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A Courtship Veteran Muses On Search for the Right Man

Ghada Abdel Aal, 29, is an Egyptian author and blogger who opened up the world of young women's real thoughts on gawaaz al-salonat, or living-room marriages. Most young Egyptian women, she says, want to get married at least as much as men do.
Ghada Abdel Aal, 29, is an Egyptian author and blogger who opened up the world of young women's real thoughts on gawaaz al-salonat, or living-room marriages. Most young Egyptian women, she says, want to get married at least as much as men do. (By Ellen Knickmeyer -- The Washington Post)
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By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MAHALLA, Egypt -- There was the soccer-loving suitor, who interrupted his first meeting with his potential bride to flick on her family's television and, red-faced, cheer on his team in their living room.

There was the policeman suitor, who launched a not-so-private preliminary investigation of his intended and her family.

And the bearded, sandaled, fundamentalist suitor, whose other two wives did not take to her on first acquaintance quite as much as he did.

For 29-year-old Ghada Abdel Aal, a lively and often laughing veteran of eight years of Egyptian courtship campaigns, the answer to each and every proposal to date has been the same: No.

What's a little unusual about Abdel Aal is that she has continued to turn down proposals, even as she nears 30, resisting the entreaties of suitors, friends and family members who fear for her happiness and future.

What's really unusual about Abdel Aal is that she wrote about it all.

In a blog and now a top-selling book, both called, "I Wanna Get Married," Abdel Aal lifts the veil on the demure role young women are expected to play in these encounters -- which often bring on gawaaz al-salonat -- living-room marriages. Not so much arranged marriages as suggested ones, they involve a potential groom, nominated by family or friends, meeting a prospective bride and her family in their home over awkward rounds of tea.

In marriage especially, the ways of East and West remain ever far apart. Many people in the most traditional sectors of Muslim society still regard marrying for love as slightly shameful, an indication that a couple went behind their parents' backs for romance.

For women such as Abdel Aal, who covers her hair in the style of observant Muslim women and still lives with her father in the factory city of Mahalla, living-room marriages remain the norm.

The truth about young women here, according to Abdel Aal: Most want to get married at least as much as men do.

The truth about Abdel Aal in particular, she said: She wants to marry, but not just anyone.

She began the blog in her early 20s. "There was a proposal from a groom to be. I decided to write about it, and seek the opinion of others," Abdel Aal recounted at a cafe on the edge of Mahalla.


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