The two Season Country
Life in the mountain villages has always been reduced to two seasons, the season of the sun, that of pastoral work and abundance, and the season of the cold, self- deprivation and rest. In November, the peasant had finished working in his field. He had stocked the deadwood in the cellar, killed the sheep and preserved its meat, arranged the provisions in all the corners of the house. He was then ready to face the winter. Three or four months of cold will confine people within the limits of their village. Nothing really important would occur. Social life started.
Neighbors met in houses to take part in the distractions. Men smoked and played the charts, sitting around the brazier, their legs crossed on plaits or sheepskins.
Women did not involve themselves in male conversations; they sat aside knitting and chatting while drinking mint tea. The elders proudly evoked stories of the past, the prowess of their ancestors who resisted various invading armies, etc.
The tube of a water pope circulated from mouth to mouth in a pleasant hospitability. One announced, from time to time, a poetic tournament evening, "Zajal", during which the assistance was divided in two groups each headed by one man. These "quawwals", drawing their inspiration from a small glass of "arak" embodied two rivals whose only weapons are a succession of improvisations following pre-established modes. The quawwals were accompanied by tambourine players and an excited assistance.
The audience complies with the rules of courtesy, and good mood is of rigueur.
The quawwals sung everyday pastoral life. These evenings often revealed poets of a talent above suspicion. Another kinds of verbal match consisted in reciting the greatest number of known proverbs. That gave place to long evenings where, from generation to generation, former practices remained vivid, just like the teachings of popular wisdom.