Manama: Last year alone, 44 American and European men married Saudi women, according to statistics published by Saudi daily Al Watan.

These included 17 Americans and Canadians and 27 Europeans.

Yemenis topped the list of 1,278 foreigners marrying Saudi women at 505, followed by Kuwaitis at 152 and Syrians at 118.

The figures showed that 92 Qataris, 85 Egyptians, 59 Emiratis, 49 Palestinians and 48 Pakistanis married Saudi women.

Under Saudi Arabia’s rules, a Saudi woman can take a foreign husband only if she is at least 25 years old. The age can be lowered to 21 if she proves that she is a close relative of the would-be groom.

A Saudi man has to be at least 30 years old to marry a non-Saudi woman and the age can be brought down to 25 if there is a close family relation between them.

The man has also to prove that he has a job and that he has a steady income.

Social experts attributed the tendency by Saudis to take non-Saudi spouses to the gradual change in local mindsets through contacts with other cultures.

“Marriages used to be confined to family members, then to neighbours,” Fuad Al Mushaikhas said. “They have now stretched outside the Saudi kingdom. The fact that women go out to work could be one of the major reasons for taking up foreign husbands,” he said.

The expert warned that under the law, Saudi mothers could not pass on their nationality to their children.

A study published in April said the high cost of ceremonies and dowries was among six major reasons for delayed marriages in Saudi Arabia.

The study by the Scientific Endowment at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) said that the choice of a spouse based on the family criteria and not on personal standards, low tolerance about the social status of the potential spouse’s family and the impact of failed marriages of other couples were also among the major reasons around two million Saudi men and women did not get married.

The uncompromising insistence on specific conditions and the misleading information about the concept of marriages were the other major reasons for late or no marriages at all, the study said.

Other reasons cited by some of the participants were the focus on a professional career, the weakness of social relations, the concern about some physical and psychological issues, the fear from commitment to new responsibilities and concern about domestic violence.