Ahmed al-Zindani wakes up early every Thursday morning to head to the market, he buys the best produce as well as the best Khat money can buy, before heading back home.
At home, his wife works on cleaning the rooms and spraying beautiful scents around the house, lighting incense after preparing a variety of dishes for dinner. After dinner, in good Yemeni tradition, Ahmed and his wife start chewing Khat leaves, listening to authentic Yemeni, in a long romantic sitting lasting until the early hours of the morning.
33-year old Ahmed al-Zindani, who works in a car dealership in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, explains: "After an exhausting day at work, Thursday night represents a break and an opportunity to sit with my wife". Thursday evening with the wife is a "sacred ritual" for Ahmed – he forgets the headaches of the week, and enjoys intimate moments with his wife, that is a scared and sensual ritual for him, it washes the problems of the week and energizes him for the upcoming week.
Adventurous Days and Intimate Nights
Thursday mornings, many Yemenis prepare for the day ahead by purchasing delicious foods and other necessities, while others prefer to go to the mountains to spend time there, taking a stroll along a river, before returning home after an adventurous and happy day to their beds, to spend a night of intimacy in the arms of their wives.
Most Yemenis, it should be noted, are not comfortable speaking about their private marital lives, often feeling uneasy when asked about the rituals of Thursday night.
Despite the tragic economic and humanitarian crises produced by the war, most Yemenis are looking for happiness and joy, in their music, poems and folk songs, whether they be young or old – indeed, whether they be inside the homeland or residing abroad; In all cases, they remember Thursday night. While the country's unmarried youth express their desire for marriage, the immigrants remember their families and the moments they spent with them.
In Shabwah Province, Yemeni men have to pay a 'fine' of 5,000 Riyals to their wives if they are absent or late on Thursday night, with the sum doubling if they miss another Thursday.
On a typical Thursday, Yemenis go shopping for fine produce and Khat, give money to the poor, prepare a fine meal, download Bollywood movies and the latest songs and get their sex quota for the week.
The Absent Husband Tax
While Thursday night is fun and joy for couple living together, it can be hell for the lone Yemeni – whether residing inside of Yemen or abroad – and also for the youth who dream of marriage, with poverty standing as an obstacle between them and their dreams and aspirations.
In Shabwah Province, Yemeni men have to pay a 'fine' of 5,000 Riyals to their wives if they are absent or late on Thursday night, with the sum doubling if they miss another Thursday, says Ali Bin Saleh to Raseef22.
Bin Saleh adds: "Sleeping with our wives is a duty for us, and a right of theirs, so if one of us is absent from home and especially on Thursday, he must pay a fine or buy her a gift to compensate her."
It is a different story for the expatriated Yemenis, with some spending Thursday night cleaning their clothes, and others on social media sites – in an attempt to numb the boredom and sorrows while they are away from their families and homeland.
According to Hamza Ali, a Yemeni living alone in Saudi Arabia: "Living abroad, we spend Thursday night dancing and listening to songs until the morning", yet 28-year old Hamza adds: "This does not compensate for not being able to sit with your wife and enjoying time with her, but we try to overcome boredom on Thursday night especially that it has a special place in our marital lives, and its own special rituals."
Quality Khat and Nostalgic Music
23-year old university student Nasr al-Habishi makes sure to purchase a bag of Khat for Thursday, he also downloads romantic and drama movies – especially from Bollywood – to spend a fun night. He prefers to spend his night with music and watching movies until the early hours of the morning.
Al-Habishi, who lives in the capital Sana'a, said: "I go with my father to the market to buy Khat, and I choose the highest quality leaves, after which I have lunch and sit with my friends chewing Khat until sunset, before returning to my room where I continue to chew Khat and listen to songs, as well as watching movies throughout the night."
Yet Nasr adds: "The songs and weddings taking place on Thursdays make me yearn for marriage, but I still have university ahead of me, not to mention the exorbitant cost of marriage, relative to our modest means." Nasr proceeds to compare his own situation to others, saying: "I love a girl, and often sit thinking of her, but I am currently unable to marry or even enter an engagement with her – and so the celebration of the men with their wives especially on Thursday night leaves me anguished and sad".
It is in this state of anguish that Nasr repeats the lyrics of a song to himself throughout Thursday nights: "On Thursday everyone finds their lover, while I can’t be with my love", “chewing Khat and listening to the Sana'a Oud alleviate my loneliness, while movies help me forget my hardships” Nasr adds.
Hundreds of beggars roam the streets of Sana'a on Thursday, passing by the owners of commercial shops and outlets asking for money, known as "the right of Thursday".
Indeed, on Thursday shop-owners and money exchange-bureaus designate individuals to stand outside their doors to distribute coins to the needy.
Murad al-Salwi, the owner of a mobile phone shop on al-Zubairi street in Sana'a, allocates more than 5,000 Yemeni Riyals ($10 US Dollars) every Thursday to dispense to the poor and needy who pass by his shop.
Murad explains: "As it is a duty to ensure the leisure and comfort of our families and children, so too is the right of the poor and needy to receive our support – for they only come to us on Thursday, and are satisfied with any sum we give them."
Music for a Thursday Night
Thursday’s night is the subject of many Yemeni songs and poems, especially considering it is often the first night for newly-weds, with it being a Yemeni custom for the bride to enter her spousal home on Thursday night – thus becoming their first anniversary which is resurrected and celebrated every Thursday.
"O Thursday night, the joy of the married – as for the single, he is a poor man with bad luck." So declares the lyrics of one of Yemen's most popular songs, while others announce "Thursday night is when everyone is with their lover, while I'm alone in wearisome estrangement" and "Thursday night is when each room has a couple, while I'm alone and sleepless” as well as dozens of other songs which affirm the special nature of Thursday night for Yemenis, and the happiness of those who are married and live with their spouses.
Aref Mohammed – a social researcher – explains why Yemenis celebrate Thursday more than any other day of the week, saying that Thursday is the first night that spouses often meet each other in their marriage, and so they work on reigniting the atmosphere and ambiance of their marriage on that day.
Mohammed adds: "However, the deteriorating economic environment has affected Yemeni families, and has become an obstacle to many preventing them from celebrating and exercising their customs and traditions that have existed since time immemorial, with most Yemeni families now mainly concerned with providing the necessary nourishment for their children."