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.
Legal consultant Abdulaziz Dashnan said Kuwaiti men top the list of Gulf nationals married to Saudi women, according to a 2012 statistical study.
Yemenis, however, got the lion’s share of non-Gulf expats married to women within the country.
The study also showed that 118 Saudi women married Pakistanis despite the social taboos over marrying non-Arabs.
Dashnan, nevertheless, warns against the perils of intercultural marriage.
“While marrying a non-Saudi man might be a dream come true for some Saudi women, there is economic uncertainty to take into account, not to mention the obstacles these women’s children will face within the social security system,” he said.
Dashnan also warned women not to fall prey to men who are after their money.
Nora, a Saudi married to an Arab, regrets marrying out of her culture, saying she was conned.
“I wish I listened to my relatives’ advice,” she said.
Khairiyah Ali, another Saudi woman, said she and her children found themselves in a financial crisis after her expat husband was thrown in jail following a dispute with his sponsor.
Saudi writer Nora Al-Saad stressed the need for fair laws to protect the rights of children born of Saudi women and expat men.
“The biggest problem their children face is acquiring Saudi citizenship,” she said. “Children born to Saudi men get the passport without any issue and even their wives eventually acquire it too.”
Shoura Council member Sadaqah Fadel said there are 700,000 Saudi women married to foreigners, accounting for 10 percent of the Saudi female population.
The council is currently studying a bill that proposes granting Saudi nationality to foreigners married to Saudi women in order to foster security in marriage and make their daily lives easier.
Still, many have warned women of giving expats an easy shortcut to material and sociopolitical gain.
Abdullah Asiri, a psychiatric consultant at Abha’s local mental health hospital, backed the view that Saudi women are looking for greater stability and security in searching for non-Saudi partners.
“Security is, no doubt, a fundamental need within a marriage,” he said. “Yet while security is vital, women may find themselves suffering other shortcomings, such as financial and social inferiority, down the line.”