x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Ali Column: My guide to a good, modern marriage

One of the current hot topics in the UAE is marriage. In our culture, matrimony is a very sensitive subject. This is because there are different Emirati tribes that have different opinions about life, and often these differences can turn into heated debates between family members.

One of the current hot topics in the UAE is marriage. In our culture, matrimony is a very sensitive subject. This is because there are different Emirati tribes that have different opinions about life, and often these differences can turn into heated debates between family members.

In general, getting married the Emirati way belongs to the traditions that we like to hold onto and means that an Emirati man usually marries an Emirati woman and the family members agree to it. In this context, you have to understand that, as an Emirati, you are actually marrying into a new family and this is what makes the union of your own family even bigger. By the way, this is different from the "arranged" marriage; we refer to this as the "recommended" marriage.

For outsiders, this kind of marriage might seem odd, but by keeping to that tradition we actually show how much we honour and respect our elders. The only sad part about it is that, while the social pressure is weighted heavily on the parents to get their child married in order to be "a good wife" or a "good husband," it is increasingly the younger generations who suffer and feel forced into entering such a marriage, which is often limited to social status, wealth and reputation. At the same time, this only intensifies the generation gap. Such tensions lead to a lot of challenges for the family structures within our society.

However, there are many other changes when it comes to getting married in the UAE.

Let me tell you why more Emiratis are turning towards a more modern way of finding a spouse and getting married. For one thing, most of the Emiratis of my generation have lived among mixed cultures in the UAE already and mingle with international people more than their parents did. They also travel and have received their education overseas.

Therefore, this association with people from other cultures has shaped them and maybe has even changed how they perceive our cultural values. Another major aspect is the fact that women are pursuing their careers, becoming more independent and see juggling family and a career as a real possibility. This naturally has implications for gender roles and marriages.

Many young people nowadays would rather decide for themselves who they want to marry, but another problem is that some young people don't want to go against what their parents want, as well as the cultural traditions that they grew up in.

So, what does it mean to hold onto traditions but simultaneously want to live a modern lifestyle? Culturally speaking, this mutual combination suggests that our culture is still homogeneous when it comes to certain issues that affect the family because our family is so dear to us and everything that has to do with family is the greatest priority to us after God. See, our country doesn't mind being heterogeneous as long as our families stay together and are happy. Heterogeneity makes our culture blossom.

Without it we would have a completely different lifestyle and a different understanding of freedom of choice for both men and women than we have now.