Information passes through old Hasawi neighborhoods at a dizzying speed. This may be the reason that basic DSL connections are still under 1mg in the country…old women's wagging tongues far exceed the download speed of even the most modernized server so, why upgrade? Every weekday, there's a long-standing social tradition in the older neighborhoods. Old ladies file out of their houses after 'Asr prayer, sometimes armed with plastic baskets holding vacuum thermoses of hot tea and coffee and a few jingling glass tea cups as they walk to visit other old ladies in the neighborhood. The reason I say "old ladies" is because this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generation in newer neighborhoods.
Cities have expanded and completely new neighborhoods have sprung up in the deserts uprooting people from their old familiar neighborhoods and regrouping them into new, unfamiliar, constructed neighborhoods. Houses are bigger and further apart than in the old neighborhoods making it hard to get to know you neighbors. It's also harder to hear the arguments in the houses next door and you can't casually see their comings or goings without staking them out from your window either. All of the sudden, privacy reigns in the newer neighborhoods. Unlike in the older neighborhoods, you now need to announce your visit well in advance if you plan on visiting anyone to avoid majorly inconveniencing them.
Back in the old neighborhood after 'Asr, the old ladies knock on an open front door or clap their hands to announce their entrance to the residents inside. In many older houses, the magellat, or women's parlor, is located off of the family's living room. This means that the guest/intruder gets to see who's kept up house well, who's kids aren't cleaned up, and whether or not your hair was brushed upon stepping in the door. In order to keep up appearances, many women I know who live in these old neighborhoods sleep until noon then, cook lunch, eat, then rush to make fresh tea and coffee and promptly clean up and shower before the 'Asr prayer hits. If she's running a bit behind schedule, she risks un-announced guests arriving to see her and her house looking all torn up…what gossip fodder that is!
Ladies take a seat in the magellat in front of the a/c and are given a cup of water as they cool off a bit. Not having yet caught their breath and still wiping the perspiration from their faces with the inside of their now flipped-open face-veils, the Ayjoozat begin the day's gossip session with an exchange of pre-determined pleasantries to be said AT each other not TO each in a swift, simultaneous, robotic exchange without an obvious ounce of true concern to their demeanor:
"How are you…how's it going…how's your health…how's the family, good?…how's your parent's?...how's your mom's uncle's wife's father's cousin twice-removed's daughter doing?" (Ok, so I embellished a bit… but that's how it feels sometimes!)
Wedding invitations are like gold to these old women, there's really not much else to do around town. Anyone who receives an invitation with a +1 on it is everyones best friend. Many animated conversations revolve around events at these weddings and filling in the blanks for any non-attendees:
"Oh my God, there was this girl in a half-there purple dress! She was shaking her thang like this and her boobs were hoisted up like that (complete with actual booty shaking and boob-hoisting motions)"
"Ya, but the bride's mom, NO shame! Her hair's cut so short and she's wearing a sleeveless dress like this, at her age! And how's her stomach so flat?"
"Gurl, I heard she had a tummy-tuck and lipo just for the wedding"
"I heard they paid XXXX amount of money for the dress and they got it from Jeddah. And the tagagat** cost them XXX per hour and they were brought in from Kuwait.
And the beat goes on…
In one afternoon, sometimes 3 or 4 women visit my MIL's house. After sitting at her house for a bit and exchanging gossip, the women leave and many times go on to different houses to visit other friends in the neighborhood. Now it's math time:
4 women visit my MIL's house each bringing with them one piece of gossip to add to my MIL's gossip. After the exchange of gossip, each woman who'd originally had one piece of gossip leaves my MIL's house with 4 new pieces of gossip totaling 5 juicy tidbits. Then, each woman goes on her separate way once leaving my MIL's house and goes to another friend's house with her 5 bits of information where she meets 4 more women at the next house. She then spreads her 5 juicy tidbits to the 4 new women at her other friends house while acquiring at least 4 more juicy tidbits, at least one news bite from each woman totaling 9 interesting news bits for the day (I think). But if this is the second or third house the women at the other friend's house had visited that day, each woman may have more than one juicy tidbit to pass on!
Who from my readers is good at logarithms? LOL!
*Ayjooza= old woman
**Tagagat= female drum players/singers at weddings and parties (hired band)