Dates in the Arab city? Love hacks on the Middle East dating scene

Published June 26th, 2016 - 19:07 GMT

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Dating, anywhere in the world, can be crazy. Dating in the Middle East, with the wild mashup of traditions, cultures, and religions, creates a whole new set of challenges. 

We’ve gathered our ten favorite dating quirks that are unique to the Middle East. Whether you're a seasoned single, returning to the field, or looking to try dates in this region, these observations will help you navigate MENA match-ups. This from a mainly-expat outsider perspective and does not account for all Arab or local experiences and possibilities....

Take the plunge to see for yourself. Just be sure not to put these hacks in use until after the fasting month has run its course and we're into EID!

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Are you Muslim? Christian? Willing to convert? While discussing religion on the first date is pretty uncommon in the West, religious affiliation will come up within the first five minutes of a date in the Middle East - and certain religious pairings (such as Christian men with Muslim women) might be an automatic 'NO'!
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Image 1 of 11:  1 / 11Are you Muslim? Christian? Willing to convert? While discussing religion on the first date is pretty uncommon in the West, religious affiliation will come up within the first five minutes of a date in the Middle East - and certain religious pairings (such as Christian men with Muslim women) might be an automatic "NO"!

Enlarge
Your “date” might also include a friend or a cousin. Chaperoned dates are still common in the Middle East. You won’t have to worry about your date making inappropriate advances - but a third party asking prying personal questions might get a little awkward!
Reduce

Image 2 of 11:  2 / 11Your “date” might also include a friend or a cousin. Chaperoned dates are still common in the Middle East. You won’t have to worry about your date making inappropriate advances - but a third party asking prying personal questions might get a little awkward!

Enlarge
Public displays of affection are totally haram! Not only can you not kiss your date in public, but many malls and public spaces have signs prohibiting hand-holding! (This varies wildly depending on the country. What might be okay in a Lebanese cafe could get you thrown into jail in Saudi Arabia!)
Reduce

Image 3 of 11:  3 / 11Public displays of affection are totally haram! Not only can you not kiss your date in public, but many malls and public spaces have signs prohibiting hand-holding! (This varies wildly depending on the country. What might be okay in a Lebanese cafe could get you thrown into jail in Saudi Arabia!)

Enlarge
Familiar faces: The pool of people on dating apps such as Tinder is so small in the Middle East, you will swipe everyone in your apartment building, all your friends… and all your exes.
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Image 4 of 11:  4 / 11Familiar faces: The pool of people on dating apps such as Tinder is so small in the Middle East, you will swipe everyone in your apartment building, all your friends… and all your exes.

Enlarge
You’ll get judged if you only date expats. You’ll get judged if you only date locals. You’ll get judged if you date non-local-but-still-Arab-looking people. Basically, you're going to get judged on the race or religion of your date no matter what!
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Image 5 of 11:  5 / 11You’ll get judged if you only date expats. You’ll get judged if you only date locals. You’ll get judged if you date non-local-but-still-Arab-looking people. Basically, you're going to get judged on the race or religion of your date no matter what!

Enlarge
While hookup culture is widespread, insinuating that someone might not be a virgin (especially an Arab woman) is one of the most offensive things you can do in the Middle East. Approach conversations about past romantic entanglements with caution.
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Image 6 of 11:  6 / 11While hookup culture is widespread, insinuating that someone might not be a virgin (especially an Arab woman) is one of the most offensive things you can do in the Middle East. Approach conversations about past romantic entanglements with caution.

Enlarge
If you’re a foreigner dating a local, be prepared to be kept a secret from the family for months…or years. Introducing a significant other to the family is a huge deal in the Middle East, and typically means you’re close to marriage.
Reduce

Image 7 of 11:  7 / 11If you’re a foreigner dating a local, be prepared to be kept a secret from the family for months…or years. Introducing a significant other to the family is a huge deal in the Middle East, and typically means you’re close to marriage.

Enlarge
Bad breakups are made a hundred times worse by running into your ex… everywhere. Social circles are small and very close-knit in the Middle East, so if a relationship goes sour, you’ll still ‘see’ your ex multiple times a week.
Reduce

Image 8 of 11:  8 / 11Bad breakups are made a hundred times worse by running into your ex… everywhere. Social circles are small and very close-knit in the Middle East, so if a relationship goes sour, you’ll still ‘see’ your ex multiple times a week.

Enlarge
Homosexuality is not widely accepted in the Middle East. However, Grindr is popular in many places, and multiple cities have thriving gay communities and not-so-secret gay bars.
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Image 9 of 11:  9 / 11Homosexuality is not widely accepted in the Middle East. However, Grindr is popular in many places, and multiple cities have thriving gay communities and not-so-secret gay bars.

Enlarge
Feeling frisky? The morning after pill is not sold over the counter in any Middle Eastern country (though access other hard prescription-only drugs often come under and over the counter) and visibly single women (without a ring on it) purchasing birth control pills —  or braver yet — condoms may be judged or risk rejection by pharmacists!
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Image 10 of 11:  10 / 11Feeling frisky? The morning after pill is not sold over the counter in any Middle Eastern country (though access other hard prescription-only drugs often come under and over the counter) and visibly single women (without a ring on it) purchasing birth control pills — or braver yet — condoms may be judged or risk rejection by pharmacists!

Enlarge
Driving out to 'Makeout Point' isn't just a cliche from the 1950s - local lovers often can't find a private space to be alone, and will opt for romantic rendezvous in parked cars.
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Image 11 of 11:  11 / 11Driving out to "Makeout Point" isn't just a cliche from the 1950s - local lovers often can't find a private space to be alone, and will opt for romantic rendezvous in parked cars.

Enlarge

1

Are you Muslim? Christian? Willing to convert? While discussing religion on the first date is pretty uncommon in the West, religious affiliation will come up within the first five minutes of a date in the Middle East - and certain religious pairings (such as Christian men with Muslim women) might be an automatic 'NO'!

Image 1 of 11Are you Muslim? Christian? Willing to convert? While discussing religion on the first date is pretty uncommon in the West, religious affiliation will come up within the first five minutes of a date in the Middle East - and certain religious pairings (such as Christian men with Muslim women) might be an automatic "NO"!

2

Your “date” might also include a friend or a cousin. Chaperoned dates are still common in the Middle East. You won’t have to worry about your date making inappropriate advances - but a third party asking prying personal questions might get a little awkward!

Image 2 of 11Your “date” might also include a friend or a cousin. Chaperoned dates are still common in the Middle East. You won’t have to worry about your date making inappropriate advances - but a third party asking prying personal questions might get a little awkward!

3

Public displays of affection are totally haram! Not only can you not kiss your date in public, but many malls and public spaces have signs prohibiting hand-holding! (This varies wildly depending on the country. What might be okay in a Lebanese cafe could get you thrown into jail in Saudi Arabia!)

Image 3 of 11Public displays of affection are totally haram! Not only can you not kiss your date in public, but many malls and public spaces have signs prohibiting hand-holding! (This varies wildly depending on the country. What might be okay in a Lebanese cafe could get you thrown into jail in Saudi Arabia!)

4

Familiar faces: The pool of people on dating apps such as Tinder is so small in the Middle East, you will swipe everyone in your apartment building, all your friends… and all your exes.

Image 4 of 11Familiar faces: The pool of people on dating apps such as Tinder is so small in the Middle East, you will swipe everyone in your apartment building, all your friends… and all your exes.

5

You’ll get judged if you only date expats. You’ll get judged if you only date locals. You’ll get judged if you date non-local-but-still-Arab-looking people. Basically, you're going to get judged on the race or religion of your date no matter what!

Image 5 of 11You’ll get judged if you only date expats. You’ll get judged if you only date locals. You’ll get judged if you date non-local-but-still-Arab-looking people. Basically, you're going to get judged on the race or religion of your date no matter what!

6

While hookup culture is widespread, insinuating that someone might not be a virgin (especially an Arab woman) is one of the most offensive things you can do in the Middle East. Approach conversations about past romantic entanglements with caution.

Image 6 of 11While hookup culture is widespread, insinuating that someone might not be a virgin (especially an Arab woman) is one of the most offensive things you can do in the Middle East. Approach conversations about past romantic entanglements with caution.

7

If you’re a foreigner dating a local, be prepared to be kept a secret from the family for months…or years. Introducing a significant other to the family is a huge deal in the Middle East, and typically means you’re close to marriage.

Image 7 of 11If you’re a foreigner dating a local, be prepared to be kept a secret from the family for months…or years. Introducing a significant other to the family is a huge deal in the Middle East, and typically means you’re close to marriage.

8

Bad breakups are made a hundred times worse by running into your ex… everywhere. Social circles are small and very close-knit in the Middle East, so if a relationship goes sour, you’ll still ‘see’ your ex multiple times a week.

Image 8 of 11Bad breakups are made a hundred times worse by running into your ex… everywhere. Social circles are small and very close-knit in the Middle East, so if a relationship goes sour, you’ll still ‘see’ your ex multiple times a week.

9

Homosexuality is not widely accepted in the Middle East. However, Grindr is popular in many places, and multiple cities have thriving gay communities and not-so-secret gay bars.

Image 9 of 11Homosexuality is not widely accepted in the Middle East. However, Grindr is popular in many places, and multiple cities have thriving gay communities and not-so-secret gay bars.

10

Feeling frisky? The morning after pill is not sold over the counter in any Middle Eastern country (though access other hard prescription-only drugs often come under and over the counter) and visibly single women (without a ring on it) purchasing birth control pills —  or braver yet — condoms may be judged or risk rejection by pharmacists!

Image 10 of 11Feeling frisky? The morning after pill is not sold over the counter in any Middle Eastern country (though access other hard prescription-only drugs often come under and over the counter) and visibly single women (without a ring on it) purchasing birth control pills — or braver yet — condoms may be judged or risk rejection by pharmacists!

11

Driving out to 'Makeout Point' isn't just a cliche from the 1950s - local lovers often can't find a private space to be alone, and will opt for romantic rendezvous in parked cars.

Image 11 of 11Driving out to "Makeout Point" isn't just a cliche from the 1950s - local lovers often can't find a private space to be alone, and will opt for romantic rendezvous in parked cars.

Reduce

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