The system for social invitations in Saudi is more complicated than I thought. This topic became of interest to me because of the realization that a recent party hosted by my mother-in-law symbolized my induction into the broader invitation-inclusion circle among camelman’s extended family members (the “circle of trust”, if you like). Of course, the significance of this party completely went over my head. I didn’t even know I wasn’t formally in the wider circle of trust yet. Good thing I’ve got a cultural interpreter (camelman) to guide me through these things.
Camelmum hosted a party in my honor several weeks ago. It was a bigger event than other parties she’s had in the past. She invited all the extended members of the family – so not only her daughters, daughters-in-law, cousins, aunts, and nieces – but to the far reaches of the extended family – the matriarchs of the broader group of distant cousins. She went all-out for the food too. She had a 3-meter buffet set up in the courtyard, featuring ‘dhabiha’ (a whole roasted lamb), which is a must-have for any proper party, and an extensive assortment of salads, main dishes, and desserts. I thought she just wanted to have a bash with all of her friends. But it was, in fact, an event to signify my joining the family as her daughter-in-law. This event was 3 years after the fact, not because it’s taken her this long to accept me into the family, but because of our unique situation of living in North America. We weren’t considered ‘settled down’ yet, with all our back and forth trips between Vancouver and Riyadh. She’d hoped that we’d actually settle down in Saudi Arabia, but I guess after 3 years, she realized that wasn’t happening anytime soon and time was passing by. Also, we didn’t have our wedding in Saudi, and normally such a party would occur after the wedding and the new couple established in their own home.
So now that I have been formally introduced to all the extended family members through this party, it appears that my social status has changed somewhat. I have now been officially inducted into the extended family invitations list. To the extended family, this means that along with camelman’s other sisters-in-law, they need to remember to invite me to major family functions, such as weddings, holiday parties, ‘estraha’ parties. Looks like my social calendar for future visits to Riyadh will be much busier. At the same time, I am also now in a position to host parties of my own when the occasions arise. Given that I have yet to host a proper Wednesday night girls-night-in bash, I sure hope that camelmum will teach me how to roast a whole lamb. Or at least give me the phone number for the best dhabiha take-away in town.
I am in.