Social life in Afghanistan centered around
the extended family and visiting was common both among men and women; many affluent homes
had special facilities for guests and it was the women's duty to ensure that guests were
comfortable and as well fed as the household could afford.
Hospitality is sacred in the Afghan code
of honour. It is a privilage and an honor to serve the best possible food to guests.
The meal is the best for guests even if other members of the family have to go
without. A guest is always given a seat or the place of honour at the head of the room.
Tea or Chai with cardamom or Green tea is served first to the guest to quench his thirst.
While he is drinking and chatting with his host, all the women and girls of the household
are involved in the preparation of food.
The traditional mode of eating in
Afghanistan is on the floor on Afghani carpets. This is a custom prevalent in many areas
of Pakistan and Northern India. Everyone sits around on large colourful cushions,
called toshak. At meal time a large sheet or thin mat called a dusterkhan is spread over
the carpet before the dishes of food are brought. In traditional Afghan hospitality, the
best meats are given to the guest. It is considered extremely impolite to refuse. Food is
usually shared on a platter; Four people will share one large platter of rice and
individual side dishes of stew qorma, or vegetables. Home made chutneys, pickles, as well
as fresh naun usually accompany the food.
The traditional way of eating is with the
right hand, and with no cutlery. Spoons may be used for puddings and teaspoons for tea.
Because hands are used in eating there is a handwashing ceremony before meals and for this
a special bowl and jug called a haftawa-wa-lagan is used. A young boy or girl member of
the family brings this to the guest, and pours the water over his hands for him, the bowl
being used to catch the water.