Seeing as how today is Valentine’s Day (and I’m sitting here eating a bag of conversation hearts lovingly sent from Wisconsin), I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about love, romance, and dating… Omani style!
The funny thing is that the phrase ‘Omani dating’ is a bit of an oxymoron. Despite blatant westernization on many fronts, there is still, as I’ll reiterate a very prominent Muslim culture here. And Islamic traditions are seen most prominently, I think, in how people manage their love lives.
Traditionally, marriage goes through the parents. Marriage is based, like so much else, on reputation. Marriage is generally kept within your tribe (though this is changing in today’s capitol region). Usually, the boy and girl know each other beforehand and on some level arrange it, but the boy’s family has to approach the girl’s with an offer.
As a wedding contract, the groom traditionally has to give the bride a sum of money that is for her personal use—no one else can touch that. It can be spent on anything or saved. Generally, it is between 2,000 and 10,000 RO ($5,200- $26,000), though this can be higher or lower depending on the families in question.
More traditional Omani views to love remind me of advice that Charlotte Bronte gave a friend of hers in a letter. She advised her that marriage is a contract, and two married people will grow to love each other after a year or two of marriage. I think that these sentiments are somewhat typical here, because marriage is a contract between two people, two families.
In the case of divorce, which is uncommon but not unheard of, the courts, like all civil courts, are ruled by Sharia Law, or Islamic law, and this determines how estates are split up and where the children go.
While, on some level, dating does take place among the younger set, it’s kept on the down-low. Very down-low. And quite a bit of it tends to be done in complete secret. Also, I’ve noticed that “having a boyfriend/girlfriend” often actually refers to chatting on Blackberry Messenger but not actually seeing each other in public, ever. I think a lot of teenagers maybe do experiment with this, but it also is typical for them to then eventually stick to the traditional methods of marriage.
Happy Valentines/ Single Awareness day to you all!
Also, I would just like to thank everyone who voted in the lexiophiles blogger contest—I received 7th place! You can check out the other blogs here.