“Somebody with, for example, the same kind of education and background, instead of the same kind of family.” As a result, many are looking for partners at university, at work or on social media.
Similar changes are happening in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, says Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
As he tells his story, he is sitting with friends on a seaside road in Muscat nicknamed Sharia Al Hub – Arabic for Love Street.
The café-lined promenade is a popular place for dates, increasingly common in Oman as the Persian Gulf sultanate adjusts to four decades of oil-fuelled development. Marrying for love was rare just 20 years ago in Oman, a peaceful nation of four million that borders Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
While the sun sets over the Indian ocean, young men call out honeyed words to female passers-by.“I got to know the charisma of her personality,” he says of his cousin, whom he did not know personally because she lives in the United Arab Emirates. Arranged matches were for a long time the norm, with minimal contact between a couple before their wedding. Oil wealth, globalisation and widespread higher education have transformed the country since Sultan Qaboos bin Said seized power from his father in 1970 and opened Oman to the world.“It’s a new generation,” says Rahma al-Mahrooqi, director of the humanities research centre at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat.
“People are becoming more open-minded,” says Ammar Ali, 26, an Omani who met his wife Sarah (half-Omani, half-Scottish) through a mutual friend.
In another age, the engagement between Mubarak al-Balooshi and his cousin would have been arranged by their family, with little input on the decision from him or her.
Instead, the 23-year-old Omani met his fiancée on Instagram, the photo-sharing application.“I was liking her photos, then it turned out she was from my family,” al-Balooshi says.
In a survey of 921 Omanis aged 18 to 60, al-Mahrooqi’s research centre found that 83% were against arranged marriage.
More than a love marriage, young Omanis want a “compatible marriage,” al-Mahrooqi says.
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