Emirati recounts his life ‘between two wives’

The phenomenon of having more than one wife might be a popular topic in soap operas, but you rarely hear about such people in real life.

Hussain Lootah, an Emirati lawyer, author and poet, defied all odds when he chose to publish his semi-autobiographical book, Between Two Wives, that tells of his experience with polygamy.

Lootah married his first Emirati wife 33 years ago. Three years later, he married his second wife, an Ecuadorian woman, an unusual decision at the time. However, he attributed the match to destiny.

“I had decided to finish my studies abroad, but it never happened. We all have dreams, some of which we can follow and achieve, while others never become reality due to circumstances,” Lootah told Khaleej Times, on the sidelines of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature where he was reciting his latest poems.

After three decades, Lootah decided to write out his experience, which has been a topic of curiosity among his family and close friends. At the age of 57, he said he wanted to send a message to his six children and seven grandchildren, and share his mistakes and learnings with them.

His book, translated into English and Spanish among other languages, sheds light on his story through the character Yusuf, who struggles to come to terms with his decision to marry two women, Aliyaa and Maria. Through a poetic and reflective narrative, Lootah depicts his inner conflict and difficulties he faces as a spouse of two, and explores the role of destiny in shaping one’s life.

“It took me about four years to pen down, because I wasn’t only writing about myself, but also explaining the reality around me,” said Lootah, who’s already working on a new book and a poetry collection about life in his fifties.

By profession, Lootah is a highly reputed lawyer who obtained his bachelor’s degree in law from the UAE University in Al Ain. He worked as a legal consultant with the UAE government for 12 years, before establishing Hussain Lootah & Associates in 1997, one of the country’s leading law firms.

“I never regret anything; I just have to adapt to it as much as possible to make myself and others happy, which is something I have achieved,” he said.

Polygamy has been a sensitive subject in modern Arab societies, which scrutinise it closely. While the concept of multiple wives is a common cultural and religious practice here, Lootah said the book drew mixed receptions as the concept is foreign to Western cultures.

He chose to write it in English, however, to give more readers a peek into the little known reality of polygamy.

For this author though, the choice of two wives was not easy. “Whoever reads the book will have the impression that I’m against polygamy, but I’m not. To some extent, I am actually for polygamy but it’s not for everyone,” he said.

“Marriage in itself is based on commitment, compassion and mercy. You have to choose maturely and be able to take care of everyone financially. It’s a huge responsibility and marrying for the wrong reasons can have serious consequences.”

He urged readers to view the book with an open mind and embrace “our similarities and differences”. Lootah also encourages young Emiratis to have multiple wives only if they can fulfill their duties capably. His advice to youth is this quote in his novel: “You owe a duty to yourself.”