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…

NY Times on Saudi Youth

I am often asked what does it mean to be a young man living in Saudi Arabia, and my answer has always been that this is a tough question to which I have no clear answer. So when reporters from the New York Times came to Riyadh last year to explore the question, I sarcastically told them, “good luck with that.”

They spent a few weeks in the Kingdom trying to find some answers, and today they published their first piece on Saudi youth on a special blog they set up in order to collect reactions from readers. The piece is the second installment of an ongoing series on Arab youth published by the Times. They started with Egypt, and now Saudi Arabia. A second piece from Saudi Arabia will be published shortly and will focus on young women.

NYTimes

The interesting story, somehow unconventional and unusual for stories from the Kingdom, features two cousins, Enad and Nader, aged 20 and 22, respectively. Nader is also engaged to Enad’s 17-year-old sister, Sarah.

I believe the story portrays to a good degree the kind of identity crisis that many Saudi youth go through. They found themselves born in a time when their country is changing, and they are having a hard time trying to define themselves in the midst of changes. That leads to the huge amount of fear and uncertainty I see when I look at the mirror or talk to my friends.

In particular, the piece nicely captures the contradictions — or dare I say the hypocrisy — that govern the the lives of our youth. Nader, the guy we see at the beginning of the story trying to hook up with the girl at the front desk of a dental clinic despite the fact that he is engaged to Enad’s sister, shares his disgust at the woman they saw at a restaurant because they thought she was not accompanied by a man, and when a man, apparently her husband, joins her they keep making gestures at them until the couple moves to another table.

Now the important questions is, how much these two young men are representative of the male youth in the country? That’s a whole different story. In a country as large and as diverse as the Kingdom, it’s really difficult to make a general assumption based on an article like this one. True, Nader and Enad are not the kind of people I would usually hang out with, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. How many of them out there, though, is an open-ended question.

One more thing: the NY Times are doing some sort of an experiment with this series. They are posting the stories on their Arabic blog in order to get feedback from Arab readers, and they will try to include some of the readers’ comments when the piece is published in the newspaper later this week. So if you can read Arabic go there and let them know what you think.

Love/Hate

Let’s face it. Despite what Philips may try to tell (or sell) you, life is not simple. We usually try to simplify it by generalizing and using stereotypes but that doesn’t always work. This has much to do with the fact that we human beings are very complex. We are not simple creatures folks. And this, I believe, where this kind of love/hate relationships come from.

1 – Riyadh
I love it because living in this city has given me opportunities I would never had if I stayed in my beloved hometown back in the EP, but I hate its hypocrisy, rudeness, sharp contrasts, restrictions and traffic jams.

2 – KSU
I love almost nothing about it except that some of my favorite intellectuals such as Khalid Al Dakhil, Hatoon Al Fassi and Matruk Al Faleh supposedly belong to this entity. I hate almost everything about it especially that these very same intellectuals are not allowed to teach here because someone thinks they will corrupt the minds of our youth.

3 – Relationships
I love them because they can provide you with a sense of security and peace that you can’t feel it on your own. I hate them because in a society like ours they are risky, shaky and so complicated you usually have little or no control over how they progress.

4 – Religious TV channels
I love watching them every now and then because they offer a form of entertainment rarely found anywhere else: laughing at something not intended to be funny. I hate them because in most cases they promote a very narrow-minded agenda that would actually hurt the religion they claim to represent.

5 – iPhone
I love the multi-touch large colorful screen, the amazing UI and immediate responsiveness, the SMS app, YouTube, etc. I hate the Apple lock that makes it hard to use for regular people without some hacking and geekery, no SMS forwarding, the inability to copy contacts from the SIM, and few other little things. But now that Apple have to offer the iPhone in France unlocked I hope most of these problems would be solved soon.

Jeddah: Gurlz vs. Guyz

jeddah_boysI have said it before and I shall say it again and again: those Jeddawis never fail to impress me. Their latest is a 12-minute documentary featuring young men and women who talk about their views about the opposite sex and dating.

As I have said in a recent post, dating is a risky business in Saudi Arabia, and to have a documentary discussing it this way is truly amazing. The short film is produced by Izzaty Islamy, a two-year-old girl’s social club that sponsors monthly discussions and has conducted debate events at Dar Al-Hekma College and the International Medical Center. I can’t wait to get my hands on the film and watch it; and since it’s only 12-minute long the group might consider uploading it to YouTube or something like that.