The Saudi woman who wants a divorce – because her husband tried to sneak one look at her face after 30 years of marriage

After 30 years of marriage, cynics might say most husbands and wives would have seen quite enough of each other, thank you very much.

But not in the case of one Saudi Arabian man who managed to live with his wife for three decades without setting eyes on her face.

Not that he had much choice about it. His 50-year-old wife followed the tradition of her native village near the south-western city of Khamis Mushayt and kept her features veiled at all times.

Until one night last month, that is, when the husband was finally overcome by curiosity and tried to lift his wife’s veil as she slept to take a look at her face.

It was an error he is unlikely to be given a chance to repeat for his outraged wife woke up during his sneak peek and is now demanding a divorce.

‘After all these years, he tries to commit such a big mistake,’ she told Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh after leaving the house in disbelief.

She said her husband apologised and promised never to do it again, but she insisted she wanted a divorce. It is not the first example of Saudi husbands with wives forever shrouded in mystery.

There was the case of Ali al-Qahtani whose wife had been wearing a face veil for the entire ten years of their marriage. When he tried to take it off she threatened to leave and only decided to stay after he swore never to try again.

And neither the husband or children of Om Rabea al-Gahdaray, 70, have ever seen her face. It was a family tradition, also followed by her mother and sisters, which her husband accepted and never tried to change, she said.

When asked how she could have children without her husband ever seeing her face, she replied: “Marriage is about love, not faces.”

Many Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran require women to cover their faces in public but in the privacy of their homes there is no such compulsion.

But always remaining veiled – even in front of your husband – is not an Islamic practice, but a very old tradition practised by a tiny minority of women in remote areas of Gulf countries.

Most examples of it are in Saudi, one of the most conservative of countries.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 20, 2008.
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