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.
@WeAreQatar Okay, so how did you meet your wife?
— Nicola Ellegaard (@banafsaji) December 12, 2013
As I usually say, Qatari families are quite different, and the rules of engagement (pun intended) vary. They also change in time, they were a bit different when I got married. The main commonality is that it’s not only between a man and a woman, it’s mostly between two families.
In some families it’s ok for a man to say I want to marry this woman, I know her and I think she would be good. In others, it’s the man’s mother and sisters who look for a wife… In some families they get to see each other before the engagement, in others, they only get to do that on their wedding night (it’s always a night).
I was born outside Qatar, my father was a diplomat and I had lived most of my life as a Qatari expat. I didn’t have any “experience” with women because that was the way I was raised: respect, treat well, and stop there.
When I was around 21 years old, I was a university student and I faced my father. I wanted to try to push him to agree that I get married… When he agreed in principle, my mother started searching and speaking to women about their daughters.
My aunt (one of 17) suggested a family but thought they would never agree since she tried to get their daughter for her son and they refused.
My mother pushed the house bell and was greeted and asked to come in, she was welcomed by a 17 year old girl who led her into their majlis, gave her coffee, tea, and some cookies. The girl then told her that her mother was out and will come back by sunset. (That was my wife).
My mother told me that she visited their house and that there was a girl that she thought was the one my aunt told her about, she liked that she looked like she would be a good housewife, she still wanted to test her more.
My mother asked about her school, and found out that she knew the social advisor, called her and agreed to come to that school. My mother sat on a chair, and the social advisor requested the girl by name… My mother smiled when it was the same girl. The social advisor created a story “your grades are a little low”, “I know you can do better” … She cried.
My mother came to me and said I know this girl would be a good fit. Inshallah her mother agrees that you marry her daughter (her father was deceased). My mother called their home number and asked her mother for a visit. She took my sisters with her and they requested her daughter… “We’ll be back with an answer”…
Her mother agreed, not all of her brothers were sure it would work… Then it was agreed… They called back: “The men can come”.