Culture · Jordan · Journal · Picture Jordan

Receiving Condolences in Jordan

After we buried my cousin, her male close relatives rushed to the madafa (diwan/divan or guesthouse) to receive condolences. Because Jordan is a tribal nation, every tribe has at least one madafa. The bigger the tribe the more madafas (guesthouses) they have.

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The building of madafa or the guesthouse. The signage reads “Diwan Al Tubaishat.” 
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The madafa from the inside. The furniture alignment and the seating arrangement is the typical design of a madafa in Jordan. I took the picture before more people arrive. During such occasions, the madafa become packed with people. 

My cousin’s close relatives were the first to arrive. The next of kin make sure the madafa is clean and neat before the arrival of people who offer their condolences. People usually come in groups. Upon arrival, the group express their condolence to the next of kin then they sit. The group is then offered coffee and dates. Depending on how close an individual or a group to the deceased or to his/her next of kin they can stay between 15 minutes up to hours. The short visit is important for other groups to find place to sit. 

People who sit near each other’ chat in any topic nothing is off limit. Even laughing quietly is not frowned upon. 

The madafa stays open for three days, the period of mourning and receiving condolences. 

The women mourns and/or express their condolences at the deceased’s house also for three days. 

For three days, relatives bring enough food to the madafa and the house. In these three days, the house and the madafa are always full, maybe it meant to alleviate the shock for the deceased’s family.


4 thoughts on “Receiving Condolences in Jordan

  1. That is really interesting. I didn’t realize each tribe had its own guest house. Is the guest house in the center of the community? Does everyone in the tribe contribute to its upkeep? How many tribes are in your area?

    Thank you for explaining this custom to us. Some of it was familiar. I think the most unfamiliar part to me was that each tribe has a guest house (or more – I just reread the post) for this sort of thing. What else is the guest house used for?


    1. I am glad I wrote something interesting and new to you 🙂

      In Irbid city, there are about 20 tribes, more or less. In Irbid Governorate, the number of course is higher.

      I used the term guesthouse for madafa because I read it in someone’s dissertation. Now, after thinking about it, I prefer another English word but I am not sure what. Madafa is not a place for guests to sleep in. Although, in the old days maybe it used to host travelers or visitors sometimes.

      Anyway, madafa is a place (used to be a big tent and now a concrete building) the tribe’s male members gathers at. Madafa is a conference room for the tribe. One of the wealthy members of the tribe usually donates the land where madafa is to be build. The tribe’s men then donate money to build the madafa. The tribe assigns a small group to collect donations and the monthly payment from the men. The money is allocated for the upkeep and for occasions like when the tribe is expecting visitors, such the case of opening the madafa for receiving condolences. This helps alleviate the financial burden on the family who lost someone. The food, coffee, dates and water the madafa provides during these three days is paid by the madafa’s money, not the mourning family.

      The purpose of madafa is essential to the tribal system. It is where a tribe takes decisions for all aspect of life. For example, the men would meet at the madafa to discuss who to vote for in municipality election or parliament. In America, a candidate tries to visit and talk to different minorities (Hispanic, Asians,…). Here, a candidate visits different madafa to win the tribe approval.

      Madafa is also used for all sort of social gatherings and celebrations. Men for example gather there during Eid.

      The main reason why one tribe may have more than one madafa is conflict of interest. Sometimes two men from the same tribe want to run for an MP position or official office. Whom the tribe would agree to vote for. Unfortunately, many times this leads to splitting the tribe into two smaller ones with two madafa.

      The madafa has a bigger role than a conference room in the tribal system but explaining this needs more time and pages because one needs to understand the tribal system first.

      Hopefully, this helped give an idea about what madafa is used for 🙂


      1. Yes, that was a great explanation! almost as good as the initial post! 🙂 Madafa is kind of like a tribal man cave. Hahaha!

        So, now you need to describe more of the tribal system and how it works…when you have time, of course. 😉


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