1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arab Character

(Part 30)


(30) Arab Character

Both town and village Arabs are, as a rule, serious in gait and demeanour, and very observant of politeness, not only in the manner, but even in the substance of their conversation. In temper, or at least in the manifestation of it, they are studiously calm; and an Arab rarely so much as raises his voice in a dispute. He prides himself on an unruffled exterior, and will bear much with careful seeming calm that would drive a European to the extreme of impatience and rage. But this outward tranquility covers feelings alike keen and permanent; and the remembrance of a rash jest or injurious word, uttered years before, is too often the cause of violence and bloodshed.

Besides, however, the individual shades of character, there exist market tribal or almost semi-national diversities, among the Arabs. Thus, the inhabitants of Hejaz are noted distinguished by their stern tenacity and dignity of deportment; the nations of Yemen are gentle and pliant, but revengeful; those of Hasa and Oman cheerful and fond of sport, though at the same time turbulent and unsteady. Anything approaching to a game is rare in Nejd, and in the Hejaz religion and the yearly occurrence of the pilgrim ceremonies almost exclude all public diversions; but in Yemen the well-known game of the "jeered," or palm-stick, with dances and music-the latter very barbarous, it must be allowed-is not rare. In Oman such amusements are still more frequent. Again, in Yemen and Oman, coffee-houses, where people can resort for conversation, and where public recitals, songs, and other diversions are to be met with, stand open all day; while nothing of the sort is tolerated in Nejd. So it is also with the ceremonies observed on occasion of circumcision or marriage-occasions of gaiety and pastime on the coast, but passed over with little of the like observance in the central provinces.

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