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Turkish and Arab Cultural Courtship and Marriage Traditions in the Middle East

What do 428 million Arabs and 82 million Turks have in common? Hint: It is not their shared love for Kunafeh and Baklava.

A cursory glance at the rich history of the Arab and Turkish cultures is sufficient to highlight the differences between them to this day.

Surprisingly, the sacred institute of marriage is one such variable that successfully binds these two customs into one.

For the Arabs and Turks, marriage is not a simple replicated affair of the western “I do’s.”

The concept of marriage is deeply embedded in the structure of these societies. Hence, it is carried out by following various customs and traditions.

These countless traditions act as a prelude for new couples and guide them toward the beginning of a new journey.

Read the following post to learn all the intricacies of Turkish and Arab dating/courting culture.

Middle Eastern & Arab Courting Culture

Arranged Marriages

Arabs are notoriously famous for hosting big, grand, and lavish weddings. Interestingly most people don’t know that these “too good to be true” weddings are actually arranged marriages.

Yes, you heard it right — most Arab societies still prefer to operate through the model of arranged marriages.

Middle Eastern countries are the birthplace of Islamic traditions, which explains why dating is not a norm in these societies.

For better or for worse, arranged marriage is the only available route through which people find their life partner.

The western mindset is baffled with the concept of arranged marriage and considers it synonymous with abusive marriages.

Keep in mind that these arranged marriages are not the same as forced marriages.

In reality, arranged marriages in the Arab culture are just a way of formalizing an existing understanding between a man and a woman.

Usually, conservative families assign the task of selecting a partner to the female relatives of a man. However, the selection is finalized with the consent of both the bride and groom.

Cousin marriages are still a common practice in the Arab culture as they are thought to be beneficial for the entire family system.

Once the bride and groom have agreed to the proposed selection of potential candidates, the actual festivities begin.

Unlike the western culture, marriage in the Middle East is considered to be a union of families, which is why the elders are actively involved in the wedding arrangements.

This way, the new couple learns by example about how to conduct family affairs.

Middle Eastern "Fatiha" Recital Ceremony

The groom’s family takes the first step to formalize the relationship and arrange a Fatiha recital meeting with the bride’s family.

During this meeting, the eldest male member from the groom’s family formally asks the bride’s father or the most senior male member for her hand in marriage.

After the family elders agree to the suggested proposal, they continue the meeting by reciting Surah Al-Fatiha, which is the first and most important prayer of the Quran (the Islamic Holy Book).

This prayer is added to the gathering in the hope that the new relationship will flourish with divine blessings.

Although the Arab culture has evolved tremendously in the past years, this small yet significant ritual reflects how the Arab culture still is tied to its Islamic roots.

The Fatiha recital meeting is concluded on a happy note, and the guests are treated with snacks or dinner.

Middle Eastern Engagement Ceremony

After everything has been finalized and approved, the families decide to take things to the next level by conducting an engagement ceremony.

There are no specific rules and traditions regarding the engagement ceremony. Each family arranges this event according to their preference.

Some families may decide to go overboard by throwing an extravagant party, whereas others prefer to have a small event.

The idea of “women-only” and “men-only” halls might sound alien to westerners. However, it is practiced by the Emirati people as they celebrate their events by following the Islamic guidelines of segregation.

You might be wondering if such arrangements turn out to be a joy kill of the party? Well, that’s not the case. The Arabs make sure to plan the event in a manner that each guest gets to have the best night out.

An Arab engagement ceremony is simpler as compared to the main wedding event. However, some couples like to spice things up by opting for color-coordinated outfits, arranging dance parties, and inviting extended family members.

The event’s highlight is the ring exchanging ceremony which marks the official start of the new relationship.

Generally, the engagement ceremony is followed up by other events, including henna night, bachelor party, and the main marriage ceremony.

Turkish Marriage Traditions

The Turks are known for presenting a harmonious and well-balanced model of eastern and western culture to the world. Yet when it comes to marriage, the Turks like to stay loyal to their eastern values.

This means that arranged marriages are still common in Turkish society. However, the same cannot be said for the younger generation as they are inclined to build long-lasting relationships with a new approach.

If you thought that a Turkish arranged marriage is similar to an Arab arranged marriage, think again!

Staying true to their motto of adding variety to everything, the Turks have different types of arranged marriages, including:

Turkish Marriage to a Widowed Brother In-law/Sister in law

Usually, when a couple is struck with tragedy and one of the partners dies, the living widow/widower is married off to their single brother-in-law/sister-in-law.

It is thought that these arranged marriages prove helpful in securing a family inheritance and ensuring a better future for the children.

Turkish "Besik Kertme" Marriages

This type of arranged marriage was followed in the old days, and it is no longer in practice now.

According to this tradition, two families would have an agreement while their children were young to marry each other as soon as they enter adulthood.

Turkish "Ic Guveysi" Marriages

Ic Guveysi refers to a living arrangement decided between a couple. According to this type of marriage, when a man is unable to pay the dowry for the bride, then he has to move in and live in the house where the bride lives.

Turkish "Berder" Marriages

Berder refers to a situation wherein one family marries their son to a girl belonging to another family. In exchange, the groom’s family gets their daughter married off with the brother of the bride.

This arrangement is considered practical and financially beneficial for both families as they do not have to go through the hassle of paying dowry.

Turkish Oturkalma Marriages

This type of marriage is the complete opposite of an arranged marriage but is a sigh of relief for star-crossed lovers.

Oturkalma is not very common, and it is considered the last step for a couple whose families disapprove of their marriage.

In this type of marriage, a girl elopes and settles down with the man of her choice against her family’s will and consent.

Special Turkish Wedding Traditions

One might assume that current Turkish weddings are celebrated with modern practices. Although this is true, Turks residing in rural areas continue to practice their older traditions.

Following are some traditions that you will find in rural Turkey:

Empty Milk Bottles on the Roof Tradition

An interesting sight is for foreigners to see roofs of rural Turkish houses containing empty milk bottles. Most people dismiss this as a random occurrence. However, in reality, these bottles are placed on the roof to serve a purpose.

The milk bottles used by women when they were young are kept by their fathers. These milk bottles are placed on the roof by the father to signal that his daughter is ready for marriage. Any man who would successfully knock off the bottles qualifies to be suitable enough to approach the father. After assessing the financial potential of the man, the father gives his verdict on whether the suitor can marry his daughter or not.

Turkish Coffee Tradition

Turkish coffee — known and admired for its rich, robust taste — has great significance for the Turks. The influence of this hot beverage goes way beyond a simple cup of coffee in the social realm. The Turks believe that a woman’s true potential as a homemaker can easily be determined by drinking the coffee prepared by her. Although this tradition is slowly dying, you will still find it being practiced in some rural areas.

Turkish Dating Traditions

Previously, the concept of dating was hushed around in Turkish society. Fortunately, the wave of modernity in Turkey has changed things in favor of singles ready to mingle. While the Arab and Middle Eastern culture is still coming to terms with this newfound idea, modern Turks have overlooked the taboo status of dating and have adopted it as the new norm. You will find that residents of modern Turkish cities have accepted this concept and prefer to use it in forming relationships on their own terms. However, dating is not yet common in the rural parts of Turkey.

International Cupid

No matter which part of the world you belong to, your dating life surely must have come to a halt because of the current pandemic. Luckily, you don’t have to be mobile to find love now. All you have to do is sign up on an online dating website and let it be your savior. International Cupid is one such dating website that has quickly become the social platform of choice of countless singles. Through this website, you will get easily connected with like-minded people of different nationalities. So if you are an Arab/Turk or would like to date one, then immediately sign up to International Cupid and get your love life started.


Whether you adhere to Turkish and Arab values or not, either way, there is no doubt that the wedding and courting rituals of both these cultures are fascinating.

Although dating is not the most popular trend in these cultures, their progressive and adaptable outlook has opened new doors for future generations.

If you are hesitant in dating openly, simply sign up to International Cupid or one of the many online dating options out there and try your luck at finding true love.

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