One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In Iraq: a guest house; a reception room; (specifically among the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq) such a building or room constructed of woven reeds.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in Charles Doughty (1843–1926), explorer, travel writer, and poet. From Arabic muḍīf, either lit. ‘host’ (elliptically for dār (or bayt) al-muḍīf house (or apartment) of the host), or perhaps colloquial form or pronunciation of maḍīf place for staying as a guest, both ultimately from ḍāfa to stay as a guest.
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