Life at work has been even more excitable than normal because Suhaila, one of the princesses in the PR team has got engaged. It all happened quite suddenly. This is such a strange place, sometimes it seems as it nothing ever changes: the same white sky every day, the same dust, the same office spates, the ancient wail of the azun. But then, when there is a change, it’s over night. One day there is a field of rubble, the next it’s a skyscraper.
Just before Eid, Suhaila was visited by a woman who works in another department at the Board, on a work errand, all normal, so it would seem. A couple of days later, the woman contacted Suhaila’s family to ask them for her hand in marriage for her brother. Suhaila was given his photo and asked to consider him. She instantly and melodramatically rejected his photo, claiming her eyes wouldn’t look on it. But Laila, after much haggling, persuaded her to look. She did. Her heart started pounding, so fast she thought she would die. She was in a fever and so she then, as fast as she had previously said ‘no’, now said ‘yes’.
The arrangements and contract were drawn up in a trice, and now she is officially, at least, married. However, her new husband is a policeman and he is about to go on an overseas course with the police in England. So, the actual wedding ceremony cannot take place until the course is finished; and also it is likely to be a very lavish affair requiring much preparation. It will be held in a few weeks time. In the meantime, the groom has presented her with a golden ring, necklace and earrings set that Liz Taylor would envy; and the happy couple speak late at night by phone, through the night. This is the way of the desert. People have so little private or personal time, surrounded by family constantly, romances can only be bud by mobile phone, in the still of the night, like dusk jasmine. In the darkness, the phone lines buzz all over the Gulf, as newly engaged and wed couples get to know each other and fall in love down the line.
Generally a couple will only have met once, if that, before the marriage contract is signed and then there are normally a few weeks while wedding preparations are made, while they can phone each other and get to know more of each other. They will not meet in person again until the wedding ceremony.
Now, Suhaila’s story is intriguing because she is 27 and had thought she would not marry, because she is old in a country where most women marry by the age of 21. She believed her female relatives had placed a curse on her because they were jealous of her beauty. Suhaila said when she was given her groom’s photo that first time, she couldn’t look on the photo, her eyes would not open and so she threw it away, all because of the curse. But, thanks to Laila’s persistent cajoling she looked, and as her heart pounded, the curse was broken.