Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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The Legendary Hospitality of the Anatolians
Earthenware border tile, Anatolia, 15th century.

…In all the lands inhabited by the Turkmens in Anatolia, in every district, town and village, there are to be found members of the Akhiya or Young Brotherhood. Nowhere in the world will you find men so eager to welcome strangers, so prompt to serve food and to satisfy the wants of others. The leader builds a hospice and furnishes it with rugs, lamps, and other necessary appliances. The members of his community work during the day to gain their livelihood, and bring him what they have earned in the late afternoon. With this they buy fruit, food, and the other things which the hospice requires for their use. If a traveler comes to town that day, they lodge him in their hospice; these provisions serve for his entertainment as their guest, and he stays with them until he goes away. If there are no travelers, they themselves assemble to partake of the food, and having eaten it, they sing and dance...

The day after our arrival at Antalya one of these youths came to Shaikh Shihab ad-Din al-Hamawi and spoke to him in Turkish, which I did not understand at that time. He was wearing old clothes and had a felt bonnet on his head. The Shaikh said to me, "Do you know what he is saying?" "No," said I, "I do not know." He answered, "He is inviting you and your company to eat a meal with him." I was astonished, but I said, "Very well," and when the man had gone I said to the Shaikh, "He is a poor man, and is not able to entertain us, and we do not like to be a burden on him." The Shaikh burst out laughing and said, "He is one of the Shaikhs of the Young Brotherhood. He is a cobbler and a man of generous disposition. His companions, about two hundred, have made him their leader and have built a hospice to entertain their guests. All that they earn by day they spend at night."

Dervish leading a deer, French, 1568. Click for larger image.

After I prayed the sunset prayer, the same man came back for us and took us to the hospice. We found ourselves in a fine building, carpeted with beautiful Turkish rugs and lit by a large number of chandeliers of Iraqi glass. In the center of their hall was a platform placed there for the visitors. When we took our places, they served up a great banquet followed by fruits and sweetmeats, after which they began to sing and dance. We were filled with admiration and were greatly astonished at their openhandedness and generosity.