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Family Section at Restaurants: Turning Destructive to Society
  Written By: Assma Almasmari (YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
October 27
, 2008



Over the last ten years, family sections in restaurants have become so popular and wide spread that a restaurant which does not offer such a service could be avoided and lose wanted business.

Over 300 new restaurants have opened their doors in the capital Sana’a alone since 2005. A large number of these restaurants have family sections. Unfortunately, and according to a number of restaurant ownerships, while couples do come for meals, it is common to notice more non married couples than families in the family sections of restaurants.

According to American tourist and visitor to Yemen Jim Bankley, who first visited Yemen in the late eighties, no family sections were noticed in restaurants in the capital Sana'a. In the early nineties, the first restaurant to open a family section was the famous Shiabani Restaurant on Hadda Street of the capital, therefore, opening the door for females to have their personal space in restaurants.

Family sections at restaurants have turned out to be a great place for those who want private and secure time with the opposite gender. In result, dating has grown quickly as more couples today fill restaurants than ever before. To many people, restaurants have turned out to be the easiest way to get to know someone, resulting in relationships that could have dangerous outcomes, and in some situations destructive to families and society.

According to an owner of one of the biggest restaurants in the capital who preferred to stay anonymous, he believes that half of the customers in family sections of his restaurant are not married. He mentioned that they could notice if the couple were married or friends just by the food they order. Non married couples would either order too much food to please the opposite gender, or only ask for drinks and sweets,  giving them more time to mingle and talk.

The way couples act in restaurants also shows  if they are related or not. "You could notice if they are a married couple or not by the way they act in the restaurant. A married man most likely won’t allow his wife to talk or laugh loudly in restaurants,” said Misbah Ali Al-Maktari, a married university student who eats out frequently with his wife. “Even the way they dress in restaurants, you could automatically notice if they are married or not,” he added.

From a different angle, and according to Nujood Saleh Ali, one day after she and her husband finished their meal and went to wash their  hands in the family section of Al-Hamra restaurant, a famous local restaurant on Hadda Street of the capital, she shockingly saw a woman sniffing cocaine up her nose quietly. When she realized that she was seen, she tried to run and stumbled on the floor and couldn't get back on her feet easily. Customers watched in shock at the unconventional image in front of their eyes. The drugs were given to her by her boyfriend, and upon seeing her in such a situation, he quickly picked  her up and left. When Nujood complained to employees of the restaurant, their response was that they can't see what all customers are doing, and privacy must be granted to customers. "She acted as if she did not know what she was doing and you could easily know it was her first time using drugs. A husband or family member would never offer drugs to a relative, that is why we are sure they were not married. Nujood said.”

She also mentions that in a different occurrence a young woman was found sort of sleeping in a restaurant, as illegal drugs were secretly added to her drink by a young man who just met her and invited her for a drink. After she finished her drink, she fainted for a few minutes. The young man took her purse and belongings and fled from the scene. The woman later claimed that she had nearly 60,000 Rials ($300) worth of gold in her purse as well as other belongings, and was on her way home from a friend’s house.

Due to the spread of poverty and unemployment, such actions are expected to spread even more. Men admit that the bad financial situation of women is what usually forces them to continue on with such relationships in the first place, but then  it gradually turns into a habit too difficult to stop. “Girls feel lower than their peers if they don’t have something that others have. Going out at least gives them a chance of getting gifts from their boyfriends”, Sultan Al-Yahiri, a 23 year old single adult said. “When they fall in the trap it is almost possible for them to get out”, he concludes.