In the year 632 AD, the Prophet Muhammad died and a conflict ensued related to who should succeed him as the spiritual head of Islam, or Caliph. Battles ensued during which one of the proposed Caliphs, Ali, was killed. The supporters of the alternative, Abu Baker, and killers of Ali, won the day in the end, so to speak, and so began a centuries long divide within Islam which continues to the present day. The followers of Ali formed their own sect called Shia, and the victors became the Sunni sect, which is far more numerous. Approximately 85% of Muslims today are Sunni and 15% are Shia.

It’s not always or fully appreaciated in the western world just how much the Sunni/Shia divide impacts relations, and conflicts, in the present day Arab/Muslim world, and how it provides a large degree of explanation for many of the regional protests and conflicts. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon are each impacted by the divide, or schism (as it’s known), to a greater or lesser degree.

During the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968 to 1998 approx), inter-religious, or ‘mixed’ marriages between Catholics (who generally wanted reunion with the Republic of Ireland to the south) and Protestants (who generally wanted to remain British) were as rare as hens teeth. Families and communities were unaccepting of such unions and the young couples had generally two choices – call it off, or emigrate to London or elsewhere, get married without informing families, inform them later and then suffer the emotional consequences.

Religious polarisation exists today throughout the Middle East, even when there is no actual military conflict at play. Whilst many from the Sunni and Shia sides of the ‘religious’ road will have many friends and work coleagues who are members of the opposite sect, the matter of mixed marriages will invariable lead to difficulties, as families react along religious and cultural lines.

Take marriage contracts for example. They are an obligatory part of all Muslim marriages, with Sunni and Shia contracts each having differences, but can contan practically anything that either party may wish to include, including amendments to the standard clauses. Many wifes insert clauses giving them automatice right to divorce if the husband takes a second wife. The standard Shia marriage contract, for example, will not allow a wife to have a divorce under any circumstances unless she receives the permission of her husband. But by inserting a simple amendment into the standard contract, a wife’s unrestricted right to divorce is guaranteed. So one might think that the insertion of various amendments can solve all thorny issues that might exist, and they do to a large degree.

However, the matter of future grandkids can raise the thorny to extremely thorny. If the marriage takes place using a Sunni marriage contract, then it automatically follows that the children will be Sunni. And vise verse for a Shia marriage contract. Culturally and religiously, older generations find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept that their children may produce grandchildren who will be from the opposite sect. And as the culture of the region also means that children, regardless of their age, will want to take parental permission before getting married, then the possibility of parents refusing to sanction a mixed marriage can cause huge distress to the child and their potential future partner. Failure to take such approval will often lead to a break-up of the relationship, and in all probability, a new search begins for each from amongst their own community sect. The ‘Northern Ireland’ option is one that is regionally taboo and rarely, if ever, used.

A non-religious civil marriage provides a possible solution. Civil marriages are mostly unrecognised within the various countries but are recognised if they took place in a foreign country. However, elderly parents again will often reject this non-religious option, due to the mere absence of religion, and as the grandchildren would be considered non-muslim if the parents were to die prematurely. And so the distress of the young couple goes on, event with this alternative possibility.

The subject matter of this post is close to the heart of MB at present. He numbers a young, modern-minded, educated, mixed Muslim couple amongst his Arab friends. They now find themselves in the dilemma described above. The coming months will see Shia boy attempt to extract some workable comprimise from his (possible) future Sunni father-in-law, who may or may not be willing to do so. Equally, his own Shia family may not agree to the marriage under the civil option, which is the preference of both boy and girl. With the refusals of the families, if that’s how the dice rolls, then that may be the end of love.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to all.

A Wedding in Jordan

Jordan’s more correct name, since 1946, is ‘The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’. It is so-called because of the ruling Hashemite family, who have governed the country since 1921. The Hashemites trace their ancestry back to the founding of Islam and are called after Hashim, the great grandfather of the Prophet Mohammed. Read More

The Wedding of K&S

MB was in Malta in recent days for the wedding of son SB to fiancé KL.

Malta was selected as the wedding venue following the decision not to have the occasion take place in either of the home countries of Ireland and UK, and what an inspired decision that proved to be. The venue was a 200-year-old traditional Maltese farmhouse and surrounding grounds called Ir-Razzett L-Abjad, which is situated in the inland location of Iklin, approximately 20 minutes drive from the capital city of Valetta. It makes for quite a spectacular wedding venue.

MB will not go into Maltese history in this post (or any other!) which is vast, particularly in respect of the Knights of St John, The Order of Malta, the eight-pointed Maltese Cross, the unsuccessful Ottoman invasion and siege of 1565, the many spectacular churches and cathedrals, and, of course, the multiple locations that Malta has recently provided for the Game Of Thrones TV series. And much more. As this post is about a wedding, MB is aware that the ladies will only want to see some pics!

MB will not show any personal photos of family or friends, as he has no permission to do so, but will instead try to convey a sense of the occasion and venue with a small selection of more general pics, and hopes and son SB and new DIL KB (formerly KL!) will not kill MB for doing so!

Long life and happiness to the S&K.












A Lebanese Wedding – Inside the church

MB has already given followers two deadly previous posts on his Lebanese wedding experience: A Lebanese Wedding and A Lebanese Wedding – Outside the Church. He now gives followers post Nr 3 – Inside the Church. Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Transition


One day you’re single. Next day you’re not!

Friends of MB get married at ‘Our Lady of the Rosary’ Catholic Church in Doha, Qatar. June 2015.


A silent wife

MB attended a wedding in his Irish homeland last week. 

And did you enjoy yourself MB? Immensely lads, thanks for asking. It was the typical Irish wedding. Full of the joys of life and a little bit of madness thrown into the mix for good measure.  To any readers who have not attended an Irish wedding MB has but one suggestion – do so. And do it quickly. A life lived without the Irish wedding experience is a lesser life, a life not yet fully revealed in all it’s glory, a life not yet reached the higher plateau. In short, a sadder life.

So if still an Irish wedding virgin then perhaps you could try to befriend some Irish people and cajole them into a wedding invitation at some future stage. Maybe you can ask some existing Irish friends if any weddings back home are in the offing and could you please attend. It will not matter one whit that you have neither family nor friendship connection to the happy couple.

Your slightly strange request will most probably be greeted in typical Irish fashion with typical Irish response. Such as – “Sure why not, you might as well come along and enjoy yourself like everyone else, you poor foreign cratur. And would you like a cup of tea when you arrive?” Or something similar. But regardless of the exact wording of the response, you are in, booking your flight and on your way. Joy of joys. 

MB attended a wedding in the English heartland of Wiltshire once upon a time in the dim and distant past and fell very much foul of English wedding customs. Upon leaving the church service, MB and some fellow Irish attendees disappeared to a local hostelry to enjoy some remembrances of the Irish groom in days past and to just generally shoot the Irish breeze. Upon arrival at the wedding banquet some hours later, MB & friends were aghast to discover that the meal was almost finished.

Nevertheless, bold as brass, and under the ‘if looks could kill’ glare of all those Englanders present, MB and friends coyly took their place at the allotted table just in time for desert and speeches (the only purpose of wedding meals anyway) where the sole English friend of MB & Irish pals had sat in lonely solitude from the commencement of meal proceedings some ninety minutes past. He was not happy – to put it mildly. The Irish groom at the top table smiled throughout the disturbing arrival of his homeland friends, a smile he managed to keep on the side of his face which was opposite to the side his English bride was sitting at, as he was well aware of the Irish after-church wedding custom but had somehow forgotten to inform MB & friends of one or two major differences with the English one.

For those not in the know, and for any of the non-Irish amongst MB’s HX followers who will now attend an Irish wedding following this blog post, it is considered extremely ignorant behaviour NOT to go to a hostelry after the Irish wedding church service – as the following few hours are considered private time for the bride & groom to take care of wedding business. Such as meeting up with close family, maybe grabbing a cup of tea and a sandwich after the exertions of the day, and of course snapping the wedding shots with the photographer, whether just in the church grounds or as sometimes also happens, at some local scenic beauty spot – which are ten-a-penny in any Irish village.

But regardless of any other considerations, the hours immediately following the church service are sacrosanct, and to arrive early at the wedding reception/meal would be considered a gross violation of same. Who in their right minds would try to pressurise a newly married couple into rushing the photos and the interfamily mingling just after tying the knot? Who in their right minds could consider committing such a heinous act of sacrilege? Answer – mad dogs and Englishmen of course. The vile and ignorant swine.

So the next time that MB attends a wedding in Wiltshire, or in any other Shire, he will inform the natives that the Irish wedding service in HX last week commenced at 1.30pm in church (notwithstanding brides 30 minutes late arrival at 2pm) and meal commenced at 7pm. Great photos were taken, families were happy as pigs in muck, bride and groom were beaming from ear to ear, and 200 or so guests were full of the joi-de-jameson that 3 to 4 hours in any Irish pub will invariably bestow. Let the meal commence. Let it be followed by some speeches resplendent with Irish wit & warmth, and let the dancing long last into the late late hours. Such is how a wedding should take place – Mr & Mrs Englander!

But MB wishes to return to the church service itself, which took place in the postcard-pretty church in the village of Ballysteen in west Limerick. For the church service has given MB the title of this very post.

The readings for any wedding mass are generally predictable. Invariably each wedding couple selects more or less the same ones. Ones that mention the obvious matters of the day such as love and fidelity and longevity. But the first reading at last week’s Irish wedding really made MB sit up and take notice. Here was a couple who had given the readings some serious consideration and thought. And in the first reading, the values and thoughts espoused, had most males in attendance wanting to give a standing ovation on completion of it’s oration. And they probably would have done, but for the killer stares of their resplendent Kill Bill female partners.

The wedding/mass book introduced the reading as “A Reading from the Old Testament” without further annotation. MB has since discovered, as he has looked it up, that the reading comes specifically from the Book of Sirach which MB had never previously heard of, but which MB expects will now fill many a female stocking in HX this coming Christmas. The full text of the reading is as follows:

Happy is the husband of a good wife;
the number of his days will be doubled.
A loyal wife brings joy to her husband,
and he will complete his years in peace.
A good wife is a great blessing;
she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.
Whether rich or poor, his heart is content,
and at all times his face is cheerful.
A wife’s charm delights her husband,
and her skill puts flesh on his bones.
A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
and there is nothing so precious as her self-discipline.

A modest wife adds charm to charm,
and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity.
Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord,
so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.

The officiating priest, Fr Liam, actually mentioned in his homily that he suspected the groom had selected the first reading. But MB is sure it was a joint decision, taken after careful reading and re-reading of the valuable messages contained within. In any event, a couple who include such a reading in their wedding service are surely on the right track from day one. With such wise words and guidance for future life, they can hardly go wrong.

Enough MB. You have blathered on for far too long. Silence!

Ok lads. Enough.


Congrats to Catriona & Diarmuid. Long life and happiness to you both. Was a great day. For you & for us.



Love & Marriage

Go together like a horse and carriage!  Read More


MB is not a lesbian. Read More

Sudan – Wedding (more!)

First & foremost, let’s start with the band.

MB shot this short very blurry arty video to give you all a flavour of the music and crack at the wedding in Khartoum – where the Blue & White Nile rivers converge (zero relevance to the wedding or the music ladies – just geographical knowledge). Listen also for the high pitched shrieks from some the ladies present at approx 50 seconds – called ‘ullulation’. They are doing so to honour the bride or groom:

Read More

Sudan – Wedding

And so to the wedding…..
Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

The Wedding Photos.

 Spotted this group late June back home on Ballybunion beach in South West Ireland. A bit cliched  for this week’s challenge I’ll grant you!

Sum Love


Photo 29/30: Yes honey!



Gifts are good!

Morning Crossers

Inshallah all well in your neck of the woods. The Christmas holiday is almost upon us and no doubt many Crossers are considering a suitable festive gift for MB. But relax Crossers, MB has received far too many gifts this year and has no more space in his accommodation to accept more. So instead Crossers, MB implores you to make suitable donation to charity of your choice. Really Crossers, MB has enough. Read More

Gifts are good!

Morning Crossers
Inshallah all well in your neck of the woods. The Christmas holiday is almost upon us and no doubt many Crossers are considering a suitable festive gift for MB. But relax Crossers, MB has received far too many gifts this year and has no more space in his accommodation to accept more. So instead Crossers, MB implores you to make suitable donation to charity of your choice. Really Crossers, MB has enough. Read More

Love Is In The Air

Morning Crossers
Its 5am on a fresh Friday Riyadh morning. MB fell asleep too early last night and arose before cock-crow. The muezzin is belting out the call to prayer to the Muslim faithful. Those who wish to attend the nearby Mosque have 15 minutes to get there for first prayer of the day. Should they so chose. 99.9% will give this one a skip. But almost all will attend the midday prayer later on. One of the hotel staff has just rolled out a prayer mat in front of MB, and is now on his knees facing Mecca. Doing his duty for the 3 or 4 minutes it takes. Read More