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Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 60, Tuesday - RAK

Dressed for the Eid!
Eid Mubarrak! (Which means “Happy Eid”… and eid means holiday). Today is the first day of Eid Al-Adha and a day full of visiting family.

In the morning, Asma and I got up early to get dresses and go to the mosque for the eid prayers. We went to a big open space which was surrounded by a wall. It is traditional to meet in these designated open spaces so that many people can gather at once. 

We went through the women’s entrance and I stood in the back by the wall while Asma joined the other women praying. The men and women are separated by a large space of open area. Everyone stands facing the direction of Mecca and listens to the prayer. As it reaches certain points in the prayer, everyone bows from the waist and then stands up and then bows to the ground and then stands again in tempo with the words which are being recited. 

For those who are too old to stand, they sit in chairs and bow from the waist as best they can with everyone else. Children sit or stand with their parents or are allowed to wander around. I was a little surprised to learn that things don’t have to be quiet when people pray, for example, the kids can run around and laugh and even shout.

I had thought it was more like in church, specifically in the sanctuary, where people are generally expected to be quiet during prayer times so that those who are praying can be more focused on praying. In Islam, children are not required to follow the rituals which are required by adults, such as prayer, and it seems that they do not have to be concerned with disrupting the prayers of adults either. 

After the mosque, we returned to the house for breakfast before heading out on our rounds of visits.

It is popular to have your head scarf in this style
First stop was Asma’s mother’s house. Asma’s brother and his wife and kids were also there when we got to the house. Now, Asma and her sister-in-law, Mae, had seen me only in Western-style clothing up to this point, so I got quite a reaction when I got fully dressed up. Asma said she thought I looked Emirati, or at least maybe one of my parents was Emirati. Mae asked if she could take a picture of me, which was fine with me. 
Throughout the day people seemed really interested when they met me and found out I was American but wearing traditional clothes. Asma said she thought they all seemed happy to see me dressed in an abaya, and I thought so too. The people I had met before and who had seen me in Western clothing seemed particularly interested in seeing me in their traditional clothes, it would seem that an abaya suits me. 

This is how you get that bump for the scarf

After visiting her mom’s house, Asma and I went to her aunt’s house, where we met some other relatives, mostly women, and then to another aunt’s house. The visits tended to involve mostly chatting in Arabic, though they would sometimes talk to me in English, and eating some food.

Each house had a food display set out for visitors, and I ate a little something at each place. Mostly, we were invited to take something from what had been set out, but at the third place, one of the girls cut up some different fruits and plated some of the dessert and put them in front of me and Asma.

At this third house, there were women and young children and we sat on the low couches which are cushions on the floor, like in Oman. In Asma’s mother’s house the majlis has several big two or three-person couches which line the room. While at the first aunt’s house, the couches were a cross between these two ideas: there were no arm rests separating the couch, it ran along the wall much like the low-style except that it was higher off the ground, so more like sitting on the big couches, but not quite as high.

One tradition of the eid is to give children money, so the children all carry around purses or wallets to collect their gifts. This is also how I learned the word for “come here” “or come to me” which is “ta’ally” because the adults would say it to get the kids, especially the really young ones, to come over to get their eid money. 

Children can get money up until they are somewhere in their teens, and the amount of money depends on the child’s age, their relationship to the person giving them the money, and the wealth and age of the individual giving the money.

We returned home to take a nap, since we had gotten up early, and then we went out to lunch.



The view
After lunch, we picked up Asma’s mother in order to go to her brother’s, Asma’s uncles’, house.

There were a lot of women in the majlis, some of which I had met earlier in the day. Asma’s uncle was there when we arrived, so we visited a bit before he left to go pray and go to rest for the evening while we women ate dinner and chatted.

I got to hear some great stories and debates, many over the roles of men and women in society and many about their experiences traveling abroad, mostly to Europe (America is too far away for most people, they don’t want to sit on a plane that long. I don’t blame them ;)).

Most of the women take off their abayas and many let their headscarves slip off when it is only women, children, or blood-related males in the room, I just left mine on because it was easier for me. When they left, however, all of the women put on an abaya and headscarf, and many of them, especially the older women, put on a face veil and some also wore gloves. The women who cover more are those who are more conservative and/or come from more conservative families. 

Children get to wear pretty much whatever they want, but they do have to dress nicely for the eid.

As a guest, I was treated very well in everyone’s homes. They often served me first, especially in the last two houses where they brought me several plates of things and I felt bad that I wasn’t hungrier. They even brought over a small table so that they could set the little plates next to me while I sat on the couch. I did, of course, join them sitting on the floor for the actual meal part.

Everyone was so friendly and I got to hear lots of Arabic today.  :)

And that was how we spent the eid.

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