This blog is blocked in Saudi Arabia. It is written by a Saudi professor. It has been hit by 173 countries worldwide. It has been translated into 7 languages.
Today, I was on the Bridge of the Arts in Paris, where lovers write their names on a padlock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key in the water as a sign of loving each other forever. I could not help but wonder what love means to Saudi people. Saudis are obsessed with the concept of love. Most Saudi music is about love, and Saudis listen to love music all the time. Yet, one might wonder if love actually exists in Saudi Arabia since one ends up with a wife chosen for him through arranged marriage. It is obvious that Saudi music is concerned so much with love, but why do Saudis make a big deal out of love if they end being in an arranged relationship through arranged marriage? Two Saudis might agree to get together through arranged marriage hoping that they will eventually fall in love, but if it turns out that they do not eventually fall in love, they either get a divorce or, more likely, get stuck with this marriage since divorce is socially and culturally difficult. Getting a divorce is actually not easy, partly because of the high expenses involved. Another reason is that the Saudi woman is easily attached to her husband, meaning getting a divorce really breaks her heart and, moreover, affects her reputation since being divorced implies there must be something wrong with the divorced woman (and the divorced man). One does not want to have a reputation for keeping getting married and getting divorced. The partner normally does not (nor can s/he, financially and socially speaking) break up even if the marriage is unsuccessful, and therefore s/he chooses to just remain stuck with it anyway. The husband will therefore use his wife simply for children and sex and spend most of his time at work and with friends. Likewise, the wife will use the husband for the same and spend most of her time on domestic life, following fashion, attending social gatherings and hanging out with her girlfriends. Another reason why getting a divorce is difficult in the Saudi context is that, when somebody divorces his wife, he actually divorces her entire extended family, which therefore sours the relationship between the family of the husband and the family of the wife. One might get married to a woman not because he loves her but because he wants to start a business or go into a business partnership with the potential wife’s family, meaning getting a divorce will affect this negatively.
In Saudi Arabia, when a wife gets a divorce, she gets veiled in the presence of her ex-husband, and moreover they are no longer allowed to even be in a place alone. One might find this so awkward and even scary – she, during marriage, could be fully naked in the presence of her husband, but once she gets a divorce, she gets veiled in his presence. This is, some might feel, odd and kind of sad – she, once getting a divorce, gets veiled in his presence although he knows literally every single detail of her body under that veil. This, one might believe, shows how funny the way in which we, humans, organise and structure our social and private lives is.
In Saudi Arabia, a man cannot remarry a woman after divorcing her until she, after the divorce, marries another man and divorces him.