An increasing number of young Egyptian men are marrying foreign women, some 20 to 30 years their senior in order to escape poverty and to search for a better life elsewhere, according to a recent study.
These type of marriages are usually found in tourist destinations of Upper Egypt and the Red Sea, according to Dr. Izat Ashmawi, head of the research department on human trafficking in the Ministry of Family and Population in Cairo.
In the study released by Dr. Ashmawi’s department, such marriages initially increased in 2000-2001 by 5 percent and in 2002 by 29 percent, with 264 registered cases. The year of 2003 saw a 21 percent increase, 2004 witnessed 33 percent increase, and in 2005 the trend registered 30 percent increase.
Young men from poor backgrounds tend to work in the tourism industry, such as driving horse carriages or sailing boats on the Nile.
In 2010 alone, Egypt witnessed 17,000 cases of Egyptian men marrying foreing women, according to the study.
“Age does not pose as a hurdle for me and my wife. Our relationship started with friendship and it developed into marriage,” a young Egyptian man married to an American woman older than him said without giving his name or his wife’s age.
“She accepted me without putting any constraints and conditions,” he said referring to the high expensive dowry and expenses that come along with marrying an Egyptian woman. My wife travels to the U.S. and she comes back during certain periods, and we spend it together. Sometimes I travel to the U.S. to see her.”
When asked about his preference to marry a non-Egyptian, he said marrying a foreigner is much less complicated and there are no obstacles coming from the women or their families.
Dr. Hamdi Abdul al-Adhim, an economic expert, said that some young men see such marriages as profitable enterprises enabling them to fulfill their dreams.
“Men from Upper Egypt dream of the opportunities they can obtain from such marriages. They dream to marry such women to come back to build homes, and own cars,” he added.
Echoing the young man’s reason behind marrying a non-Egyptian, Dr. al-Adhim said the high costs of marrying an Egyptian woman are one of the reasons that push men to marry older foreign women.
“Many families welcome such a marriage because it does not require a ready apartment for the bride or expensive dowries; foreigners only look for emotional fulfillment especially the ones who are older in age.”
Unlike Dr. al-Adhim who sees the positivity of such marriages; Dr. Suhair Sind, head of the Center for Social and Criminal Research and professor of Sociology, said that such marriages are only temporary, adding that marriage to foreign women contributes to increasing the number of unmarried Egyptian females.