“You know you’re getting serious if you’re on Snapchat,” said Dima, 19, a university student in Riyadh, the capital.At the food court of a popular mall in the capital, she donned the hair-concealing garment required of women here as she described juggling three men whom she met recently on Twitter and Instagram.
If caught engaging in unsanctioned romance, people — especially women — face social stigma and harsh punishment from families.
They must also contend with religious police, who monitor not only malls and coffeehouses but also online forums.
“All my friends are talking to boys on social media,” said a 23-year-old woman who described meeting a former boyfriend through Facebook.
Their relationship evolved into secret excursions in his vehicle and steamy encounters, she said.
His wife of nearly a decade and mother of his two young daughters eventually asked for a divorce over the incident, said Turki, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used.
[How Saudi Arabia’s 79-year-old King Salman is shaking up the Middle East] Saudis largely avoid Tinder and other formal dating apps popular in the West, preferring less conspicuous wooing techniques. That’s when a Saudi might try to grab that person’s attention by liking photographs and then sparking a private conversation in Whats App, an online-texting app. That’s when Saudis might start exchanging pictures on Snapchat.“Why would you pay money for a matchmaker,” he said, “when you could just meet girls online? Meet thousands of fun, attractive, Saudi Arabia men and Saudi Arabia women for FREE. Click on any of the cities in Saudi Arabia below to meet members looking to chat with you.Both women spoke on the condition that only their first names be used.Hassnaa al-Kenyeer, a writer on women’s issues who lives in Riyadh, said the empowerment of women is partly responsible for the popularity of online dating and the apparent rise in physical encounters that can result from it.Because of the sensitivity of the topic, she and other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity.