Moroccans find love online
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 01/07/10
Increasing numbers of Moroccans are bucking tradition to find spouses through the internet, and some are looking for love far from their homeland's borders.
Couples and singles alike who spoke with Magharebia said their quest for romance had been facilitated by new technology, including the World Wide Web.
Farid Mekkaoui, 36, was married two years ago to Sophie, a 27-year-old French woman. They became friends through an internet discussion forum and conducted a virtual relationship for a year. Then they met in Agadir, where they decided to seal their union.
"Today we live in Marrakech," said Mekkaoui, who works in a hotel. "My wife's found a good job here. I never thought I'd end up marrying a European girl. But the internet makes the whole world accessible."
Morocco has seen a rapid spread of internet technology in recent years, ranking it second in the Arab world in terms of internet users. Cutting-edge Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter are also gaining ground.
Bouchra met her husband Mjid, a Moroccan living in Italy, on the internet. After a year and a half of interaction, they decided to get married. Bouchra is now getting ready to join him in the country where he now lives.
Bouchra, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her privacy, said relationships over the internet can now be trusted more than those forged face-to-face.
"At least with the internet, you know how to work out whether a relationship is genuine or not," she said. "People have more time and opportunities to get to know each other at a deeper level, if they're sincere."
"In the past, I had three relationships with local men. But they didn't work out. But then my first relationship over the internet has gone well," she added.
Several young people reported turning to the internet to overcome their shyness.
Ahmed Ghourbal, 22, said that getting to know young women over the internet can be easier than doing the same thing in everyday life.
"Today's social networks offer huge opportunities for meeting people. That's where I'm looking for my soul-mate. And I'm convinced I'll find her soon, because I've made virtual friends with dozens of girls," he said.
Sociologist Ali Chaâbani told Magharebia that marriages based on internet relationships are a phenomenon which has grown in recent years due to the development of new technologies in Morocco.
Chaâbani said that while this approach has overtaken traditional relationships, so far, there has been no research to evaluate the phenomenon. He expressed concern that internet relationships may not be built on "healthy, solid" foundations.
"The internet provides rich pickings for swindlers and liars. Few relationships are genuine, with noble intentions. A great many relationships entered into over the Web, even those which result in marriage, end up failing, although we have seen some successes," said the sociologist.
He said that most of the relationships established with a view to marriage target people overseas, because many young people hope to live abroad to improve their social standing and discover new cultures.
Hakim Mehdi said that for the past two years, he has been visiting discussion forums to find a loving relationship that leads to marriage to a young woman in Europe or the US, so that he can realise his dream of finishing his higher education at a prestigious international school and working abroad.
"I'm not looking to take advantage of the one I'll love and who'll agree to become my wife. I think it's all right to have ambition, especially if you're an open-minded, tolerant person. I'm looking for love and a future career at the same time," he said.
Samira Nouaimi, a young Moroccan woman who lives in France, says that French people of Moroccan origin are starting to become less trusting of virtual relationships.
Whether male or female, she said, they do not want to be used as little more than a stepping-stone by people who dream of emigrating.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.