Traditions Field Note


Abstract: Many people in the United States drink coffee. Many Americans go to Starbucks and walk out with our drink in a take-away cup. Jordanians complete a special process for drinking coffee – it must be served and drank in a special way. Read about coffee and other traditions in this field note!


Jordan is full of different traditions and customs. Some of these traditions are religious, since religion plays an important part in society. Other traditions have been passed down from the original people that settled in Jordan called Bedouins. Today, Bedouins maintain almost all of the traditions of their ancestors.

What traditions does the community have?  

About 95% of Jordanians are Muslim, which means they believe in Islam. One of the major Islamic customs is marriage. Here in Jordan, there is a lengthy process to get married and many, but not all, Muslims follow this process. The parents very involved in the match making process. If you wish to get married, your parents would have to meet with the parents of your future spouse. They will get to know the potential person may marry their son or daughter as well as the potential future in-laws. Then they will ask around to see what other members in society have to say about the family.julia 1

Finally, they have to agree on the dowry. The dowry is an amount of money that the man’s family must pay the woman’s family to marry her. It is to make sure she will have enough money even if they get divorced. Finally, the two families will agree their son or daughter can be married. It is quite a complicated process and not all Muslims follow this process, but it is a tradition that is still happening all around Jordan.

Jordan has many non-religious traditions as well. When you greet someone, you shake their right hand and kiss them on the right cheek once then left cheek once, twice, or three times. The number of kisses depends on how well you know them. When I say ‘hi’ to family members or close friends, I kiss them once on the right cheek and three times on the left cheek. Do you have any cool ways to greet friends? Perhaps a special handshake?

What tradition did I learn about?

The tradition that I’m writing about today is coffee. Coffee is an ancient tradition that has been passed down from Bedouins to today’s Jordanians. First, there is the etiquette associated with serving the coffee. The coffee is poured into three small cups – just enough for one or two sips. You then pass out the three cups using your right hand. After you serve someone, you must walk away backwards so your back never faces them. It is considered disrespectful if you turn around and walk away.

If you are the person being served coffee, you must drink it a special way. When you are handed a glass, you must drink the whole thing right away. It is a very small amount so this is not too difficult. Then, you hand it back to the person who served you. He or she will then use it to pour coffee for the next person or they will fill it up again and hand it back to you. It is considered impolite to have more than three “glasses” of coffee. Unless it is a special occasion, just one or two glasses are appropriate. To let the person serving know you do not want any more coffee, you shake the glass slightly when you hand it back to them.   julia 2

Coffee is almost always served when guests come over. It can be an important part in the marriage process that I described above. When the families meet a second time, the family hosting will pour the other family cups of coffee. If the coffee doesn’t have any sugar in it, then it means they do not want their son or daughter to marry into that family. They will reject the marriage proposal without even saying any words! Do you have a cool story about coffee?

Why does the community have this tradition?

This tradition originated in Jordan with the Bedouins. They settled in this area when it was part of the Fertile Crescent. Have you learned about the Fertile Crescent in history class? It was a period in time when this region had an excellent climate for growing many fruits and vegetables.

Remembering where you came from and who you ancestors are is really important in Jordan and throughout the Middle East. It allows the current community to feel connected with their past. The connection between Bedouin history and today’s coffee drinking is a way they can feel connected!

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Coffee is also important because it is how someone can show they respect you. The way it is served is very specific. If the process is followed correctly, the host respects the guests. Remember, the guests also must drink the coffee a specific way. That is how they show their respect to the host. Drinking too many cups of coffee will show that you are greedy. How do you show your respect to others ?


Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

Although I have not found any coffee beans growing in present-day Jordan, the tradition of serving coffee is connected to the environment. The Bedouins live in the desert or non-city areas. Whenever someone stops by, they serve them coffee. They also drink coffee year-round, even when it is hot outside. Since the Bedouins work outside almost all day, they take coffee breaks to give their bodies rest. Coffee is a relaxing tradition and is enjoyed all over the world.



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