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Changing norms and patterns

Dubai The rapid economic development in Gulf countries during the past two decades has changed businesses and how people interact.

From daily interaction to arranged marriages to living alone, social behaviour has transformed in conservative societies.

For example, it could be an acceptable phenomenon to see a single woman, in her 40s with a good income, living on her own for privacy which her family home in the same town doesn't provide. But it is ‘still on a case by case basis", as Kuwaiti professor Ganem Al Najjar puts it. In other Arab countries it is not the norm.

In Oman, more and more young men meet their wives at work or colleges before proposing, and in Kuwait arranged marriage is among the norms "that is being challenged". However, in Qatar, marriages among the same family and tribe members is the norm.

"Mothers and sisters are still the ones who play a big role in marriage. Many women look for bridegrooms within their families, or tribes or cultures," said Qatari social expert Abdul Nasser Saleh Al Yafei.

Among the Gulf cities, Dubai has the highest number of marriages between nationals and non-nationals, social experts say.

At the same time, the right of woman to higher education is her choice.

"We could be the lucky generation that has managed to keep some of the norms and values from the past," said Homoud Al Touqi, an Omani journalist who runs his own weekly magazine.

"People were much more connected. Interaction was regular despite the limited resources. For example, a person could travel a long distances to visit an aging or sick female relative. Now, with technology and the availability of modern means of transport, people don't even make a phone call."

"We have a problem. The technological revolution has managed to terminate [many times] the family connectivity and social relations."

But this is not the case with Saudi writer Khalid Dakheel and his brother, who travel 350km from Riyadh every few weeks to visit their mother.

He feels children should "not to be a cloned copy of their father" but should learn from their experience and benefit.

"I wish they have an ambition to gain knowledge and get educated like me and many people from my generation."

Former Bahraini minister Ali Fakhro is proud of his children and how he and his wife have interacted, and have passed on social values.


Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights