Traditionally, the ideal marriage was tribal, related families encouraging their offspring to marry cousins or other relatives in order to increase and strengthen the tribe, or occasionally to marry into another tribe in order to heal rifts between families.Another reason for such marriages was that families knew the background of the partner.Nivin El-Gamal’s life had never been ordinary but on a late April evening in 2003, in a Japanese restaurant in Dubai City, it took a twist worthy of a Hollywood rom-com. It ended in acrimony in the High Court last year, which heard intimate details of a relationship conducted behind closed doors and had to adjudicate on the validity of a contested “wedding” that Gamal claimed took place in Maktoum’s London flat but the sheikh’s lawyers denied ever happened.
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She says she felt guilty about what was happening with Maktoum: “In our religion you have to be married to do these things,” she says.
“It was a very good relationship,” Gamal remembers, “and I felt I would marry him.” She even bought a wedding dress the next year from Harrods in preparation.
The man claimed that when the woman came to visit in 2016 he picked her up from Dubai International Airport and drove her to a flat to the nearby emirate of Sharjah where he claims a Pakistani religious scholar married them verbally.