Dinner on Us

Discover the Rich Tradition of MENA Hospitality!

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), hospitality is not just a custom – it's an art form. The Salaam MENA Cultural Center invites you to explore our heartwarming traditions that make 'Dinner on Us' events unforgettable community-based intercultural experiential learning opportunities.

1. The Sacred Respect for Guests: In MENA, guests are considered a blessing. Our hospitality tradition revolves around making guests feel not just welcomed, but cherished. Hosting means providing an abundance of delicious food, a symbol of honor and care for our guests.

2. More Than a Meal: Our hosts go above and beyond, ensuring the food is not only delicious but also a feast for the eyes. Stinginess is frowned upon, and a well-prepared, generously served meal is a testament to the host's generosity and ability to provide for their guests.

3. Coffee, Tea, and Generosity: Expect more than just the main course. MENA hospitality includes rounds of coffee, tea, refreshments, and snacks before and after the main meal. Guests are encouraged to indulge and eat their fill as a sign of respect to the host.

4. Toasts and Tradition: In cultures where alcohol is part of the dinner table, a toastmaster may be appointed to eloquently praise guests and hosts. Poetry and prose are used to share words of wisdom and celebrate the spirit of the gathering.

5. The Art of Settling the Bill: At restaurants, arguing over the bill is not just a custom but a performance in etiquette and rank. This friendly quarrel reflects a genuine desire to express generosity. It's not uncommon for someone to discreetly settle the bill to avoid causing discomfort.

6. 'Dinner on Us' Events: Salaam MENA Cultural Center embraces these traditions with 'Dinner on Us' events. Join us for familiar fare and learn about the rich MENA cultural heritage. These events align with the Student Affairs mission and UIUC's strategic plan, fostering a sense of belonging and supporting personal, academic, and professional growth.

7. Think Outside the Box: Learning doesn't have to happen in traditional educational settings, such as a lecture with a question-and-answer format. While we do host these types of 'Dinner on Us' events, Salaam takes great pride in hosting experiential learning programming where linguistic and cultural education is much more organic and mimics real-life settings.

8. Book of Interest I: God's Banquet: Food in Classical Arabic Literature by Geert Jan Van Gelder (2000) explores the important linkage between food and literature in Arabic culture, Van Gelder (Arabic, University of Oxford) examines a variety of classical Arabic texts, tracing the ways that discussions of food arise in pieces such as the Koran, pre-Islamic poetry, and the Thousand and One Nights. He argues that food may act as a marker for many different things, including time, place, gender, character, or religion, and can be a metaphor, symbol, or allusion.

9. Book of Interest II: Insatiable Appetite: Food as Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond, edited by Kirill Dmitriev, Julia Hauser, and Bilal Orfali (2019), explores the cultural ramifications of food and foodways in the Mediterranean and Arab-Muslim countries in particular. The volume addresses the cultural meanings of food from a wider chronological scope, from antiquity to the present, adopting approaches from various disciplines, including classical Greek philology, Arabic literature, Islamic studies, anthropology, and history. The contributions to the book are structured around six thematic parts, ranging in focus from social status to religious prohibitions, gender issues, intoxicants, vegetarianism, and the management of scarcity. Contributors are: Tarek Abu Hussein, Yasmin Amin, Kevin Blankinship, Tylor Brand, Kirill Dmitriev, Eric Dursteler, Anny Gaul, Julia Hauser, Christian Junge, Danilo Marino, Pedro Martins, Karen Moukheiber, Christian Saßmannshausen, Shaheed Tayob, and Lola Wilhelm.

10. Your 'Dinner on Us' Invitation: Let's celebrate the warmth of MENA hospitality together! Explore a 'Dinner on Us' customized cultural and educational event for your RSO or departmental unit, contact Salaam's director, Awad Awad, at awad@illinois.edu, cc Salaam's Office Support Specialist, Kimberly Fleming, at kfleming@illinois.edu, and fill out the Space Reservation Form.


'Dinner on Us' Events

Arab Student Association Orientation

Salaam hosted the Arab Student Association for a 'Dinner on Us'.......

Iranian Heritage Foundation Orientation

Salaam hosted the Iranian Heritage Foundation for a 'Dinner on Us'.......

PAKSA Orientation

Salaam hosted the Pakistani Student Association for a 'Dinner on Us'.......