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Tuesday, May 13

NY TImes: Young Saudis, Vexed and Entranced by Love’s Rules

I read with great interest this piece in the NY Times about two Saudi young men and their quest for romance. With all the taboos and laws in place that make it almost impossible for love to flourish except in an arranged marriage, it's almost romantic how these cousins approach the idea of romance in what westerners would view a most stifling society. Yet both are religious police in a country where I'd never want to live or visit, where women are treated like belongings.

I wouldn't want to base my whole opinion of Saudi's on this one piece because if someone wrote for a Saudi paper how anti-abortion extremist Neil Horsley told Alan Colmes about his first girlfriend:
NH: "...Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."

AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."

NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"

AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"

NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."
ACK! Imagine if a world view of American romance was based on this quackeroo? But I digress. I read the comments with great interest especially those by Saudi's who felt that while it was true, the article painted a less than flattering view of Saudi lifestyle which is based on Islam. I'd probably agree with that, however it WAS written by a westerner and that's how he saw it.

A few things that struck me though:

Blatant disregard for women while believing that they have the highest regard
“One of the most important Arab traditions is honor,” Enad said. “If my sister goes in the street and someone assaults her, she won’t be able to protect herself. The nature of men is that men are more rational. Women are not rational. With one or two or three words, a man can get what he wants from a woman. If I call someone and a girl answers, I have to apologize. It’s a huge deal. It is a violation of the house.”
While they are forbidden from seeing a single woman's face in S.A. it's no wonder that
If there is one accessory that allows a bit of self-expression for Saudi men, it is their cellphones. Nader’s is filled with pictures of pretty women taken from the Internet, tight face shots of singers and actresses. His ring tone is a love song in Arabic (one of the most popular ring tones among his cousins is the theme song to “Titanic”).
But this hypocrisy just pissed me off and I don't know if this is the norm or not...
A woman had entered the restaurant, alone. She was completely draped in a black abaya, her face covered by a black veil, her hair and ears covered by a black cloth pulled tight.

“Look at the batman,” Nader said derisively, snickering.

Enad pretended to toss his burning cigarette at the woman, who by now had been seated at a table. The glaring young men unnerved her, as though her parents had caught her doing something wrong.

“She is alone, without a man,” Enad said, explaining why they were disgusted, not just with her, but with her male relatives, too, wherever they were.

When a man joined her at the table — someone they assumed was her husband — she removed her face veil, which fueled Enad and Nader’s hostility. They continued to make mocking hand gestures and comments until the couple changed tables. Even then, the woman was so flustered she held the cloth self-consciously over her face throughout her meal.

“Thank God our women are at home,” Enad said.
I think the article is worth a full read though. I imagine that love there flourishes once a couple is married and not before that. Before marriage any romance is purely imaginary and projected. One of the young men who was engaged to his cousin selected her based on his remembering her as a pretty little girl. The other young man suggested that you check out the brothers in order to tell if his future wife was pretty. Is this romantic? I'm not sure. It very well could be... the intrigue, the mystery and all that. The Saudi culture though must be a boon for homely young people who may not stand a chance for love in western culture. What was really romantic in the story is how some young couples attempt to communicate with their betrothed via text messaging or cell phone conversations and how if they happen to meet unconventionally in a very sex segregated society what they have to connive in order to convince their parents that they never met before an arranged meeting.

What are your views after reading the article. Could you write a romance novel about it?

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