Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Your guide to saying "I do" to Mr. Kurd

Hellooooo dearest Loyal Blog Reader,


Kurdish men are increasingly proposing to the beautiful blonde girl, who has grown up in an open society which originally gave her the right to fall in love with a foreign man; then she finds herself in a much more challenging environment (that was the best, politest and most optimistic way I could word what I wanted to say).
Marrying the Kurdish man

While Mr. Kurd is  throwing the "Will you marry me?" question
Poor me is getting the "Will you help me?" question from Western girls who are.. well, in love and lost.

Most  recently, I got an email from someone who has already said yes. Her questions were more on the visit (correction: living) in Kurdistan. This, reminded me of the infinite woman who had previously emailed asking what they should expect, and well.... tips! I am writing an entry today, only because I have recently met few women who have walked the isle (errrrr.... or had that awkward Mullah* experience) with their Mr. Kurdish Prince, this has given me enough confidence to give you an insight of what to expect as a wife to a Kurdish man (please note that not all Kurdish men are the same. You might disagree with me here. But that doesn't matter) and how do you go about meeting his family back home!!

Anyhowwwww. Let me get into this. I asked #TwitterKurds to give advice that I can share with you, my dearest Bride-To-Be to Mr. Kurd, sadly, most of the comments were not too positive with a few "Just don't do it" replies. But let's ignore those.

First of all PIROZA!! (Congratulations. Tip Number Zero: learn that word). Don't be freaked out by the tips and comments to come from this entry. Let me be serious for a bit, you are blessed to be part of a Kurdish man's life, because I am almost sure you will feel protected, loved, cared for and respected. Above all you will feel settled. Kurdish families are also very warm hearted and loving, although without prior knowledge of what to expect the journey in the beginning might be a little difficult. In a series of three part blog posts, I will try to make that transition much easier for you. 

Bwk w zawa (bride and groom in Kurdish)

So, are you ready?

Here are some tips from #TwitterKurds - of course, with my extra commentating here and there:

Tip Number 1 from @fawakii -  "Be ready for intruding family members" 
This  made me laugh, because yes, expect lots of intrusion. There's a joke among girls that you don't just say "I do" to  your Mr. Prince Charming, but in agreeing to the marriage, you are saying "I do" to the King and Queen of your Prince. I am sorry, on this one I can't help you out more than this.

Tip Number 2 from @HediKurds - "Expect to wash the dishes after every gathering and prepare yourself for a close relationship with his fam." 
Yup. Unless your mother-in-law has A) a dish washer or B) an Ethiopian maid then it is only polite and thoughtful of you to nominate yourself to wash the dishes. Sometimes it is not a matter of choice, if your one of your in-laws are outspoken they might kindly ask you to help wash the dishes. So save yourself the embarrassment and take initiative as soon as the tea comes to go to the kitchen and wash the dishes (while you're at it, wash the huge pots too. TIP: fill the pots with warm water and add some dishwashing liquid then just leave it on the sink. They will think you wanted to come back later and wash it, but you just happen to have forgotten. Evil plan. Apparently always works).

Very Important: While you will hear a lot about Kurdish mother-in-laws, from experience I can tell you, they are and they can be the greatest individuals ever. After all, she is the one who gave birth to your groom.~

Don't steal him from his family

Tip Number 3 from @fafabeans - "Love is love. if they respect & love you, & want u to be happy/successful go for it. But following the same religion helps!"
Aaahhh yes, religion. While you and your Prince Charming have probably agreed on the little details: Like, he has probably mentioned to you 1) he wants to name his future kids Kurdish names and 2) he is going to circumcise his son, there is always the bigger issue when it comes to religion. If his parents were first reluctant of you joining the family the main reason would probably be because you are of a different faith. If you have agreed to convert to Islam you should feel a little more welcomed (I am just guessing this one) my tip for you, my dearest Bride-To-Be is celebrate the family special occasions like Jezhn--eid-- dress up, make an effort, respect the holy month of Ramadan whether you have decided to fast or not, and read about the Quraan.

Religion on one side, in my opinion it is more the culture that you have to be aware of. If you are visiting Kurdistan with him for the first time, to be introduced to La Familia (or is it Le? anywaaaayyy) then I do advice you to do the following (for your good, for his good, for the good of mankind--lame joke, sorry!)

1. Take out any piercings that you might have on your eyebrows, tongue, lips. You can keep your bellybutton piercing. Because I am assuming that you aren't planning to show your belly- That is a NO NO!! Nose piercings should be fine.

2. Dress modestly. This does not mean you wear skirts covering your ankles and your Prince's baggy shirt. However, skirts should not be above the knees, don't show too much cleavage, t-shirts are fine, these are all guidelines to start off with. After a while you will be wise enough to make appropriate decisions as to what to wear where.
No need to over-do it
As soon as you arrive, make yourself some nice Jli Kurdi (Kurdish clothes, I have blogged about this a lot, so feel at home and browse the blog for more information) wear them in special celebrations or even fancy dinners where you can't make a decision of what is appreciate to wear. Because when it comes to Kurdish traditional clothes you can wear them any time, any day to any event and they are always appropriate. On that point everyone will complement you, that way you can smile and say "zor supas" in your sweet newly-learned Kurdish accent. (Awww!! I can already imagine how stunning you will look.)
Kurdish artist in Kurdish clothes, see more here

Random tip (Number five) - "Do not live with your in-laws"
A few of the western women I know, who are happily married to a Mr. Kurd and are now living in Kurdistan would probably yell this tip in your face. Not because your in-laws are evil devils (in fact they might be just a little bit too nice) but keep in mind that while your Prince has lived in the west, your in-laws haven't. So it is only natural for them to observe you very closely and criticize some of your decisions/ actions at the start.

Okay...I think that is enough for now. Study these closely and stay tuned for PART II.

In PART III I will talk about your Big Fat Kurdish Wedding. :) hehe!! Until then xoshm awe, now you tell me what that means.

Stay tuned..

* Usually, saying "I do" the islamic way -- which is how the majority of Kurdish girls get married -- includes sitting in front of the Mullah (religious man) and saying yes to him. It is a rather awkward moment for many girls. 
~Don't be under an impression she is an evil witch, because she has the sweetest words and is filled with lovely emotions. If she loves her son, she will love you more. Trust me. Very few will have the mission of destroying your marriage. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Hellloooo Helllooo Loyal Blog Reader!!!

Choni? Bashi?** Or as we say cheooni Khaasi???? :)

I AM SO SORRY for all those who emailed me and were promised that the next entry, meaning this blog post, will answer their questions about Erbil. It is on it's way. I promise. Give me two more days. Pleeeeeeease!

Baby B. in Erbil

Two HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT things are happening this month. First of all, my blog is now officially FIVE years old (Thanks to you Loyal Blog Readers)*. Coincidently, September 20th is also the birthday of the most precious little girl, Baby B., daughter of J.A. who turned one. Hang in there I will tell you who J.A. is, but first...

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy birthday dear B.
Happy Birthday to you

I want to take this opportunity to blab on a little bit about how this blog has changed my life. I can't make reference to every single incident that I have come across in the past five years, however two will have to be mentioned.

J.A.  From Beirut to Erbil

In the early stages of my blog J.A. wrote an email to me --just like many of you Loyal Blog Readers out there-- She bombarded me with so many questions about her visit to Kurdistan. I still have J.A.'s email and it makes me smile every time I read it. The first line of my reply to her was exactly this: "Take a deep breath, be excited and know that Erbil is waiting for you with open arms." 

Fast forward a few years, today J.A., her lovely partner and their Baby B. are living in Kurdistan. J.A. and I managed to form a special friendship, I was a little nervous meeting her for the first time after long email communications but finally we met in the garden at the 'Costa' cafe in Erbil. Sometimes it sounds too awkward to express your emotions towards someone (specially on a blog) but to give you an idea, soon J.A. became a mother and today I am the Kurdish aunt to her daughter, Baby B.

J.A. and I shared (and continue to share) stories, experiences and our views intersected on many things. Where we differ, it is a matter of learning from each other and informing the other. I am truly blessed, and I owe this blog for introducing J.A. into my life! She calls me her little Sis and her little Sis I am. Our gathering always includes a coffee and lots and lots of chit-chat on everything from politics to... well...arguments about what she should be feeding my little niece.

S.D. From Mumbai to Kurdistan 
Baby A. 1 month

Unlike J.A., S.D. and I have never met. Though I feel like I know her way too well. She is my Indian sister and for many years now we have been in touch -- almost on a daily bases. S.D. found my blog while searching for Kurdistan online, she emailed and since then the years have passed and our 'sisterhood' has only become stronger.

I was always interested in Indian culture, and so S.D. and I began long email exchanges. I would eagerly wait for her weekly emails to see what she would tell me. We became pen pals, or email pals? During that time she was preparing for her Big Indian Wedding and I got to see pictures of the dress, and even the ring, before her own relatives.

Time passed, and we  began Skyping. More time passed, I travelled and every step of the way S.D. was with me, later she too got pregnant and made me a Kurdish aunty to a beautiful Baby A. and today she sends me voice notes of Baby A's attempt of saying my name.

Everyone in my family knows S.D. sometimes they ask "how's your Indian friend?" Numerous times I tried to plan a trip to India just to meet S.D. it has not worked out so far, but I know very soon I will.

How lucky I am to have made lifetime friends. Even oceans and continents away.

Kurds has also introduced me to the most amazing young Kurds in all corners of the world. Some lost of whether they should come back to Kurdistan or not; and others have made their decision but questions are keeping them awake all night. There were others who shared with me their stories, we had similar experiences and so I became someone who understood them. Sometimes young Kurds would email me under unknown names -- at times to show their frustration, other times confusion and sometimes satisfaction.

I admit I have not been the most Loyal of Bloggers, and I know there are some emails that I forgot to answer, please forgive me. But as much as I can, I have tried to reply to Loyal Blog Readers and give them the few words that they need. Soon, without me realizing this blog became a help service for many who were thinking of living/ coming to Kurdistan (Erbil in particular).

As for me, this blog has become part of my life. I have been approached to do many things with mandalawi.blogspot. But I choose not to. I want to keep it humble as it is. I know it is messy sometimes and there is no consistency in its content. I know, I can make it a DOT COM rather than DOT BLOGSPOT DOT COM and I know I can do advertisements and earn some good cash. But I prefer it stays like this. Five years, we have managed, and inshAllah we will for the next five years too.

Happy Birthday!
And thank you to all of you my Loyal Blog Readers out there.


*I need to give some credit to myself here as well. Right? 
^ Yup. I progressed a little. By the way for those who don't know this is the Black Berry Messages thingy :) 
** Kind of  gives the meaning of "how are you doing" in Kurdish

The only two pictures in this entry reflect a lot of values in my blog. Two new borns, who are the daughters of two of the closest people in my life, who I got to know through this blog. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

So you call yourself Loyal Blog Reader/ Follower? Prove it.

Hello to the most Loyal Blog Reader in the world,*

I know I am not writing on what you are used to reading on Mandalawi.blogspot but please forgive me. I find it a little awkward to write on the great things of this city while we have more than 150 000 Kurdish ‘refugees’ coming in from neighboring Syria.
love, hate; life and death; optimism and pessimism all in one single photograph
Give me a little bit of time to take all this in, and I promise you I will go back to being your ultimate guide to life in Kurdistanakam (more in particular Hawlerakam)^

As I promised in one of my previous blog entries, [did you know you can actually click on that last sentence! So proud of myself![ Anyhowwww I went back to the Domiz Refugee Camp in Duhok (with the most amazing A.K. and R.B.) and once again trained over 40 young people. In total I have spent about two weeks in Domiz, and I can easily speak for A.K. and R.B. too that we are determined for us to go and stay there for a long period of time in the near future to do what we love to do. 

The team

I can write for ever about my most recent visit. But my dearest reader, you and I need to make a deal. I will tell you about some very very veryyyy special people in Domiz (the people that not a day passes without them coming to my mind) and how you can help them. If you can assist any of these individuals--actually 'assist' is the wrong word, more like if you can change the lives of these individuals-- then just drop me an email. Deal? Loyal Blog Reader, don't put me down. Please. And if you like I won't tell anyone about it. Come on, it's a deal. 


We (A.K. and R.B.) fell in love with Hamoo. In fact, everyday the UNFPA staff at Domiz send us pictures of Hamoo, he can’t speak, but now when they pass the phone to him he tries to speak to me and R.B. on the phone. We don’t know exactly what disease he has (A.K. says its down, I guess it is autism) but that is not important. What is important that this little boy is being bullied and abused by other children—and adults—in the camp. He got used to visiting us everyday. He would quietly sit in the corner and draw. We looked after him by giving him snacks, involving him in the games (he is very very veryyyy smart, polite, generous and happy). Hamoo, is someone that I would love to have at home and give plenty of love to, and I hate any single person in this planet who disrespects him for a single second. He spends his day walking around the camp and now I hear that he is used to going by the UNFPA caravan everyday to spend sometime with the staff there in our absence.

Hamoo drawing

How you can help?

He loves to draw and he has a lot of imagination. Can you send him drawing kits? His clothes are always ripped and torn (can you send him some clothes? We gave him some new clothing and sandles, but we later realized some people in the camp had taken it off him. ARGH!!!), he loves cars—I know this for a fact because during the break he turned the empty Nescafe container into a car—can you send him toy cars? Perhaps something to keep him busy in the long nights inside the tent. But you will really be doing him a favour if you send him a little gadget. He spent hours taking pictures and playing games on my phone on it too.


One group of youth we worked with from Syria (Rojava) at the Domiz Refugee Camp
Shindar was the most quiet person you could come across. He had a little shop inside the camp but later sold it. He says he likes to be far from people, but I think it is not because he doesn’t like people, but within him he carries a deep pain for the suffering of other people. I realized he likes to know a lot about psychology. He has a deep interest on why people act a particular way--he attempts to analyze people’s actions. On numerous occasions he asked me few questions that I couldn’t answer (mainly about behavior of human beings). Shindar loves to read. If you can send him books in either Arabic or Kurdish about this I know he will take it somewhere far, sit on the sand with his back against a rock (I wish I could say a tree, but there is not a single tree in Domiz) and read through the pages. Shindar also has a dream to plan trees in Domiz. He insists that certain plants can survive even though there is a water shortage.


Speaking to Yusra, she works at the women's center in the refugee camp
I know Yusra as Yasamin, because she is in love with Jasmine flowers. This is the most optimistic person you will meet in Domiz. She suffers a lot, but keeps it all behind a gentle smile. Yusra, is the secret box of the entire camp, as she works in the UNFPA women’s center. Every woman with a problem in the camp goes to Yusra. Many of the women find it shameful to go the center during the day, so they visit Yusra at ‘home’ after work hours to discuss their problems (YUP!!! You guessed it. You probably know how nosy I am when it comes to issues like these, I tried to get the most I can from her about some of the problems, but trust me it is easier interviewing Nerchirvan Barzani on the secret policies of the KRG government then asking Yusra questions on other’s women’s lives).

You can help Yusra by sending her a laptop and getting her an internet line so she can do research on how to help these women. If that is asking for too much, then make Yusra happy by sending her books (in Arabic) on how to deal with these women—she is getting training now— you can send her Jasmine plants--is there such thing? Or if you are very giving sponsor her and her family to get a house outside the camp because she is ill at the moment and doctors have said it is because of the sand in the camp. She has two young boys, maybe you can sponsor their education and I am sure that will make Yusra happy.


Rahm, walkin towards her burned down 'house'

In one of the training days, 17-year-old Rahm’s tent got burned down. While she is petite in size, her face looks much older than 17, it is as though I see early signs of aging around her eyes, the sort I see around my own mother's eyes. In the tent all their savings—money they had brought from Syria—also burned away.  Her family is now living with her married brother and a few other families in one tent ‘house’ (about 15 people in total). The day it burned down I witnessed the way Rahm cried, pointing at what was left from her ‘house.’ Yesterday, I got a text from her saying she is still in her brother’s family’s tent and she has had a proposal that she is going to accept. Yes, Rahm is going to get married. My dearest, I don’t know if it is because her family does not have the financial capabilities to look after her, or she is escaping from all the problems. But I know one thing for sure and that is Rahm is not in love.

This is what was left from the burned down tent

How can you help Rahm. Well, I will leave that to you. A girl and a family who lost everything; Everything got burned down and they have nothing left but the clothes they are wearing.


Najah is my new sister, she is my new best friend. She is only 18 and insists of going back to Syria even though it is war, “I want to follow my dreams and finish my studies,” she told me over and over again in many of our long walks through the tents in the early evening hours. This young girl is unbelievable. She has a dream of becoming an actress, she loves to act and she is so talented (I saw her shine as we got the participants to act out parts in a session where they were learning about better communication). I speak to her every single day and I can feel she is feeling sick and tired of life but is hanging on very tightly.

How you can help? We need to find her an opportunity of entering acting school in Duhok. Her family will not allow her to come to Erbil and pursue this. I know it sounds very hard, but if you know a director in Duhok, a casting for a film (or a series) or if you know of a school that teaches drama then you will be giving back life to Najah. 

Najah and I after one of the sessions- talking (and dreaming of her dreams)

For now I will stop here, but I will put a list of other people soon. If you can help any of these individuals email me s.mandalawi[at]hotmail[dot]com

Thank you! Zor sup as!** You are the best Loyal Blog Reader in the entire planet.

P.S. I have a surprise for you in the days or weeks to come. I promise! 

* Why you are Loyal? Because when your Blogger disappears for a while you decide to email and ask if everything is alright, and for that,  I love you.

^ Sound unfamiliar? Kurdistanakam, refers to my Kurdistan and Hawlerakam, is my way of spoiling Erbil. By the way, in Kurdish we don’t say Erbil, we refer to this city as Hawler! J just some extra information which you may or may not be interested in knowing.

~ Name changed

** Zor meaning a lot and supas is thank you. I will leave for you to work out what it means :)