High cost of Omani weddings pose challenge for men

Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:18am EDT
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By Nazneen Akbari

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Office receptionist Sheikha's 2005 wedding was an extravagant 700-guest affair at one of Oman's top luxury hotels.

Besides spending 38,000 rials ($99,068) on the celebration, her groom also paid a 9,000-rial dowry, bought a new apartment for the couple and spent several thousand on their honeymoon.

"I was married like a princess and within three years abandoned like a beggar," said Sheikha, who asked that her last name not be used. "Our arguments began with my husband blaming me for his debts."

Sheikha's husband, like many Omani men, had taken out a bank loan to finance wedding expenses, which are traditionally the domain of the groom. The financial strain weighed on the couple and, against Sheikha's wishes, the pair were divorced in 2008.

She kept her dowry, which brides usually spend on jewelry, clothing and property, and little else. Her husband was left saddled with the accumulated debts that began at that wedding.

"More than half of Omani men earn, monthly, under 700 rials. It's impossible for them to finance their wedding. Eventually they get themselves into a debt quagmire within the early years of a marriage," legal advocate Mohammed al-Shahri.

"The majority of divorces occur due to underlying financial issues and although dowry may not be the direct cause of a divorce, it acts as a catalyst for fuelling financial tension and personal disputes."