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“You were born to give birth — that’s your mission in life,” she says.Then she channels her father and says: “Why would you date — where does this go?
While most restaurants still separate men and women into sections for men and “families,” young couples are increasingly appearing in public together in a handful of cafes and other eateries.
The pair finally met in person in Egypt, where gender mixing is more accepted than in Saudi Arabia, long dominated by a puritanical form of Islam that has been challenged recently by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's push toward a more moderate interpretation of the religion.
“Our culture here, they make love a sin,” Waleed said.
“They wanted him, but they used me to get to him,” she says.
“They said, ‘If you sign, we’ll take you home and not tell your parents.’ Instead they took me to jail.” Her mother and brother got her released the next day, and the episode has been kept secret from everybody else except her best friend.
“Two years back we wouldn’t even be able to sit together — people would get the wrong idea,” says Waleed, a 27-year-old software engineer with the square jaw of a model.
“Change has come to Saudi Arabia.” Much of Waleed’s "love relationship" with his girlfriend has taken place online.While there have been noticeable social changes recently, men and women who are not closely related still traditionally don't mix, and some avoid even looking at an unrelated person of the opposite sex.Girls and boys are educated separately, and workplaces that employ women are nominally segregated.” It is both a blessing and curse that Lulwa is not searching for a partner in her native Riyadh.She spent years studying abroad and has an American boyfriend whom she says she would “never” introduce to her family.So meeting, dating and getting married can be a treacherous obstacle course.