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Monday, July 02, 2007

Prostitution in Islam's holiest city

From Arab News:
...On her way out the woman said, “There is another type of marriage, which is much cheaper… But you will only be able to meet your wife for an hour each day. You’ll have to fix the time with her. You’re not allowed to ask her where she lives or where she goes.”

Intrigued, I continued listening. “This type of marriage will cost you only SR5,000 and SR1,000 each month for her expenses,” she added. I agreed to the offer and agreed to meet her the next day. The next day the woman arrived, accompanied by the bride — called Reem — and a man, who claimed to be a ma’zun. The woman asked me to come to her home but I suggested doing the marriage in a public place. They agreed and the marriage contract was written.

Surprisingly, the ma’zun did not even ask for my ID. He simply registered my name (Khalid) and wrote out a marriage contract. He asked us if we agreed to the marriage and congratulated us.

The man then asked if I have any conditions. “Faithfulness is the most important thing to me,” I replied innocently. They smiled at each other, and at my naivete.

He then asked the woman if she had any conditions. “I live with my family and I cannot spend the night outside. So we can meet at my friend’s apartment and do what we want to do there, without informing my family,” she said. I agreed.

The ma’zun then asked me for the dowry. I told him I did not have the money with me at the time and that I would bring the money next week. I then drove the group to the Al-Mansour District. I promised to meet them the next day, but I didn’t bother turning up, I had seen enough.

A few days later, I decided to marry another overstayer from the same district. With the help of some overstayers I made contact with a matchmaker, who asked for only SR2,000 and some time to find me a bride.

A few days later the matchmaker — an African woman — took me to the Sharea Ghourab District of Makkah. When we arrived in the area, she asked me to park my car and proceed on foot. Walking through narrow alleyways I saw a part of Makkah that I had never imagined existed.

Having climbed a steep mountain, we entered an old house. In the main lounge was seated a Nigerian man. The matchmaker spoke to the man in a foreign language at which the man nodded and left the room to return a short while later with three women. He then told me to choose whichever one I wanted. The first woman was a Yemeni national called Abeer, the second was an Ethiopian woman called Safiya and the third was a Nigerian woman called Safi. All three were aged in their 30s. “Abeer is divorced, Safiya is married to a man from Ethiopia and Safi is married on Mesyar to five men here, who visit her according to a fixed time schedule,” said the matchmaker.

“The dowry for anyone of them is only SR2,000. On the day you visit, the woman will be ready. So you choose the one you want,” she added. “I wouldn’t mind marrying all of them for that much,” I said, adding that I needed to go to an ATM machine to get some money for the dowry. The woman led me out and when I got to my car I drove off leaving her standing.

It does seem that such marriages involving overstayers are only a cover for prostitution. Even sincere marriages with overstayers only end in tragedy with the children paying the price for their parents’ mistakes.
By Saudi and Islamic law, only Muslims are allowed to step foot in Mecca.

The rest of the article is about the problems of foreign women in Saudi Arabia who cannot legally marry Saudi men by law and, when they break up, end up having to abandon their children because they can't get health care. Apparently, Saudi government hospitals will not take "unregistered" children.