"Abu Jamal, 40, who declined to give his real name, operates an unlicensed business which facilitates marriages between young Syrian women and much older men who travel from the Gulf states in search of foreign brides.
He said that the first marriage he helped to arrange was between Samira, a 22-year-old woman from the Damascus countryside, and a Saudi Arabian man almost 50 years her senior...
"Faris Suleiman al-Miqdad, who has a reputation as one of Syria’s leading matchmakers, said that every year, he marries about 50 Syrian women to Gulf men, mainly Saudis. He takes a commission from the groom of about 1,500 to 5,000 Saudi riyals or about 300 to 1,300 US dollars.
"Al-Miqdad, from the Dara province in southern Syria, said he receives calls from Gulf men and notes down their description and qualifications. He then provides them with the details of some young women, although without showing them pictures, in order to 'protect the honour of these girls'...
"Wisal, a 29-year-old dentist in Damascus, said she married a Saudi doctor whom she met through a matchmaker to avoid this stigma.
"'I am past the normal marrying age in my country,' she said.
"She said matchmaking offices provided a valuable service for women.
"'I think they make things easier for girls in Syria. They discourage them from having irreligious relationships,' said Wisal.
"Like Abu Jamal, Ahmed al-Barqawi, a philosophy and sociology professor at Damascus university, said poverty was another factor motivating families who agree to find foreign grooms for their daughters.
"'With our economy the way it is now, I think many young women are looking for a way to leave the country and find financial security elsewhere.
"'Marrying a Gulf man and moving to his country is an easy way to make this happen,” he said."
Globalized communications has created a minor industry in which men from wealthy countries seek out women from poorer ones as a way of hitting "out of their league." I wish there were more studies on this phenomenon, both in terms of how such marriages worked out and the impact on different communities.