Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Women in the Gulf

Since one of us SB's is a man and one is a women, we managed to learn a lot about both genders in the Gulf.  As a woman, I really didn't think I would get to meet and share with many people.  In the Gulf culture, women do not make eye contact with men in public except to possibly do business.  Sometimes exceptions occur in shops when a woman is shopping and only men work there, or vice versa.  The women didn't invite people to their homes; men did.  Since the men generally spend a large part of their time praying in the Mosque, I assumed that they would be the ones willing to discuss religion and the Qaran.  As things turned out,  I was mistaken.

A Visit to our Friends Home or Bedu Hospitality

We visited our new friends as least once a week and most of the time it was twice.  As we drove up to the house, the expat servant/cook came running out to meet us.  He directed us to the Madulas.  We took off our shoes and as we entered he brought us coffee and dates while we waited for our friends.  On this particular evening,  the women went into the inner house to eat while the men stayed in the Madulas.  While the men were discussing camels, weather, and video games, two of the female cousins from next door told me I looked like a local woman.  I had worn my Gulf clothes.  I said thanks and then the conversation went something like this:

"So, are you Muslim?"
"No, I'm a follower of Isa (Jesus).  I follow him because..."
"You want to be Muslim, yes?"
"No, I follow Isa, but I have been reading the Holy Qaran because..."
"You read the Qaran?  That's great!  So you want to know Islam.  You will be Muslim?"
"No,  I follow Isa because He is the way to Heaven.  It says in the Injil (New Testament) that..."
"I have the Qaran on my phone.  You want to listen?"
"Well, ok, and I have something on my phone about what I believe.  Would you like to listen?"

Next thing I knew, all the women in the room were listening to the wonderful story of Jesus in Arabic, their heart language.  Awesome!  Everywhere I went, the women were very open about religion, but I did find that they knew almost nothing about what they believe or what the Qaran actually says.  They just know that Islam is "good" and they must defend it at all costs.

So, we ate rice and chicken with our hands.  When we finished, it was time for perfume and incense.  The perfume is sprayed on clothes, each fragrance in turn sprayed in a different place.  Then the incense is used to "smoke" your clothes and body, sometimes being placed under the dress so the smoke comes out through the fabric.  It is a strange sight to behold, and a little scary too.

As was the norm, as we left to go home for the evening, our friends gave us dates, perfume, and cloth.  We said goodbye, rubbed noses, and headed for home eager to return the next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Families in the Gulf are a little different than families in the West.  Our Bedu family that we made friends with there have 10 children, 2 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and Mom and Dad, a total of 16 people living in one large house.  With three one year olds, there is never a dull moment there.  It took me several visits to figure out which baby belonged to which mother, since whichever woman was holding a baby when it cried fed it.  Crazy confusing, but what can I say?  They have really tight knit families.  Then there was the father's brother who lived next door.  Well, he lived next door part of the time and across town the rest of the time.  He has two wives and many children.  Each wife has a similiar home, and by law the husband has to treat each wife the same, and spend the same amount of money on each family.  Some men in the Gulf have as many as four wives, and when you see them walking down the street, the wives follow their husband in a row like little ducks.  There is definitely a pecking order among the wives.  The first wife is the oldest, and each additional wife is younger than the last.  The last wife is usually young enough to be the man's daughter.  There seems to be a severe injustice here, but there is a positive to all of this madness.  If we can share Jesus with a man with several wives and many children, he will surely share with his whole family.  In the Gulf, people don't do things individually, but as families.

Another interesting and alarming custom in the Gulf is the practice of marrying first cousins.  Most young people don't get to know anyone of the opposite sex while growing up except their cousins.  It is taboo for men and women to talk or even look at each other unless they are married or related.  Would you want to marry someone you didn't even know?  Most people wouldn't, so the ancient custom is still alive and well.
As far as we could tell, there weren't any more problems with this custom than with our customs in the West.  We didn't see or hear of children born out of wedlock, and there didn't seem to be any higher incidence of birth defects.  Who knows?

Families in the Gulf have a love and support for each other that is seldom seen in the West.  There are few or no orphans because the extended family takes them and there are no nursing homes to speak of.  Families there just take care of their own.  We became a part of the Bedu family and they took care of us just like their own, feeding us, giving us clothes, and making sure we were well. 

We must all choose what to think and how to feel about these strange people and their strange customs.  We can choose to be disgusted and do nothing but criticize, or we can choose not to judge their lifestyle choices, but instead, to reach out to them with the good news of Jesus and how he is the sure way to heaven.  It's always your choice to either love and serve others right where they are, or just stay away from them because you don't like what they do.

Until next time,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Dates grow in desert countries during really hot summers.  Dates are fruit by the way, not nuts as some people think.  They grow at the top of date palm trees.  Many grow as tall as 15 meters and men usually climb the trees to harvest the dates.  The date season is June through August, and we were in the Gulf during most of the date harvest season this year.  There are several different varieties of dates, including Khalas and Khanese which are the two most popular.  Dates are a part of the Muslim religion in the Gulf.  In the Qaran, it says that Mary gave birth to Jesus under a date tree.  After the birth of Jesus, it says some of the dates fell from the tree for Mary to eat to regain her strength.  This is an awesome thing to know because anytime you are eating dates with a Muslim, there is a great opportunity to talk about Jesus.  In a Muslim country, you create your opportunities.  They will not happen on their own.

Dates are really tasty.  The dried dates have almost a buttery texture and a rich, sweet taste.  People in the Gulf eat them every day; fresh ones in the summer and dried ones in winter.  Everywhere we went, good people would give us dates to take home.  We had to purchase two extra pieces of luggage to bring all the dried dates home (about 8 to 10 kilos).  I'm surprised we made it through customs with them, but we are not sure our luggage went through customs.  It was lost when we went through. ( That's a whole other story for another day.)  If you ever have a chance to visit a Gulf family, you will probably be offered dates.  They are great, just to let you know.

If you are interested in making friends with Muslims, read the Qaran.  They are always willing to discuss what's in it, and when they find out you are reading it, they will want to spend time trying to convert you to Islam.  Bingo!!  Another great opportunity to talk about Jesus the Messiah.  He is in the Qaran.  And don't be intimidated by the Qaran, or reading it.  It will strengthen your faith, not make it weak.  If you want to read about Mary, Jesus, and the dates, read Sura 19 (Maryam) starting with Aya 16.  Enjoy!

Till next time,