x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Holiday plans cancelled are a blessing for Arab wives

No holiday getaways for the menfolk this summer? That's fine with the women - mostly.

There is nothing like a poem from the romantic Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani to remind us that, even in the painful heat of summer, love can be nourished.

"In the summer, I stretch out on the shore. And think of you. Had I told the sea what I felt for you, it would have left its shores, its shells, its fish and followed me."

This summer, however, it's something less poetic that is bringing couples in the region together. As a recent BlackBerry message that has been making the rounds put it: "Wives are happy this summer as their husbands are staying home this vacation."

The Arab uprisings are at the heart of this love story, with its rippling effects still spreading across the region (including the latest unrest in Lebanon). Put simply, families who are from the Arab Spring countries will be staying put in the UAE this summer. And that means more time for family.

"This is one of the best summers" in a long time, one of my Emirati friends told me recently. She, like many Arab women, would get annoyed at what she called "buddy bonding" - guys-only trips to places like Lebanon. "My husband will not be going with his male friends to Lebanon and I feel so happy about it."

The husband was quick to reply: "Well, if you want mountains, Lebanon has them. If you want beach, Lebanon has it. And it doesn't hurt that wherever you look, you see beautiful women. A bonus for the eyes."

In retaliation, the wife said she will be heading to Sweden this summer.

It is the norm for many couples that when the wife and children return to her side of the family, the men tend to go in groups to places like Lebanon, Syria, Egypt or Morocco.

I know for a fact this causes lots of hurt feelings among wives. When women ask their husbands to stay home, the result is lots of arguing and general hurt. People can deny it as much as they want but this kind of debate happens often within families here, and not just in Gulf and Arab families.

This year is especially sensitive. There is a stereotypical fear that is going around, that every woman in a turbulent country is looking to take a husband in order to get out of their country. It is of course a generalisation and not all women even want husbands, me included. But there is always some truth to stereotypes.

Of course, it's not only men who cause consternation when they head out of town for extended holidays with the guys. When the wife and children go away it can also be depressing for husbands who must stay behind to work and earn a living for loved ones.

Since many women can't go home to visit families if their home happens to be in a country where unrest continues - Syria, for instance, or Libya - they will be staying here with their husbands this year.

But all of this - cancelled holidays for both men and women - could be a blessing in disguise this year. That's because the summer of 2012 in the UAE will be the perfect opportunity for couples that are usually separated for a few months to rekindle their relationships, and to find ways to amuse and entertain each other with what is around.

There are lots of things to do here if you are willing to go beyond the obvious shopping malls and restaurants. There are beaches and mountains - go visit them in the early morning hours if it's too hot during the rest of the day. Then spend the afternoon exploring the archaeological sites and museums, talking to people in the old villages or just simply rediscovering your own home.

If you are looking for something strange, there is a myth that says that during the hotter parts of the summer, known as Al Qaiz, you may see unique mirages, some in the shape of "headless" camels and donkeys - called "hemar al qaynah" - wandering about in the desert. And as everyone knows, the best way to make sense of the strangeness of life is to observe it in pairs.



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