Each month American Bedu blog features a post titled “Use Your Imagination.” The post is a work of fiction started by American Bedu but the conclusion is determined by YOU. You may choose to finish the post to a conclusion or alternatively take it to the next level to allow another reader to pick up and continue where you left off. Each “Use Your Imagination” post is based on an aspect of Saudi Arabia culture, customs and traditions. These monthly posts are aimed towards fostering discussion and understanding.
American Bedu readers were given the choice to vote on which subject they would most like to have me write about. With 47.1% majority votes, the winner is “She Married Her Cousin.” Marriages between first cousins remain common in Saudi Arabia. This fictional story highlights how and why the marriages are arranged as well as complications and decisions which arise in first cousin to first cousin marriages.
Like many of her teenage friends, which were mainly female cousins, Sabrina did not give much thought about marriage. Why should she? After all, she knew since she was fourteen years old that she was promised in marriage to her cousin, Adnan. When Sabrina and Adnan were much younger, she remembered playing with him. They lived on the same street in Makkah. Sabrina’s mom and Adnan’s dad were brother and sister. But when she was twelve, his family moved all the way to Riyadh since Adnan’s dad, (her Uncle), received a good job offer in the capital working for Saudi Telecom. After Adnan moved away, he and his family continued to return to Makkah each year during Ramadan and celebrated Eid al Fitr with Sabrina’s family. However, Sabrina had started menstruating by then so she was considered a woman and no longer allowed to have contact with Adnan.
When she was informed by her parents that they had promised her in marriage to Adnan, the only thing that occurred to her at the time was that she wondered what he looked like. She remembered him as a pudgy boy who delighted in playing practical jokes and enjoying their Grandmother’s sweets. If she recalled correctly, he laughed a lot too. She knew he was an only child which was quite unusual for a Saudi family. She never questioned why her Uncle and his wife did not have any more children as that would have been inappropriate. However at fourteen years old she had more things pressing on her mind than a future marriage.
Sabrina’s grandmother had been ill for many years with kidney disease. She had lived with Sabrina’s family since her husband had died eight years ago and they all took great joy with her presence. Sabrina knew she could visit her grandmother at any time and her grandmother’s wrinkled face would break into a beaming smile. Grandmother heartily approved of the marriage between Sabrina and Adnan. She believed they would be well-suited to one another. She also was a firm believer that marriage should be kept within the family. There was no need to have any outsiders be privy to family business, assets or wealth in Grandmother’s view. This was a typical belief among conservative Saudi families.
When Sabrina was sixteen, Grandmother’s health started failing rapidly. The doctor announced she probably would not last the year. Although no one would dare to tell Grandmother her time on earth was coming to an end, she knew. One evening after prayer, she requested for her daughter and her son to come to her room. She told them that her last wish was to see her granddaughter and grandson married before she took her last breath.
The next thing Sabrina new was that she was taken out of school. After all, she was soon going to be a wife and no longer had a need for education. Everything she’d need to know about marriage and taking care of a house her mother could teach her. The days were busy with preparations for the wedding. A wedding hall had to be reserved. Invitations needed to be printed and mailed. Dresses needed to be made. Sabrina and Adnan had to make individual appointments to see a doctor for mandatory pre-marital blood tests.
Sabrina found life to be a big blur at this point. So much was going on around her and inside of her head. All these plans were being made yet she would have no opportunity to speak to or see Adnan until their wedding party. It never occurred to her to ask to see or speak to Adnan. It was accepted by all that the two would marry and there was no need for them to speak or interact. It would never occur to either of them to go against the wishes or tradition of their family.
Sabrina’s parents accompanied her to the doctor for the mandated blood tests. Adnan’s blood tests had already been done. Once Sabrina’s bloodwork was completed, the tests would be compared to ensure there were no genetic deficiencies or other problems that could impact on compatibility or having children. This procedure was now standard in Saudi Arabia because of the high number of birth defects and disease due to extended “inbreeding” within families. Sabrina’s extended family simply viewed these tests as part of the new regulations which had to be followed and didn’t give much thought to the reasons behind the tests.
Three days after the tests had been taken, Sabrina and Adnan’s parents were contacted by the Ministry of Health. The official strongly advised against their marriage. Their blood types were incompatible and there was a very high risk of disease and birth defects should the couple marry and wish to have a child. The parents did not say much in reaction to the news other than thank the official for the information. Once back in Sabrina’s uncle’s home, her uncle and mother talked among themselves. They decided that all which occurred was after all pre-ordained by God so they chose to go ahead with the marriage plans without informing either Sabrina or Adnan about the blood test results.
And now is where YOU pick up the story. You may continue the story to its conclusion or take it to another level for the next person to continue.
Filed under: culture, Health, Just for fun, relationships, Saudi Arabia, Saudi blogs, Saudi culture, Saudi customs, Saudi education, Saudi Living, Uncategorized Tagged: | blogging, culture, culture shock, customs, heritage, KSA, marriage, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, Saudi culture, Saudi customs