ReflectionsRacism at weddings, and poor airline service [Archives:2005/814/Opinion]

February 7 2005

By Yahya Al-Olfi
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In some articles in the past I did touch upon some traditions which have become obsolete and used to be practiced in some areas of Yemen.

Today I would like to speak about one of the traditions, which is still being practiced until this very moment in a district named “Qabaita” in Taiz Province at the southwestern corner of today's Yemen.

One of my close friends wanted to spend this Eid in a different interesting place and as he has not visited Qabaita district he immediately accepted an invitation extended to him by one of his Qabaita friends.

This individual is an original Sana'a dweller, so he naturally enjoyed the clean fresh air and the calm nights of the countryside as opposed to the rancid air and pollution of the capital city, but felt rather sad when he saw some people there showing off their riches in front of the mostly farmer community members by exhibiting their latest cars models, killing unnecessary number of oxen and sheep etc.

He saw the people there visit the rich living afar and avoiding the poor residing near. But what indeed attracted his whole attention and made him all the while confused was a strange custom being practiced until this very day in this district, specifically during marriage ceremonies.

People here refer to a marriage ceremony as being either hot or cold based on the number and beauty of the hired girls band, in addition to the large piles of Catha Edulis.

The relatives of the bridegroom in order to receive more guests and show off a hotter marriage ceremony hire a band of adolescent Yemeni African girls, numbering 6 to 12 girls, whom the elderly, fathers, sons and brothers race to dance and hug with.

The community here considers this normal because the girls are not of their community but from a lower cast (It is considered dishonorable to do that with a normal community member and un-Islamic).

Of course such a band of girls receives, in addition to the agreed amount, banknotes from ecstatic guests. Community women here do not feel jealous because they do not consider the girls of an equal status and naively think that their men won't dare transgress the dancing limits. You would hear them naively saying how dare thee dance with such dirty insignificant lot!

In fact the people here call these people “Khadims” and bring up their children to disdain such people. He heard them also repeating a community proverb which goes: “Whoever befriends a Khadim shall for sure live in continued regret” (in Arabic: Mansahabalkhadim Asbahnadim).

Another rite is shooting in the air with machinegun fire which is costly and dangerous at the same time. A stranger rite shows how lucky bridegrooms here are! They pass the whole night beside their brides surrounded by the beautiful higher cast village girls who dance until dawn light, another friend joked and called it sexy Islam.

During the past week or so, Dr. Khalid Saeed Abdulrahman, Dr. Rafeek Mojahid Ali, who have recently obtained their Ph.Ds from Byelorussia in addition to another Yemeni patient who underwent an eye surgery in Moscow, decided and thought it was wise to fly on Qatar Airways thinking that it shall for sure offer them a distinguished scrumptious service.

They were told back in Moscow that they would have to remain in Transit in Qatar for Sixteen Hours until the next day, that everything is prearranged and each and every passenger is bound to be offered a room and breakfast until departure time.

As soon as the plane arrived in Qatar all passengers of different nationalities were transferred to the hotel, while the three Yemenis were set aside and their passports and tickets expropriated and were told to remain in the airport lounge until departure time.

Trying in vain to convince in broken English the predominantly Indian exclusively English Speaking airport staff that they should be treated at least like the other passengers, albeit Yemenis are supposed to be closer than others for millions of reasons. The Indian airport employees and the airport Qatari security men told them that it was impossible, for instructions ordained that Yemenis should be treated as such.

The poor three passengers remained in the airport and slept on the concrete floor until departure time and whoever was not already ill became ill, and he who was ill became worse.

From now on if you're a Yemeni please think twice before flying Qatar Airways, because it is safer for you not to and should from now on avoid falling into the trap of the false cordial relations voiced by both countries' regimes.

In a nutshell, generally all Gulf casual states should and must be honest with our leaders and Sheiks as they are honest and straight forward with normal Yemeni citizens and call a spade a spade.