Dating in the Arab world is a fascinating topic. To begin with, Arab dating is very different conceptually from the Western world’s views of dating. Arab dating is only encouraged under the context of finding a suitable marriage partner. In fact in the Arab world, it is not known as dating but rather considered as courtship.
To understand more about Arab dating, we must differentiate it from the Islamic religious rules. Arab dating rules are based on the Arab culture with a few influences from religion. At the core of Arab dating is the position of women in Arab society. Arab women are highly respected in their societies and their modesty is of the utmost importance. In Arab culture, situations whereby single male and females can interact are very controlled. It is in this light, that some critics argue that the concept of dating is actually shameful and damaging to the culture. Arabs perceive the western way of dating as sexual in nature hence causing a rift in interpretations. However, many young Arabs today perceive dating as a way to prepare themselves for marriage and married life in general. A more modern look at Arab dating includes the advent of online dating. Many Arabs today are finding love on the internet.
Before engaging in Arab relationships, single Arabs must always make sure that marriage is the end goal of such interactions. There are some unspoken rules as concerns the grey area that is Arab dating:
Males and females should always meet in public. For stricter families, these dates must be chaperoned by an older family member such as an aunty or cousin. The couple is not allowed to be alone at any time.
There shall be no physical contact between the couple. This includes holding hands, caressing or even sharing a kiss.
Premarital relationships of a sexual nature are heavily discouraged at all costs.
The relationship must be based on honesty and purity following the cultural and religious rules.
Dating is only deemed acceptable if it is a means by which a single Arab male or female is ready to look for a worthy spouse.
Dating for marriage involves not only the couple but also the family.
The first step in finding a suitable Arab partner for marriage is to list down what one is looking for in a spouse. Arranged marriages are the most popular way by which single Arabs begin to date. A single Arab, mostly males, give their mothers a list of what they are looking for in a suitable wife. Through networking, mothers and aunties alike inquire about suitable single Arab women from good families. It is wise to remember that for Arabs, a marriage is not just a union between two people but a bringing together of two families. Hence as mothers and aunties search for suitable spouses, they search for families that they share common goals and values. Once these single women are found, meetings are arranged between the prospective bride and groom. The couple is allowed to meet for the first time in a chaperoned setting mostly in the presence of both families. If the two people agree to the courtship then the process of dating can begin. Engagements are very common at this stage. The engagement ceremony is normally held at the lady’s house. At this ceremony, the groom will officially ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. All other meeting and dates between the couple must always be chaperoned until they are officially married. One thing to note about arranged marriages in the Arab world is that the bridge and groom do have the final say on who they will settle with contrary to popular belief. Other versions of arranged marriages do exist where the couple have known each other before and proceed to formalize their union the cultural way. The next step is the signing of the marriage contract. The contract is signed between the bride and groom in the presence of witnesses. This contract states the responsibilities of each party. The rest of the content may include the amount of dowry to be paid, divorce agreements and such. After the marriage contract is signed, a party may be held to celebrate this signing. After this, the bride will have a Henna party which can be loosely defined as a bachelorette party. During this party, only women are invited and there is song, dance and food whilst Mehndi is drawn on the bride’s hands and feet. Finally the last part is the wedding reception. The type of wedding reception varies from area to area. Nowadays the basics include the bride and groom making an entrance, indulging in cake cutting and there is lots of song and dance. One thing to note is that the number of ceremonies leading up to the wedding and the time frames differ from region to region and community to community.
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