Personal greetings are really important around here.  People visibly brighten up when you  acknowledge them with a simple wave and a “salaam”.  All of us make a special point to greet strangers when we pass.  Of course, when someone you know walks in, that is occasion for even more complicated good wishes.  From my initial observations and all I read or am told, this is an intensely personal culture.  Everyone needs to be included and acknowledged and relationships trump everything else.

It is also the culture of the spoken word.  People do not read much, but they listen carefully and remember the elegant spoken word.  Some people just like to hear themselves talk, but surprisingly others like to listen to the long talk.

I am beginning to appreciate the Arabic language.  I understand almost nothing, but I can hear the musical quality and I am learning to enjoythe animation of the speakers.  I like to listen to the calls to prayer and the readings from the Koran.  They are very evocative. 

All I can manage to actually say is the simple Salaam and then I flash a broad smile.  Despite the language barrier, I almost always get a smile back and it think it makes a difference to both of us.