Weddings in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah

Who doesn’t love weddings?  It’s always nice to be part of the celebration of starting a new life together.  But for me, weddings are about more than that, especially since college when I first started to learn more about Arab culture.  I always wanted to go to weddings to see how different countries and cultures celebrated this life changing event.  I saw Palestinian weddings, Senegalese, Moroccoan-Iraqi and Iraqi weddings.  Each one had its on uniqueness.  And Saudi Arabia is no exception.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure where to begin.  I love and hate Saudi weddings, lol.  I hate the fact that they go so late though I’ve been told that in some areas of the country they don’t last that long.  I was most recently at a wedding that was supposed to begin at 10pm. Apparently in this part of the world, the time is a target time.  No one is ever on time.  If you say 10, it means at least 11, at least.  Unfortunately for me, I was already sleepy at 9.  But, it was important for me to go.  First, the bride was one of my best friends’ daughter and second I had never seen a wedding in Jeddah before.  I had seen Medinah and kind of Yanbu.  I was sick of what I had seen in Medinah so I was hoping to see something different.  Sadly, many things are in fact the same, for example the dresses and makeup.

Clothes and Makeup

When you walk into these weddings, you will see everything and I have a name for them all.  There’s the skanky dress, the gaudy, the elegant, the “eh” and the OMG.  You will see it all.  It should be a crime for some people to wear what they do.  Please think long and hard before showing yourselves in public, ladies.  I saw Punky Brewster style getups as well as the, “Who let you out the house like that?” While I saw much that entertained me, there was one dress that really stood out to me.  The lady reminded me of Little Bo Peep. You heard me, Little Bo Peep.  It was ghastly yet she was so proud.  And of course my friends and I  were the first ones to notice.  I heard my friends saying, “Wow!”  And all I kept thinking was, “Sorry, Little Bo Peep, we haven’t seen your sheep.  Now get back on your rightful page in that nursery rhyme book and we’ll call it a day.” What was she thinking?  I realize we all have different tastes, but come on!  Her dress wasn’t the only offensive thing I saw, but it was definitely the biggest offense.  I still have nightmares about it.  Then there’s the makeup.  What can I say about makeup?  Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about it since I’m not a fan of makeup.  I use light, very light makeup.  I don’t like putting gunk on my face.  Some women had on about 10 layers of crap which was then painted with various colors of the rainbow.  It’s not clown school.  I don’t know who told them that more makeup means more beautiful.  Less is more.  Not everyone opts for clown makeup, but many do.  I keep trying my best not to be so judgmental, but I simply can’t help it when I see it.  Often they were more attractive before the remanufacturing of their faces.


One of the things that can make or break the wedding is the entertainment.  If I didn’t mention it before, we westerners were on time.  We were there by 10pm.  Silly foreigners, lol.  Anyway, the “singers” didn’t begin until about midnight.  What was funny was that they performed one song and took a break.  The song sucked and then they had the nerve to take a break.  Really?!  Were they so exhausted that they needed a coffee break?  I didn’t even like the looks on their faces.  They seemed to have attitudes, bad ones.  They couldn’t keep people on the floor.  Lots of times people were dancing and they actually looked bored.  My buddies and I laughed at the scene we saw.  Interestingly enough, they got better later that night.  Unfortunately, many of us were half asleep.  I didn’t get back to my hotel until 5:30am.  I was awake with the roosters.  In fact, I could have done the cockadoodle doodling.  Who knows?  Maybe I did.

The last thing that I have to say about the weddings here is that I personally find them to be excessive.  I suppose it’s okay if you’re filthy rich, but contrary to popular belief, not all Saudis are wealthy and they don’t each have their own personal oil wells on their property.  Often people have to break the bank, maybe incurring debt, to pay for their extravagant weddings.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy seeing the wedding halls nicely decorated and the like, but I still believe it’s too much.  My advice to everyone is to consider toning it down a bit.  A grand wedding does not guarantee a grand, happy life.

I know that what I said might piss some people off and at the same time I know there are plenty of people who agree.  Feel free to comment, yell, scream or otherwise :).

Anyway, one wedding down, a gazillion to go.  Next up, a wedding in Yanbu.


Turkey: Day 3 (An Indecent Proposal)

What can you say about people?  Sometimes, people are just plain weird.  On my third day in Istanbul, we headed to the Spice Bazaar which I kept calling the “Spice Bar.”  I had missed the tour bus because the driver said I was so late.  He left me.  I ended up waiting a bit for another driver to come and pick me up.  I sat in the hotel lobby, fuming, but not really.  I wasn’t sure I was that interested in seeing a bunch of spices anyway.  The backup driver arrived and I got on the little bus.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who missed it that morning.  When we got there, we didn’t have a lot of time because we had spent our time waiting in hotel lobbies.

Voila! Enter the Spice Bazaar.

When I walked inside, it was insanity.  So many people, so much “stuff.”  As I said, I didn’t have much time so I was just trying to rush through.  What was I supposed to buy?  Well, I guess spices.  I walked through, and as usual the shopkeepers were trying to get people to try their “stuff.”  And since I was dressed the way I was dressed, they assumed that I was Arab so they spoke Arabic to me.  It’s always fun to see the confused look on people’s faces when they speak Arabic and I respond in English.  They kept asking, “Are you Saudi?”  I responded, “Um, no I’m not.”  Everyone was trying to tempt me with Turkish Delight, but such effort was wasted on me since I don’t like it.  I kept wandering like a lost puppy.  I didn’t know what I wanted yet I felt the need to buy something.  I finally stepped into a shop and I even tried the Turkish Delight.  I wasn’t impressed, but whatever.  I bought some.  I figured I could give it as a gift.  So, I bought two boxes, choosing different mixes as if I knew any better.

The next stop was yet another shop with the usual, spices-a-plenty, Turkish Delight, all kinds of tea and some other stuff I didn’t really notice or care to notice.  But this time, I decided I’d get some tea.  I know that their goal is to sell, but what was this man selling?  He showed me lots of fancy shmancy teas which smelled absolutely divine.  There were teas for multiple things.  So, I chose one for a friend and waited impatiently for him to bag it.  He offered to make me some tea, but time I had not so I thanked him and said I didn’t have time for tea.  But he kept talking.  I could have left but I had paid the man so I wasn’t about to leave without my purchase.  He went on to say some strange strange things.  He said, “Please don’t tell me you have a Turkish boyfriend or worse, a husband.”  I laughed.  What else could I do in this situation?  He continued, “Cause I’m looking for a nice Muslim girl to marry.”  OMG!  But I quickly replied, “I’m not a girl.”  He was left speechless.  I took my tea and left.

Silly man, who offers marriage to random strangers in a store?  Just another day in the life I guess.

Finding Mr/Mrs Right….

Recently, I had a twitterussion (twitter discussion) with a couple people I follow.  I was having difficulty falling asleep and decided to see what was going on on twitter.  The conversation started out in Arabic and my Arabic skills after midnight might be spotty at best.  Through my misunderstanding, the discussion took a turn.  The topic was causes of divorce.  We were still talking about divorce but we also talked about how people get married, particularly here in Saudi Arabia and how it affects marriage and/or divorce.  With what takes place to get married, it’s no wonder that the divorce rate is so high.  So, how did you meet your spouse?  And if you’re not married, how would you like to meet your spouse?

Some people prefer following their traditions.  A man may want his mother to choose a bride for him.  I remember meeting a woman when I first came to KSA six years ago who got married that way.  Her husband asked his family to find him a bride.  He wasn’t in the country at the time and he hadn’t seen her.  And if I remember correctly, he actually saw her for the first time on their wedding day.  Doing something like that means taking a huge leap of faith.  Let’s be honest, we all have tastes, likes and dislikes.  Knowing that, why wouldn’t you want to see the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with before getting married?  What happens if you see him/her and you are in someway disappointed?  Now you’re married.  For a Saudi groom, you’ve paid out the wazoo to get married.  You’d probably be pissed if you saw her and didn’t find her attractive.  For either one, if they’re not pleased, how do they get out of it?  That’s the thing, they can’t.  Why?  Because it would be cultural suicide.  One family or possibly both would want them to stay together if for no reason other than saving face.  It’s possible they could grow to love each other, but maybe they won’t.  And it’s the ones that don’t that are more than likely to end in divorce.

So, what should people do?  There are those who truly believe that an arranged marriage is the best way to get married and there are those who believe that arranged marriages don’t work.  Coming from a western culture, once again I find myself unable to say yay or nay.  If I base it on my own experience, arranged marriages suck!  I was introduced to a man and my “guardian” was responsible for finding out what kind of person he was.  Do you think people are completely honest or forthcoming with information I had a right to know?  No, they weren’t.  We were polar opposites.  The only thing we had in common was the religion and even that we couldn’t agree on 100%.  Nevertheless, I was patient.  And I know for a fact that I was more patient than most.  His own family wanted to limit their time with him.  So, once it was finally over, I was a little angry, bitter.  I wondered how people could recommend him and then sleep at night.  Does this mean that all arranged marriages are destined for divorce?  No.  I’m sure that there are success stories out there, but I don’t personally know of any.

Young people today aren’t so keen on arranged marriages.  Perhaps seeing failed marriages is part of the reason.  Perhaps they are not slaves to the culture as the generations before them were.  I often hear that they’d rather get to know a person first.  It’s understandable because when you get married the way I did, you feel cheated somehow.  And I’ll never get those years back.  It would be nice to know the person’s personality so that you can decide on what you can and cannot live with and/or what things you might be willing to compromise on.  How can you guarantee that the person you are getting to know is the real him/her?  There are no guarantees in life I suppose so no one way is going to be foolproof.

How do you feel about getting to know your spouse before taking the plunge?  If you agree to this method, what is the best way to go about it and how can families be sure that the would-be couple will not cross any lines or step outside what is permissible by the religion?

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