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Maghboor: A Little Light Rant Against Oman’s Dowry System

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Only Dhofaris would understand what this post is about just by reading the title. A slight warning, this post is a mini-rant, not an objective analysis of social customs.

In Dhofar, the word ‘Maghboor’ مغبور or ‘Maghbair’ مغبير is a term that every man has to live with… every month from the moment his friends start to get married till the day he dies.

As many of you know from my previous posts about the south of Oman, Dhofari weddings are quite an event. A typical scenario will involve a young man telling his mother he wants to get married. She will turn on her ‘bride radar’ and get to work (along with all the aunts and sisters) to find a suitable bride. She will start visiting relatives with eligible daughters. She will attend more and more weddings of distant relatives just to see how the unmarried girls look like in dresses. Naturally, unmarried girls spend ages preparing for weddings anyway in order to catch the attention of future mothers-in-law.

Once the bride has been chosen, the mother and aunts will make contact with the prospective bride’s mother and aunts. The women will work it all out between themselves and then the men will finally be informed. The groom’s father or uncle (or the groom himself) will call the prospective bride’s father to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The father will graciously tell him that he has to ask his daughter. Both parties pretend the women haven’t figured out all the logistics beforehand. Father asks daughter, she agrees, a dowry and wedding date is set, then the son goes back to his father to figure out expenses.

Now … this brings us to the Maghboor part. Assuming the girl’s father asked for a dowry of OMR 6000, and it will cost the son perhaps OMR 10,000 to set up his ‘room’ and fix some things in the house(decoration, fancy hideous furniture, perfume cupboard stocked with the world’s most expensive bukhoor, etc, etc). Add on the actual wedding expenses which usually involve renting a hotel ballroom  for 400 women … that’s around OMR 4000. Then the men’s wedding involves slaughtering a handful of innocent cows, drinks, halwa, coffee, tent, rice …. (meh… another OMR 6000).

Do the math. It’s about 26,000-30,000 Omani Rials. That’s what it costs to build a small house, buy three cars, or four bachelor degrees at Dhofar University. All so you can live in a little bedroom with a girl you don’t really know.

So how do they fund this? Well, …. that’s where the Maghboor comes in.

On the actual men’s wedding day (often a few days before the women’s wedding when the bride actually gets to see his dolled up wife for the first time), men from far and wide will come to the tent to congratulate the groom and pay the ‘maghboor’. Several hundred (or thousand) men will come to the men’s tent and after greeting the groom and his family will head to the table where a man (usually a relative) sits with a big blue notebook and a box. A guest will pay anything from OMR 10 to two or three hundred rials, and the book-keeper will put the man’s name down and the amount next to his name. By the end of the day, the groom sometimes ends up with anything from OMR 5000 to 20,000 cash paid by all his relatives and friends. That ends up covering most of the wedding costs. Distant relatives will pay around 20 rials. Close relatives will pay 100 each usually.

Awesome system, right?

Maybe not.

Sometimes I think it’s a great social investment… but then again, you keep that darned blue book in your home forever and ever. Whenever any of the people who paid towards your wedding get married (or their sons or cousins or whoever), you have to go to their weddings and pay the same amount they paid towards you or more. It’s all fine and dandy until you end up having to attend weddings every single month. It ends up being like a life-long loan towards society.

A friend of mine had to go to SIX WEDDINGS last week. He spent 400 rials in one day paying towards weddings. He’s only 28. Is it fair? Is it worth it?

Even stranger, some town tribes do the same with women. Women hand money over to the mothers of the groom at the women’s wedding.

All this money being passed around each month. Everyone in debt. Everyone struggling to keep up with these traditions. But stop for a minute and think about our friend the groom who spent all that money but all he has left is a little bedroom with a set of furniture and hideous décor (and a wife on the side). No everyone gets enough Maghboor to cover a large chunk of the weddings expenses. Someone I know spent 35,000 rials on his marriage but only got OMR 8000 out of the men on the wedding day.

Is this system logical anymore? If I were a man spending 26,000 on a wedding, I’d invest it in something that will last (like a home….. or a honeymoon?). Oh, I forgot the honeymoon. If a groom decides to take his wife to the usual spots (Thailand or Malaysia) then that adds even more expenses.

All the girl has to do is receive her dowry, spend it on things she doesn’t need to impress people she doesn’t even know. Thobes, abayas, gold, perfueme , bukhoor, etc. She then has to spend months oiling and dolling herself up for her ‘husband’. That’s all she does.

Somewhere in there is a lot of unfairness and a lot of  illogical expectations. If everyone in Salalah were to secretly vote on this, I’m willing to bet they’re all ready to ditch these traditions. Times are hard, life is more expensive, and its just not feasible anymore to keep up with these traditions. Men spend an average of anything from 100 to 1000 a month on weddings. Surely that money could go somewhere better? Savings perhaps?

The reason I’m ranting is because I was made to pay towards a wedding of some distant relative because it was ‘duty’. I’ve never even met this relative and never even went to the wedding.

Your thoughts?

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