Congrats to Herbaz

My good friend Basem al-Salloum, aka Herbaz, is getting married tonight here in Riyadh. Congratulations!

UPDATE 2330: Just got back from the wedding. Here’s a picture of me saying congratulations to smiley Basem :-)

Want to Marry a Foreigner? Over Their Dead Body

The Shoura Council is an advisory body comprised of 150 members appointed by the King and serves as a quasi-parliament. Those members are academics, technocrats and businessmen. They are, in other words, the intelligentsia of the Saudi society, the crème de la crème, the elite, the… well, you get the idea.

However, I find myself rather gobsmacked by some of the conclusions they make and the recommendations they reach on some issues. Here’s a recent example: after being equally split over a need to simplify the regulations of Saudi marriages to foreigners, the newly appointed vice president Bandar al-Hajjar rejected the proposal. What a disappointing start for Mr. al-Hajjar who was just a few days ago the president of the National Society for Human Rights.

I do not understand the harsh restrictions enforced on citizens who want to marry foreigners. Why should the government bother with who one chooses to marry? I really do not understand the government’s obsession with interfering in the minutiae of people’s personal lives.

The argument offered by the proposal opponents is embarrassingly weak and wrongheaded they should be ashamed of themselves. “Such recommendations would greatly increase the number of Saudis marrying foreigners while we are fully aware of the complications that such marriages create,” they said. They also said changes would only exacerbate the problem of spinsterhood in the Kingdom. Are they trying to convince us that by taking these unfair measures they are actually protecting Saudi women?

As for the “complications” bit, the best response comes from Sabria Jawhar who says, “Well, those complications are created by the Saudi government in the first place. Perhaps minimizing the complications that exist in the law would help those marriages.”

Now how can a large group of supposedly intelligent people all agree on taking such an unintelligent position is just beyond me. Sadly, it is not the first time and this is not an isolated, single case. Remember the weekend thing?

Around one year ago, my good friend Khaled said that we should not get all worked up over the nonperformance of the Shoura Council because it is nothing more than a dead body that we should respectfully leave to rest in peace. I guess he was right all along.

On Saudi Marriages

Summertime is the preferred season for marriages in Saudi Arabia. I don’t like going to weddings but I always find myself socially obliged to attend quite a few of those between June and August every year, and this year more than before, many people who see me there ask me if I’m getting married soon. No, I say, not anytime soon. But as more and more of my peers tie the knot, the pressure from family and society as a whole increases and keeps mounting.

When friends ask what is keeping me off marriage, I give these answers:

  • I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment yet; I want to learn more about life, I want to travel and meet new people
  • I don’t like the traditional way in which people get married here; it’s blind and random and I don’t think it will work for me

The next question on people’s minds is usually this: so if you don’t like the old fashioned way of getting married, how do you intend to get married? Well, I say, I have a plan:

I would go on with my life, somewhere down the road I would meet someone, I we would get to know her each other, fall in love and marry her get married.

The reaction to my seemingly simple plan is usually: “then you will never get married.” This could be true in a sense because the extreme segregation of sexes in our society makes the chances of meeting a potential spouse pretty slim, if nonexistent. But as with many other things in the magic kingdom, I try to remain optimistic and not lose hope.

My mother, who was first shocked when I told her my plan, has recently made her peace with it. She said to me: “I’m done arguing with you about this marriage thing, so I will let you enjoy your little funky plan for now, but I’m pretty sure that in two years time you will come around begging me to find you a good girl.” I smiled and murmured: we will see…