'Shewa Ghariba'

Traditional mourning ritual persists in Erbil village

ERBIL — In the Pir Dawood village near Erbil, the ancient tradition of “Shewa Ghariba”, or stranger’s meal, continues to be practiced.

During mourning, the community gathers to eat at the mosque, sharing meals prepared by villagers instead of the deceased’s family. This ensures the bereaved family is not burdened alone.

The practice, also known as “Shewi Prsa”, or funeral’s meal, was once common in many parts of Kurdistan, especially in villages. Recently, some villages have begun hiring caterers to prepare food for mourners instead of friends and family cooking at home and bringing the food to the mosque.

Historically, when someone died, community members would not provide space for the family to prepare meals. Each rural house would prepare food for two, three, or more people.

Elders suggest two interpretations of “Shewa Ghariba”: First, that meals are made from various sources, making their origins unclear or unknown; second, that it ensures the bereaved do not feel alone or stranger, signifying collective ownership of the mourning.

Tahseen Hassan, a resident of Pir Dawood, told 964media, “I remember this tradition in Pir Dawood since I was eight years old. It was common in most surrounding villages, and I have participated in it for over 65 years.”