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Family Values

Family Values

It’s a different dynamic in Oman. Here families aren’t just the people you see during holidays – they’re basically the only people you do anything with. I found out a little while ago that all of the kids that are always running around my house are actually all cousins of my host family’s kids. Also at least 99% of the people my host dad and I hang out with are either brothers, or cousins, or uncles (sometimes the nephews are older than the uncles – which is kind of wacky). I think the only guy my host dad is friends with that isn’t from the family is a guy from Zanzibar – but they’ve worked together for years and years.

That may sound kind of impractical from an American perspective – but families in Oman aren’t like families in the States. First of all polygamy is everywhere – it’s just like a thing people do. One of my professors here has twenty – two-zero – brothers and sisters from three different mothers.

This brings me to my next point – there’s a buttload of kids here. There are three things that are everywhere in Oman. Cats, goats, and children. Half of the population here is under twenty. A conservatively small family in Oman is two sons and two daughters –  a big family in America. This leads to a huge interconnectedness between people in Oman.This is even truer in the south. When I was in Salalah last weekend, I was told that the first things Dhofaris do after meeting for the first time is establish a familial link between them. If someone wanted to meet the Sultan, the best bet would try to go through family members until he finds one who works with His Majesty.

This is, in my opinion, the leading cause of the rampant nepotism in this country. If the way people do everything relies on going through family members, why would employment or appointment be any different? Corruption is a similar story. “My nephew works under me so I will re-direct more money to his department – some of which might be skimmed off the top.” I heard a story in Salalah about how the Sultan ordered the construction of an OMR 4 million (about $12 million-ish) theatre in Dhofar. The foremen threw together a place with poured cement seats, pipes everywhere, and the foundation cracking. They spent OMR 1 million and pocketed the rest. They then sent pictures of a theatre in Kuwait to the Sultan and told him that that was what they made. The Sultan announced an unexpected trip to the grand opening of the theatre – when he got there…….stuff hit the fan.

But seriously -this kid stuff is out of control. There are three things in Oman which are just looming, inevitable problems – the depletion of oil, the (death) of His Majesty (we don’t talk about it), and the million kids which are gonna grow up soon and need jobs. It also doesn’t help that these all are happening at around the same time (even if they were 5-10 years apart that’s still pretty close). For practical purposes, Omanis just need to stop having so many kids.

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