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 Lebanese Wedding

If you want to go to a real wedding dear HX followers, MB suggests that you make friends with some younger Lebanese people and get yourself invited to one of their awesomely spectacular weddings! Read More

A Suitable Girl

MB is very often a first port of call when life’s winds are howling. And so it came to pass again in recent days, when MB received the following email from a young Saudi friend:

Do you know a European Muslim girl living in uae?
I want a wife.
I did not find wife here.
Please help me.
The email was entitled – URGENT

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

North or South

Greetings Crossers

Late post this weekend. Apologies. MB is bit busy these days on account of fact he is leaving Saudi Arabia after almost 2 year and in busy ‘wrapping things up’ mode. 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

Three Amigos!

Evening lads
MB decided to do au revoir blog post for you all on account of fact will be traveling through the sky from Middle East to Ireland on Friday morning, and later that day heading from Dublin to HX. So will be just too busy to cater for your ever growing needs. The HX family is growing weekly lads, al hamdillah, and it can’t be much longer before MB chucks in the day job to focus solely on spending the large advert revenue that is most assuredly heading his way. Allah u akbar for sure.


Read More

Marriage – By arrangement

Are you married ladies? Have you found your Mr Perfect? Are you still looking? Maybe you found him and he didn’t turn out so perfect after all?

If you can not find him, or you did and he was a donkey, why is this so? Are you the problem? Was he the problem? Maybe your interests/hobbies/age/IQ all combine to make the search a difficult task? And the certainty of a good result is no more than a lottery?

Will he look after you? Will he help you when you need? Will he share the burdens? Will he make you smile? Even occasionally? Would be nice to find the man who makes you smile ladies. After all, girls just want to have fun, said Cindy.  Who would be a woman?! But if someone could offer to help you find him ladies, would you accept? That is my real question ladies.

It’s interesting to see the process at work out here. The girl has help with her search, and the success rate is neither better nor worse than other societies from what I have read. Yes they have divorce here, probably at lesser rates than many Western countries like Britain, which has very high rate. So ladies, when you sit back and really think about it, would you accept or reject the idea of an arranged marriage?

Your family will do the scouting for you, talking to friends near & far. Friends of friends will receive word of you, what you are like, what you do, your education, your interests, you are a happy type, sad type, full of chat, quiet. And so the oldies are put to work using their lifetime experience to come up with a match, a suitable match. Nice.

In the part of the world MB comes from there is much misconception about AMs. There is prevailing idea that vast majority of girls are forced into a marriage regardless of what they may think of the man partner. And we read the occasional horror story which reinforces the view. The phrase used out here to describe the opposite of an AM also helps the prejudice – a Love Marriage. Who wouldn’t want a love marriage? But it’s just the phrase they use, for want of a better phrase. Generally speaking the prevailing attitude mentioned is not an accurate one, and is far removed from the truth.

When a boy is looking for a wife his family will contact the family of a suitable girl. The local culture dictates that the father of the girl will have the big say. If he is not comfortable with the approach, the invitation may never even reach the girls ears. But the father/daughter thing is no different in Havana, Helsinki or HX. Or Dublin or Dubai. Or Rome or Riyadh. (How did you think of all that alliteration MB? Because I am awesome lads). What father would want his daughter to end up unhappy all her days? None that I know. None at all actually.

But a picture paints a thousand words lads (or an MB photo a million!). In recent weeks MB happened upon 2 cases that will give you idea of what can happen. Of how a Dad is human and fallible, can make a mistake, but at end of the day gets it right, putting angel daughter before all else.

Both Dads are friends of mine, both of this region and of the local prevailing religion. Both daughters are also known to MB (totally platonic Cla, may God forgive you your filthy mind), both with great personalities, intelligent, in careers, and of an age when marriage is on the cards, or at stage when the arrangements might start. Both girls, in many many ways, are very attractive ‘catch’ for local ‘fishermen’. So the calls are coming, and Dads must decide.

Dad Nr 1
Dad Nr 1 received call from distant long term family friends who had met daughter at some occasion in recent past and were very taken with her. Early 2012. A suitable boy was available. Introductions followed. Both boy & girl had initial attraction so all good. Engagement party soon followed. All mumtaz (‘excellent’ in the Arabic lads).

Dad actually knew boy as a young child many years back, but had moved to new country so had fallen out of contact with boy and family in more recent years. Dad, not being the strict religious type, invited future son-in-law on family holiday out of the region, so daughter and suitable boy could get to know each other better. Daughter and suitable boy were allowed whole days together, more or less unsupervised to give them good chance to talk and get comfortable (Dad speaks French, which might explain an attitude that would be uncommon out these parts!).

But as daughter fell more & more under spell of new boy, Dad started to notice things he did not like. Even though boy had very good well paid job, he was stingy with money. He might arrange a night out for a meal, but would always expect Dad to pay. He did not seem to be in any any way affectionate or warm towards his daughter, as much as local custom might allow. F**k – could this guy even be gay thought Dad, just getting married for appearance sake, to keep his own family off his back. Double f**k! But daughter seemed happy. Under all the circumstances, what was a Dad to do?

Dad decided to express thoughts to daughter. Took her to the local beach on his day off for a chat. Told her the final decision was hers to make. Absolutely. But explained his concerns and just told her he did not want her to end up married to a donkey and unhappy with life, and maybe ending in divorce after some miserable years. Daughter, he discovered, was also having second thoughts, and considered all that Dad had to say. And after the chat was over, decided to call boy to inform him he was history! The plan was hatched to make the call at 4pm that afternoon.

But as luck would have it, boy was also having reservations, and at 2pm he made call to Dad to apologise profusely, as he had changed his mind about the marriage and did not want to proceed. Dad & daughter were now, also, his history! Dad thanked him for his honesty & candour, wished him well for the future, clicked off the phone, and smiled the broadest smile in the entire Middle East!

Dad Nr 2
Similar to Dad Nr 1, Dad Nr 2 also received call from long time family friends who were now living in different country. The following may not be 100% accurate lads, and the words are my own, but they convey the general gist of what happened:

“We think our boy would be suitable partner for your daughter, and would love them to get introduction”, said family friends. “Great” said Dad chuffed that good friends had a male offspring that would probably be like them, nice decent people, and great match for daughter. “Yes, mumtaz, we will arrange and your lad can arrive on Wednesday, to meet daughter on her coming home from work”. “TVM” said family friends, pleased that boy would probably end up marrying daughter of good friends. All would be good with life and happiness would prevail. Babies would follow. “And we are emailing you pic of our little Tom (Abdullah) Cruise, so your daughter can be impressed, and does not meet total stranger on Wednesday evening”.

Dad breaks the ‘great news’ to daughter and forwards the pic, assuming she will fawn over it all day, thinking of nothing but the beautiful/suitable boy, be in high spirits when she gets home from work, and will dazzle suitable boy with her intelligence, wit and charm. This one is not a shy flower type, I can assure you lads. She does not know how to look at the floor, and occasionally lift her head to flicker her eye lashes. No siree.

Anyway, daughter takes one look at the pic and calls Dad. She informs him accordingly:

“If that Jackass is in our house tonight when I finish work, I will not be going home. I will go to my Uncle’s house instead”.

Poor Dad nearly has heart attack. He worships the ground daughter walks upon, but he has already invited suitable boy to house. He has hours of extreme discomfort wondering what the hell to do. Is daughter just having bad hair day, and making poor judgement? Could ‘apple of his eye’ daughter be totally and utterly wrong? To him, the boy in the pic had potential on a number of fronts. And boy should at least get the chance to present himself and his case. And at this stage boy is on the way. Hells bells!

Dad decided to consult the Homer Simpson Book Of Child Psychology, and went for chat with some man friends. The pic was displayed for second opinion, and the reaction was immediately negative. Upon getting the ‘No’ opinion, MB has never seen a happier man. Dad immediately called ‘treasure’ daughter to inform her that of course she was correct in her judgement, and Dad would right his wrong immediately. Dad immediately calls donkey suitable boy to inform him that he is history even before he starts. Not sure what reaction was from boy, but I would suggest he tell Mom & Dad to stop emailing pics for start, and just let nature (or nurture) take its course.

And did you see the pic MB? Yes I did lads. And what was he like MB? Well lads, if you know the look of young Dublin drug dealers, who have spent a few terms inside, with shaved head and open neck shirt, displaying some orangutan type chest hair (giving indication of IQ level), then lads you have general idea of what daughter was expected to make pleasant polite conversation to on Wednesday evening after hard day at the office. But of course lads, I could be very wrong. So could daughter. But I doubt it!

What more can I say lads. The world and it’s cultures are fascinating. There is good and bad in all and nobody’s got life off to perfection. Dads (& Moms) do their best for their kids, sometimes with great skill, and sometimes make a mess of it. That’s life. Meanwhile the sun still rises every morning and the world keeps on spinning. The girl out here still hopes for the suitable boy, and the boy for a suitable girl.

So ladies, anyone for an arranged marriage?