Taming the Intercultural Beast

For years I’ve been telling people that I think intercultural marriages are a huge mistake. Intercultural marriages are doomed, I’d tell them. The differences, especially in the case of an Arab marrying a Western non-Arab, are too large. I’d tell people that no matter how open and liberal we Arabs seem to be in the beginning of a relationship, we always end up reverting to the rural version of ourselves; the farmer in us or the fallah.

I was saying this from experience. I am the product of one of the worst intercultural marriages – and hence one of the ugliest intercultural divorces – of all time. Take my parents’ story and compare it to all others in this world and it will rank at the very top with nightmare. And theirs wasn’t the only one I had witnessed. We were surrounded by intercultural marriages and not a oneI can recall succeeded. So I know what I’m talking about.

And do I take my own valuable advice? No. Life wouldn’t be exciting if I did. I can give out really crappy advice sometimes and if anyone knows that it’s me.

So I recently married a Brit. The real original kind. The kind that’s been British for generations and generations. Not the “I’m British but from Arab origin or I’m British but from Asian origin” kind. No sirree. I am married to a Brit of Scottish origin. The kind that when I stand next to him, my skin appears to be dark brown; me who Egyptians describe as being white and blonde (I’m neither). The kind that speaks like Braveheart. And man oh man, oh man is it sexy! You tell me how I could have resisted a sexy Braveheart accent? Well, I couldn’t! Hot blood runs through my veins just as much as the next woman.

So now, not only am I facing the trials and tribulations of going through marriage numero duo, never an easy task in the best of cases, this second marriage is fraught with the problems that occur when an Arab and a Westerner decide to join forces ’til death do us part. And it certainly may be the death of one or both of us.

Read the rest of this article where it was originally posted at Cairo Scene’s the Scenario.


  1. I hear you Nadia, I start planning for lunch and dinner about 30 mins after breakfast. My British husband of 10 years still doesn’t always get it.

  2. haha 🙂 I’m a whitey-white married to a full-blood Iraqi. Wish us luck! We certainly have our differences but so far, alhamdulllilah we’ve been able to compromise & work through them. We have a lot of inter-cultural couple friends and I think that helps… b/c we go through similar conflicts. Best of luck!

  3. About 20 years ago a reporter from Cairo Today contacted me for an interview for his article on “mixed marriages”. My first reaction was “Mixed marriage? What is he talking about? I’m not married to a black man…” Then I started thinking about the friend (also an Anglo married to an Egyptian) who referred the reporter to us. It suddenly hit me: “I AM in a mixed marriage — for the last five years!” There have been some funny (and occasionally frustrating) miscommunications and cross-cultural crossed wires over that last quarter of a century but I wouldn’t trade it. Every time something didn’t make sense, I would ask his mom or aunt, “Is this an Egyptian thing or a Rafik thing?” Most of the time it was personality not cultural differences. East is east and west is west but when the twain DOES meet, it makes for an amazingly rich life. Blessings on you both as you journey together.

  4. Lol, thanks for the good laugh, it is just soo true and hilarious 🙂
    I think in my humble opinion, inter cultural marriages, both parties need to love their partner unconditionally, and try to understand them less 🙂

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