By Lance Leasure, Owner of Town and Country Coffee Company.
Fadel awakes in darkness. For the moment, he is alone. His first thought is gratitude for the air that, for the time being, is still slightly cool on his skin. He inhales deeply, welcoming the comforting smells of his surroundings…of animals, their harnesses, and the smoke drifting from the barely-glowing embers of the night’s fire. The air is as dry as the ancient lakebed his tent overlooks. The only sound is of the subtle, earth-sculpting winds and soft movement of sand. The same sound he’s awakened to his whole life — the sound of comfort and safety, of home.
His thoughts shift to the coming day and his duties. As the son of his clan’s most skilled blacksmith, he was recently granted responsibility for preparing and serving qahwa, a thick, gritty, aromatic drink with stimulating powers.
Last night there was word of strangers approaching from the north. As has always been his people’s way, the clan would serve qahwa and dates to welcome the guests. Intent on maintaining his family’s reputation in his new role, Fadel quickly sets about making preparations. With a quick glance over the mountain far beyond his lakebed, up to Al-Jadi, the ever-present guiding star in the north, he wonders what kind of people are coming from there and what stories they will bring.
First, he gathers and ignites enough camel dung to fuel the large fire he will need. While he waits for the flame to settle, he collects the remaining items he will use. Water, a mortar, a few cherished spices, and roots, dried greenish-yellow seeds bursting with magical power from across the great sea, and his family’s most prized ceremonial dallah.
For as long as he can remember, the dallah has enchanted Fadel. Round on the bottom, slender in the middle, with a long thin handle and narrow pour spout, the pot’s heavy lid is elaborately engraved with the emblems of his family’s respected legacy, stretching over five generations.
As the morning sun rises in the east, hinting at the severe temperatures of the day, Fadel begins to crush the seeds and brings the water to a boil. He can make out a small party just off the centuries-old path that remains from the days of lush flora and fauna before the sands came.
Before adding the crushed seeds to the pot, he adds a dry spice that is citrusy, floral, spicy, and herbal. He follows this with smashed slices of a gnarled, pungent, spicy, sweet root. He arranges the dates and continues watching as the strangers arrive and are greeted by the leaders, allowing the beverage to boil for slightly longer than it takes the sun to rise a finger-width of his hand when extended to the horizon.
As the leaders and the strangers are seated, Fadel confidently pours the scalding liquid from a standing position into small handleless cups held by the guests sitting on the ground. Completing the service without spilling a drop and retreating to tend the fire, he sneaks a glance at his father, who is seated with the group, from whom he receives a small smile and a loving fatherly nod.
As he listens quietly to the strangers describe heroic battles in Nineveh over a 25 days journey to the north, he briefly thinks to himself, what a truly wonderful way to wake up and live.