OP-ED

A Look at the Yemeni Weekend

National Yemen

Qat session socail gathering

By Tamjid al-Kohali

The philosopher Aristotle once said “we work so we can enjoy rest.” He was right, because hard work makes the relaxation of the weekend more pleasurable and enjoyable. This is the importance of the weekend.

People differ in how they spend their weekends. Ibrahim al-Saadi is 50 years old and an employee at the presidential palace. He works there six hours each day. For al-Saadi, weekends are very important, as they are his time for his wife and children. During the week, he works from seven in the morning to two in the afternoon, then he completes the day chewing Qat with his friends. “So my family rightfully demands that I spend my weekend time on Thursday and Friday taking them out from the atmosphere of studying and housework.”

Al-Saadi added that before he was ten years old, he used to spend the weekends outside the city, enjoying weekend visits to coastal areas like Aden and Hodeidah far away from the pressures of the city. This allowed them to start the next week refreshed and active. However, when his financial situation deteriorated after the Finance Ministry ended his entitlement program, he was forced to break this habit.

Al-Saadi emphasized that he still tries spending the weekends in useful and fun ways. Today, he often spends weekends inside the Sana’a city limits, traveling to al-Ahjar, Wadi Jaraf, and Dam Kamran. Other times, he and his family go to parks, but their enjoyment is often hindered by the large crowds and the lack of public services. And private parks, he added, are so expensive.

According to Al-Saadi, the government doesn’t care about entertaining its people through tasks like building the parks, improving the landscape, and investment in public works projects. The government should it is not only foreigners who benefit from cleaning up areas of the city, but Yemeni travelers as well.

Maeen Ali Suber is 39 years old; he works eight hours a day in an oil and transport services company. Suber seeks weekends as a very important time for rest, visiting friends and relatives, family occasions, and most importantly, to rearrange his documents and plan for the next week.

Suber said that he runs into some obstacle or other most weekends; despite his plans to do something, he ends up busy with some other task he may not have planned for.

According to Suber, most Yemenis aren’t very punctual. They do not base their plans on implementing their life works. Life in Yemen is random, and any person who tries to be organized is often thwarted by the randomness of other people. For example, delays in transactions have sometimes forced Suber to work during the weekend. In Yemen, Suber says, life is all surprises.

Suber tries his best to spend his weekends in a useful and fun way with his family. However, because of the handicaps he faces, he often ends up spending weekends chewing Qat with his friends because it’s the easiest activity for them all to participate.

The manner in which people spend their weekends does not differ significantly between men and women in Yemen. Fatima Hotami is an employee and a mother. According to her, there are no weekends in Yemen. The weekends come and go without any real change from the rest of the week, and at no benefit to her.

Hotami estimated that 80% of Yemenis spend their weekends sleeping and chewing Qat. She did not deny that obstacles do appear preventing people from spending their weekend in a useful, enjoyable manner. But Hotami believes that happiness is never guaranteed: we have to manufacture it ourselves.

Hotami explained that the weekend is plagued by two issues: the daily routine and physical condition. Most Yemenis think in a routine way, and when the weekends come they think only of countering their hard work during the week with sleeping and Qat-chewing.

The second reason people are unable to enjoy their weekend with their families is financial. Most Yemenis do not have a car, and traveling anywhere requires the use of public transportation, which wastes time and money. It also limits the places they can visit, as many entertainment centers in Yemen are expensive and out of range of Yemenis income.

On other hand, Hotami explained that many Yemenis—especially women—suffer from a social problem. Harassment of women by men, and an increasing lack of security in the street, has decreased the number of safe places for women. As a result, many women prefer to stay home and chew Qat

In the past, the weekend was for worshipping. Christians celebrated their weekend on Sunday and Jews on Saturday, while Muslims’ weekend was on Friday. The concept of the modern weekend was born in nineteenth century, when trade unions in England won the ability to add a holiday each week in addition to religious holidays. Thus much of the world added Saturday to the Sunday holiday while Muslims added Thursday to the Friday holiday.

Although there are two vacation days per week, this is not enough.  Working 40 hours weekly isn’t enough these days. The lifestyle in modern cities postpones a lot of activities and responsibilities to the weekend. For example, women’s work outside the home and weekly visits to family and friends postpones household chores to the weekend. In other words, weekends become a time to achieve all the duties people did not complete during the week.

Of course, the weekend these days isn’t like the weekend of yesterday. Nevertheless, employees must recognize the importance of weekends and learn how to spend them in a useful and fun way as well. The weekend is an excellent time to rest physically and psychologically. It’s a time to do what you love, and to recover your energy.  Also, we shouldn’t forget that any activity we decide to should be useful, and we should not spend the weekend—as most people do—sleeping or chewing Qat.