Regional news outlets occasionally pick up reports of outlandish cases, like a groom who separated from his bride who wouldn’t put her smartphone down on their wedding night.
But rarely are significant reasons for legal separation, and the consequences for women, as publicly discussed.
Many say they would rather marry foreigners to ensure that the marriage doesn’t end in divorce or polygamy, not to mention the greater social and cultural freedom they say they would enjoy by getting hitched "outside the box."“Countless young women are afraid of marrying into Saudi families because of soaring divorce rates and social restrictions,” Hady Makki, a hospital nurse, told Arab News.“Many just want to travel and pursue a more open lifestyle, which they say they can’t do within their society.”Suad Ali, a Saudi married to an Arab expatriate, said intercultural marriages are more common in cities such as Makkah, Jeddah, Madinah and Taif, mainly thanks to cultural interaction with Haj and Umrah foreigners.
By contrast, women in Riyadh and other southern regions with deeper tribal routes are less prone to marrying outside their culture.
“I had a family member who said ‘you’re bringing shame to your sisters, your daughters.
No one will marry them because you’re divorced,’” Alsultan recalls.
“We’re like everyone else the way we want and have ambitions and fall in and out of love, but in the end we have these constraints and the struggles that we have overcome, that we want people to know,” Alsultan says.
Note that it’s not “Tasneem Alsultan is a documentary photographer who focuses on gender and social issues.
She is one of five members of Rawiya, an all-female collective in the Middle East.
Saudi women are turning to foreigners for stability and security in the marital world.
There’s Ohoud, an art director in Jeddah whose divorce meant she would only see her daughter two nights a month.
Ghadeer, a wedding planner who Alsultan met a few years ago and who has dozens of men working under her, said she hadn’t found anyone yet worth the emotional investment.
Her father looks after four generations of women: his mother, wife, daughters and granddaughters.