In Saudi Arabia’s Asir province, male members of the Qahtani (or in some other variants Tihama) tribe are known as ‘Flower Men’ for their intricately-made floral headpieces. The flower crowns of marigold, sage and basil are worn to enhance both beauty and health, as it is believed to help with headaches or sinus problems. You have already seen (if you bothered to read the previous entries) Ibrahim and Hudaish wearing traditional flower crowns on their heads, but today we revisit Abdul Hadi Ahmed Al Mahdi of Tamniah Heritage Museum and see his kids perform a traditional dance with daggers for us.
Upon our arrival, Bushra, the little girl with the basket, puts marigold necklaces around our necks to welcome us to this unforgettable experience. We are walking down the dried wadi, under the bridge and up to the giant tree under which the boys have unrolled the carpets and transformed this place into an outdoor majlis. The DJ wastes no time and starts pumping the music as soon as he sees us approaching and the kids start to dance.
This is not my first time seeing the tribesmen as some of them came to EXPO 2020, but even then when I shared their photos on social media, the reactions of people were mixed – why are the men wearing flowers on the head? What are these people, why, why, why? And this time also, I feel exploring heritage experiences is not for everyone and for some reason it makes plenty of people feel uncomfortable. However, these people welcomed us (especially me, a person from a completely different background, language and culture) with open hearts and shared their love for music, flowers and life.
We spent maybe more than an hour sitting around on the carpet, sipping Saudi coffee and sweet tea, chatting, men were dancing, the light rain was showering upon us but in non-bothering way. It was just a beautiful experience. The kids were so sweet and well-behaved, shy, but didn’t mind us taking photos of them.
Yet again, I will say – I am very grateful to have experienced the hospitality, to have seen a glimpse into the lives of people who are trying to preserve their original ways, and I hope they manage to keep their traditions alive, because they are just pure joy to experience.
Replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity.