Connecting Over Tea

Any visitor to the Saharawi camps will have been invited to share in at least several rounds of traditional Saharawi tea before they leave. In fact, this tradition expresses much of what the Saharawi people value and what visitors experience when they enter their home.

Some of these values that have stood out to me recently while discussing tea with my Saharawi friends are family bonding, staying connected with their local community, and sacrificially loving those around them.

Making tea together, several times a day, is something that really brings the Saharawi family together. Many people’s fondest memories with their families are centered around a tea table where they start and end their days together, as well as reunite throughout the day. One friend told me a heartwarming story about when she first learned to make tea. She was in middle school when her dad requested that she try to make it. He showed her each step, encouraging her along the way. He continually praised how good her tea was, even though she knew that it wasn’t! Another friend reminisced about chilly winter evenings and how her whole family would gather in the tent to share about their days while their late father made ‘kandra,’ a spiced, milky version of the tea that is common in the colder months. 

Tea is not just reserved for family members to gather, though, and is a way to bring their extended communities together as well. Most news is shared over tea, and it’s how people know about neighbors lives, extended family weddings and births, and anything else they need to catch up on. Whether family-related events or even big government meetings – tea is an essential component of sharing the news.

Lastly, tea is a way for Saharawis to express sacrificial love to one another and putting relationships over individual desires and plans. As many friends have shared with me over the years, they often make tea for their families even when they don’t want any. Even on busy days, a Saharawi family will make sure that someone is there to make tea for any guest who might come by, because investing in that relationship is always considered more important than tasks that need to be done.

Post By: Heather Jost, January 13, 2020 

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