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She gained an honors degree in accounting and now has a good career.
Afterward, Fadila decided to focus on academics, where she has excelled.But the couple was, in fact, being watched by the religious police. She says it later emerged that he had been having affairs with a number of women and drinking regularly.“They wanted him, but they used me to get to him,” she says.“Our culture here, they make love a sin,” Waleed said.Because sex and romantic love remain highly controversial subjects in the kingdom, interviewees spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, and pseudonyms have been used.“Change has come to Saudi Arabia.” Much of Waleed’s "love relationship" with his girlfriend has taken place online.
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.
Waleed is an outlier in Saudi Arabia, where many marriages are still set up by families and where couples sometimes don’t meet in person before getting engaged.
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.
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.
“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.
Unlike her career, Fadila’s love life has been a string of disappointments. “They think you’re bad because you go out with them and make out with them,” she laments. Then the respective fathers and brothers gathered in Fadila’s home, which is when she first met and assessed her future fiance.