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Archive for November, 2009

Today I wanted to talk about marrying for love and its (almost) non-existence in arranged marriages. When I wrote my post on arranged marriages, I didn’t talk about how we (as Omanis) view love in marriage.

This topic has been in my mind for a while. Many people in the US have asked me about love and the idea of its non-existence in arranged marriages. I have tried to explain, but it seems like I have failed. However, one day, my American friend explained it so well to her husband that I think I should share it with everyone. Maybe none of you will accept it, but I hope you will understand it. After all, we do come from different cultures.

My post is triggered by Devils Advocate response to my post in Muscat Confidential’s blog. DA said:

“Whenever this topic is raised it seems to miss the point. Whilst I respect the culture of an arranged marriage what cannot be arranged is love!

The idea of spending ones’s life with someone where there is little or no love (not all arrangements are as described!).

Then we have the second, third and now rare the fourth marriages. Why are they not arranged? Why are so many Omani women seeking ex-pats? It’s not for sex!

A subject more complex and in depth than is portrayed; lets got there!”

Now, I understand that LOVE is the major reason why many Westerners marry. We do not view our men as our “significant others” and we do not view ourselves as “one“. Those terms do not exist in our society. The way we grew up is that a man comes second, and the family comes first. We do not fight to marry someone simply because we “love” them and the idea of it is immature and childish.

In this society, a woman’s backbone is not her husband, it’s her male relatives. We grew up to believe that if we are harmed in any way shape or form by our husbands, then the police are not the ones to deal with it, it’s our male relatives. They will fight for us, and they will kick the guy’s ass if he touches us.

I know many girls that do not marry the ones they love because they fear. Yes, it’s FEAR. Fear from divorce, fear from getting hurt, and fear from finding out that your loved one married another woman. It’s fear that keeps us from seeking love and we accept an arranged marriage because if any of the above happens, then we have our families to fall on to. If we went against their wishes, then we have to take responsibility for the consequences alone. That, my friends, is not fun especially when the law in this country does not give as much rights to women as it does in the US. No, she does not get half of what her & her husband worked for. If they have assets under his name, then no matter how much she contributed to it she gets… none.

She becomes… broke.

Also, the stigma that attaches itself to the word “divorced” makes us fear and question our own feelings. “Do we really love this person? Or are we just blinded by love?” we ask ourselves. “What if this love ends?” and that is when we start to freak out. So we chose not to follow love. Some of my friends were in some relationships, and once a new guy knocks on the door (arranged marriage way), the girl ignores her lover and marries the new guy.

Personally, (and I’m the “westernized Omani” in the family) I will not marry a guy because I love him. That, to me, is secondary. Compatibility comes first, and if I ever find myself in a situation where I would fight to marry a guy, then I will not do it only because I love him. Of course love needs to be there for me to spend my energy on fighting, but I will only do it if I BELIEVE that the person is absolutely compatible with me.

So yes DA, love cannot be arranged. Yet, in this culture, love comes second. Respect and honor are valued more. You might not be able to comprehend it, but that is because you do not belong to this culture. You are an observer and you are judging through what you find or do not find acceptable. And I am not talking about the bad kind of arranged marriages where a woman is forced to marry someone she does not know. I am talking about the more practiced kind of arranged marriage: where the woman has the choice to say “yes” or “no”. As an Omani woman, I do not condone arranged marriages if it is what some women here want.

And no, women here do not seek ex-pats for love. Some do, and many do not. Ex-pats are neither better nor worse. They are just different. They offer different values and meet different needs. Some women want that and some don’t. You cannot guarantee the success of a marriage from an ex-pat as much as you cannot guarantee it from a traditional Omani guy.

Hope this makes any sense to you all!

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In general, an arranged marriage in Oman (mostly towns around Muscat) is not as bad as it sounds. When the guy proposes to a girl (whether it’s because he saw her and liked her, or his female relatives suggested her to him), he gets to see her before the engagement. They see each other and talk. Many end up texting or calling each other.

During this time (which can take a week or months), both of them have the opportunity to decide whether they want to be together or not. However, there are two types of arranged marriages. One is a fake-arranged marriage, and the other is, well, an arranged marriage. The fake one is where the two have a secret relationship, but keep their parents out of it. This way the father will “always” be proud that he married his daughter off in a pure arranged marriage!

Think of it like this: in the West, some of you have moms and dads that like to introduce suitable partners (like match-making). Some of you hate it, and others don’t mind it! It’s the same idea, but we have protocol to follow or else….gossip!

I think these two types of arranged marriages are acceptable, and they usually are successful. However, I do not think it is “suitable” anymore to have a pure arranged marriage where the two never see or talk to each other until their wedding night. I know many girls that struggle, and I think that it has a lesser success rate. This type of arranged marriages is mostly common in Northern and Southern parts of Oman

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This post is in reference to Muscat Confidential’s post on Oman and Vodoo.

Witchcraft in Oman is popular. I know many people that fear coming to Oman for this specific reason, and others come for it too. Now, what you guys do not know is that there are two very distinct types of witchcraft in Oman. The first is called a Saher (Witch), and the second is called Qaher Al Jinn (The Jinn’s Conqueror) … The difference is that the witch (evil) uses Satan’s power, and the conqueror (good) uses the Muslim Jinn’s power.

Alright, here is a guide on how you can become a witch and a conqueror in Oman… Not Kidding!

Al Saher

To be a witch, you need to be cold blooded and evil (obviously). Once you decide that you are ready, you prepare a feast. Now, to become part of the witchcraft assembly in Oman, you need to sacrifice a relative. The closer in blood the relative is the better. Sometimes other witches choose which one you have to sacrifice, and they usually chose the one you love most: your favorite son, niece, cousin …etc.

However, as all sacrifices go, the person you are presenting to Satan MUST have complete organs and with no disabilities. So you can’t cheat and bring your dying or handicapped son (lucky them ha!). I heard about a witch that didn’t want to sacrifice his son, so he gouged his son’s eye out! (don’t be shocked, he is protecting his son).

So, usually the ritual happens in an area where witches gather. Mostly, it is a dirty and a haunted-like place where all sorts of dirty creatures live. They make a circle on the floor and the witches gather around it. The new witch hops in and out of that circle while chanting. I’m not sure what they chant, but I’ve heard that the newcomer is supposed to chant some passages from the Quran in the opposite direction. So instead of saying..  God is Great, it would come out as taerG si doG… then Satan appears and starts doing tricks and whatever.. the sacrificed son is brought all chopped up, and all the witches join and eat like hungry animals.

The new witch now has a life time membership to the witch community in Oman and will be Satan’s servant who in turn will give him powers to turning people into Zombies.

Qaher Al Jinn

To be a Jinn’s conqueror, you have to have a LOT of faith in God and you need to be a really good Muslim. This takes a lot of preparation and meditation. Once you are ready, you take a book (I think it is called the book of al-Ghazali). I have heard that this book is banned in Oman, but that it secretly circulates in some places.

You would want to sit in a room.. alone. You start reading the first few pages of the book and two Jinns appear. You must not be distracted and the Jinn’s job is to do just that. They play tricks on you, such as make scary noises, and the more you read, the more you need to endure. Fire will start appearing and the walls will start falling. Now, this is only the beginning, and the more you read the harder it will be, which is why you need to have a lot of faith.

The consequence for not being well prepared is that will just lose your mind. You will end up being a crazy person. If you succeed; however, the Jinn will respect and serve you. Now, of course they will serve you with limitations. And no, this kind you don’t get zombies.. You might have the Jinn living with you and serving you. There are some Forts in Oman that till today, no one knows who built them or parts of them. The theory goes that some of the Imam’s of Oman were Jinn’s Conquerors and used the jinn’s force to build these places.

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Female Circumcision in Oman

Female circumcision in the Gulf area is widely practiced, maybe not as popular anymore, but it has been practiced for centuries. Now, talking about this subject freely might have some stigma to it, and many expats wonder about it but are too polite to ask.

To make it clear, female circumcision in the Gulf is not the same as that practiced in some African regions where women’s external parts are all cut off leaving small openings. Also, it is neither required nor sought after in Islamic teachings. Female circumcision is a cultural aspect of the Middle East. When I asked some relatives about circumcision a few years ago, the explanation was that we live in a very hot weather climate, and the Arabic women usually have external vaginal parts that are larger than the normal size. The combination of hot weather, no underwear, and the large sizes made women uncomfortable or rather (frankly) aroused.

This explanation may sound naïve and unrealistic to many of you, but it is a valid reason to many here. Now, what is female circumcision in Oman and the Gulf region? As far as I know, circumcision varies from cutting parts of the clitoris to making a small cut that makes no impact (I guess the sight of bleeding = purification). I do not believe that there is a certain cultural event or a ritual that happens during the circumcision. Women just call a known lady to their houses when men are absent. She makes the cut, gets paid, and leaves.

Now, is female circumcision wrong? Yes, and the younger the generation gets, the more they are aware of the repercussions. The idea that circulates now-a-days is that female circumcision is the result of females’ inability to enjoy sexual activities with partners. Many mothers these days refuse to circumcise their daughters.

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Embarrassing People

Have you ever went to a place full of expats and you had one arrogant Omani guy who thinks that he is “special” and you just felt so embarrassed that you are in the same room and wearing an abaya?

Yes, Oman like any other Gulf/Arabic country is full of  wasta (I will use Nadia’s Def.: “Wasta is getting what you want in life when you don’t deserve it by using your social connections and the grapevine”). It goes to the extent where people are offended if you don’t let them slack off or give them a break when they mess up. This guy who happened to make me feel embarrassed, was giving an application to a woman at this place and didn’t have enough cash. Now, according to the policy, the lady cannot accept the application or keep it with her (pending) till this guy goes and gets the cash. He was insulted. Apparently he thought his old age look (around 50’s) gave him the right to demand a special treatment.

“For God’s sake, look at me!”, he argued, “look at me standing in front of you!, and you tell me you cannot accept the application!?”
The lady, very patiently, responded “I am not trying to disrespect you, but our policy does not allow me to accept your application”
He looked at her in disbelief and said, “Where is your SUPERVISOR!”… this word is usually said to scare who ever is working  from being fired or deployed, but the worker is an Oman woman and I’m sure she is not afraid of deployment!
She excused herself, went to her supervisor. During this time, this middle-aged guy (really, he didn’t look old) managed to scam the money out of a naive and well prepared Indian expat. Not just that! The Omani guy was arrogant about it too. After the Indian guy gave him the money, he said.. “I will pay you DOUBLE what you just gave me!”. He was loud and obnoxious! As if this Indian guy was getting a great DEAL out of this..

It was embarrassing to see.  The guy took the money, finished his application, and went to the bathroom. Later, he returned like nothing happened, sat down and waited for his name to be called.

This whole thing unfolded just like this Omani guy wanted: he got what he wanted the way he wanted.

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Okay, you read the title… don’t jump on my throat just yet!

As a Muslim the first thought that goes through my head every time any killing or bombing happens in any place, especially in a non-Muslim country,  is “Oh, God! Please don’t make him be a Muslim!“..

That is how it is for many of us Muslims in Oman or Muslims who live in the US. We dread it when the news reports these bombings or shootings because the first thing that is mentioned in these reports (if it is a Muslims guy) is Islam. “He is a Muslim US born”, “American citizen, with Arabic roots”! The focus changes from this man being a killer to a Muslim killer. His actions become a Muslim trait and that is just absurd!

It is also of concern how I go about to read in some posts or comments on the news websites and read what people have to say. Some think that Muslims leaders should issue an apology. Others still hate us for the 9/11 attacks and are still resentful because the Muslim countries did not issue a formal apology. Now let me see.. Does the Pope apologizes for every Christian murderer out there? I mean common! so NO! We will not apologies for every Muslim that decides to kill people. They do not represent us nor are they related to us in any way! I shall not feel guilty but sad for the loss of those lives in such a horrific incident. My heart goes for their families, and I am sorry this happened to them. I am not sorry because he is a Muslim and I should not feel guilty for being one either.

I am a good person and a Muslim too. I would not hurt anyone be they are Christians, Jews, Hindus…etc. I respect others and only ask for the same. And here, I ask that I am not judged based on some person’s actions who is on the other side of the planet that the only thing he shares with me is a religion.

 

 

 

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