Like most people in the Middle East, Chaldeans tend to look dark, at least compared to Europeans. However, some are quite pale and there are a few with naturally blond or red hair.
The primary Chaldean language is Sureth, a modern form of Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. The Chaldeans also know Arabic, and some speak Kurdish and English as well.
Chaldeans prefer to use patrimonies instead of family names. If you ask one of our students for their last name, many will tell you their father's name. An Iraqi's full name as printed on Iraqi passports is First, Father's, Grandfather's, Family.
Chaldeans, like most everyone outside of the secular West, recognize that the family rather than the individual is the basic unit of society. Marriage and family are extremely important and divorce is rare. There are a lot of engagement parties and weddings here. I attended a Chaldean wedding reception, which I will have to recount in a later post.
My fellow teachers and I attend mass at the Cathedral called Mar Yusef (St. Joseph). The Chaldean liturgy is part of the Syriac family of liturgies and is conducted in Sureth. The men congregate at the front of the church while the women sit in the back. This segregation is strict in the men's area, but not in the women's, where the sexes mix but women predominate.
Reportedly, many Chaldeans do not attend Mass regularly, but strictly conform to other practices such as fasting. Like everywhere else in the world, there are some problems with formation in Kurdistan. Hopefully, the theology department at Mar Qardakh can help treat those problems.
The Cathedral in Ankawa as seen from the choir loft:
My time with the Chaldeans has been brief and my observations limited, but I have a great affection and admiration for these people. In the coming weeks, I hope to learn more, and share what I learn with you.