Arranged marriages in Saudi seem to drag out. My Saudi friend’s family is working quite hard to get him married off and I’ve been waiting to post about this since until a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ came along. I could die of old age before there’s closure here, so this blog can be considered Part I.
It’s been more enjoyable for me to hear about the process than it has been for him to live through it. The whole thing started a few months ago when out-of-the-blue he cryptically mentions something about getting married. This was about 2 days after I explicitly asked him if he had a girlfriend and got a clear ‘no’. He went on to explain that there’s a girl in his hometown that his family would help him to arrange a marriage with.
Naturally, I wanted to know more about this. You have to keep in mind that men and women who aren’t related or already married have little to no chance of interacting which poses some difficulty in popping the question – specifically, since you’re not yet allowed to talk to the woman who you might marry. Arranged marriages make sense under these conditions. This is where the family comes in.
The first step was a trip with his father and older brother to the town where the girl lives so that they could talk with the father and scope out the possibility. I asked if they just sat down over a cup of coffee and decided who he would spend the rest of his life with. He mentioned that it wouldn’t be polite to ask for coffee during this visit, then quickly pointed out it was ok to ask for the daughter though.
I was anxious to hear how the weekend long trip went when he got back to work after the weekend. He seemed disappointed because there was no definite answer, but was somewhat relieved that the answer wasn’t ‘no’. After a few weeks another trip was set up with, as my friend described it, the alpha males of the family. They were headed there for the weekend and I didn’t get a clear idea of what the deal was until they got back.
Apparently, my friend’s father is held in rather high regard there so a banquet was called in his honor hosted by the father-of the-not-yet-bride. Tons of the townspeople came. I’ve heard stories of lives being threatened for refusing an invitation to these things. They take their hospitality seriously. To that end, they slaughtered a sheep and maybe a goat.
As he’s describing the party he casually mentions that the girl’s father came strolling in with a machine gun. I’m perched on the edge of my seat leaning in as he tells me this – picturing the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.
Turns out that the machine gun was a gift for my friend’s dad. I want to know if this is the ‘traditional’ way of saying ‘you can marry my daughter’. Then I thought, “How traditional can a machine gun be?” It seems that the machine gun has been slowly replacing the sword as a gift for a guest of honor although it doesn’t really get you any closer to answers on marriage.
After the dinner, they learn that the girl has been betrothed to her cousin, who has a reputation as a fighter and a ready supply of his own guns. The girl’s father decides that my friend is a better bet, but now he’s kind of locked in because his brother will be mad if he changes his mind about the nephew marrying the daughter. Understandable. He decides to give it a month before switching his loyalties.
Now more than a month has passed and the cousin hasn’t shot my friend and he’s no closer to getting married.