Al Khataaba: The Arabian Match Maker
By Yousra Samir
Also see: Qatari Marriage
The majority of Qataris marry the traditional way.
When a man wants to get married he tells his female relatives then they go bride-hunting for a woman that closest fits the description he gives of his ideal woman.
Women, on the other hand, cannot do the same; it is considered 'eeb or shameful.
As Qatari women cannot go around husband-hunting; they must wait until a man formally proposes to her father for her hand in marriage. For a woman, she must be patient and wait for her naseeb: the man which was pre-determined and destined for her by God.
a woman must be patient and wait for her naseeb: the man which was pre-determined and destined for her by God.
However, some members of the new generation of Qataris, particularly those who are westernized or more open-minded, are starting to find the traditional way of getting married rather frustrating.
Some Qatari men do not want their mothers, aunts or sisters to pick out the woman he is supposed to spend the rest of his life with. And some Qatari women do not want to sit around waiting for a man to propose to her family, never knowing when that time will come.
A Qatari woman in traditional wedding dress. See Wedding Dress for accompanying text.
Finding a marriage partner has become somewhat of a dilemma for many young Qataris. Some of them would like to pick who they are going to marry themselves and get to know that person before agreeing to marry them; however, this is difficult when dating is culturally and religiously unacceptable. One solution is going to a khataaba.
A khataaba is a woman, usually an older married woman who has children, who works as a matrimonial match-maker. The word "khataaba" means a woman who gets people engaged. Qatari men and woman can contact a khataaba in the hope that she can help them find a wife or husband to their liking and choosing.
Khataabas are not a new thing. They have been around for decades.
In the past, a khataaba worked as a mediator between Qatari men, women and families helping them to find brides and grooms within the fareej (street neighborhood) and she usually did it out of goodwill, believing that God would reward her for offering this service. However today, many khataabas have turned their service into a business, charging big amounts of money for helping a man or woman to find a match, ranging from anywhere between ten thousand riyals to a hundred thousand riyals!
Khataabas can be found by word of mouth, or they post advertisements in local newspapers and on internet forums. Some have become technology-savvy using Blackberrys to broadcast their services; some have even opened Facebook accounts! Khataabas often spend their evenings at weddings, watching out for potential brides for their male customers.
An Honorable profession
According to one university student, the Khataaba has an honourable profession.
"I see nothing wrong with anyone going to a khataaba or with any woman working as a khataaba - it is an honorable and legal profession and she is helping people. She is also making good deeds through her work which God will reward her for."
"...it is an honorable and legal profession."
But not all agree.
Fatima, a Qatari university student told me:
"I don't agree with going to a khataaba. Sure, khataabas help people find someone to marry, but going to one would be as if I'm not good enough or complete to get married through my family...it's as if I am a product to be bought or sold.
One problem in this very private society is the sharing of personal information.
When a man or woman visits the khataaba for her services, the khataaba will ask the man or woman for a whole variety of details: their age, weight, height, skin complexion, hair colour, eye colour, qualifications, job, the names of their mother and father, the name of their tribe, even the name of the sub-clan of their tribe!
She also asks them for a description of what they are looking for in a husband or wife. Some khataabas have portfolios of pictures of their clients which they show to other clients to help them pick out a potential husband or wife.
Many Qataris complain that going to khataaba has become like going to buy a car with all the information she asks for, not forgetting her portfolio of pictures!
Many Qataris complain that going to khataaba has become like going to buy a car !
Some also disapprove of using a khataaba, especially for a young woman, as you have to give the khataaba so many details about yourself and your family that these details could be spread around, and Qataris are very private and guarded about their families and personal lives.
For some Qataris, giving a khataaba a photo is also a risk as they fear she could spread the photo around. Others fear that a khataaba, if not genuine, could match a man or woman with someone who has a bad reputation, which could result in a bad marriage. Thus, trust is a big factor when going to a khataaba; people usually ask around about a khataaba's reputation before going to her.
Another, cheaper option is becoming a member of an Islamic matrimonial match-making website. These websites are usually free or charge minimal fees. It is a bit like e-dating except that you are looking for a wife or husband. However, many Qataris disapprove of these websites as many of the members deceive men and women into thinking they want to marry them, when they are actually looking for a casual relationship I should know, I've tried them out!