From Saudi Gazette:
Single men, and even married ones who are unhappy or just bored and don’t mind polygamy, can easily find a foreign matchmaker in the Holy City.
All a man has to do is contact one of them, and she will find him a bride from among the numerous overstayers in town. Most probably, she will be Indonesian, Mauritanian, Burmese or, if he’s the talkative type, Egyptian or Moroccan, which takes care of the language barrier.
“God the Almighty will bless me because I seek to unite two people in matrimony,” says one matchmaker who would only identify herself as Umm Ayman, “and to find women husbands who can shelter them, particularly of Saudi nationality.”
The matchmaker’s ostensible keenness to observe Shariah extends as far as letting the suitor eyeball his prospective wife. If an agreement is reached, the rigorous process of negotiating the dowry and the matchmaker’s fees begins in earnest. The more interest the groom shows, the more expensive it can get for him.
In this kind of deals, everything, no matter how personal, is bound to have a price tag. Depending on how pretty the would-be bride is, the dowry could range from SR10,000 to SR20,000 – and those are the bare minimums. If the groom shows too much interest, the figure could go well beyond that.
Standard fees for the matchmaker begins with SR500 just for starting the work, plus SR1,000 to SR1,500 once the marriage contract is made.
The service is hardly shoddy. The matchmaker takes on the easy task of producing the two witnesses who should attest to the marriage, and they probably are the same nationality as the bride’s. They get a paltry SR50 each, and the marriage “official” gets a princely fee of SR100.
And that’s it. There are no more expenses for the groom to pay and, of course, to keep things under a lid, no wedding ceremony is ever held, and the two are hitched happily ever after.
There are, however, two little conditions the brides usually set for the marriage to be consummated.
First off, having children is a definite no-no.
Then there is the small matter of the groom having to give a one-hour prior warning that he’s about to show up at the love nest.
According to Umm Ayman, the wife usually takes all necessary precautions not to get pregnant.
“The last thing she wants is to bear the responsibility of motherhood, what with being illegal and all,” she says. “Then there is the ever-present elephant in the room – the almost certain possibility that the marriage would not last for long anyway.”
The one-hour notice makes about as much sense as the marriage itself. While the pretext is always that the wife needs time “to get herself ready,” a number of these women are often married off to more than one man, and they don’t want to get caught.
On the night of consummation, it is considered “appropriate” for the groom to buy dinner for his new-found wife and in-laws. Of course, all of this is hush-hush – not even the neighbors find out.
Sheikh Abdulmohsen Al-Obaikan, Counsel at the Ministry of Justice and a member of the Shoura Council, says this kind of marriage is both illegal and un-Islamic.
“If the intention is to break up the marriage after a while, this marriage would be one of pleasure, which isn’t part of Shariah.”
He further added that being married to several men at the same time amounts to prostitution.