Habits and Customs
Most likely, everybody is familiar with the following collocation "in accordance with the rites of hospitality". In a sense it reflects one of the most ancient and highly valued customs that has survived to our time. In the older days, however, among the peoples of the Orient, including the Uzbeks, hospitality was a must in terms of life standards and morality.
On setting out on a journey, a traveler often found himself in hostile environment of nature. But what consoled him was the hope that in the nearest village and even in an isolated nomad's tent he will be provided with shelter, food and warmth.
To turn somebody down or to give him bad reception, which conflicts with the traditions, meant to disgrace the family, village, and clan. The tradition ordered to be hospitable even to an enemy. Not without reason the old ancient saying states "Hospitality is rated higher than courage". Nowadays the principles of hospitality turned into good and useful traditions that help people in their contacts and behavior. Some of these principles are expressed in aphoristic form "It is better to come in time than to come early", "He who invites somebody to dinner should take care about night accommodation too."
Very useful to know
There are a few social conventions that you should try to follow.
- Muslims consider the left hand unclean, and handling food with it at the table, especially in a private home and with communal dishes, can be off-putting. At a minimum, no-one raises food to the lips with the left hand. Try to accept cups and plates of food only with the right hand.
- Bread is considered sacred in Central Asia. Don't put it on the ground, turn it upside down or throw it away. If someone offers you tea in passing and you don't have time for it, they may offer you bread instead. It is polite to break off a piece and eat it, followed by the amin. If you arrive with bread at a table, break it up into several pieces for everyone to share.
- The dastarkhan is the central cloth laid on the floor, which acts as the dining table. Never put your foot on or step on it. Try to walk behind, not in front of people when leaving your place at the dastarkhan and don't step over any part of someone's body. Try not to point the sole of your shoe or foot at anyone as you sit on the floor. Don't eat after the amin. Amin signals thanks for and an end to the meal.
- Uzbek people usually have big families consisting of few generations. In such families respect towards elderly people is a tradition. Certain line of conduct is observed in the relations between men and women. Thus, salutation by shaking hands is permissible only between men. While shaking hands, as a rule, it is advisable to show interest in each other's health and personal progress. It is customary to greet women with light bow placing right hand over the heart.
- To turn down invitation to lunch or dinner or to be late for the one is considered to be rather impolite. Usually guests arrive with souvenirs for the hosts and sweets for children. On entering the house one should take off the footwear. According to the old tradition men and women should sit at different tables, but this tradition has full support only in the rural areas. The head of the family himself seats the guests, with the most respected guests being offered the seats furthest to the entrance. After the eldest among the present at the feast reads short praying for the hospitable home, the host offers his guests the traditional cup of tea followed by feast itself.
Makhalla in a sense is self-supporting organization which meets the urgent spiritual and bodily requirements of the citizens. Practically in each makhalla there functions choikhona - tea house, barber's shop, and frequently there is a mosque to serve the community. On Fridays, however, men visit a mosque to perform common praying "Juma namaz". For all that, makhalla is not just an association of mutual aid. The community plays a broad spectrum of roles, including those of supervisory and educative ones. Children in makhalla grow up under the supervision of the whole community and are brought up invariably in the spirit of respect and obedience to elderly people. Community also observes the ancient tradition of mutual aid - khashar. Many hands make light work. Thus, residents voluntarily and without payment help neighbors to build a house, to arrange a wedding party or commemorating osh, to improve conditions of the neighborhood.
Makhalla acts as an upholder of folk customs and traditions. Not without reason it can be said that a man is born and lives in makhalla, and when he dies makhalla administers the last rites for him.