When does a child become an adult?

March 14th, 2014 3 comments

Cindi Kennaley asked me on the post Questions Expats in Qatar never ask me … “#3 When do you consider a child an adult?”

I will start this by answering another related question… ;)

What does it mean when somebody is an adult?

In many countries it’s when you can drink, or watch pr0n, or do some things… Basically a child cannot do some things until they are considered an adult… They regulate it by age, 16, 18, 21 … depending on the “thing” and the country.

In Qatari culture, it comes directly from Islam: it’s not what you are allowed to do, being an adult is bearing more responsibilities, a child isn’t responsible for what they do, if they don’t pray, don’t fast, lie, cheat, god wouldn’t punish them (the responsibility of the parents would be to teach them to do the right thing)… When one reaches puberty they are adult, they are responsible for everything they do or don’t do: prayer, fasting, telling the truth, marriage/establishing a family, hajj … it’s endless.

Well, it isn’t by age, puberty is the main thing.

For Girls

It’s much simpler than boys: the first period is the defining moment, she’s immediately adult… She’s not a girl anymore, she’s a woman.

For Boys

We have to notice multiple factors: morning erections, they start looking at women differently… Hey, you’re a man!

In our culture, we don’t leave our parents’ house until we really have to, we don’t leave them when we’re a specific age…

I have 3 “adult” children, two girls (currently 17 and 14) became adults when they were around 10, my 11-year old son is a man… Their grandmothers got married at ages 13 and 15, they both had their first child in the first year (My mother was 16 when I was born).

Here’s a pdf file containing the English translation of a booklet related to this topic: O My Child! You’ve Become an Adult

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How I got married – part 5

December 23rd, 2013 1 comment

As I am curating the twitter user @weareqatar , I get some questions that aren’t easy to answer in 140 characters or less, so I’m replying here and linking there.

The women’s wedding

The women’s part of the wedding started much later than the men’s part, they lots of sweets, cupcakes, Arabic coffee, tea, tea with milk, tea with mint, cappuccino, latte, … and a buffet dinner.

They got a call, “The men are here”. All of the women, except for my wife covered up.

We waited near the entrance, then her brother said we’re clear to go in.

3 people went in her brother, my father, and I. We walked through a long corridor and a set of doors were opened, lots of women in black were looking at me, and I was trying to ignore them by looking at the floor.

After a few weeks of not seeing her at all, I was startled by the way she looked in the wedding dress, she was smiling, and got up, kissed my father’s head, and greeted her brother. He left the hall. My mother and sisters were able to uncover and we took some photos together…

Some juice and cookies were presented and we both shared a “mixed cocktail” juice… I felt so unsure as I thought lots of women were looking at me…

I told her we needed to go, got up, and took her hand.

Arrangements had to be made for our exit as her brother would be driving us back to their house. We went with an old tradition of the groom staying in the bride’s parents’ house for 3 nights (We took a flight to our honeymoon on the 3rd night).

We arrived at their house, I entered an area for the first time. On my left were the stairs going up… We went to her newly redecorated room, and the Filipina photographer kept taking photos… one more! one more!

The doors were locked and we were finally alone… 9 months later (to the day), we had our first daughter.

This ends this part of the story, that was in 1996, our story continues, but I’ll stop here for now


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How I got married – part 4

December 18th, 2013 1 comment

As I am curating the twitter user @weareqatar , I get some questions that aren’t easy to answer in 140 characters or less, so I’m replying here and linking there.

That question was answered in the previous parts, but I continue the story.

The men’s wedding

I got up early that morning anticipating that night, as you may know we don’t organize afternoon weddings.

I soaked myself in a hot bubble bath for almost an hour (something I don’t usually do, I prefer quick showers). I went out to the hairdresser got a haircut, a shave, lots of masks, paraffin wax, manicure, pedicure …

The road near my parents’ house was blocked (with Approval from MOI/Municipality), and a big tent was laid there, with lights, carpets, lots of sofas and chairs, porta-toilets, hand washing area, a large fridge for the soft drinks…

I just sat there on the center sofa, people started coming… With every person (man) coming in, I’d get up, and greet them… My father came ad sat on my left, people would congratulate him first. Arabic Coffee, red tea, dates, the usual things men share when they sit together, lots of chatting, lots of unrelated stories… My friends, My father’s friends, people we didn’t know, hundreds of men came by… People coming in, and going out.

When it was time for the evening prayer, the call was raised and we all got up and prayed together.

Dinner was served, 12 big plates of rice with 12 sheep on them, lots of soft drinks, salad, yoghurt, … a very traditional feast’s meal. (I couldn’t sit while people were eating, and I didn’t feel like eating, my mind was somewhere else, so I faked eating )

I was looking at the time, I wasn’t supposed to move to the women’s wedding before 11pm, I had to delay it as much as I could.

At around 10, the guys all got up and wanted to go, I had a car waiting to take me and my father. One of my friends was driving. A convoy of cars started slowly going towards the hotel, with orange flashing lights and horns blowing.

Lots of LandCruisers, lots of German cars, and many others followed. Some LandCruisers were leading the convoy, entering every roundabout (Doha only had roundabouts, no traffic signals), blocking it, and leaving way for my car to pass through. A simple hand signal to the LandCruisers was enough to go through the corniche for a second time…

We arrived at the hotel at around 11:15, her brothers were in the entrance waiting for us. I thanked all the people in the cars and told them they can go now, some went back to the tent… as a convoy, honking their horns…

Her brother told us to wait.

(yes, there’s a final part 5, follow @osamaalassiry for more info).

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How I got married – Part 3

December 17th, 2013 No comments

As I am curating the twitter user @weareqatar , I get some questions that aren’t easy to answer in 140 characters or less, so I’m replying here and linking there.

The long wait… Officially married, never seen her, never heard her voice… I was so anxious to do any of those…

Every family has different “rules”, I know some people who only saw their spouses on their wedding night, and others who were more liberal.

How strict are they? Can I call her? Can I see her? We already sent her the dowry (more than QR1000), some gifts, … but what’s next?

After two weeks it was clear I could call their home number and speak to her, so I did that.

We started talking, agreeing on so many things, … Some calls went on and on for hours… Love at first sound? I was hoping to see her…

After a while, I was allowed to visit, her mother was sitting on a sofa next to us … I finally met her… (replies to the question, but I’ll continue the story).

Visits continued for a while, and then we agreed on a wedding date.

For two or three weeks before the wedding, the visits were not allowed anymore.

“you’ll see her in your wedding!”

(part 4 coming soon)

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How I got married – Part 2

December 13th, 2013 No comments

As I am curating the twitter user @weareqatar , I get some questions that aren’t easy to answer in 140 characters or less, so I’m replying here and linking there.

“The men can come” … When I heard this sentence I was so happy. We agreed on a Thursday.

My father and I went to their house (I drove his car), and were greeted by her uncle (maternal), and some of her brothers.

In their majlis we went through the usual Arabic coffee, tea, greetings, how are yous… The TV was muted and was showing a football game.

After a while, my father requested her hand for his son (me)… Her uncle said they’d be honored.

In some families, the bride’s family requests a specific amount to be paid to her as a dowry, in our tribe this is not an accepted practice (the bride’s family wouldn’t want to be seen as gold-diggers, and they usually get higher amounts this way).

We continued drinking tea, and discussed many unrelated things. When we were ready to leave, they brought in some oud incense … The traditional saying no staying after the oud applies.

That was the first step, now we’re engaged, but I haven’t seen her or heard her voice yet. I still wasn’t sure if she was asked and if she agreed (she was, and did).

Families/Tribes also differ in what happens after that, in some families he can call her on the home phone, in others he can see her (chaperoned), in others he can go out with her… in ours, it’s NOTHING until the contract is signed.

What’s this contract? It’s a marriage contract. We’d be officially married. Separation would be a divorce. And it’s only complete when the wedding party and consummation happens. (This is part of the reason why divorce rate is so high here, you’re married during courtship – not even “dating” )

We ( our mothers,  my father, and I ) agreed later on a contract date. The contract requires the presence of the groom, the bride’s guardian (father, or paternal uncle, or brother, or maternal uncle in that order), and witnesses. It can be signed at the marriage court, or one can bring the registrar (maathoon/mazoon – I prefer to use English words) to their house.

We called one of the registrar and described the house. I drove my father there again. Usual protocols applied, coffee, tea, greetings, …

When the registrar came in, he asked for the groom, the spouse’s guardian, and witnesses. He took our ID cards and requested the bride’s ID card. He asked about the dowry amount and her uncle said nothing. The registrar said it can’t be nothing, he suggested to write QR1000, and anything more than that would be a non-binding gift. (Most families send a few hundred thousand riyals)

The registrar needed to be sure that she agreed, so he asked to hear her approve, even if it was behind a door or window.

While we were all sitting in the majlis,  she was behind a door, and the registrar stood on the other side of the door with her brother. He verified her name, and asked if she agreed to marry me. He cited both our names in the ID cards with many ancestors.

They both came back and said we can continue if I approve of her condition: “to allow her to continue studying”, I approved. Both the groom and guardian needed to recite a specific approval text, the registrar read and we repeated.

I signed, her brother signed, then the witnesses did the same. We were officially married.


The long wait comes next…

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