Marriages in the Arab World

Marriages in the Arab World

         Many people think that marriage is some sort of right of passage. When a girl becomes of age and is now a woman, she should automatically get married or get into the process of meeting “potential husbands”. Even though she just hit puberty and is entering middle school. To me that is a bunch of nonsense. I’m thirteen for god’s sake, I should be shopping for some school supplies, spending time with my friends, going out, shopping, texting, anything I want to do like a normal teenager. Yes, I just said TEENAGER. Let me summarize a little bit about myself so I don’t sound so opinionated. I was born and raised in The United States of America. I moved down to Alexandria, Egypt when I was fifteen, so you could see how my life was switched upside down. I came to a country where people thought I was “too old” to do anything apparently. Basically, living in a world of people expecting me to get married right after puberty hits had me in a bit of a juggle if you ask me.

           I mean things have changed over the years, but culture is still the same. Yes, in my community it’s not mandatory for a woman my age to be married, but that doesn’t stop my mother and her friends from auctioning me off like I’m a piece of furniture in an auctioning ceremony. That was a little harsh, but I know my mother means well, but give me SPACE! I am a strong, independent woman that does not need a man to be happy. Yes, of course I want to meet the love of my life and take the time and get married and have kids like any other human being, but I want it to come naturally.

          Let’s get down to the real deal why I’m here. To discuss a few marriage types I’ve come to know these past 12 years of living in this country.

  1. An arranged marriage; only the easiest way to get a divorce. It’s a step-by-step marriage system that Egyptians or better yet, Arabs have come to know and live by. Step 1, Mothers of both sides of the “party” [Man and Woman] talk to each other on the phone and decide to meet one another in an outside location, so it’s comfortable for both parties [The potential husband and I]. Then, after that god forbid awkward meeting, I go home with my mother and we discuss moving forward, or in my case, moving backward and bickering. I know this sounds a bit hilarious, but it’s exhausting. If and only if, I agree, and in some cases not like my family, girls usually don’t have a say in these things. They don’t have a right to say yes or no. So, I’m kind of lucky, let’s stay positive. After I decide yes, the potential husband, his dad and my dad meet. Later, the potential husband [sounds super formal] comes over and we get all dressed up in uncomfortable clothing to read el fat7a [passage from the Qura’n] and that apparently means we can go out in public, YAY! Later, we have our engagement, where we exchange debal “engagement rings” if the man’s party can provide and has a mutual agreement with the bride’s family then, she can have her shabka, tons of diamonds “BLING BLING”, upon approval of course. Wait, there’s one last step, THE WEDDING! We, as Egyptians LOVE to spend tons of wasted money to celebrate for one day and one day only, our wedding day and there you have it, we’re hitched! The beginning of the end. You know how this story ends.
  2. A conceptual marriage; is a marriage where we actually love one another and have been dating for quite some time, maybe even years, like normal people. So, my future boyfriend of course would come and propose to my parents and myself and basically ask for my hand in marriage. I, then say yes and we start the process of the step 1 mentioned above. God it’s hard to get married as an Egyptian.
  3. A forced marriage; the kind all women fear! This is a kind of marriage that is very popular in more rural areas in the Arab world. It’s pretty simple, as a woman you have no choice. Your parents choose your life. From A to Z, right down to where you live, how many kids you’re going to have, what to wear, how you speak etc…etc…etc….the list is endless. If you’re lucky, you get a decent guy that will love you more than you love him and he will try his hardest to make you the happiest woman alive. If you’re not that lucky I wish you well.

After listing all the sorts of marriages that I am familiar with, I hope that someday if any woman is reading this that she laughs about it. That it brings her ease living in this country with all our culture indifferences and regulations to how we should be a “woman.” As for myself, I think I speak loud and clear about how I feel about this issue, which surprisingly has changed a little. What I mean is, families are more excepting these days, they give us “women” the right of choice more and more, everyday. I hope one day, some day that a woman could have her own voice in everything she wants in life. That she can decide, wherever her social standing is or where she comes from, that it could be her choice to marry whomever and whenever. She could decide what would make HER happy not everyone else happy. I am a woman and I choose for myself.