Romantic love is a concept that is foreign to few cultures. However, romantic love has largely been overlooked within the social scientific and crosscultural academic literature in the Arab world. While there is a rich literary and artistic tradition concerning love in the region, contemporary feelings, manifestations, and conceptualizations, as well as the perceived value and utility of love remains unclear and undocumented. This is problematic because love, often connected to many social institutions and concepts, is becoming increasingly desired, and the region is bombarded with external cultural narratives and discourses of love and romantic relationships due to forces such as globalization and ubiquitous transnational mass media. This chapter addresses the cultural characteristics and intercultural tensions related to romance and love in the Arab world, and explores the features of the Arab romantic narrative and the contentious nature of love in Arab culture. This study also seeks to generate knowledge of how love is defined and valued using a sample of students from the American University of Beirut (AUB). The results reveal that romantic love is desired. Additionally, the participants’ conceptualizations of love were diverse and vibrant. The results also reveal that cultural narratives surrounding love and marriage are often confusing and contradictory, and a sample of Arab youth are incorporating alternative narratives into their conceptualization of love. Implications include the convergence and globalization of local and external romantic narratives, and the seeds of renegotiating how romantic relationships function and the redefinition of marriage and courtship.
- Romantic love
- Relationship formation
- Arab world
- Arab youth
Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Abdallah, S. L. (2009). Fragile intimacies: Marriage and love in the Palestinian camps of Jordan (1948–2001). Journal of Palestine Studies, 38(4), 47–62.
Abu-Lughod, L. (1985). Honor and the sentiments of loss in a Bedouin society. American Ethnologist, 12(2), 245–261.
Abu-Lughod, L. (1989). Zones of theory in the anthropology of the Arab world. Annual Review of Anthropology, 18, 267–306.
Abu-Lughod, L. (1998a). The marriage of feminism and Islamism in Egypt: Selective repudiation as a dynamic of postcolonial cultural politics. In L. Abu-Lughod (Ed.), Remaking women: Feminism and modernity in the Middle East (pp. 243–269). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Abu-Lughod, L. (Ed.). (1998b). Remaking women: Feminism and modernity in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Abu-Lughod, L. (1999). Veiled sentiments: Honor and poetry in a Bedouin society (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Abu-Lughod, L. (2009). Shifting politics in Bedouin love poetry. In M. Damon & I. Livingston (Eds.), Poetry and cultural studies: A reader (pp. 116–132). Urbana–Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
Al-Haj, M. (1988). The changing Arab kinship structure: The effect of modernization in an urban community. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 36(2), 237–258.
Al-Tawila, S., Ibrahim B., & Wassef, H. (2002). Social change and parent—Adolescent dynamics in Egypt. In N. S. Hopkins (Ed.), The new Arab family, Cairo papers in social science series, 24(1/2) (pp. 214–246). Cairo: The American University of Cairo Press.
Al-Thakeb, F. (1985). The Arab family and modernity: Evidence from Kuwait. Current Anthropology, 26(5), 575–580.
Allen, R., Kilpatrick, H., & de Moor, E. (Eds.). (1995). Love and sexuality in modern Arabic literature. London: Saqi.
Armbrust, W. (2009). Love live patriarchy: Love in the time of ’Abd al–Wahhab. History Compass, 7(1), 251–281.
Barakat, H. (1993). The Arab world: Society, culture, and state. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Barber, B. K. (2001). Political violence, social integration, and youth functioning: Palestinian youth from the Intifada. Journal of Community Psychology, 29(3), 259–280.
Barthes, R. (1978). A lover’s discourse: Fragments. New York: Hill and Wang.
Beall, A. E., & Sternberg, R. J. (1995). The social construction of love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12(3), 417–438.
Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The normal chaos of love. Cambridge: Polity.
Berscheid, E. (2010). Love in the fourth dimension. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 1–25.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), The handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–49.
Buss, D. M., et al. (1990). International preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 5–47.
Coates, D. L. (1999). The cultured and culturing aspects of romantic experience in adolescence. In W. Furman, B. B. Brown, & C. Feiring (Eds.), The development of romantic relationships in adolescence (pp. 330–363). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Davis, S. S., & Davis, D. A. (1995). Love conquers all? Changing images of gender and relationships in Morocco. In E. W. Fernea (Ed.), Children in the Muslim Middle East (pp. 93‒108). Austin: University of Texas Press.
Dion, K. K., & Dion, K. L. (1993). Individualistic and collectivistic perspectives on gender and the cultural context of love and intimacy. Journal of Social Issues, 49, 53–69.
Dodd, P. C. (1973). Family honor and the forces of change in Arab society. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 4(1), 40–54.
Dwairy, M. (2002). Foundations of psychosocial dynamic personality theory of collective people. Clinical Psychology Review, 22(3), 343–360.
Earley, P. C., & Gibson, C. B. (1998). Taking stock in our progress on individualism-collectivism: 100 years of solidarity and community. Journal of Management, 24(3), 265–304.
El-Haddad, Y. (2003). Major trends affecting families in the Gulf Countries. United Nations Programme on the Family Division of Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtelhaddad.pdf. Accessed 15 May 2011.
El-Osta, S. H. (2010). Sexual graffiti and changing sexual morality: Bathrooms as uncensored settings. (Unpublished master’s thesis). American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon.
Faour, M. (1998). The silent revolution in Lebanon: Changing values of the youth. Beirut: American University of Beirut.
Farhood, D. N. (2009). Family, culture, and decisions: A look into the experiences of university students in Lebanon. (Unpublished master’s thesis). American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon.
Gibran, K. (1923). The prophet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Gibran, K. (1997). The beloved: Reflections on the path of the heart (Trans: J. Walbridge). New York: Penguin Group.
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity.
Giddens, A. (1992). The transformation of intimacy: Sexuality, love, and eroticism in modern societies. Cambridge: Polity.
Giffen, L. A. (1971). Theory of profane love among the Arabs: The development of the genre. New York: New York University Press.
Goode, W. J. (1959). The theoretical importance of love. American Sociological Review, 24(1), 38–47.
Goodwin, R. (2005). Why I study relationships and culture. The Psychologist, 18(10), 614–615.
Gupta, G. R. (1976). Love, arranged marriage, and the Indian social structure. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 7(1), 75–85.
Heath, P. (1987). Romance as genre in “The Thousand and One Nights,” Part I. Journal of Arabic Literature, 18, 1–21.
Hofstede, G. (1997). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (Rev. ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Inhorn, M. C. (2007). Loving your infertile Muslim spouse: Notes on the globalization of IVF and its romantic commitments in Sunni Egypt and Shi’a Lebanon. In M. Padilla, J. S. Hirsch, M. Muñoz-Laboy, R. E. Sember, & R. G. Parker (Eds.), Love and globalization: Transformations of intimacy in the contemporary world (pp. 139–160). Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
Jackson, S. (1993). Even sociologists fall in love: An exploration in the sociology of emotions. Sociology, 27, 201–220.
Jankowiak, W. (1995). Romantic passion: A universal experience? New York: Columbia University Press.
Jankowiak, W. R., & Fischer, E. F. (1992). A cross-cultural perspective on romantic love. Ethnology, 31(2), 149–155.
Joseph, S. (1993). Connectivity and patriarchy among urban working-class Arab families in Lebanon. Ethos, 21(4), 452–484.
Joseph, S. (1994). Brother/sister relationships: Connectivity, love, and power in the reproduction of patriarchy in Lebanon. American Ethnologist, 21(1), 50–73.
Joseph, S. (1996). Patriarchy and development in the Arab World. Gender and Development, 4(2), 14–19.
Joseph, S. (Ed.). (1999). Intimate selving in Arab families: Gender, self, and identity. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Joseph, S. (2004). Conceiving family relationships in post-war Lebanon. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35(2), 271–293.
Joseph, S. (2005). Learning desire: Relational pedagogies and the desiring female subject in Lebanon. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 1(1), 79–109.
Kaya, L. P. (2009). Dating in a sexually segregated society: Embodied practices of online romance in Irbid, Jordan. Anthropological Quarterly, 82(1), 251–278.
Khalaf, S. (1971). Family association in Lebanon. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 2(2), 235–250.
Khalaf, S. (2002). Civil and uncivil violence in Lebanon: A history of the internationalization of communal conflict. New York: Columbia University Press.
Khalaf, S., & Gangon, J. H. (Eds.). (2006). Sexuality in the Arab world. London: Saqi.
Khallad, Y. (2005). Mate selection in Jordan: Effects of sex, socio–economic status, and culture. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 155–167.
Luhmann, N. (1986). Love as passion: The codification of intimacy (Trans: J. Gains & D. L. Jones). Cambridge: Polity.
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Massad, J. A. (2007). Desiring Arabs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Murani, N. G. (1972). Parallels between medieval Arabic literature and patterns and themes of courtly love. (Unpublished master’s thesis). American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon.
Nasser, K. (2010). “Do it for me my dear:” Structuration and relational dialectics among mother-daughter dyads in Lebanese arranged marriages. (Doctorial dissertation). Louisiana State University: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Oghia, M. J. (2012). What’s love got to do with it? An exploratory study of relationship formation and romantic love among American University of Beirut students. (Published master’s thesis). American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon.
Olmsted, J. C. (2005). Gender, aging, and the evolving Arab patriarchal contract. Feminist Economics, 11(2), 53–78.
Padilla, M., Hirsch, J. S., Muñoz-Laboy, M., Sember, R. E., &. Parker, R. G. (Eds.). (2007). Love and globalization: Transformations of intimacy in the contemporary world. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
Racy, A. J. (2003). Making music in the Arab world: The culture and artistry of tarab. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rashad, H., Osman, M., & Roudi-Fahimi, F. (2005). Marriage in the Arab world. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau Policy Brief. http://www.iiav.nl/epublications/2005/MarriageInArabWorld.pdf. Accessed 25 Jan 2011.
Sabbah, D. M. (2010). Social inclusion or exclusion? Never-married singles in West Amman. (Unpublished master’s thesis). American University in Cairo: Cairo, Egypt.
Schvaneveldt, P. L., Kerpelman, J. L., & Schvaneveldt, J. D. (2005). Generational and cultural changes in family life in the United Arab Emirates: A comparison of mothers and daughters. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 36(1), 77–92.
Sharma, S. (2006). Love: Premodern discourses, Persian, Arabic, Ottoman, Andalusian, and South Asian. In S. Joseph, et al. (Eds.), The encyclopedia of women and Islamic cultures, volume 3: Family, body, sexuality, and health (pp. 236–241). Leiden: Brill.
Shumway, D. R. (2003). Modern love: Romance, intimacy, and the marriage crisis. New York: New York University Press.
Volk, L. (2001). Missing the nation: Lebanon’s post-war generation in the midst of reconstruction. (Doctorial dissertation). Harvard University: Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Watts, R. J. (1991). Power in family discourse. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Wikan, U. (1984). Shame and honour: A contestable pair. Man, 19(4), 635–652.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Singapore
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Oghia, M. (2015). Different Cultures, One Love: Exploring Romantic Love in the Arab World. In: Raddawi, R. (eds) Intercultural Communication with Arabs. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-254-8_16
Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore
Print ISBN: 978-981-287-253-1
Online ISBN: 978-981-287-254-8