Expat communities find matchmaking a tough task




JEDDAH: Expatriate families living in Saudi Arabia are finding it difficult to find suitable husbands for their daughters, especially from the same community.

They say sometimes facilitating a marriage is difficult because of the absence of relatives living in the Kingdom. In some cases, they claim daughters and sons born and raised in Saudi Arabia find it difficult to marry people from their home country because they have gotten used to living in the Kingdom.

In most cases and against family wishes, daughters and sons prefer to marry someone locally.

Huda Maghrabi, a Lebanese teacher and mother of three grown-up daughters, fears that she might not find suitable Lebanese husbands for her daughters because they are used to the local culture. All her three children were born and raised in Saudi Arabia.

“It is common for many expatriate families to have friendships with people from different nationalities,” she said.

“Some families prefer to have a group of friends from their own country. I had little relations with Lebanese families here in Saudi Arabia and that is why I find it difficult to find a good Lebanese husband for my daughters. Recently I received a Jordanian man who wanted to marry my daughter. Although she liked him, we refused.”

She added that she has received many proposals for her daughter from people from different countries.

“My husband and I believe that married life is better when couples share the same traditions and lifestyle. Because my daughter is aged 25 years, my husband advised me to go and live in Lebanon. This can increase marriage proposals for her from Lebanese suitors.”

Umm Abdullah, a Syrian housewife and mother of four girls, prefers Syrian men for her daughters. She is afraid of marrying her daughters off to non-Syrians, as she fears she will not see them when she goes back to Syria for good.

“I received many marriage requests from people of other nationalities. My daughters prefer to get married to Saudis, but I refused,” she said.

“I want to make sure that when I travel to Syria, my daughters will also come to see me. If I marry my daughter off to a man from another country, it will not be easy to see her.”

Nuha Barzaq, a Palestinian housewife and mother of one daughter, believes that she will not be able to find a suitable man for her daughter unless she marries into a family from another country.

“For Palestinian families who live in Saudi Arabia, it would be better if the girl gets married to a non-Palestinian man,” she said.

“She will enjoy a safe life in Saudi Arabia. But the problem is that our family in Palestine keeps insisting on the importance of same nationality marriages.”

Umm Mohanned, a matchmaker at Sheikh Saleh Al-Zahrani Mosque in Jeddah, confirmed that the large number of expatriate men want to marry women from other countries.

“The common perception for many people is that expatriate families welcome marriage proposals from other nationalities,” she said.

“This is totally wrong. Most marriage requests I get are from expatriate families looking for grooms from same nationalities. Most expatriate mothers have difficulties marrying off their daughters, especially those who are unemployed.”

She said she noticed that most Saudi and non-Saudi Arab men look for expatriate women from Syria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

“It is difficult getting the expatriate family to accept their proposals. They consider marriages involving foreigners a risk.”

According to Umm Mohanned, the recent trend is that men prefer to marry women from different countries.

“Large numbers of men of different ages come to me, inquiring about the possibility of finding future spouses from other nationalities,” she said.

“Television shows and reality programs have influenced the new generation. They like the dialect and lifestyles of expatriate women, which is why they prefer to have a wife from another country. This makes our mission difficult, especially when expatriate families prefer men from the same community.”

It is a different story for families from the South Asian Subcontinent. Though matrimonial adverts and marriage websites provide them with an opportunity to find their future partners from their home countries, many prefer to look within their communities in Saudi Arabia.

They have the advantage of being part of large communities in the Kingdom and also neighboring countries, allowing for a wider choice. Though families from the Subcontinent are more amenable to marrying their children off to Arabs, they rarely do so because of the hurdles involved.

Also, forging alliances within the communities gives them the opportunity of staying connected with their sons and daughters if and when they shift back home.

Today, more and more youths are opting for cross-border marriages, with the couple then opting to reside or migrate to a third country. 


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