Our Middle East Editor Aicha Zaa looks at how attitudes to dating in certain Arab communities are evolving in contemporary society.
Is this the generation of love? Hot blood, hot thoughts and hot deeds? Why, they are vipers. Is love a generation of vipers?’ – William Shakespeare
In every culture, not just the Arab culture, you get to a certain age where the common question a family member (usually an aunt) will ask you is, ‘have you found anyone yet?’
Historically in Arab culture arranged marriages were just how things were. Parents found an eligible bachelor or lady for their child and that was that, no questions asked. This was the person that you would marry, get along with, have a family and to whom you would remain faithful for the rest of your life. Indeed, it could be said that this method of finding love saves a lot of time, effort and heartache.
When my grandparents and parents got married, arranged marriages in Morocco were still very much the norm, but as the modern age is slowly rendering many religious and cultural traditions somewhat archaic and as Arabic culture starts to assimilate many aspects of Western culture, arranged marriages are slowly becoming obsolete.
Dating is normal. However, it is shunned upon by elders in the family, so usually if you are dating, it is kept a secret until the eligible bachelor has asked your parents for your hand, and the blessing is given. That is when you are officially a couple…and engaged.
Like every culture, the Arab culture is aware that as long as society continues to evolve and modernise, then so will it. This is where dating websites come into the equation. Arab dating websites have played a key role in allowing those seeking an Arab partner, find one. These dating websites unite and welcome anyone with an Arab background from around the world, whether they be from the UAE, Middle East, Asia, Africa or Europe.
In the last decade Arab dating websites have hit the mainstream like a storm, it is now, like many other dating websites, a simple way to find love. The most popular websites out there today are arabmatchmaking.com with 870,000 visits per month, followed by arablounge.com with 750,000 visits per mouth and thirdly buzzarab.com with 520,000 monthly visitors.
The Arab matchmaking sites out there on the internet generally follow more formal terms and conditions and registration procedures than their non-Arab counterparts, as family opinions are also taken into consideration. For example ordinary ‘requirements’ for a perfect match may consider, which country, age, class and religious beliefs in order to find the perfect match to introduce to mum and dad.
The transition from originally ‘sticking to your own’ so to speak, and arranged marriages have come a long way to keep up to date with society. It’s crazy to hear the elders story of “we met the day we got married” or “my dad picked him/her and I was happy to go along with it”. And so when it comes to future generations, there is a good chance that the opening gambit could begin a little something like this…”well Nan and Granddad didn’t know, so we…”
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