Dating in Saudi Arabia is not a usual thing to do. A conservative country, the kingdom is notorious for its restrictive marriage policies, where a divorce sometimes is not an option. And yes, it has witnessed arrests for simply walking out together if not being relatives.
Did you know that one quarter of Saudis of marriage age are single according to the government’s statistics? The trend is in a visible increase among unmarried men and women. The government estimates that nearly 6 mln Saudis are leading a single life. Yet some might suspect money is the main culprit of the crisis, others suggest young Saudis turn their eyes to the West and prefer enjoying freedoms of out-of-the-wedlock life. Others simply prefer to get to know the other party more before the D-day to determine a suitability for a prospect marriage. Therefore a hidden subculture of dating in the country is under way. So what is it like to date a Saudi girl if you are a foreigner or non- Gulfie? Basic rules to manage your expectations are below.
1. No profile picture, but Wallah I am hot
The kingdom has one of the highest worldwide ratios of social media users when compared to the population. Many people prefer actually to meet online avoiding strict social life rules. According to traditions women are not welcome to show their faces on social media. Some families even prohibit their teenage daughters opening social media accounts. But social pressure is too hard to bear. So many young Saudi females do have accounts on Twitter and Instagram. But don’t rush to check on her face and clothes, because you will only find there photos of cute animals and flowers. Why not?! 🙂
2. Learn at least some complements in Arabic
Source: Instagram, Lindsay Lohan
Remember, Arab women love what they hear. So be romantic, poetic and prolific when it comes to complements. In case you ran out of words, quote Nizar Qabbani or Mahmoud Darwish. But try not to mess up the verses!
3. Meet her in malls, through friends or in embassy parties
Don’t expect a Saudi girl to wink and approach you in a shop. Women absolutely CAN NOT mix with men in public in the kingdom. There are even seven gender segregated coffee shops. So even if you are walking together in the hope of exchanging a few words when you get away from a busy spot, be prepared to be stopped and asked for a proof of marriage! In other case you might be detained, interrogated and even deported!
4. Pictures of babies in every message
If you finally managed to get her phone and secure an online date, expect to be bombarded with pictures of cute babies. No explanation here.
5. Wallah, I only put an eyeliner!
Don’t be shocked that her amount of perfume and makeup is slightly excessive according to your standards. Saudis love makeup and are often enjoying experimenting with it. Remember that a third of the most influential Arab beauty women bloggers are Saudi according to the Forbes’ list!
6. You are never alone
In KSA a woman needs a presence of her male relative for leaving the house. Such things as travel, renewing a passport or going to work needs a permission too. So expect no privacy even if you fell for an older woman!
How come it’s fair an old 50 yo women need her own son’s permission to work/travel/get a treatment etc .. ? #togetherToEndMaleGuardianship
— Haneen (@CallaLily013) September 3, 2016
7. Veil from head to toe
Mini-skirts or tight dresses are out of the question. So don’t expect your beau to surprise you with a new skinny pair of jeans while outside. All women in Saudi Arabia must wear a long black dress ‘abaya’ and cover their heads with scarfs. (‘shaila’ or ‘tarha’). Niqabs are widely spread too.
8. Women don’t drive
Lastly, don’t expect her to jump into her car and get to your place for a romanic goodnight hug whilst her entire family is asleep!