Memorial Service

IMG_3742I learned about cultural respect for the dead as it interfaces with the Muslim religion. I have been to Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Buddhist funerals. This was more of a memorial as my friend Ginny (Catholic expert) tells me. My next door neighbor is the Chief of Ophthalmology. His mom died in Lebanon. She had survived three years, a remarkably long time, with pancreatic cancer. The memorial was posted by hospital wide internet email and held in the recreation center of the compound in which I live. Men were gathered, separately from women, in a room arranged with seating for about fifty. The family sat at the front. Next to them another man sat legs crossed under him with a microphone wired to a loudspeaker. He prayed (loudly). The prayers were from the Koran. But, there are no traditional funeral prayers.

As an aside, this is my local wi-fi spot, where I upload my e-books to my iTouch reader. I also, recently, have Skype loaded. The device was turned off, so I thought. In the middle of the service, my device started chirping. Farid elbowed me and questioned whether my phone was ringing. Since I had never heard my iTouch ring before, it was a surprise to me. Who else, Ginny was Skyping. Well now I know Skype works and it will seek a wi-fi network when I am in range.

The prayers for the deceased are long. At the end is a moment’s pause. At that time the men rise and approach the family to express their condolences, shaking hands, and kissing on both cheeks. There were a number of prayers and breaks, which allowed for men to come and go. Women gathered in the family’s home elsewhere in the compound. There was a coffee service which was offered to each man. Many declined. There were dates offered, which I declined. I wasn’t sure where to put the pit. And, they offered water. Otherwise it was solemn and no one spoke except for the prayer master.

I was under dressed for the occasion. Some men did come in golf shirts and jeans. But most wore dress shirts. Some wore ties. Others came with sport coats. Traditional Muslim dress was also present. The CEO of the hospital came and stayed for the service. With all his responsibility, he is a very decent man for whom I have high regard. He sat front and center and prayed with the family. I almost didn’t recognize him. He wore a black traditional thobe and a white turban. Afterward he spoke to me noting that this must be my first memorial service. Parenthetically, I add that I recently saw a hotel ballroom decorated for a wedding. It was set up for 300 guests (all women) and the groom. The men would be in a room somewhere else.

The end of the service was abrupt. With the last prayer concluded, the prayer master shook the deceased’s son’s hand and everyone filed from the recreation center. It was a subdued group who moved to the street to converse quietly.

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Long live the king

For a short while, I will post to all three of my blogs regarding Saudi Arabia. My secret/insanity/mid life crisis will be now be revealed. I realize that I won’t live past one hundred. What fun would it be to say that I had lived in one place all my life? After letting you all know of my initial cultural shock and adjustment, I will continue the Saudi adventure on the Imaged Event blog, for which my posting has been fairly quiet. Like a diary I will provide observations of life and living in a foreign country. I am sympathetic but not so good on the empathetic side. My experience is giving me a new perspective as someone who is no longer language (English) proficient in learning how to adjust to different customs, food, and culture. I arrived on June 3, 2012, but have delayed posting until I have been in country long enough to get my bearings. My time zones remain completely discombobulated. To repeat, Photo Back Story will chronicle my photographic experience and Imaged Event will transition to my Suadi experience.

 

Today’s image is of the King. He is old and in poor health according to sources. His heirs apparent have both died and the line of succession is being determined. This seemed like a good place to start.