Then he told her his family would never approve, cut off contact and married his cousin. A year after the break-up, he asked her to be his second wife; men are permitted to marry up to four women in Islam. “After this love, I said, ‘Enough, what’s the point of love? “I’ll try a traditional marriage.” Her family arranged three matches, none of them right. Dana found a job at the office where her boyfriend worked, giving them a safe explanation for how they met. Sitting on a lawn chair on Love Street, al-Hinai says he has moved on from his disappointment.
In another age, the engagement between Mubarak al-Balooshi and his cousin would have been arranged by their family, with little input on the decision from him or her.
Instead, the 23-year-old Omani met his fiancée on Instagram, the photo-sharing application.“I was liking her photos, then it turned out she was from my family,” al-Balooshi says.
Amira met her first boyfriend in an online chat room when she was 18.
Charmed by his words, she talked to him for two years before they met in person. Twenty-six-year-old Dana – not her real name – hopes to avoid a similar fate.
Amira, 23, who has dated in secret for years, has always been careful.
“Imagine if somebody sees me, my cousin or my brother, by chance? “So it’s always in places a bit closed-off, places like the seaside at night, or a park, places far from people close to us.” She asked Newsweek not to publish her last name, so that her family does not find out.
However, moving to the area without a spouse and children can be a daunting and sometimes isolating experience.
And if you’re a woman, plunged into a society where men vastly outnumber women, and where marriage is the norm, it’s even more so.
“Somebody with, for example, the same kind of education and background, instead of the same kind of family.” As a result, many are looking for partners at university, at work or on social media.
Similar changes are happening in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, says Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
As he tells his story, he is sitting with friends on a seaside road in Muscat nicknamed Sharia Al Hub – Arabic for Love Street.