoun, the arrival of new guests signals a chance to share one of her great talents – her incredible wealth of culinary knowledge and skills. The world of Middle Eastern cooking is one that Maysoun knows well; and introducing new friends to that world has been a rewarding experience for her that, in turn, has created educational and culturally rich experiences for travelers.
The opportunities presented to Maysoun and her family by the Abraham Path extend beyond just cultural exchange. Maysoun’s daughter Hiba is currently in fourth grade, and her parents realize that she will be finished with her primary education in only eight short years. They know that sending Hiba to university will cost them a significant amount of money, and the income brought in from the homestay allows them to start saving for those expenses now.
How else has the family planned to use the added income? They recently bought a laptop, which they use to maintain the long-distance friendships they’ve been building with Abraham Path walkers; and they hope to soon be able to buy a camera. Other than that, their main goal is to invest in their home – Maysoun intends to expand their house and farm someday so that they can comfortably accommodate more guests. She hopes her family will never stop hosting hikers, she says, and that the number of travelers who stay with her family will only increase as time goes on. Expanding their house will allow them to expand the capacity of their hospitality and, at the same time, to expand the range of experiences and friendships available to them between the walls of their own home.
Foreign visitors may have seemed strange and intimidating once; but as far as Maysoun is concerned, they’ve become a permanent fixture in her family’s life and home.