• Match Point: Contributor Rym Ghazal was in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for umrah. "It's a smaller version of hajj," Rym explains, and a spiritual pilgrimage that people perform many times throughout their lives. [Editor's note: The original version misspelled the contributor's name.]
As she and two friends observed the goings-on, Rym saw a woman – who wore the requisite head scarf and abaya plus gloves and a niqab, or face covering, – approach. "She asked one of my friends about her marital status," says Rym (see story).
The woman turned out to be a matchmaker on the prowl. "One of my friends was really insulted that a woman would do this – she didn't like it to interfere with her prayer. But the other gave the woman her phone number," says Rym.
The encounter caught Rym's attention because she's been hearing that Muslim women are having trouble finding suitable matches. "The more modern everything becomes, the harder it is for more traditionally inclined people," she says.
Beyond that, her friend was flattered that the matchmaker picked her out of the crowd as a good prospect. "My friend is not conservative at all," Rym says. "But she figured that this woman was serious and would introduce her to young men who were interested in marriage, not something more casual."
Rym called her friend after the trip to Mecca to see how things were going. "She told me that her mother had met the prospective suitor's mother, which is the first step. During that visit, the man's mother can observe the young woman – everything from her dress to her style to how she serves juice."
After careful perusal, she makes her recommendation. Which, it turns out, was positive: The man's mother has given the green light for a meeting of the young people.
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor