Abu Ballout

With every passing year, the gap keeps getting wider between me and the older generation of people who are still attached to their traditional cultural values and can't think beyond them.

By now, I am sure that you are aware of my hatred towards the conventional concepts and ideas that people, such as my annoying relatives, attach to our heritage.

Whereas some still have a grudge against me since my mansaf tragedy, I never failed to sprout further controversy by my latest ideas.

The other day I was invited for lunch at my cousin's house. The peaceful delicious feast has been instantly clouded by an intensively harsh atmosphere with one question that they asked me:
"So Hamza, what do you wanna be called? Abu what?"

And what a delicate cord they struck.

I've always been an antagonist to the concept of associating people with "abu X" rather than calling them by their real name.

First of all, it is very sexist and discriminatory. Not only are the male children entitled to fill the X spot, but only the oldest gets the honor to override his father's name forever.

Let's say that bateekha married shammameh and they have 4 children. They gave birth to 3 daughters; toffaha, injasa and romaneh and one son (the youngest) called ballout. It is just absurd that bateekha and shammameh will be always associated as "abu ballout" or "um ballout".

Although the "abu" association helps in distinct the married ones from the single ones, people tend to exploit it and try to show-off with their eldest son. The eldest son might receive special attention relative to his siblings. Although highly unlikely, but it might go to the extreme of building unhealthy competition among the younger children who would try and improve themselves to their parents.

On the other hand, I know a family whose eldest son has deceased in an accident. Although his memory will never be forgotten the magnitude of the sorrow the parents experience every time they call them "abu …" or "um …" is unbearable.

Personally, I prefer calling people by their real names rather than the abu nickname, unless I don't know their real names. For some unknown reason, it is taboo or shameful for some people to call their women by her real name rather than "um X" and this has given me its own share of problems.

Other than moving to the west and severing all your contacts with arabs, or genetically choosing female children, I wonder what else could we do abolish such silly ideologies that disgrace our culture.


KJ said...

We Syrians take it one step further and have to name the first male child the same name as the grandfather. Ya3ni son will be called Adnan Kinan Adnan Jarjous.

Al this is so that the "founder of the family" is never forgotten.

Except for the Kuwatly family in Syria, I doubt anyone still remembers the name of the founder of the family, much less what they looked like or did

Anonymous said...

This is the first time when some one really talks about this! I have always said the same thing when living in Kuwait! But of course I was the outlawed and the black sheep (oh yes and a girl) so no one cared of what I thought!!! I’m so happy to read a man saying what you have said! I bow for your respect for us the women! I bow for your well organized words! And I bow for you for eating with the hand that makes you comfortable and the way you want to eat! My full admiration for you! :D

Kinano said...

I hate it, it's the most hideous of habits!

I refuse for my dad to be called Abu Kinan and I will never be called Abu X.

Utterly backward and very 1700-ish.

Kudos on your post :D

Ms Loala said...

LOL @ Abu ballot! xD

I guess someone is jealous :P

Well it's ok, calling someone abu\om X is not like living in the stone age, it's more like paying respect to the person infront of you.

I personally refuse to call an older man\woman 3ami or 5alty out or respect so I'd rather say abu\om flan instead ...

Ms Loala said...


We have a Dr at Kuwait University called Adnan Jarjous, do you happen to know him?

Saned! said...

I should have discovered your blog long way back. I just skimmed through it, and I have to say, that we have similar mindsets.

I personally prefer to call a person either Mr or Mrs. Family name if they are parents of my American friends, or the conventional Aunti and 3amo with my Arab friends.

Also, although I'm eldest and most people call my parents by abu or um Saned, I really don't care and neither do my younger brothers. It's just a tradition that is so ingrained in the minds of people in our society that they don't even think about its appropriateness or convenience anymore.

The Observer said...

Abu ballout! lol!

Actually, now that you mentioned it, it sounds really bad and unfair to the other children!

As KJ mentioned, it is a beneficial relationship between the father and his eldest son! Way to go in a male dominent society! This is just another indication of our past.

But on a personal level, me being the eldest son, enjoy the favourism! Love being my dad called Abu Fadi! lol

KJ said...

Ms Loala - LoL, no.. my dad is in Syria, unless I am not aware of it!

Hamza said...

KJ - we have this too. The biggest example is our king. His name is abdullah. His son's name is Hussein. His father is Hussein and his grandfather is Abdullah

nora-cassandra - thank you. I am honored by your comment and I hope that we will be getting further support to break those unnecessary barriers. Welcome to my blog.

kinan - I totally agree. I am the eldest and it bothers me each time they call my father "Abu Hamza"

ms loala - why I should be jealous? I am the eldest among my brother and sister. and I disagree that its about respect. What about single people? they are not to be respected because they don't have an "abu" nickname. Ok, you know what? we call all singles "abu ballout" or "um ballout" :P

saned- thank you. I am glad that we share same mentalities. Its professional and ok to call ppl by their last name in the west. Auntie and 3ammo are just being too polite and undermining your self-being. I'd rather say mr. and his first name.

observer- oh well..its a personal choice. Enjoy it. but would you like to have this preference to your eldest son compared to your other children? ;)

Kinano said...

Abu Hamza?!

Sounds Qaeda-esque :P


Anonymous said...

I’m just a big fan of Kinan’s blog! So I was checking the comments the other day and didn’t remember ever checking your blog! So I’m so glad I did! I spent days reading through it and still going on! I love the way you think! I’m not a big commenter but I’ll always be reading!

And man; Thank you!! Don’t thank me for giving you the respect you deserve!

Saned! said...

well, yeah, calling a person here mr. first name is fine and formal enough, but its just weird calling your mom's best friend for example, ms. X. Maybe its just me.

Sam said...

i really hate it when people call me um ziad..it makes me feel so old...what is wrong with my name??? it kinda of takes away my identity...i was born sam..i've been sam all my life and now that i have son my name is forgotten al of the sudden and im um zozo? if i havd a ziada..i would still be sam...i hate it hate it hate it! but i cant say anything , just smile grrr inside...thankfully only 3 people in this world call me that:)

but i know people who love it..one time we intruduced as friend as hmm i forgot her name..and she stopped us saying no im um khalid *rolling eyes*

and once a morrocan friend called my friend's mom, um nasser, um ali, since she knew ali..and um nasser got very offended and was all upset...im thinking what the heck? r u not ali's mom as well? so weird!

7aki Fadi said...

I always thought it was a bizarre tradition.. I under how it all started by the way ...7aki runs to google/wikipedia it

Hamza said...

kinan- lol especially since my father spends most of his time in Zarqa (Zarqawi's homecity) visiting relatives. :P

nora-cassandra - I am glad to have another reader to my blog. Enjoy the posts. :)

saned- yea I understand. I still call ammo and auntie if that family friend keeps teasing me about how sluggish I was when I were a baby.

sam - yea true. Some people like it and I won't mind associating them with the "um" nickname if their real name was something like fathiyeh or zohdiyeh or fawzeyeh or anything that rhymes with that. :D

7aki Fadi- send me the wiki link once you find it. ;)