x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Tradition of early marriages in UAE still holds appeal for some

Take our poll: Emiratis remain divided about whether early marriages are good, but most agree that education should be a woman's priority.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Fatima Amer was adamant she would not remarry after her first marriage ended within a few short months. It was the 1960s and she was 18.

She eventually did remarry, in her mid-20s. Her second husband, a cousin, was a regular visitor to her family home. She describes it as a “love marriage".

Today Fatima is strongly opposed to teenage marriages, which started to disappear from this area in the 1990s.

Her daughter Eidam Mussabah, however, married a man in his 40s when she was 14.

"It was normal for me," says Eidam, now 33 and in her second marriage.

"She was happy to get married only to get away from school," recalls Eidam’s sister-in-law, Amna Khalfan.

Eidam returned to her village, Lahzoom, a divorcee six years later. She had to leave her two children in the care of her husband and his first wife.

Eidam has since remarried and had three more children, but still believes an early marriage makes a strong marriage.

"Young is better" she says, so that the woman "has the energy to look after her children".

Her mother disagrees. "It's better if they wait. So they can know what they’re getting into."

Though there are still women in Ras Al Khaimah who get married while they are in high school, most choose to wait until they are older.

"It became more developed and we got exposed to more cultures and we got involved with others," said Manae Saeed, Fatima's grandson, 29.

"If I have daughters I want them to continue all their studies through college, I want them to work and then get married."

The family agrees that education should be a woman's priority.

Amna's father Mussabah Ali, in his 50s, said: "It doesn't matter if it is a man or a woman – without education you cannot survive."

azacharias@thenational.ae