Friday, April 07, 2006

Getting Married in Dubai

Farook invited me to morning tea. He said he wanted my opinion about his daughter, or, more specifically, about a young man who wants to marry her. Farook understands the professions of Bedu and Islamic Scholar, but he wants his daughter to marry someone with a profession that will actually generate revenue, and seemed to honestly appreciate my opinion. It is common here, of course, for someone to pretend to ask your opinion as a form of flattery. First they pretend to want your opinion, then you find out what they really want is your money, but Farook only asked me what I thought of pharmacists. I said they make very good money in the West.

He explained why he was asking.

'My daugher needs to get married. Our custom is, first I interview boy and father, while my wife interview mother. If we think this is good boy with good job from good family, then my daughter get to meet him three times. Islam says that a daughter who has not been married must not marry a man she has not met, so she must also see him, but first I must see if he will be good husband. This man pharmacist, he say he doctor, what that mean?'

'It means he's a pharmacist.' Obviously, the boy has one of the new Pharm. D. degrees, and it's what pharmacists call a doctorate, but it's only five years in the US, so it's not quite like a Ph.D., which usually takes at least 10 years at university, or an MD which takes 8 years at university, plus another four of internship and residency. Anyway, he's a pharmacist, and I have no idea what they make here.

'He could earn about US$80,000 in the US.'

'Very good. I must meet him and his family. Maybe then I let my daughter meet him. In Islam, must check that unmarried daughter has never been married. If she divorced or widow, follow a different procedure.'

Another friend tried to say that, in Egyptian villages, an old midwife examines the young girls to see if they are virgins. I said that, in Dubai, they also examine the girls. 'Yes, but not by an old midwife.' It's not clear to me how the test is done, but I'd guess the old midwife is used in Dubai. But perhaps in Dubai they use a middle-aged midwife, rather than an old one.

I guess my main point is that, for Farook's branch of Islam, virgin girls may not be forced into marriage. They may not get to date, but they do have a veto if the boy is not to their liking. I heard one girl refuse a boy because he was much too old for her (he was 29, she was 22), and much too short. And her family couldn't do anything.

I've heard about other sects of Islam where the girl is given no say in her husband. Come to think of it, that's a theme in Jane Austen, so I should say, I've heard that about some Christian sects as well. But not the mainstream UAE sect of Islam: the girl has full veto over any proposed husband. So, of course, do her parents, so she can't marry whomever she likes, but she can certainly refuse to marry anyone she does not like.

And so the UAE has a problem of unmarried Muslims: the girls all want husbands with the three heights: physical, fiscal, and social. Just like everywhere else. And most men are average height, with an average salary, and from an average family. The government blames the large number of single female Citizens on the fact that male Citizens prefer girls from poor countries who are happy to marry any old oil sheikh and don't care that he's short and (by UAE standards) not all that rich. Leaving the oil sheikhas spinsters. But, with plenty of money, the local women don't seem as bothered about it as the government seems to be.

4 Comments:

Blogger Axonsax said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:23 am  
Blogger Axonsax said...

"she can't marry whomever she likes"

in that one short statement; their whole argument is fucked!

Gotta feel sorry for 'em 'aint yers...

12:23 am  
Blogger GMJ said...

i dont know where you heard it from, but in the uae, national families dont really check for a girls virginity. no such thing.

take it from me :)

10:45 pm  
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