Saudi Arabia: A Saudi Man’s Explanation of Tribes and Marriage

The following words which were obviously written from the heart give great insights to the Saudi Man and the importance given to tribes and their impact on marriage:

‎”Why am I not married, or in a serious relationship and the Meta Tribe

Plain and simple, the reason why I am not in a serious relationship of any kinda goes back to 1 reason, reverse tribalism or Meta Tribalism. It might not be a term you can google as I have coined it lately. This is, of course, my own perception and reality might be a little different or inconsistent with it since this is not a research paper. But in this post I will try to explain what Meta Tribe means and how it affects my love life and how I chose to deal with it.

Intro to tribes

So why does the need for tribal societies to marry off their young to other “compatible” tribes exist? its kind of a known fact that tribal marriage rituals were created as a system to insure money doesn’t fly far off a group of people, as well as to minimize threats on a group of people and to minimize the influence of a stronger tribes and groups of people on this said family or tribe. This is also a criteria of what is considered a ”compatible” tribe. If a family or tribe has the same power amongst other tribes, or the same financial level, this will insure that money doesn’t fly to others who are greedy or that the other tribe aimed to take advantage of the other tribe’s social status or power, also this makes sure that civility dictates when conflicts arise as so much more than just 2 people are involved. Of course all these hazards could be minimized if the marriage happens between two of the same tribe.

This of course rises from weak judicial systems and weak civil society institutions as well as the lack of insurance and retirement plans and social security where people are forced to huddle up in “tribes” to protect themselves. This is also why we see a high dependance on the young in a family to taking care of the elderly of these tribes. The elderly depend heavily on the young to survive. Of course these reasons might look like they disappeared now days to some or they are under a layer of ignorance and tradition, but I assure you that those are some of the reasons why marriage rituals in tribal societies exist and why they continue to exist.

Meta tribes

What is interesting in my opinion is the backlash that non-tribal families had because of this. Since tribes have a strong political and financial power, non-tribals fearing for their well being around much more powerful groups started grouping together. Non-tribals started creating Meta Tribes amongst like minded and financially compatible families around them for the same reasons that Tribals created tribes. Similar marriage and partnership rituals grew out of this too. Families will choose to reject suiters for a lady from an “incompatible” because of the family’s social status, religious values, financial situation, association with other families that might or might not be of compatible nature. This is just about talking about neighboring families in the same city, imagine how it would be if a suitor was from another country. This also applies if a man decides to get married from another “incompatible” family, the family of the man would object almost as much as a lady’s family would, even though its easier for a man to do what he pleases legally, but a woman would need the approval of a legal guardian. This is what I call reverse tribalism, or Meta Tribalism, and it does exist.

Me my family

So before I come to the conclusion, a little bit about me must be communicated. I am a proud person, I hate begging for acceptance. I grew up being a non-tribal geeky nerd kid in the center of all Saudi Arabian tribalism. I was called gay for having a softer west saudi arabian accent, this explains why I learned to merge accents and adapt my language. I was picked on for being different and a geek and a person of higher grades. I was also picked on for being more westernized as I grew up on lots of american TV and media. I was an easy target for everyone. When I lived alone in my college years I learned to be proud of who I am, be an individual and not care about what others think, I found acceptance between a great group of friends. I know what I want to do and who I want to be. I can’t go back to that fool was begging for acceptance from a society that rejected him. I learned to be proud and bend for nobody. I also learned that I don’t like most people. Dont get me wrong, I don’t mind most people, I am pretty social, but the people I like close to me are very rare. It takes me on average a 2 year relationship with a person with constant hanging out to even consider them close friends., if they manage to be my friend for that long. I also have a very specific way of life and a set of beliefs that finally made me a happy person. I won’t go into details as some of these believes and choices might get me killed or put one of my family members in danger. I know what I want to accomplish in live, I have specific goals in life and those goals are my compass and will bend over and down to have them accomplished. If I cant get them accomplished, then I will die trying. I want to create a sustainable game industry in the middle east, and I want that to be my legacy.

I also met many women in my life of course, some were saudi and some were from other countries, and I know my taste in women now. I know what I want in a life partner and I know what emotions to look for in myself as signs of compatibility and chemistry. I know my skills as a person and I recognized my faults as a human and I do look for a partner in life that completes these faults to create a solid unit. A person that shares my believes and enjoys being part of my way of life. A person I can be part of their lives and a best friend amongst their friends and a friend to their friends too. I am not a kid falling in love and I am not a naive brat who just wants to piss off his family. I know what I want and what I need. This being said, most of the women that meet these criteria for me are women who are not from this country, and I have met a lot too, but chose not to persue them.

My family is a simple family from a non-tribal decent. My mom is from a simple family from makkah and my father is from a simple family in Madina. Two holy cities, the pressure I feel to be a good human being. My two parents focused on their education, got scholarships to go to the US and get their higher degrees from esteemed US universities, amongst them is UCS. They both got their PHDs and during their PHD days is when I was born. They have achieved high status in the community and they are known to be trust worthy and they are respected by everyone. They provided a life that is unimaginable to a young non-tribal in saudi. The house was full of love and acceptance even though the world outside the house didn’t accept me or love me. They offered me the best education, the best nutrition and care as well as everything they ever could give me to make me feel comfortable while in saudi. I have never mentioned their name is shame, EVER. I have high respects for what they have accomplished in their lives and I love them unconditionally as they loved me unconditionally. Nothing is perfect though.

The issue with my family does rise with their commitment to the Meta Tribe I spoke up earlier. Due to their experience in life they have seen many people dealing with the backlash of marrying from outside of the meta tribe as well as deal with some complicated political and sociological problems after a divorce, especially if kids were involved. They have seen the pain that people went through and have seen how much damage that has caused not to the married/divorced people themselves but also for their direct and indirect families as well as for their kids. Those negative effects do happen from time to time and solving them is never easy. They don’t want their baby, me, that they have nurtured for so long to be in pain or suffer from such issues, and that is understandable. They want me to have the life they have found to be the best for me, with nice daughter of their friend’s. They have expressed firmly mamy times that they would never accept a non-saudi or a girl that is not from a compatible family.

Some of my experience

As the nature of Riyadh’s ultra conservative social structure (capital of Saudi where I live currently), I am not really in contact with many saudi women, except virtually online. I met people in real life that I have known virtually for a while, knowing someone virtually doesn’t count in the bigger picture of “knowing them”. The social structure doesn’t allow me to observe their behavior around their friends, and it wouldn’t allow me to observe their behavior around my friends. I don’t consider that “knowing” someone at all. Not that I judge people who do, I just know myself and know how I feel about it, it just doesn’t suite me. The women that I do meet in my social circles are not really my type too, its already a rare occurrence to meet a saudi woman in my circles, and the ones I meet are not my type at all.

So why don’t I venture into other cities in saudi you say where people are dominantly less tribal? It just doesn’t serve my goals, other cities just don’t have the jobs or opportunities that Riyadh has. My goals come first. I tried to get to know a person that lived in another city once or twice though. For instance, I knew this one girl for a while online and we were good friends and she was from a “compatible” family, but once we hungout in another neighboring country for real and not online while we were traveling, it just didn’t fit in inside my head, the whole experience was weird, I wasn’t myself and she wasn’t herself that I knew online. It was a complete mess, I didn’t feel the relationship at all and it felt like I was digging myself a huge hole. I ended up panicking and doing something that I will always regret, I called her fat just to break up with her. I will always be a horrible human for what I have done. I don’t want this type of crap to happen to her or anyone else so I will save the whole world my crap by going far away from the online saudi dating scene. If that lady was reading this, I am forever sorry.

I once met a person that I thought could have been the one here in Riyadh, geeky, intelligent, strong woman, ambitious and has high hopes and plans for herself that had the same believes that I had. We dated for a bit before she decided to break it off. Her reasons? She was tribal and she already had an experience convincing her family to be in a relationship with a incompatible tribal guy. She decided to spare herself and myself the pain of dealing with that again especially since I was non-tribal. I don’t know if that was an excuse or if she was lying or not, I don’t care anymore. There was other big issues with both of us that would have broken us apart regardless, but it sucks that an external force was the cause. what I do care about is the possibility of that ever happening again in Riyadh. When will I ever be able to meet someone who is compatible with me on that level? I never had in the last 5 years.

So how about arranged marriage right? How about my family choosing and introducing someone to me right? Not that I have anything inherently against this approach. different people, different methods. Arranged marriages tend to focus on compatibility beyond anything else, it does have a high rate of success due to the reasons I mentioned way earlier in this post. On the other hand, this method does depend on the son or daughter sharing the same values as the family, which is not the case for me. Even if I did go that route just to date and get to know the person, I would be reluctant to share with them anything that is considered perverted, blasphemous and weird by the status quo, and I am full of those and all about them. They are the basis of my personal believes and personal structure. Sharing any personal information about myself would put my family in danger, physically, or maybe just socially if any of that information seeped out to their “friends”. I really want to protect my family from any harm, they have always been nice to me and I am not an ungrateful bitch. I also don’t let my family buy underwear for me, its really awkward to think they are choosing where my penis will go.

I have met some non-saudi women that were amazing, and I almost fell in love with one of them as I was trying to test out the waters and see if my family would approve of someone from a neighboring country that had similar cultural background. The attempt ended in very passive aggressive fights and it only boiled more aggression and late night crying of my mother according to my own sources. I decided to save that girl the trouble of dealing with all of this, and in turn inflicted same pain that the saudi girl once inflicted on me before. The circle of paid and hurt keeps going around. It has to stop.

Dealing with it

dealing with not having a partner is becoming a huge hurdle in front of my own goals, Its really hard to focus on work when your heart is empty. You need a life partner, a cofounder, for your life, someone that would accept the things your family rejected about you. This is the source of my current depression as my emotions started to be a hurdle in front of my goals, and I feel trapped.

One might debate the usefulness of Meta tribe in a civil society that is developing in saudi, but its completely irrelevant to my believes and my way of life. I am not planning on being in saudi for a long time as I do want to move somewhere else and I do have the means to do it and plans are already in motion. In those other places, civil societies do exist and the need of a meta tribe is completely irrelevant and is instead replaced with a smaller social circle of friends that share the same values and you best of all, you get to choose them yourself. And as I am not an ungrateful brat to my family, I promised myself never to get married to anyone they don’t approve of. Its the least I could do after all the great things they offered me to be who I am. That leads to never meeting anyone they approve of, hence the decision not to get married.

Their decision to commit to the meta tribe does push me away from them, and does their inability to ever accept my way of life and my own believes, but thats another issue and I am ok with that. What I wonder sometimes about is my ability in the future to withstand dealing with them and caring for them due to giving me so much but taking away the most important thing away from me right now, the freedom to choose who to love. To make this post a litte more classy, “its like being jerked off but never allowed to cum”. I will refrain from getting married and see me go into a downward spiral of bullshit and they will feel me being pushed away from them as time goes by. We will see if they stomach to see their little boy be alone in his life due to their commitment to the meta tribe.

I am still struggling with the fact that I will remain alone the most of my life though, never allowing myself to fall in love again. Wondering if a person able to not fall in love? Am I destined to fall in love over and over again and then continue to break hearts along the way? Mine as well as others? I now live my life clinching to any piece of love I could find, any hug and kiss counts to keep me alive, every cuddle and every sigh and moan adds a day or 2 to my heart. I don’t want to hurt people around me, but I need the blood of your hearts to survive. Share some with me willingly, and I will share some of mine in return before we both move on. stay around as long as you can.

Maybe things will change in the future, maybe it won’t. I don’t want to over think it when I am with someone, but its completely unfair for the other party not to know the truth about what goes on with me. I know this post started very informative, but then turned into a sappy bullshit whiny story, I just really had to get it off my chest. I also know that women have it worst 10 folds but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt for us men. I know you feel even worst and that you get the shit card, but that doesn’t mean that the source of our issues is not the same. Regardless, women problems are worst by far, just having a legal guardian is messed up enough. With this attitude, if I was a woman, I would have committed suicide a long time ago. Bravo for being so strong.” By Abdullah Faisal


17 Responses

  1. Bravo, Abdullah!!! No, you are not the only one out there like you. However, I gave up caring about what my family thought and just followed my own heart. Of course I could do that here in America, I would never have been able to do that in Saudi or most other Middle Eastern country. If Allah has a mate for you, you will find her, take heart in that. You are welcome to use me for a sounding board.

  2. You don’t have to remain alone, open your heart and allow yourself to find a mate, your parents will support you i’m sure once they realise that a child’s happiness is worth stepping out of the cocoon of tribe, society etc., if they don’t then you have not harmed anyone.
    You have a right ot happiness just as much as anyone. as long as you don’t cause harm to others you cannot control their actions.
    Yes inter cultural marriages are tough but i firmly believe love with a good dose of trust, faith, freindship and joy conqurs all.
    You owe it to yourself nad your creator to live life to the fullest extent.

  3. Very wise words regardless of religion, culture, or country!! There would be far less problems in the world if we were all thinking like this!

  4. Having grown up in a very odd mix of interdependent and independent family values, I understand how important family’s perceptions can be. However, it is also important to care for yourself, too. When you are older, which will you have regretted more: standing up for your happiness in front of your family or pleasing your family at the cost of your own happiness?

    If your parents are simply worried about you, then talk to them. They may just be worried for you because they don’t want you to go through the hurt and pain of a bad marriage. They may not completely understand the situation if you do find yourself in love with a foreigner.

    What I’ve been finding out lately is that I really don’t need blood relatives. I don’t really need my parents. However, I do love them and want them in my life. I know people think you can’t pick your family, but I am of the belief that you can. I just happen to be blessed with a good one (and married into a good one, too).

    That said, if it came between the man I loved and my parents, I would choose the one that I thought was trying to do the right thing or that was in my best long-term interest. If my parents had tried to stop me from being with my husband, I would have tried to explain it to them at first, but after that I would have just ignored them and moved on until they were ready to acknowledge my choice. And for some of my extended family, I basically did do that. (As in, this guy is overall good for me. If you don’t accept him, you don’t accept me. If you don’t accept us, then don’t bother keeping in touch.)

    I didn’t really have to stand up to my parents about my husband, but I did have to stand up to pretty much my whole family when it came to career choices. Luckily, my husband has been supportive the whole time about me returning to college.

    The flip side of all this is would your parents do the same for you? Would they change their life according to their children’s expectations? Why should they expect you to fit their image of perfection when they aren’t willing to fit yours?

  5. This is a powerfully written piece, Abdullah. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hmm… It’s weird to read such powerful words about your determinations, yet see you easily giving up on love just because your family happens to disagree with your choice. Your mum will be sad, maybe. So will everyone else. But eventually they will accept you and accept your choice. Don’t give up please, try more. You can be a grateful kid to your parents without denying yourself the right to be happy and in love.

    Don’t do that to yourself…. TRY

  7. Thank you to the author for sharing such an insightful experience. Your story truly illustrates the conflicts that have emerged due to Saudi being ‘stuck’ between two worlds (the modern and the traditional). It will be fascinating to observe the implications of young Saudis wanting ‘love before marriage’ rather than ‘love after marriage.’

    I wrote a similar article about tribalism and it’s symbolic meaning on my blog. It was great to learn more on meta-tribes that you mentioned.

  8. Wow..such strong words and emotions. Frankly, make your own decision wisely. Explain to your parents with positive approach. Trust in your parents and don’t ever hurt them. Having an educated parents I guess it would be easier. It’s all about me it will work. I have a friend who is having a serious relationship with a Saudi man. Oh by the way I’m a Malaysian. The Saudi man is from Al-Qassim. My friend was so worried as they are of different culture and normally for Saudi man, their family prefers to have bride from their own people. She was so worried that his family will not be able to accept her. I told her that if he loves her greatly he will convince his family to accept her and if not believe me that marriage is something that is not within our plan. It is all in god’s hands. They make such a lovely couple and I hope Allah will bless their relationship and tied up the knot with HIS rahmat! Amin…

  9. Abdullah i know how you feel..

    I meet a Saudi girl on a trip, we click we spoke everyday, she left to Saudi and came back she change, she don’t want to tell me whats wrong more then she said i know we dont have future together my family will not accept you.. I am half kuwaiti half from a european country ) born and raise there and my speaking is bad.

    I love her so badly i dont know what to do, i dont want to lose her but because i am getting annoyed by the mentality i start to nag, and i do things i never done before.. I never thought i would be with anybody from khalij country because i just to say my mind is not like them and i meet this amazing person… I am losing her and dont know what to do… first time a girl brake me down this bad.. i am cold person but against this girl i cant be cold… i dont know what to do.. I cant stop think of anything, i am so in love that first time in my life i don’t care about my company since she said that to me i have not been at work and i cant think of anything more then her… she stop answer my calls and answer very short on bbm.. she say she love me and i am what she has been waiting ofr all her life, we bought are old 27 year old… i am getting crazy and lost…

  10. Dear Confused,

    Get a grip of yourself! LOVE HURTS…yes but why bring yourself down. You should take things positively. If you’re not strong enough to control yourself how are you going to face your family about her. You’re as a man must talk humbly to your family and explain to them that your love for her was true and if your family loves you so much then they should accept her as your happiness is most important. It is you who will love with her not your family. Break the saudi concervative mentality about love. We live in a modern world, we should have a open mind about things. So Confused! please fight for her love but never turn your back against your family as you need their blessing for your future. Good Luck!

  11. Dear terry

    Is to late she got engage with her mothers best friends son.. And we have not spoken for 7 days… But I spoke with her cousin and the girl is crying every night.. My family accepted her when it old them bother family don’t want… Thank you so much terry for your respond..

  12. Her famaily don’t want… And my family accepted her because they know I love her*

  13. Sorry to here that Confused especially since it sounds as though she is being pushed into a relationship that she doesn’t want. Time will tell what happens but you need to start letting go, even if that causes considerable pain on your part. This is actually the only way to heal and later open up to a new possiblity.

    As always hoping for a great outcome whatever that outcome may be.


  14. Dear Confused,

    Life is all about experience either it is good or bad. This is what we call the process of living. If the story is good god tells you to be grateful as he has done you justice but if it is bad god also tells you to be grateful because he wants you to be matured and that he has arrange for something better. Only he knows our life planning system. And you know what? GOD knows what is best for us. So dear confused! dont be confused and life has to go on. Get back to your feet and lead a more positive life as someone special out there is waiting for you to meet her…

  15. Dear bigstick1

    thank u so much… for your advice,,,,

  16. Your welcome. Hope things are getting better for you.

  17. Your narratively of writing about your great mom and dad has touched me and made me tear. May god bless you an
    d your parents with longevity, happyness and health. Said a proud tribal man from Banu Hothail with respect, to a great human being such as your self.

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