Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dreaded Maghboor

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?


  1. Tribalism needs to die a horrible death. It just doesn't work anymore.

  2. These types of posts are always the best. We missed you

  3. 27,000 is around 52,800 Euros, I personally don't know anyone who spent in Europe so much for a wedding ...

  4. OMG, and I thought Pakistani weddings were crazy!
    The good thing is that Pakistan has made laws outlawing lavish DOWRY and crazy wedding parties.
    The bad thing is that no one really follows that law.
    On a positive note, my father has arranged a few nuptials in the family and when he is invited to the wedding (which is a must) the hosts and attendees know not to do anything crazy or face his wrath!

  5. please keep blogging love your posts and love learning about Oman

  6. Agree with above. A very well-written blog post. I say it time and time again. This is the type of stuff that should be blogged. Leave the car ads and the Barney promotion soul-selling to Sythe.

  7. Wonderful post. I think people really need to examine the whole obsession with weddings. In the Emirates people often get into debt because of their wedding, not a good way to start a marriage. Also, people often get divorced. So someone may spend close to $90,000 USD on a wedding then get a divorce a year later and still be paying for the wedding for a decade. Here also people spend a fortune on wedding party dresses and how it is important to wear a new dress to each wedding party. I think that this societal obsession won't die though because going to a wedding is part of limited extra curricular activities young women can go to. Many are forbidden to go to the mall or do any kind of sports activities and due to the boredom of sitting in the house all the time they spend hours obsessing over makeup, dresses and wedding parties. Perhaps...I am ranting a bit myself.

  8. I think the problem here is not of contributing expenses with the Groom (That's a good ritual anymore). Problem is of spending too much or SPENDING on unwanted things.

  9. I've heard about these traditions but not in this detail, it's so different north of the wall (Dakhiliya).I haven't had the experience yet but i guess it's much less expensive. bs if i had to pay more than 15000 on a wedding, i'd rather stay single. Maybe travel the world with the money.

    thnx for the wonderful blog. Keep it up!

  10. I like these local, cultural posts best

  11. Can't they just go to salalah for honeymoon?

  12. Sure beats scavenging in a Salalah dumpster to survive. What profligacy

  13. And when a man is on his 4th wedding & can't aford the akher of his 1st ex wife..u know he is really just not that ready to be a married man.

    The dam blue book. Someone nearly ripped it to shreds but the shreaking noise coming from the males mouth begging & pleading stopped it.

    Not only that but this money only goes to the groom which is sexist. Why can't a woman have say in what the money is used for.

  14. as a male citizen is Salalah i hate those kind of traditions, my mother spent 5 years to pay back people who gave her money on my sister weeding.
    some traditions need to be forgotten and replaced with something more useful and productive

  15. Keep marriages nice and simple :-)

  16. FYI… I am a man from Salalah and yes my mirage was similar to the action Movie Nadia has featured above but let me tell you that you can’t judge a story hearing it from one party.

    Guess what, this system of financial aid for social events like mirage (and funerals) works. The main objective it to help those in need for instant cash and cant offered to go to banks or someone else. In a normal scenario, a groom will end up getting certain amount covering main expenses and repaying it in easy installments in a very comfortable way. Yes there are very rare cases where you have to pay to different people at same time, but that is an exception.

    It’s no brainer that this tradition has helped so many people to get through hard times. The other option is to go for a bank loan. Why don’t you discuss that Nadia 

    Bottom line, this tradition is one of the best in Dhofar and it’s like a social assurance that guarantees sharing, commitment and wholeness. If it is used wrongly by some please question them.