I've Moved!

My new blog is called Reflections from a Global Nomad, in order to acknowledge that we no longer live in Maadi and that we are, in fact, global nomads, not staying in one place longer than two or three years. Please join me at http://DeborahReflections.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Private Message

I joined Expat-Blog so that I could list my blog there and possibly attract a few readers. Even though I joined the site just to list my blog, they offer other services as well. One service is the ability to send private messages to other members. This service can be useful if you want to ask a question of someone who lives where you're about to move, but you don't want to ask the question publicly on their blog. Unfortunately, the service also can be used for other purposes.

I recently received a private message. Do you want to read it? Here you go:

hello and welcome to Egypt

I am Arabic Teacher for the foreigners, I have certification from AUC ( American Unvi in Cairo ) about how teach Arabic as a foreign language, if u need help I am ready and with pleasure

Sister. I am Muslim person and looking for a foreign wife, cos i tread with them a lot, and most of my family are American, Sister i am swearing i dont need green Card or live in her country JUST marry for my God, this is my Intention, I don't care about her nationailty, i want nice and polite girl Really. Can u help me? I am swearing by Allah I am very kindhearted, handsome and polite soooo much

So, ladies, whaddaya say? Are there any "foreign" ladies who are interested in marrying this fellow?

No? Well, I guess he'll just have to keep soliciting help from strangers on the internet.

Messages like this are all too common on sites like Expat-Blog. Most men try to be a little more circumspect--they do offer help in language study, finding an apartment, or other things that expats often could use help with, as this guy offered. But they usually don't say explicitly that they're looking for a foreign wife. They masquerade as nice guys who just want to help, or as lonely guys who just want a friend to meet for coffee every once in a while. But their goal is to meet an expat woman and marry her.

Why are they so set on marrying a foreign woman? It may be one of any number of reasons.

For one thing, many Egyptian men think that western women are beautiful, more beautiful than Egyptian women. It's the "exotic" factor. Most Egyptians have dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin, although there are some that have lighter coloring, mostly along the coast where there's been more interaction with Europeans. So they see a woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, or other light coloring, and they think she's gorgeous. Personally, I think that the Egyptian preference for light-skinned people blinds them to the amazing beauty of many Egyptian women. I can't vouch for the beauty of most Egyptian women's hair, since it's usually covered, but some of them have stunningly beautiful faces. But in any case, there seems to be a preference for women who look western. (Of course, I was the kid who, for years, secretly wanted black hair, brown eyes, and olive skin, so maybe I'm just expressing my own biases!)

Another contributing factor is the financial status that is required for marriage to an Egyptian woman. A couple cannot get married until the man has an apartment and can support his wife and their children. However, the Egyptian economy is in trouble, and jobs are difficult to come by. Even university graduates often can't find work or end up working in jobs that don't pay enough for them to save for an apartment, much less the wedding itself. I also have been told--but have no written source to cite--that it's customary for Egyptian men to give money to their brides; in the case of future divorce, this money remains with the wife and is used to support her. An Egyptian woman would be insulted if a man asked to marry her without being able to give her a substantial amount of money; it would be like saying she isn't worth much. Western women, on the other hand, just assume that they will be working and will help to provide and support the family home; most western women would be flabbergasted if her groom gave her money that was to be set aside for her use in case of divorce. So it's less expensive to marry a foreign woman than to marry an Egyptian woman.

Finally, there is the reason that the author of my private message explicitly denies: the reality that marriage to a foreign woman is the quickest way to get a visa to move to another country. With jobs difficult to come by, and salaries low even if work is obtained, the solution to financial woes often is perceived to be a new life in a new country. Convincing that new country to let you in, though, can be a problem, particularly if you want to move permanently rather than just visit, and if you don't have a job or a relative already there to sponsor you. If, however, you marry a citizen of that country, you'll almost certainly be allowed in. Single western women are warned that men may marry them just for the visa; once the happy couple moves back to the woman's home country and the husband is granted permanent resident status, the divorce can follow quite quickly. That certainly isn't the case for all Egyptian-western marriages, or even for most of them, but it happens.

And let's not forget the Egyptians who want to marry foreigners, but not westerners. I met one Egyptian man who was very anxious to travel to ... where was it, Libya? I'm not sure anymore ... to find his wife. When asked why he was so anxious for a wife from that country rather than an Egyptian wife, he said that it was because the women there were more pious Muslims. So Egyptian women just can't win!

Of course I do need to add a disclaimer ... not all Egyptians prefer foreign spouses--most Egyptians marry another Egyptian, after all. Some who did marry foreign spouses did so for love of the individual, not merely because of physical appearance, finances, the possibility of a visa, or perceived religious piety. I have met western women who are very happy in their marriages to Egyptian men. These women know others in similar situations. They have struggles in their marriages at times, as we all do, but overall, they are content that they made the right choice.

But I am pretty sure that they did not meet their husbands by responding to a private message such as the one I copied above!


  1. Molly the Multicultural Muslimah commented about this post on my Facebook account and kindly gave me permission to share. She says:

    ahhhh the "hi I don't know you you don't know me but I'm pretty great so marry me so I can move to your cou... uh I mean so I can show you how great I really am" email.

    Myspace was like grand central station for those.

    I'm lazy to comment on your blog because I'd have to sign into blogspot but the money the man has to give to the woman is called a "mahr" in Arabic and it is strictly obligatory in Islam. A man cannot marry a woman without it. How much- on the other hand- is culturally specific and you are dead on about foreign women being much cheaper than Egyptian women. I once had an Egyptian woman tell me that if she did not demand a huge mahr from her Egyptian husband then he would treat her like a cheap prostitute and his family would treat her like that as well. Unfortunately this is very common among the people but it is completely against the true meaning of the religion and against the teachings of the Prophet.

    But if the girl was foreign and- even better- non-Muslim then he could forgo the whole thing and get married for cheap. Heck, he doesn't even have to pay the ma'zoun! Foreign women are ok with working to support their household, in fact many of them fight for the right to, so he doesn't even have to support her.

    I mean honestly, if a man didn't care about his religion, culture, or obligations then I can't even imagine what downside there would be to marrying a foreign woman. Its all pros.

    *gag* slimey. Great blogpost though!

    (Thanks, Molly!)

  2. lol - wow, I would have thought his English would be better for going to AUC! ;)
    Yes, it's quite sad to see stuff like that... the funny thing is that you see so many Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. who are kinda' going to opposite way in only wanting to marry someone from the 'old country'! (well, that's usually people who moved from the old country, are divorced from a US born Muslim or US born in general and now want the 'traditional' experience, or were converts and think a women from a predominantly Muslim country is 'better'!)
    I'm actually married to a born and raised Arab/Muslim and he did get off pretty cheep with me (lol), but I'm lucky that his family is so cool and doesn't treat me bad. But, he's from Jordan which is a pretty 'liberal' (I kinda' hate to use that term because it makes people think that they don't do the traditions or 'really' follow Islam - it's not like that...) and from my experience with other marriages, everyone does things differently!
    GREAT post and I think you really have captured the Egyptian marriage market very well! (I love when they bring it up in movies too!)

  3. You would think that AUC would result in better English, wouldn't you? I hadn't thought of the reversal in the U.S. of some Arab or Muslim immigrants preferring to marry someone from the Middle East ... that would be an interesting topic to explore, for someone who is more familiar with that community.

  4. I spent a semester studying in Egypt at AUC, and I'm young and blond, so I definitely understand what you're saying. I still get friended by random Egyptian men on Facebook and/or get messages basically insinuating marriage. Of course, like you said, they're usually much less direct than that one.


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