23 August 2013

Somalia: Returning Diaspora Men Transform Mogadishu Wedding Industry

Mogadishu — Somali men from the diaspora are spending big money on bridal dowries and other wedding costs as they take advantage of safer conditions in Mogadishu to get married.

These grooms-to-be are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to tie the knot. Some are paying thousands of dollars for wedding parties at newly constructed 24-hour service hotels.

Faisal Omar, 35, spent 15 years in England as a taxi driver, but returned to Mogadishu in July and spent $20,000 on his wedding on August 5th.

"I am happy I was able to get married in my country while it is peaceful, regardless of the amount of money I spent," he told Sabahi. "On my wedding night, I felt as though the ceremony took place in London because I was completely satisfied with the hotel it took place in and how the guests took part in my joyous wedding."

"Every afternoon, since the wedding week, my wife and I go to Lido Beach and enjoy each other's company," Omar said. "I could not believe that Mogadishu has become a place of leisure."

Farhan Abdi, 29, lived in London for 13 years and worked as a nurse at the Royal London Hospital. He returned to Mogadishu this month.

"I am planning to hold my wedding celebration at the banquet hall in Mogadishu's Safari Hotel," he told Sabahi. "I plan to have 300 guests so that we can celebrate with our friends until late at night."

"I have a feeling that a lot of money will be spent because the party alone will cost me about $6,000 that night, but ensuring the happiness of the woman I am marrying is more important than the money," he said.

Abdi said the total costs would reach about $16,000. "I would spend more money than that on my wedding if I could afford it because this will be a joyous occasion that I have been anticipating for a long time, and I ask God to bless my marriage," he said.

Diaspora men changing the matchmaking dynamics:

Young Somali men who have lived abroad often have an edge in finding brides over their counterparts who stayed in Somalia. The newcomers have the allure of being more prosperous and therefore a greater catch for brides whose families can hike up dowry prices.

This has created a great deal of competition among Mogadishu's eligible bachelors, said Liban Farah, 27, who works at an electronics store in Bakara Market, adding that expatriates' lavish spending on weddings has caused resentment among men who stayed behind.

"The marriages of the men from abroad have greatly affected us because when women hear that another woman has been married with $20,000, every woman will tell you she wants a diaspora man," he told Sabahi. "We have been forced to tell women that we are from the diaspora even though we have never left the country."

It is understandable for women interested in marriage to seek out men with the financial means to fulfil their wishes and provide for a family, said Anab Yasin, 25, a Hamar Weyne district resident who studied management and business at SIMAD University.

Somali bachelors from abroad are regarded as good potential partners because of their seriousness in seeking a wife and their ability to provide, she said. Local bachelors' approach to marriage, on the other hand, lacks substance.

"I mean, every bachelor from Mogadishu wants to win a woman over only by telling stories and jokes," she said.

Yasin believes women who negotiate a substantial dowry in their marriage contract are in a better position in case of divorce.

"It is not a new concept for Somalis to pay a high dowry for a bride," she said, adding that requiring a higher financial commitment to enter into the marriage helps encourage husbands to resolve conflicts that might arise later on.

"It is every woman's right to choose," she said. "Thank God for alternatives to men without means who marry women easily and divorce them easily."

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