Morality police make sure women and men are apart in restaurants, malls and public spaces, and schools and most universities are segregated.
Families are expected to arrange or, at the least, approve marriages.
"I need someone who trusts that if I need to do something, I can make the decision to ask for help or choose to do it alone."Women cannot travel, study abroad, marry or undergo certain medical procedures without the permission of a male guardian — usually a father or husband, or in their absence, an older or even a younger brother.
During a 2005 sermon, the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque, Abdul-Rahman As-Sudais, raised an early outcry against "the dangerous phenomenon of life-long spinsterhood," saying it endangers "the community as a whole."According to government figures, 3.3 million are women over 30 in this nation of 20 million people — and if the ministry's 2011 figure is unchanged, it means that about 45 percent of Saudi women over 30 are single.
The Labor Ministry says there are more than 400,000 working women in Saudi Arabia, compared to less than 55,000 before 2009.
Education is also changing women's attitudes toward marriage and giving them more confidence, said Hatoon al-Fassi, a professor of women's history in Saudi Arabia.
Some pundits have blamed fathers for demanding exorbitant sums of money from male suitors and have even accused them of intentionally keeping their working daughters single because they rely on their income.
Fatani wants a husband who has also lived abroad and has aspirations similar to hers.Women are also challenging the rules on how to meet a prospective husband.(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali) "My friends and I have reached a point (where) we're very specific about what we want," she said.The trend has ruffled ultraconservatives who see it as an affront to the very foundations of the kingdom, where strict interpretations of Islam and rigid tribal codes have long dictated the terms of marriage.In this Sunday, May 11, 2014 photo, a Saudi woman seen through a heart-shaped statue walks along an inlet of the Red Sea in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Amna Fatani knows she wants a brilliant career and a life different from that of Saudi women of her mother's generation who married early, usually to a husband not of their own choosing.