Dating? In Saudi-Arabia?
It would appear that there is no such thing as dating in Saudi-Arabia. The countries strict laws on gender segregation make sure all contact between the sexes is minimized. There are no movie theaters, restaurants and cafe’s are segregated by gender and single men are denied entry into malls and even parks.
This makes dating in the western sense practically impossible, driving young men and women to meet online in forums where the virtual dating scene is flourishing. Nevertheless young Saudis find ways to go around the rules. Where there is a will there is a way as the saying goes. Sometimes dating and flirting attempts from young Saudi males tend to go a bit overboard though.
Here are some examples of my observations of the Saudi ways of dating.
Going grocery shopping.
Tamimi supermarket seems to be a popular place to go looking for girls/boys. Some Saudi girls go here “grocery shopping” usually with a friend or a maid in tow. She will be donning her flashy abaya and most likely have very strong make-up on.
Any interested guys (all of them) will then have a chance to give her their numbers. This happens by standing close by and repeating the number over and over. She may or may not accept the offer. Some guys think the uninterested girl might not have heard him and keep following her in the store.
A couple that takes interest in each other must seem like they are casually picking up groceries while doing this to avoid getting thrown out by the security. It’s sometimes hilarious watching these things going on in a grocery store!
Another tactic is pretending to be husband and wife. The interested guy goes to the girl, grabs the cart and starts walking next to her as they were a couple. They can chat freely while pretending to shop together. The guy will pay for the groceries. This way they could also leave together in the same car and drive to a house where the parents aren’t home.
This happened to me once, a guy just came and grabbed my cart and started pulling it from me despite my protests. We were yanking the cart back and forth for a while. First I imagined he thought that it was his but when I pulled out my mobile to call my husband the guy went nuts. He started frantically repeating his number to me while still hanging onto my cart. By the time he realized that I was in fact calling my husband and not eager to hear his phone number he ran like the wind out of the store!
Bluetooth and Blackberry Street
Tahlia street is a popular place for men to sit outside at its numerous cafe’s and restaurants. Women or families are not allowed to sit outside, they are all male-only singles sections. The boys will have their toys parked on the street waiting to attract the girls attention. This street gets very congested with traffic in the evenings, especially on weekends. Some girls go driving around with their drivers putting their Bluetooth on looking for guys with nice cars. Read more details here: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/03/12/meaw_pm3_saudi_dating/
Another popular place for meeting people are the shopping malls, particularly Kingdom and Faisaliah mall. Although it might be tricky for the single guys to enter because security guards don’t allow them inside. But there is an easy way around it. Either the men take their sisters or try to enter with a group of unknown girls as fake brothers. Some women are known to take advantage of the guys desperation and will walk in with the guy for a charge.
The napkin technique
Group of two or more guys stroll around the mall searching for girls they like (all of them). They make sure to have their expensive watches and phones on display. If a girl sees a guy she is interested in, she will walk past and subtly drop a napkin with her name and number on it. The guys then rush to pick it up. They can continue strolling the mall and Bluetoothing or chatting on their Blackberries while flirting with each other from afar.
Some guys are so desperate they even resort to calling random mobile numbers hoping for a girl to pick up. When they do reach a young female, the game is on. The calls will keep coming constantly, usually in the middle of the night. Shouting, name calling and slamming the phone on them will only make the guy more enthusiastic.
These guys simply won’t take no for an answer. I’ve found that having my husband answer the phone and have few words with them is the only way to stop the phone harassement.
Naturally not all Saudi girls are looking for a date or to have some fun flirting with guys. In fact I think the majority couldn’t care less for these types of guys. But whether the girl is in a grocery store, a shopping mall or happens to be in a car on Tahlia street they seem to be viewed as prey to some men. The certain type of Saudi male views all girls in any of these places as fair game.
This can lead to a lot of annoyance and even dangerous situations like guys chasing girls in their cars, speeding and violating traffic rules. Perhaps all the strict separation of genders and preventing normal human interactions is what makes many Saudi males so aggressive in their attempts to talk to women.