Monday, November 05, 2012

Honey, where's your chabka?

I've had a lot of inquiries from foreign ladies recently married to Kuwaitis - or about to be married.  Sometimes it isn't an inquiry even, but when we get down to discussing things, it comes out that they are missing a few things; or that perhaps hubby has "forgotten" to mention a few things of importance that perhaps he should have.   Girlfraynd, get edumacated!  (and Kuwaiti girlfriends - if anything I am saying below is incorrect, please feel free to jump in.)

“… but I looooooove him….”  Okey dokey.  What about your future?  We foreign chicks are not the blue-light special and shouldn't come at a discount, but unfortunately, that's the way it works a lot of times:  Know your rights; culturally and legally.  So, a weee bit of Desert Girl condescending advice....

In the States, for example, when you get married, customarily dude buys you an engagement rock and a wedding band; and your daddy pays for the wedding.  Not here. Women in Kuwait (and you don’t have to be Kuwaiti)  get "chabka" when they get married.    Chabka is a gold set (necklace, bracelet, ring, earrings).  Although you are foreign, the family should give you gold otherwise they look cheap in front of their friends/neighbors. It is considered "ayeb".  Women keep gold as a safety net and often sell it/trade it.  (Chabka is not one piece of gold either.  If you want to know what chabka looks like - go down to any gold souq in Kuwait and ask them to see a set.  Shock and awe, baybeee.)   And it is the Kuwaiti man's responsibility to pay for the wedding. Bam.

Have a Kuwaiti wedding reception, even if it's a small one.  Think bigtime gifts for your new home!  Doooo IT.  Its payback for all the time your guy and his family have given bigtime gifts to their relatives and close friends at their weddings.

Marriage contract:  What you put into your Kuwaiti marriage contract as an end-of-marriage amount is all that you get for alimony.  You can't sue him for alimony - only child support.  So, if they talked you into signing something that you didn't understand when you signed your marriage contract, you may have just cheated yourself out of a nest egg.  Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand.

Dowry is written into the marriage contract.  Many women choose not to put a lot down at the front end of the marriage contract, but write in a large amount at end-of-marriage so that 1) dude can't just divorce you on a whim and then not have to pay out (making it "cheaper to keep her") and 2) the woman will be financially secure if he does divorce you.  [I have one Kuwaiti friend who wrote in a million dinars for end-of-marriage to prove to his new bride how strong his love (lust, methinks)  was.  He can never leave her.  He's soooo screwed.]

If you are getting married here in Kuwait, do NOT kiss when it is announced you are married at the courthouse.  Public display of affection is illegal and the judge will have no other choice than to have you both arrested (especially since there are appointed witnesses).  Witnesses:  You can bring your own if you want.

Know your rights before you have children.  There is a difference between Shiite and Sunni courts in terms of child custody.  Who gets the kids?  What happens?   Learn about family law here and what could potentially happen.

Kuwaiti men get more money monthly when they get married from the government (usually something like 150kd) and 50kd/mo for each child up to 5 children.

If your husband works in a private (non-government)  company, his salary is partially matched by the government. 

By law, a husband must provide food for the house, rent, and be able to support his wife and children.  Any money the wife makes during the marriage is HERS and he can't touch it. 

Apply early for Kuwaiti nationality.  Your husband should start this when you get married.  Why do you want it?  Because if you get it, the government will give you (as a couple) a house (you've got to be on a waiting list).   1/2 of it becomes yours.  You get benefits and money from the government.  If you ever get divorced as a Kuwaiti woman, the government pays for (part of?) your housing.  You also get medical care.  Major benefits.  You want it - trust me.

Don't ever let your husband or his family make you think that you HAVE to wear hejab.  It is your choice.  It is ONLY your choice; between you and God.

When a woman has a serious fight with her husband here, she returns to her family and usually the families sort it out.  As a foreign woman in Kuwait, you don't have that resource, so your circle of women friends is REALLY important as a support system.  You will get no assistance from the embassy.  It isn't their mission.  They'll only refer you to a lawyer on their list.  There are no women’s shelters in Kuwait.  Who ya gonna call?

Call me a cynic,  but these are the things that you have to know.  In the mothahland, you know what happens.  Do you know what might happen here?   I believe in love and all that, but I'm a realist and  girls should know the skinny.  Have a back-up plan.  Love is great, but so is food and shelter.

Disclaimer:  Guys:  please don't get mad at me.  Marriage is a beginning of a life together.  Do you really want to begin it with dishonesty? 


Anonymous said...

Thanx for sharing. it was very informative :) Why kuwaiti men r sooo indecisive???

Unknown said...

None Kuwaiti's can apply for a Kuwaiti citizenship? I'm not denying this but I am questioning it. This is the first I've ever heard of such a thing. Are you certain that your source for this information is credible? I'm rather curious about this now.

The Kuwaiti Godfather said...

Amazing post. Too bad none of that would apply to me although I would pay for the whole wedding as well as gold isn't enough ;)

Unknown said...

You haven't approved my first comment but everything I found online basically says you can't get naturalized in Kuwait. You can apply but unless you have some REALLY high up connections then it doesn't matter. This is from the constitution or some Kuwaiti legislation:

Article 8
Kuwaiti nationality may be granted by Decree upon the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior to a foreign woman who marries a Kuwaiti national provided that she declares her wish to acquire Kuwaiti nationality and that the marriage shall have lasted for at least 15 years from the date of her declaration. All or part of the above requirement as to time may be waived upon the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior. In the event of such woman's marriage being terminated by divorce or the death of her husband, and if a child had been or is boa to her by her husband, Kuwaiti nationality may be granted to her by Decree upon the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior, provided that she maintains her lawful and normal residence in Kuwait until the end of such 15 year period.


You have to be married for 15 years before you can apply. I actually have met people that fit several different qualifications listed in the source page but were still unable to get the citizenship. It's all about "wasta" (translation: connections) with Arabs and this specific topic requires some powerful wasta. I'm not saying your readers shouldn't still try. They just shouldn't expect to get anywhere with this. Sorry to be a downer.

Charles Schell said...

Dayum -- sound slike getting a cat or dog would be easier and less hassle in the long run.

Desert Girl said...

Ali - "...15 years from the date of her declaration." Exactly why foreign women married to Kuwaitis need to (have their husbands) apply early (because the women must be granted permission by their husband and the husband must apply). You don't know any foreign women married to Kuwaitis who now have Kuwaiti nationality? I know many. Several American women and several British. The rules changed recently to 15 years.

It is easier for a foreign woman married to a Kuwait man to get Kuwaiti nationality than a Bedoun with generations of family members who can prove that they were here before the 1965 census.

To the best of my knowledge, unless you are granted nationality by some kind of Amiri decree, the only way you can be naturalized is if you are a foreign woman married to a Kuwaiti man and with the rules you have mentioned.

The Government has become a lot stricter about the rules as certain nationalities were taking advantage of this rule.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 6:54 - When you spend most of your life having others make decisions FOR you, it is very hard to change. "Let me go ask my parents..." This is a collective society, not an individual one; although I think that is changing.

I've seen 45 year old men (and I use that word loosely) who couldn't make their own decisions. Pu&&y! (But hey - I hail from an individual society.)

Anonymous said...

"By law, a husband must provide food for the house, rent, and be able to support his wife and children. Any money the wife makes during the marriage is HERS and he can't touch it."

Wow, talk about a woman being a team-player in a relationship. I wouldn't dare get involved with a woman who had that kind of mind-set. =/

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 10:28 - Welcome to Kuwait, my friend. It's the law. Not a mindset. What a woman decides to do is her own business. But then again, a man has a right to demand that his wife doesn't work - also by law. Do a lot of husbands insist on that? Guess it is all up to the individual; as is most of the stuff in the post, n'est pas?

A lot of the family law in Kuwait is based on Islamic law.

Anonymous said...

You goot amake this post a STICKY
1) Don't get shy ladies, a Kuwait marriage contract designates you as a 'virgin' 'not a virgin'. When you go to the Ministry of Justice to get married, you WILL get oggled by the clerks as they chastize your husband for marrying a foreigner and a 'non virgin'. I'm substantially older than my husband and got shit for that too. The judge threw a shit-fit when the clerks typed my age mistakening for my husband's (after all, what Kuwaiti would marry an older non-virgin foreigner...). I was also told by the clerks - this was back before nose jobs were all the rage - to get a nose job 'and look young'.
2) Apply for citizenship the same day you get married. ALso, convert to ISlam - just do it.It'll make your life easier. Nuf said.
3)Don't divorce until you get your citizenship.
4) I'll add more

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 11:36 - THANKS for writing! That thar is what I needed; someone with experience to write in and tell it like it is.

What happens if you click the box for "virgin" and you aren't?? Oh, maybe that is cause for divorce, then, right?

When my Kuwaiti friend got married recently to an American, the secretary AND the judge insisted that she was Jordanian. She had her US passport in her hand. "Nooo, I'm American..."

I agree with you that changing your religion will make things easier.

Expat and the City said...

Fantastic post! Now when we receive these emails we can just include a link to your post. :)

Expat and the City said...

Regarding the virgin box. Can't foreigners travel to Egypt and get the same surgery that has been popular for many years? Wink wink. It's even popular in the UK and America now with tons of tourists from guess where?

Anonymous said...

the 'law' says 12 years or 15 to get citizenship, but with wasta ... might be months
the man puts in the request and once submitted HE CAN CANCEL it.
BUt once citizenship is granted only the Emir can revoke citizenship.
Most Kuwaiti women smartly put in a 'monthly allowance' clause into their marriage contract. Instead of asking 'honey do you have any money...' they just ask for the same amoutn tof the 'wife allowance' married Kuwaitis get.
The man is then obligated to pay it.
Also women I known have put in such clauses as 'the right to work' 'a car paid by the husband every 5 years' 'the right to travel' etc, but a guy in my family (was he stupid?) divorced a lady doctor who worked at night and put in a clause that his next wife can't work at night
ALso many ladies put in a clause 'not to live with husband's family' forcing them to get an apartment - who wants to live with in-laws?
lawyer up before you marry

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 2:31 - Niiiiiiiiiiiice advice! THANKS!!!

American Girl said...

Brilliant post -- I must share it. Everything you've written is precisely right as far as I know. Sad, but right.

Chirp said...

Hi DG, I would just to correct somethings, It is not the mans responsibility to pay for the wedding in Kuwait, in other parts of the Arab world it would be the mans family paying, but in Kuwait if the woman wants to have a wedding it is all on her family to pay.

Also the if you work in the private sector the government does not partially match what he gets at the company, it is usually between 650-700 KD now depending on your major and if you have higher education, unless you are a doctor/lawyer/engineer you receive other benefits which I am not aware of.

Also, some girls opt out of the chabka, asking for it in cash instead so they could buy their own chabka instead of the mans family buying it for her.

In regards to gifts, from my experience it depends on the closeness of the family and friends, and all the gifts I got were from my side of the family and my husbands parents. And from talking to my recently married friends, many of them did not get gifts from their husbands side of the family.

TisMe said...

Marrying foreign girls "western specially" is against Kuwaitis traditions.

Why should a woman force the man to abide by the traditions that he has forsaken to marry her?

While i agree that women should ensure their safety and security,But you don't have to suck the blood out of your husband veins ,just in case the relationship doesn't work.

Desert Girl said...

TisMe -

Seriously? Against Kuwaiti traditions? Well, if that were the case, they would never have also married Indian, Iranian, or any other nationality wife. I know a lot of Western women who are much more religious and "traditional" than their Kuwaiti husbands.

The divorce rate is around 40% for Kuwaitis marrying Kuwaitis. I don't see anything "traditional" about that either.

Respect the law and customs of the land where you LIVE; which in this case, is Kuwait. "Suck the blood out of your husband's veins?" Emmm.... I didnt' write the laws. I'm just posting about them. I believe that Kuwait (and Islam) put these laws into place for a reason. Individuals within the relationship are the only ones to determine how they are to deal with it.

Desert Girl said...

Chirp -

Thank you for correcting me. My best friend's son (Kuwaiti) just got married and their side (groom's side) of the family paid for the wedding receptions, but the bride's family made all the arrangements. Maybe it depends on the families?

I just checked out your blog. Your wedding looked GORGEOUS and I wish you much happiness.

My foreign/expat/western friends are all dying to see photos from Kuwaiti weddings. Everyone is interested in the traditions. I would love to see more people publish photos (don't have to have the girls in them necessarily - or maybe black out the faces). People are just curious to see how different cultures do weddings.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that you HAVE to have a paper saying you converted to Islam to get Kuwaiti nationality. Oh yeah and you can put ANYTHING on the marriage certificate. All for her side too, she will finish school, they have a seperate home from his parents, she gets to have cats etc... Once I heard of a woman trying to write down that he can't get another wife, but they wouldn't let that happen.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Ali Albaghlis comments yes you can get the Kuwaiti citizenship upon marriage with a Kuwaiti. My sister is now Kuwaiti and didnt have any wasta doing it either. Oh and it didnt take her 15 years either.

Anonymous said...

Is there a difference between shia and sunni marriage rules?

Anonymous said...

What is this the blue print for the come up, talk about being desperate hahahaa.

@desert you said quote "Don't ever let your husband or his family make you think that you HAVE to wear hejab. It is your choice. It is ONLY your choice; between you and God"

If your a non muslim women okay understandable. A muslim women on the other hand there is no choice, yes she has free will and she can choose to disobey her creator and not cover, but there is no options when the hejab is a commandment from God.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 9:54. I'm a Moslem and it IS between myself and God - MY choice. Not anyone else's.

Anonymous said...

1- not every man buys a chabka. Sometimes it's part of the dowry.
2- putting in a sum in case of divorce is not very smart, especially if it is ridiculously large and does more harm than good. Sure, he won't be able to divorce you. But he can just leave you hanging and not divorce and even go remarry.
3- he has to pay for housing, food, etc. and the woman keeps all her money. But marriage is a partnership and there's nothing wrong with contributing.
4- not all men pay for the wedding. Depends on the family (sunni/shia/hadar/badoo/etc). Some do, sometimes the woman does, sometimes its shared.

Ali Dashti said...

I totally agree with Desert Girl, wearing "Hejab" IS and ONLY is the woman's right to choose whether she wants to or not. =D

dawn elnicki said...

This is not related to the discussion, but could someone tell me what kind of bracelet I could buy my mother in the States. She likes bracelets and I do not know where I could acquire a bracelet that could only come from Kuwait. Something hand made and unique would be best. Thank you

Desert Girl said...

Dawn, that is a loaded question. I assume you want gold. Go to the gold souq in Mubarakia or to Souq Wattiya behind the Sheraton (Indian gold, but the best prices in Kuwait). Souq Kuwait (next to Gulf Bank HQ downtown) has bedouin jewelry. Most of the gold here is 21k and above. enjoy.

Unknown said...

Is gaining citizenship in Kuwait similar to the USA where once you apply there is a waiting period where you cannot leave the country for longer than 5 months at a time for 5 years?

Thanks for your blog by the way. It's really informative.

Anonymous said...

Can you please make a post about Foreign man who is going to marry Kuwaiti girl? :)

Anonymous said...

Yes please post info on an American catholic man marrying a kuwaiti muslim woman.What is the procedure for that?How will it fly if he is already married to a catholic woman in America? Especially when she accidentally found out about the Kuwaiti woman?

TapestryArtist said...

I know I will get the correct information from you, so I thought I'd ask you this question... My Kuwaiti husband was married to a non-Kuwaiti woman and she received Kuwaiti citizenship. They had a boy and a girl. She passes away before we met. We are now married and I am American. I would like to have dual citizenship. A friend of mine just told me that I am not eligible to get Kuwaiti citizenship because his first wife received it. It does not matter that she passed away. I was also told that I would only receive 1/5 of his pension if he should die before me (God forbid). Does it really take 15+ years to get citizenship? I LOVE your blog. Thank you for writing it!

Anonymous said...

TapestryArtist, That's my understanding - that a man can only get citizenship for a foreign wife once.

Also, the post says that the woman gets half of the house, but that's only if the man puts her name on it - which MANY men don't.

Anonymous said...

Most of Kuwait's laws are secular. Only personal status laws for Muslims is governed by Islamic Law, non-Muslims in Kuwait have a secular personal status law

Kuwait is not governed by Islamic Law. I think many expatriates in Kuwait don't understand what Islamic Law is... in Islamic Law, women MUST wear the hijab. Flogging and stoning are legal necessary punishments in Islamic Law. Here is Islamic Law:
- Islamic dress code for everyone - mandatory veiling
- Flogging is a punishment for alcohol consumption, adultery, pre-marital sex, other forms of illicit sexual relations, drug use, theft
- Stoning is a punishment for adultery and other forms of illicit sexual relations
- Amputation is a punishment for theft and various other 'crimes'
- Islamic Law governs the commercial law, interest is ILLEGAL and you have to pay jiziya
- Kuwait's commercial law is secular, Kuwait does not have an Islamic Law based commercial law
- In Islamic Law, ALL women need their husbands/sons permission to drive, work, travel, study, etc. and ALL women need a male guardian (usually their husband or son)
- In Islamic Law, music is strictly forbidden
- Apostasy is punishable by the death penalty
- Homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty

Islamic state means a country that is governed by Islamic Law, ALL the laws have to be Islamic Law. Kuwait is not an Islamic state, Kuwait is a Muslim state. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran are Islamic states since all the laws there are from Islamic Law

According to the United Nations, Kuwait's legal system is derived from many sources of law, the United Nations say Kuwait's legal system is a mixture of British Common Law, French Civil Law, Islamic Law and Egyptian Civil Code. British Common Law + French Civil Law and Egyptian Civil Code are secular... Islamic Law is only ONE of Kuwait's sources of law

Sharia law means Islamic law

Kuwait's legal system is based on the civil law system. The civil law system is secular in nature

Unlike other Gulf states, Kuwait does NOT have Sharia courts. Kuwait has a secular court system. In Kuwait, the secular civil courts handle the Sharia-based personal status law

Alcohol was legal in Kuwait for centuries until 1981 when the Kuwaiti Parliament banned alcohol. The Kuwaiti Parliament in 1981 wasn't a real parliament because the government gerrymandered voting constituencies to over-represent the Islamists. That's cheating. Most Kuwaitis were really liberal in 1981. The 1981 Parliament was not a representative of the Kuwaiti people in 1981

The UAE and Qatar have more Islamic Laws than Kuwait. Amputation, death by stoning and flogging are legal punishments in the UAE and Qatar. Homosexuality in the UAE and Qatar is punishable by the death penalty, homosexuality in Kuwait is not punishable by the death penalty. Apostasy is punishable by death penalty in the UAE and Qatar, apostasy in Kuwait isn't punishable by the death penalty.

UAE has Sharia courts. Kuwait does not have Sharia courts. As previously mentioned, the court system in Kuwait is secular

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 6:52 - Thank you for the explanation. I appreciate that. I am glad that I live in a secularly-ruled country (even without the alcohol - which I believe should be legalized).

Bayaz, the First of the Magi said...

Bit of an old post but here I go ^^

about the virgin or not virgin box, It was explained to me when I was married that it meant
"have you been married before?" because ofc according to islam you should then be a virgin if you have not been. If you tick the "not a virgin" box they may ask you for proof you are actually divorced, as only a mulsim man can have multiple marriages.

m.galve said...

I wonder what community thinks of non-Kuwaiti man - Kuwaiti woman marriages.

richard said...

I'm in love with a Kuwaiti girl. It is complex... the patriarchal nature of Islam means that she needs some paperwork fly and leave the country. Her father needs to sign this and locks her passport away. She is 29!

Is there any way she can get out? She desperately wants to.

Desert Girl said...

Richard -

Unfortunately no one can move across borders without a passport. Since she's 29, she might try getting a lawyer and requesting from the court that her father give her passport back to her. I'm not a lawyer, but from my understanding, she's not a minor and she should be able to travel. If she's living at home, she better be ready for a battle because her family will probably make life difficult for her if she does it.

Do you want to marry her? I'm not sure about this either, but maybe you could ask the lawyer: If you change your religion and become Muslim (if you're not already), you might be able to marry her without her father's consent. I'm not sure about this. If you can't do it in court, if you get married "orfi" by a religious sheikh and witnesses, you are married by religion and you can fight it in court.

In any case, "complex" is going to be the tip of the iceberg.

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