Saudi Arabia: A Direct Route to Making or Breaking Friendships

polygamy

telegraph.co.uk

 

Few details have emerged about a recent case of marriage but the details that are known are enough to raise eyebrows.  A Saudi teacher told the man who proposed marriage to her she would only accept his proposal if her married two of her colleagues (and friends) at the same time.

The prospective groom was initially taken aback and seemed inclined to reject her conditions.  But under pressure from relatives and friends, he acquiesced and married all three women .

After the marriage, he ensconced each bride in her own apartment within the same apartment building, allowing easy access to each other.

Polygamy is allowed within Islam and under certain conditions set out in the Quran, a man may have up to four wives.

However, in spite of being good friends, I wonder at the wisdom of three young women living in close proximity to one another and also working at the same facility while sharing the same husband is really a good idea.  No matter how hard a man may try to be equal to all women in reality this rarely works.  Even the Quran states how difficult it is for a man to be equal in time and feelings let alone material provisions when he has more than one wife.

In this case, I believe I feel sorry for the man and think the three female friends made a huge mistake in all marrying the same man.  I see these conditions as prime for deteriorating the existing friendships between the women.

Saudi Arabia: Would the Grand Mosque (Haram) Have Been Separated?

divided mosque

demotix.com

 

Just when you think you heard it all, a Saudi national, identified only as Abu Khaled, called in to a program hosted by Sheik Al-Mutlaq and hosted on the Al-Majd satellite channel.  Abu Khaled had a problem.  In his view the foreign (expatriate) Muslims who prayed in the mosques in Saudi Arabia were a disturbance.  They had dirty clothes and smelled bad.  Abu Khaled’s suggestion, more in the line of a request, was for separate mosques for the non-Saudi Muslims.  Can you imagine that?  It’s like a reminder of when the United States had segregation between those with white skin or black skin color.

Thankfully, Sheik Al-Mutlaq not only disagreed strongly with Abu Khaled’s suggestion, but put a stop to such nonsense.  Sheikh Al-Mutlaq told the questioner that his description of foreign workers reminded him of the condition of Saudi citizens at a time when the country did not know soap or shampoo. He told him that the dirty foreign workers might be closer to God than him. American Bedu agrees with Sheik Al-Mutlaq.

Just think, if another Sheik had not been so reasonable, future pilgrims might have been performing umrah or hajj in a divided Haram.

Saudi Arabia: Expatriate Housing Decisions Made by Employer

saudi apt bldg

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14489957

 

There seems to be a greater trend now among Saudi Employers in the Education Sector for the desire to have the expatriate employees consolidated.  In the past, expatriate employees were either assigned housing in an apartment or small villa or perhaps received a housing allowance and found their own housing. If expatriates had to share an apartment or villa, they were generally matched on being from the same region.

However, newer schools and universities are now having their own apartment building built next to the facility.  This is certainly convenient for the employer knowing that all employees are close by to the facility but it does not take into consideration cultural aspects or practicalities.

Like most employees, teachers do not want to live near the same place as they are working.  They need that break and separation.  It is important to have neighbors who are not colleagues.

One new school plans for all of its employees to live in the same apartment building – married, single, male, female, Saudi, expatriates, muslim and non-muslim.  In a place like Saudi Arabia where the culture is more restrictive and modest, a hodge podge of nationalities, cultures and religions can easily lead to conflicts.

A single Saudi woman may eagerly want the job as a teacher but could face strong family and tribal reaction if she were to live in the same building as unrelated non-Muslim men.

While in other places Muslims and non-Muslims can live easily side-by-side, the culture and traditions of Saudi Arabia make this more challenging.  At the end of a workday, a non-Muslim western expatriate would likely want to put on shorts and t-shirt, turn on some familiar music and relax without worrying what his/her Muslim colleagues next door might think.

Saudi Arabia is not the place where you intermix colleagues who are single, married, with or without children, or practicing different faiths in the same facility.

Ideally, there should be separate buildings for single men, single women and families or provide these employees with their own housing allowance.  Don’t consolidate them all into one large apartment building as presently proposed.

Nb:  American Bedu is aware of a specific educational facility whose housing plans are as described.  However, the name of the facility can’t be disclosed.

 

Saudi Arabia: What Would YOUR Documentary Be About?

New Zealand, North Island, Northland, Te Paki Sanddunes

johnallengay.wordpress.com

 

 

As the American Bedu documentary is in final edits, it has me wondering about others who are in or have been to the Kingdom or simply have a keen interest in the Kingdom.  If you were to create your own documentary sharing some aspect of Saudi Arabia, what would it be about?  Where would you choose to focus and why?

The American Bedu documentary is my life story but that includes a significant chapter of life in Saudi Arabia.  My chapter shares the love story between me and my late Saudi husband, meeting his family and how I was accepted into Saudi society.

However, everyone who is in or has been to Saudi Arabia will have a different story depending on the circumstances which brought them to the Kingdom and where they are located too.

The Kingdom truly is a country of ever shifting sands.  Those in Jeddah will know they are in a different country yet Jeddah will have a cosmopolitan feel and is relatively open.  Individuals, Saudis and expats alike will have more freedoms.

Whereas Riyadh by comparison is much more conservative and closed.  People are watchful and guarded in both how they dress and what they may say in public.

People in  Makkah and Medina are overall open and welcoming of all the international visitors who have come to perform Hajj and Umra.  Yet, unlike Riyadh or Jeddah, the majority of visitors to Makkah or Medina are Muslims and only Muslims are allowed in to the inner heart of these cities.

There are many cities and towns in between and each of them also has something unique to offer by way of customs, cultures and traditions.  In my opinion, one either hates the Kingdom and simply bides their time until they leave or the Kingdom gets into your blood and you have a bond and special place with Saudi Arabia for the rest of your life.

 

Saudi Arabia/Australia: Insights on Polygamy

 

Polygamy in Saudi Arabia takes place more among older men who are already established and in better financial circumstances to take on additional wives.  The rising youth in Saudi Arabia overall state they are not in favor of polygamy.  I guess ultimately time will tell on their part whether they remain true to their present feelings or change their minds.

Rarely is polygamy followed as advised in the Quran where a man is to be just and fair with all his wives.  In most cases the Saudi man seems to have a mid-life crisis when he reaches his 40’s or 50’s and at that time decides to secretly take another wife whether she be foreign or a Saudi national.  I say secretly for the first wife (and any other existing wives) are generally the last to know when a Saudi man takes another wife.

However, there will be clues that the wife can pick up on.  The husband will not be home as often.  The household income may change with unexplained cuts in the budget.  He will be more secretive when he is on his cell phone or may text more often.  Eventually the wife will realize that the life as she knew it with her Saudi husband has changed.

Polygamy is not limited to Saudi Arabia.  It exists in every country in the world, legally or illegally.  The Australian program, Insight, featured a special on Polygamy in Australia.  Although somewhat lengthy, the video is mesmerizing, especially when seeing and hearing the testimony of two sisters who share the same husband.

Saudi Arabia: Interview with a Saudi Foreign Wife

February is known as a month for love and romance.  As a result, American Bedu has featured multiple interivews with individuals who have their own special connections to Saudi Arabia.  These interviews are always a popular topic of discussion.  With today’s posting, American Bedu has the pleasure to interview an American woman who has married a Saudi man.  Due to sensitivities associated with her story, she is not identified by name.

 

Thank you for reaching out to American Bedu and offering to share your story and journey.

love and marriage

yumigawa.deviantart.com

It’s my esteemed pleasure to share my story with you. I’ve been following your blog from time to time for several years now.

To begin with, please share with American Bedu readers a little bit about yourself.  What part of the States are you from?  What was your upbringing like? 

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey a commuter suburb to New York City. I had a really troubled relationship with my parents. It led to me leaving to live with my grandmother, who then died after I got into college. After college when I had nowhere to go but home since I couldn’t find a job, I came to them. I even helped them move from one house to another and many other things since I was muslim at that point and had a better understanding of respect for parents. They had the same problems that they had with me when I was a younger. One day, after a minor altercation with my dad, he just told me to get out of the house and never come back. I spent about 4 months homeless, refused to get married until I had gotten at least some kind of job. Anyhow, that’s another story.

Did you ever imagine yourself meeting and falling in love with a man who came from a differing culture, country and religion?

When I got into college, I had pretty much given up on men after being picked on a lot and turned down by guys throughout high school. Not only that, but my university was quite dangerous, and I had been sexually assaulted not only at my university job, but also in the dorm laundry room and by a classmate. I really was not looking to be in any type of romantic relationship with a man. I was even turned off of marriage even further since I had been working in the center where they had English language classes for international students and a few guys had targeted me as a potential wife. I had at least two stalkers that I can remember. One even tried to get me into his car to go to the mosque to get married so he could get a green card!! (I have no clue how he could have forced me to marry him had he actually gotten me there.)

saudi love

sarooony.deviantart.com

How did you and your Saudi meet one another?  How long from your initial meeting did you both realize that you had feelings which were stronger than a mere friendship?

By the time I had actually met him I had already converted to Islam and was speaking Arabic fluently. It’s actually a funny story (only for me) how we met. You see, I had met this girl online who had similar interests in Arabic, and Saudi Arabia. I had by that time met a lot of Saudis at my school, and was getting somewhat interested in their culture, and I was also learning specific dialects from the country. She had been telling me about this guy that she knew online that was soooooo perfect.

“He doesn’t go out with girls, he’s so religious…” The more she told me about him, the more interested I became. She was also really infatuated with him. I felt I knew a little bit better about the Saudi culture and its language though; I was definitely a better match. I was probably hearing about him for months, so I’d ask different questions about him, getting to know a little more about him.

He seemed like my ideal guy. I told her one day that she should put us in a conference chat so I could see that he is ‘really real.’ When I talked to him the first time he was really polite with me speaking in Modern Standard Arabic. I wouldn’t speak English with him at all. I wanted him to know that my language was good in hopes of enticing him to like me. (I already knew I liked him before this point.)

After this meeting, I kept in touch with him but I never spoke with him by voice or even saw his picture. I just wanted to know his personality because I care about these things the most. Now, at the time we had met we were in summer breaks from school. I was about to go into my senior year and he was going into his junior year of university. I asked him to help me with my language, so we would watch Arabic cartoon series together in YouTube. I would write ‘Ready??? Play!!!’ to make sure that we both were at the same exact second each time. I felt really close to him. It wasn’t until I had gotten back to the university for a few months where I gave him a missed call in Skype. I wanted him to think it was a mistake, but he actually called me back. Then I answered and heard his voice for the first time, and I liked it a lot. Within a few weeks, I requested him to send me his picture. I had totally been thinking he was short with a big, black, curly hair atop his head and a cute potbelly (since he said he likes to eat a lot). I was totally wrong. His picture literally took my breath away. He was tall, balding handsomely and built.  It wasn’t soon until I started wanting to tell him “I love you.” I think he felt that coming with my playful, “I….., I……., I……” He said that we shouldn’t say that, we aren’t married. I said, “Why aren’t we married?”

I told him I knew already about the whole ‘it’s not allowed’ thing, but are we really just going to not get married? We married (islamically) by phone, kind of as an engagement. Then, we could continue our chatting to the romantic level.

 

How much did you know about Saudi Arabia as a country and Saudi’s as a people prior to meeting the man who became your husband?

I can’t say that I knew more than he knows about his own country, but I could place people into which city(ies) they were from by listening to them speaking or by their face, clothing style or other. I had done my reading.

What part of the Kingdom is your husband from?  What kind of an upbringing did he have?  Would you describe him as open or traditional or conservative?

My husband is from the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia (sharqia). He is also a Shia (I am also). His father died when he was 2 or younger and his mother died when she was 17. The thing about his upbringing has a lot to do with the death of his father.

The story was that his father, a successful businessman who owned a bit of land, was having some pain in his leg. His (evil and jealous, but trusted) brother decided to take him to a public hospital. He died of mysterious reasons. The next thing that happened on the day that he died as told by his mother. His evil uncle went into their house into his father’s private room and closed the door. He took everything of theirs, and left them with nothing. As much as she complained, his family did not want to burn bridges with each other by getting into the problem. She tried to get aid from the government but they would give her nothing stating that her late husband was a ‘businessman.’  She was forced to bring up three children with no means in a very small house. It gave him a lot of reasons to respect women, one of the things that I admire about him. He cares deeply for the rights of women. 15 years later, she also died from mysterious reasons. Sometimes we think that she had completely tired herself out from the stress of living in such poverty.

I would say that he is open-minded.

When and how did he propose to you?  Was his family aware of you before he proposed or that the two of you married?

We agreed to get married. His family knew nothing about it when we married (technically got engaged) on the phone like that, but some months before we got married on government papers (in the US), he called his brothers to let them know he had found someone and see what they thought. He let me talk to them. They really liked me, especially because I was a convert and probably more because I spoke their language and they could identify with that.

civil marriage

clarkcountynv.gov

I understand that you and your husband are married.  Please share some details of your wedding with American Bedu readers.  Did you have a civil, church or Islamic wedding ceremony?  (or combination!)  Did you have a large wedding?  What kind of a dress did you wear?  Who stood up with you?

We had a civil wedding. We went to city hall in New York City, got our marriage license and then asked them to allow us to marry on the same day instead of having to wait another day; they allowed us. Then we proceeded back to the court and looked around for someone to be our witness. I just wore regular everyday clothes that I was normally wearing around that time. My black abaya and black scarf.

How long have the two of you been married?  How confident are you that you know all you need to know about your husband?  Please explain your answer.

We have been married almost three years now, not counting the engagement.  I’ve known him for 4.5 years. I think I know more about him than he knows about himself. He relies on me for everything. I really have no idea where he would be without me. I also wonder where I would be without him.

What does your husband do in the United States?  Do the two of you plan to remain in the United States?  Do you want to travel to Saudi Arabia?  Why or why not?

Well, he got dismissed from his graduate program. That was really sad news for us, but he is definitely going to try again. He is desperately trying to find a job. He’s had several interviews and a few offers so far but some are in other states and I will not be able to leave with him, as I am in my last semester of graduate school and working two jobs at the same time.

Do you ever fear that your husband will return or have to return to Saudi Arabia without you?  How does that make you feel? 

I used to fear that a lot, especially because we had no money to apply for permanent resident status. I finally got some money together last summer and we started it with a lawyer. We were really worried about the financial sponsor portion of the application, but I have really good news…. Our lawyer fought for us to count his scholarship salary as my income. It was slightly complicated to do that, but if any of your readers are attempting this, you can have them contact me, and I can tell them how to do this.

Do you know his family?  Do you know how to contact them and feel that you can reach out to them at any time?

I know some of his family personally and most of them by reputation. I am definitely more than welcome to call them anytime. He has one aunt who sticks on me like molasses. She constantly calls me wanting to chat, and chat, and chat…. His brothers really like me a lot. One of them once called at 3 am to ask me how to spell ‘gergis’ (craigslist). They get a lot of help from me with English (so they had better not complain!). But sometimes some miscommunications happen between me and them and I end up being mad at them for some reasons.

parenthood

dishesinthesink.com

I understand that you and your husband are also parents!  How has parenthood changed your lives and your relationship?

Parenthood changed our lives a lot. We don’t get the time to talk like we used to. I kind of feel more like roommates right now. I’m co-sleeping with my one-year old daughter, and I’m not going to stop until we get into a bigger place, so he either sleeps at the end of the bed or on the couch, because we don’t have the money to buy a bigger bed. Lots of things are going to change when either I graduate or he gets a job.

Do you want your child to have Saudi citizenship?  Why or why not?

I’d like her to have anything that she is entitled too. If she can get some benefits from being a Saudi citizen such as a college scholarship and such, I’d REALLY love that for her!

How do you feel your life has changed by marrying a Saudi?

At first, I had to be really secretive about this relationship. So it cost me a lot of friendships. I had agreed to be silent about this marriage, but it was really hard in the long run. Many of my friends who I miss never knew I got married and had a baby, and if I tell them now, they will be so mad at me for not telling them.

What was your family’s reaction to your decision to marry a Saudi?  Are they supportive?  Are they okay if you decide to make a future life in Saudi Arabia?

Because my parents and I had so many problems, by the time I had gotten married I had already cut ties with them for a while.

When my dad got prostate cancer I reconnected with them for a short while, but it was pretty hard to maintain a good relationship. I cut ties again after a fight with my mom. Now just three days ago, she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, so I am back in touch with her. We should be having a visit soon. She really likes my husband. I’m not sure about her specific reasons, but she never ‘didn’t like’ him.

If we had decided to move to anywhere in the world, I honestly feel that it wouldn’t affect her feelings at all given our relationship.

There are many women who meet and fall in love with a Saudi while he is abroad.  What advice can you give to these women?  How can they know their Saudi is serious (if they are wanting a committed relationship with him)?  What are the ‘red flags’ a foreign woman should watch out for if she becomes involved with a Saudi?

I can tell you only from experience from knowing a few other women who married Saudis here in the US.

If he is hiding any type of information from you such as financial information, family information etc, beware.

If he spends more time with his friends than you, beware.

If none of his friends know about you or only a select few, beware.

If he has a lot of girls on his facebook, or numbers in his phone and he is one of the traditional types, I’d be suspicious.

Sometimes they might hide girls’ numbers under men’s names in their phones, if they are calling a specific guy really often you might want to investigate or ask how that guy is doing.

Are there any more details you’d like to share about your relationship and marriage?  Any additional advice?

Advice: marry someone who respects you.

American Bedu wishes you all the very best and happiness!  Thank you again for this interview.

Saudi Arabia: What Should a Couple Know or Discuss Prior to Marriage?

getting married

dazzlejunction.com

Marriage should be viewed as a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman.  With marriages that are arranged between family members or a matchmaker, a young man or woman may be uncertain on what they believe they should know in advance of marriage.

Many Saudi families who have arranged a marriage for a son or daughter will generally at some point allow the young couple to have (chaperoned) time together where they can speak and ask questions of each other.  This meeting, although in most cases viewed as a mere formality, is also the opportunity for the couple to determine if they are truly compatible with one another.

Not all marriages are taking place between young men and women who are getting married for the first time.  In some cases one half of the couple may have been widowed or divorced or in other cases, a woman may be agreeing to become a second, third or fourth wife of a Saudi man.

marriage questions

foundationsforfreedom.net

American Bedu received a list of issues which should be taken into consideration prior to a commitment of marriage.  This list is a guideline and written from a Western perspective.  Yet it raises many important issues that do impact on the ability to have a successful marriage and relationship and how well suited a couple are to one another based on their upbringing, culture and values:

1.       Relationship Options and Goals
2.       Family Background
3.       Home Roots location and Culture
4.       Family Values
5.       Educational background
6.       IQ indicators
7.       Decision making ability
8.       Sense of humor
9.       Verbal skills
10.  Religious background/Tradition
11.  Level of religious participation
12.  Openness to religious discussions/learning
13.  Personal Faith
14.  Children
15.  Relationship with children
16.  Parenting skills
17.  Parenting styles
18.  Pets
19.  Work background
20.  Current living situation (own/renting – house/apt etc)
21.  income level
22.  Personal Health issues
23.  Physical Attraction
24.  Physical Preferences
25.  Physical Turn-offs
26.  Definition of Intimacy
27.  Desire for Intimacy
28.  Capacity for intimacy
29.  Sexual Experience
30.  Sexual Preferences
31.  Sexual Desires
32.  Previous relationships
33.  Relationship(s) with X’s
34.  Bad or Repulsive habits
35.  Pet peeves
36.  Meyers-Briggs Temperament Type
37.  Biorhythm Cycle
a.      Biorhythm compatibility
i.      Intellectual – 60% Ideal
ii.      Physical – 60% Ideal
iii.      Emotional – 80% Ideal
iv.      Overall – 80% ideal
38.  Match.com personality type
39.  Hobbies
40.  Circle of Friends
41.  Relationship with Father
42.  Relationship with Mother
43.  Relationship with Siblings
44.  Previous personal Crises encountered and endured
45.  Any Healing/Grieving processes not completed
46.  Personal Hygiene Standards & values
47.  Physical Conditioning standards & values
48.  Any health problems or limitations? (revisit this again at later phases In the relationship)
49.  Cooking skills
50.  Entertaining skills
51.  Expressed Social skills
52.  Observed Social skills,
a.      Large Group
b.      Small Group
c.      1-1
d.      With Wait  Staff
e.      With Retail CSRs
53.  Past Huge Emotional Events – life changing level
54.  Unfinished business – personal emotional, legal, financial actions that are still unresolved.
55.  Favorite foods
56.  Favorite colors
57.  Clothing style preferences
58.  Income needs to support style of living
59.  Financial stability
60.  Tax returns
61.  Personal Values
62.  Personal Crusades
63.  Personal Prejudices’
64.  Personal Passions
65.  Personal Political views/passions
66.  Values indicated by the lifestyles and habits of your children
67.  Relationship with your children
68.  Importance of family
69.  Your Interaction with my family
70.  Your acceptance of my family – as they are
71.  My families acceptance of you
72.  Pets acceptance of you
73.  Your acceptance of my pet(s)
74.  Temper/Anger management
75.  Argument/fighting skills/styles
76.  Emotional “Hot Buttons”
77.  Any Baggage
78.  Preferred Living situation
79.  Realistic Living expectations
80.  Personal Dreams/Goals and Aspirations
81.  Willingness to relocate
82.  Willingness to commit
83.  Number of previous LTR’s
84.  Longest relationship – what kept it together?
85.  Strongest relationship – How and why was it so?
86.  Number of previous engagements
87.  Number of previous marriages
88.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how attracted are you to me?
89.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how willing are you to commit to being exclusive in our relationship?
90.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how accepting would you be “at this time” to a proposal of marriage, if one was made?
91.  Divorce Redlines/Limits – what things would you divorce your spouse for?. .physical abuse? …Drug addiction?  & HOW does this reconcile with Forgiveness Promise?
92.   Taste in:
a.      Art
b.      Furniture
c.      Decorating
d.      Architecture
93.  Attraction to others outside the relationship, including porn
94.  Man Toys
a.      Boats
b.      Cycles
c.      Others
95.  Guns at home
96.  Division of HH Chores
a.      Dishes
b.      Yard work
c.      Car Maint,
d.      Handy Man Stuff
e.      TP – over/under
97.  Roles in Marriage
98.  Movies
99.  TV habits
100.         Ideal Vacation, Travel
101.         Jealousy
102.         Books
103.         Retirement Goals
104.         Arrests/Illegal Activities/ Drug use
105.         Handling Money
a.      Budgeting habits
b.      Priorities
c.      Saving habits
d.      Investment Habits
e.      Donations
106.         Bucket List
107.         Personal History of Faithfulness to partners in the past..
108.         Love Language….
109.         Birth Date
110.         Sporting Activities and Viewing
111.         How/where and with whom do you celebrate major holidays..

“List: Copyright 2013, by Stan Tucker”

Saudi Arabia: Arranged Marriage or Love Marriage – How Do You Know If Either Will Work?

arranged marriages

moi-little-blog.blogspot.com

 

Saudi Arabia is not the only country where marriages continue to be arranged.  Much of the Middle East, Asia and Africa continue to have arranged marriages.  Additionally, those who come from countries and cultures where marriages are arranged generally continue to follow their heritage and traditions even when they have departed their country of ethnic origin.

Marriages can be categorized as arranged, forced or love.  An arranged marriage is where either a representative of the family or a matchmaker will facilitate the introduction of a young man and woman for the intent of marriage.  However, both the young man and the young woman are to have the freedom of choice to say yes or no to the proposal.

That sounds pretty simple except when families are keen to have a new bond forged in a family through marriage, many young men and women are reluctant to stand up to their parents for fear of them and perhaps the family losing face.

A couple will enter into an arranged marriage likely with the same hopes of a love match – that the marriage will create a special bond, spark and intense feelings between the new husband and wife.  At the same time, a couple who has agreed to an arranged marriage will likely approach the union as one which they will make the best of and learn to adapt to one another.

On the other hand, there are forced marriages.  These are marriages which families may attempt to call arranged but either the man or woman strongly opposes and does not want the union.  However, due to familial pressure, the feelings and emotions of the man or woman are not taken into account.  It is with forced marriages that abuse may begin and these marriages to ultimate end in divorce, abandonment or the man taking another wife.

Last but not least are the love marriages.  Love marriages can come about naturally between a man and a woman.  In Eastern cultures where a man and woman have met one another without an intermediary, the relationship may segue to one along the cultural norms of bringing extended family into the picture in the hopes of further bonding the families prior to a happy marriage.

In the Western world little thought is given to the concept of an arranged marriage.  Yet, the Australian show, Insight, had an interesting and very candid program about arranged, forced and love marriages taking place in Australia.

I highly endorse everyone watching the one hour video.  This is an excellent video to give anyone greater understanding and insights to the distinctions between marriages (arranged, forced, love), the reaction and acceptance to the differing types of marriage and especially from both men and women of all age levels and strata’s of life.

 

Saudi Arabia: Can Online Matchmaking Work?

finding love online

yourengagement101.com

 

It’s not surprising that with the plethoria of available social media, more young (and older) Saudis want to take greater control over finding a spouse for themselves.  These Saudis are expressing their interest and requirements in a mate through twitter, online forums, online matchmaking sites, muslim marriage sites and leaving the traditional matchmaker behind.

In addition to mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts who will search among their peer groups for possible matches with single loved ones, they may also turn to the traditional matchmaker.  The traditional matchmaker is a Saudi woman whose business is bringing together compatible and suitable men and women for (arranged) marriage.

The traditional matchmaker receives fees for her services, both to engage her initial service and other fees when a couple agrees to a match proposed by her.  She will match up couples for traditional Islamic marriages and she will may also put couples together who are seeking a misyar marriage.  Due to the unique requirements and sensitive details of a misyar marriage, a higher fee is generally charged for this service by the traditional matchmaker.

With Saudi men and women turning to the Internet to find a mate, the traditional matchmaker fears that her role and services performed have started to diminish.

saudis online

kids.britannica.com

 

Saudi citizens reaction to the use of online sites is mixed.  While many Saudis like having greater control in finding and choosing a mate, there remain difficulties in overcoming culture and traditions concerning marriage that have been in place for decades.  In Saudi Arabia, unless it is a misyar marriage, one does not marry a spouse but rather the family and tribe as well.  Many marriages continue to be made within the extended family and tribe.  This is not only for keeping assets and family business within the family but also the most common network of contacts women in the family will use to find a mate for their family member.

Use of online sites do make it easier for the Saudi man to post and find a second wife or a woman willing to engage in a misyar marriage.

This video further discusses the pros and cons of Saudis who are turning to online sites in the hopes of finding a spouse.  Not all Saudis are in favor though of online matchmaking.  In 2011, Saudi Gazette published an article on this topic.  In the article, young Saudis share their experiences with social media towards having interaction with the opposite gender and follow up with what they see as the pros and cons using such media. Saudi women cite their concern about deception on the part of the man that he can make himself into who or whatever he wants to be.

In spite of the valid concerns raised, there have been success stories of young Saudi couples finding love (and marriage) .  One Saudi man did find his wife though online media.  They had an “electronic” courtship which was approved and sanctioned by their parents.

online matchmaking

singleandmuslim.blogspot.com

 

Some of the more popular sites which Saudis (and other Muslims) tend to use for finding a spouse are:

http://matchmaking.dating.lt/profile/step_look.htm.php?sid=1we

http://seo.arablounge.com/matchmaking/Saudi%20Arabia/Saudi%20Arabia/RIYADH

http://www.muslimmatch.com/

http://salaamhearts.com/

On viewing the above sites, it is clear that one has to be careful in their use.  They must think carefully about what they say and how they say it.  Anyone starting a dialogue with someone met online should be careful and always cautious.  There are scammers and those looking to con individuals who prey on the online sites.  These unscrupulous individuals are looking out for themselves and their own venal desires.

stk158045rke

dating-sites.bestreviews.net

 

Online matchmaking it not new, although a new trend to Saudi Arabia.  The Western world has been active with online matchmaking/marriage sites for years.  Following are some of the most popular sites in the Western world.  The same advice on using caution for anyone seeking love and marriage through an online site applies.

http://www.match.com/

http://www.eharmony.com/

http://www.christiansingles.com/

 

caution

champion-america.com

 

Someone accessing online sites for the intent of seeking love and marriage are immediately making themselves vulnerable by placing such an intent and desire on cyberspace.  A man or woman should be careful to not reveal too much about their vulnerabilities of loneliness.  It is also safer to use an alias and reveal little about your real name, family, financial status or any assets.  Start slowly and cautiously.  Beware of stalkers in addition to the scammers and cons.  In my opinion, a woman should not use an online site without advising someone she trusts of what she has done.  This is for her protection.  If a man or woman feels that an individual sounds like a compatible candidate for a spouse, validate as much information provided by the person as possible to ensure of their legitimacy and sincere intentions.  Don’t go from corresponding on an online site directly to a personal meeting.  First, correspond through the mechanisms within the site.  Eventually you may wish to chat via Skype where you can start by hearing one another (without video) and then when appropriate (especially for the Muslim world and its customs) have a video chat.  A Muslim woman may want a male beside her at that point such as father, brother or Uncle.  This further reiterates the seriousness of the intent and lets the male suitor know that the woman has male relatives who are looking out for her well being, safety and best interests.

Love and marriage can be found online.  I will acknowledge that back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I was a more of a geek and ran a successful bulletin board system (BBS).  These became pretty much obsolete with the introduction of the Internet then followed by other social media sites.  However, while I had my BBS, 3 couples found each other and ultimately got married.  My BBS was not set up in any way as a matchmaking mechanism but some regular participants got to know one another through common interests which were discussed.

Saudi Arabia: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Abdul Al-Lily, Saudi blogger

It gives American Bedu pleasure to present this exclusive interview with Dr. Abdul Al-Lily, creator and blogger of Sex and Beyond:  Saudi Arabia.  It is not only unusual to find such a candid blog and one written by a Saudi man.

abdul

 

First of all, thank you very much, Dr. Al Lily, for this opportunity.  I hope I dont overwhelm you with the breadth of questions I have for you!  I am also confident that American Bedu readers will likely have more questions in addition to their comments after reading this interview.

 

Lets begin first with some background about you. Where are you from in the Kingdom?  How would you describe your upbringing?  Do you view your family as conservative or open?

I was born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and lived there till I turned 21 when I moved to Canada for a few months, then to England for around 7 years, then back to Saudi Arabia till now. At the age of 11, I joined an ideological community that trained its members in so many skills (e.g. computing, languages, management, organisation and graphics) and, more importantly, educated them intensively in Saudi Arabian culture and its theoretical aspects. I was very active and disciplined in this community, to the extent that I became an authority in this community at the age of 17. Through this community, I got very ‘culturalised’ and managed to achieve a high level of theoretical understanding of Saudi culture, to the extent that this qualified me to become a cultural authority outside this community, becoming at the age of 16 a ‘mouezzin’ (i.e. the person who issues the call to prayer from a mosque) and then at the age of 18 an ‘imam’ (i.e. an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and a Muslim community, who may lead Islamic worship services, serve as community leaders and provide religious guidance). At the age of 20, I managed to memorise the whole Quran with understanding of the rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Quran, and therefore I became qualified as an authority to teach others how to recite Quran. I, moreover, was an educational supervisor in Hajj five times.

Because I was always very keen to influence the organisation to which I am attached, I was very politically and socially active at school and engaged even with the regional education agency. Likewise, at the university where I did my undergraduate studies, I was a leader of social activities. Despite me being politically and socially active, my academic studies still had a top priority, and for this reason, I managed to pass my undergraduate studies with distinction and to gain a royal reward for the highest academic achievement in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Beside my academic studies, I attended a great number of seminars and lectures in the theoretical and practical aspects of Saudi culture. When I got my BA degree, I decided to learn English. I always like to do what people find difficult to do, and since English is considered (at least by Saudis) to be something difficult to learn, my focus had become on learning English. But the problem was that my background in English was zero. I did not even know what the term ‘newspaper’ meant in English. So, since the second I finished my undergraduate studies, I started studying English intensively for a year in Saudi Arabia, and then moved to Canada to continue learning English, then to England to study particularly academic English and do my postgraduate studies.

What kind of experiences have you had outside of the Kingdom? To where have you travelled? How have these travels impacted on you and your outlook?  uk and canada flags

Moving to such multicultural countries (Canada and then England) gave me the opportunity to explore other cultures and compare them to Saudi culture. This has indeed improved my critical ability to analyse Saudi culture and look at it from a new perspective. I have decided to share my new perspective with the international community, believing that this sharing is of the essence given that the world is witnessing a high level of cultural exchange but the contribution of Saudi culture to this exchange was weak and limited. So, I decided to write about Saudi culture, thus enriching information about Saudi culture in this international cultural exchange. Many Saudis avoid critically and internationally writing about Saudi culture for various reasons, including not being good at writing in English, not being good at theoretically and critically analysing Saudi culture, not having the writing skill, not being good at expressing themselves and/or not feeling politically confident. Another reason why there is a lack of writings about Saudi Arabian culture is that Saudi Arabia is a collective society, and therefore anyone writing about Saudi culture thinks of himself or herself as a representative of Saudi culture, which therefore puts so much pressure on himself or herself, thus discouraging him/her from writing about this culture. Likewise, because of this collectiveness, Saudi citizens think of any Saudi writer about Saudi culture as a representative of Saudi society, and therefore they will be hard on him or her if s/he misrepresents the culture.

When did you first get the idea on starting a blog which address sex, intimacy, relations and customs thereof within Saudi Arabia?

I realised that my Western friends were fascinated by anything I mentioned about sexual practice in Saudi Arabia, even if it was a small and simple thing. This has indeed motivated me to blog about Saudi sexual practice. Another reason why I decided to write about sexual relations is that I am academically interested in relationships, including power relations and gender relations. For me, any connection between two social elements (here, the two genders) is fascinating, and I am keen to think about, analyse and write about such a connection. I decided to write particularly about sex because sexual considerations have been given so much attention to the extend that they have somehow impeded the progress of Saudi society and because sexual considerations actually influence fundamentally almost any decision and policy and shape fundamental aspects of the national culture, structure and even infrastructure. Yet, writing about such sexual considerations in English is weak and limited, and for this reason, I have decided to blog about them in English, hoping to help fill this gap.

I have chosen Saudi Arabia as the setting for my blog because of the nature of its culture which is seen to tend to resist strictly and uncompromisingly any socially deviant trend in behaviour or belief, making it very strong and so heavily protected that even those campaigning for change do not challenge existing configurations, but rather attempt to work within them. This culture is believed to have been politically protected not only from above by the social authorities, but also from below by most citizens – and moreover from outside by international Arab and Muslim communities. Some writers think that Saudis as a whole seem in no doubt as to where their values lie. It is believed that Saudis, as a whole, are still strongly attached to their culture and religion.

Did you have any apprehensions or misgivings on creating your blog and identifying yourself?

I am trying so hard to be diplomatic and charismatic as much as possible, which seems to have discouraged any cruel social reaction towards the blog. Besides, there has apparently become no (or at least hardly any) physical harm to anyone criticising Saudi cultural and social values and patterns – with the exception of the fundamental norms of the national political system which I intentionally avoid talking about in the blog. There, however, remains some social hatred towards such critics. That said, I have started to notice that some Saudis (whether young or old, liberal or even conservative) somehow admire, normally secretly, anyone who is ‘westernised’/’modernised’ and has its own distinctive way of seeing Saudi culture, especially when this person is successful and delivers his/her criticisms in a polite and delicate way. Frankly, given the fact that I hold a doctoral degree and am a faculty member in Saudi Arabia, this grants me so much prestige, which makes Saudis show respect to me despite my critical writings about their culture. Besides, the fact that I did my master’s and doctorate in the West and lived over there for a long time, this makes people somehow forgive me for viewing their culture through a critical lens. I am, as mentioned earlier, a faculty member in a Saudi university, teaching a large number of Saudi undergraduates, and since the relationship between me and my students tends to be good, these students are more likely to become influenced by my values, thus increasing the number of my followers and therefore my ‘protectors.’

How do you get ideas on which specific subjects you write upon?

I get ideas through talks with non-Saudi and Saudi friends and also through enquiries from the readers of my blog. I normally spend three hours on any post; an hour researching, an hour writing and an hour proofreading. I am obsessed with taking notes of any thought or idea that comes to my mind, thanks to Evernote.

saudi honeymoon     How easy is it for you to write each post on a topic dealing with intimacy and specific within Saudis culture and religious beliefs?

I already addressed this question in my answer to the previous question, but what I should stress here is that writing about sex is not a new thing within the Saudi context. There are actually so many publications in Saudi bookstores talking about sexual practices. But what makes my blog outstanding and sensitive is that it is written in English and therefore directed to the international community, thus exposing Saudi society to the outside world and therefore destabilising Saudi privacy. Besides, almost all these publications are religion-driven and/or -oriented and full of citations from the Islamic history, whereas I am trying so hard to do otherwise as much as possible, which has raised a new perspective with which Saudi society is not familiar. Another aspect of my blog, which makes it outstanding and sensitive, is that it discusses only those issues that have not been discussed yet in the Western media, trying so hard to avoid talking about any issue that has already been shed light on.

What do you view as your most controversial post and why?

This question leads me to an important issue, i.e. that the increasing emergence of communication channels (e.g. online forums and blogs) has encouraged Saudi people to start discussing their cultural and social issues. Yet, many of these discussions seem to exist within a ‘bubble,’ sustain one-sided arguments and lack extreme opinions and ‘wild’ views. My blog, however, hopes to offer such opinions and views, just for the sake of argument, helping blow such a bubble. That is, what I write in my blog does not necessarily represent my own beliefs but can be written just for the sake of argument.

What are your views on writings about Saudi culture?

There are serious limitations in many of the writings about Saudi society by Saudis. One is that they are written in an emotional way and lack a scientific aspect. Another limitation is that some such writings are written theoretically with no empirical research given that the social authorities will not allow for such research to be conducted given its social sensitivity and given that it conflicts with the national culture. For example, any research on ‘gender mixing’ (the opposite to ‘gender separation’) normally faces the challenge that the social authorities will not allow researchers to conduct any social experiment (i.e. trail and control group) whereby the two genders are experimentally physically integrated, as such an action goes against the core cultural norm of gender separation. For this reason, writings about gender mixing in Saudi Arabia are informed by writings about gender mixing in other non-Saudi contexts. Yet, gender mixing in other non-Saudi contexts (e.g. the West and even in other Arab and Muslim countries) is different from gender mixing in the Saudi context. For example, Western single-sex schools and colleges are different from the Saudi ones, since parents, employers and employees of the other gender can access them in the West unlike in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, no one of one gender (e.g. parents, employers and employees) can access schools and colleges of the other gender. This means that findings of any research on single sex education in the West cannot and should not be seen as relevant to the Saudi context.

What have you seen as a most common theme or query which individuals like to see addressed?

I have realised that the Internet is full of merely dramas (i.e. not facts) about social life in Saudi society. I thus have built my blog in a way that avoids dramas and rather presents facts. That is, I have noticed that readers about Saudi Arabia seem to be keen to know about facts, being told in a factual and therefore not dramatic way. Such readers are also keen to know about those aspects of Saudi society that have not been discussed by the media yet. Such readers are aware that Saudi culture is more than just those certain cultural aspects that the media keep repeating and going through again and again. This awareness has encouraged them to become keen to expand their knowledge about Saudi society beyond these repeated aspects.

How much do the cultural customs, religion and segregation impact on a typical Saudis knowledge or understanding of intimacy?     saudi family

Saudi Arabia is a highly structured, deeply directed and intensively religion-oriented society, and this is why the impact of its norms on its citizens is strong. This explains why a Saudi, even after travelling abroad and exploring other cultures, is likely to remain under influence by and loyal to his or her culture and can hardly be independent of it. Saudi culture, moreover, has the power to regulate not only public life but also private life, and this is why even one’s private sexual life is subject to regulation by the culture. Yet, science sometimes proves the culture wrong, and this is when some citizens feel they are left in a critical situation wherein they do not know whether to follow the culture or science.

In your point of view, at what general age range is sex and intimate relations usually explained to a Saudi male or female?

It is useful to talk here about sex education. As the reader might know, there is no sex education in Saudi Arabia. The question is therefore whether such education should exist within the Saudi context. Some might believe that one will learn about sex with or without sex education, thanks to the Internet. Others, however, might argue that the Internet might expose Saudis to only certain aspects of sex (e.g. how to achieve more pleasant sex, including positions) but not to other aspects (e.g. how to achieve safe sex). Sex education has the potential to, or at least should, cover all possible aspects of sex and give students a comprehensive view on sexual practice.

Subjective, but do you think Saudis (male or female) may be more focused on sex or the idea of sex, than other nationalities? Why or why not?

Inside the country, Saudi men seem to be less focused on the idea of sex than other nationalities given that their exposure to (i.e. the reminder of) the other gender is weak. Outside the country, however, Saudi men seem to be obsessed about sex just as much as other nationalities are.

Are you married or single? If married, was your marriage arranged? If you are still single, do you plan for a marriage in your future and would it likely be an arranged marriage?

I am 29 and single, although Saudis typically get married at the age of 24. Saudi marriage is typically arranged through mainly mothers. A main problem with the idea of arranged marriage is that it is arranged by mothers who belong to a generation that is different from the generation of the person getting married and therefore are less likely to truly know his/her real needs. The one getting married could be left in a critical situation where s/he feels s/he has to put up with arranged marriage given that s/he cannot actually hang around and find a partner himself or herself given the firmly applied gender separation. Even if the Saudi man decides to travel to the West to look himself for the right partner to marry, the Saudi immigration system makes it difficult for him to bring her to the country as a partner, or even as a visitor given that it is difficult for female non-Muslims to get a visa to Saudi Arabia, I believe.

love gone wrong     So many foreign women engage in relationships with a Saudi while he is abroad. Most of these relationships are destined to eventual heartbreak. What is your advice to these women? What is your advice to the Saudi man abroad?

As I mentioned earlier, a Saudi man, while studying abroad, might have a Western girlfriend, but he finds it very hard or even impossible to bring her with him back home when going back for good to Saudi Arabia given that the Saudi immigration system apparently makes it difficult for him to bring her to the country as a partner or even as a visitor given that it is apparently very difficult for female non-Muslims to get a visa to Saudi Arabia, I believe. Yet, the best a Saudi friend of mind could do after going back home for good was to have a distance relationship with his European girlfriend, with him going regularly to visit her in Europe and her coming to visit him in the Gulf (not in Saudi Arabia though because she cannot legally get a visa and, moreover, because they cannot meet in Saudi Arabia given gender separation). He, moreover, cannot, I believe, marry her according to Saudi law unless there is actually a reason preventing him from typically marrying a Saudi woman. All this may have resulted in huge disappointment and frustration on the part of some of those Saudis being in a relationship with a foreigner.

Thank you very much for this interview and for sharing your blog with the world.

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