Young Saudis beat inflation via group
Wed, Jun 25, 2008
By Andrew Hammond
RIYADH (Reuters Life!) - A
Saudi Arabian charity is spending millions of dollars helping people get
married in mass ceremonies because inflation has put wedding costs beyond the
reach of many would-be couples in the oil-rich kingdom.
On Tuesday night just over 800
men congregated at a conference centre in Riyadh to celebrate marriages
contracted at the expense of a charity organisation headed by Riyadh governor
Prince Salman and various business sponsors.
"Tonight 24 million riyals
($6.40 million) has been spent on this project," Prince Salman said in a
short speech. "Pious charity is the way of this state and this
Some social commentators and
clerics who administer an austere version of Islamic law fear young people may
not be prepared to wait until they have enough money to marry and will engage
in a physical relationship anyway.
Dressed in spruce
cream-coloured robes, the young men and their brides -- absent due to
traditional gender segregation -- have been given furniture for their marital
homes, two nights in a hotel, car insurance and part of their dowry for the
Many of them said without the
charity they would not have been able to afford marriage right now, not least
because of inflation which hit 10.5 percent in April.
"Marriage can cost up to
100,000 riyals. Most people can't afford that. To get a job, a house, a car --
this is difficult," said one of the young grooms, Fahd al-Dosary, 24.
Another, Ali al-Sharhani, 22,
said fathers demanded money for their daughters' dowries beyond the means of
"You find homes that have
five or six daughters who are not yet married. The problem of unmarried women
has gotten bad in Saudi Arabia because of the cost of dowries," he said.
Unrelated men and women cannot
mix in public in most parts of the country, women cannot drive, alcohol
consumption is banned and there are no cinemas. Despite this the religious authorities
remain fearful young Saudis will adopt Western-influenced attitudes towards
"Young people today are in
great need of you, especially in this time of difficulties and
temptations," Musa al-Uteibi told the gathering of friends, family and
officials, speaking in the name of the grooms.
"Know that you are
carrying out a great duty, since after God, it is you who has maintained the
virtue of young people and building families."
Mass weddings laid on by
governments or charities to help disadvantaged young people settle down are not
unusual in the Arab world but have not been that common in Saudi Arabia.
Tuesday's wedding was the first
of its kind in Riyadh. Another mass wedding is planned in Taif near Mecca on
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