Polygamy exists here.
I learned about all sorts of new marriage and "provisional" marriage practices today in my new sociology class called "The Magreb: Societies in Transition". Get ready.
1) Amhars - This a form of pre-Islamic Berber marriage practice that no longer exists as of the 20th century. It was an invention for people who had run away from their tribes and needed to marry into a new one and make a living, something that would be nearly impossible if not for this practice. So it goes like this: The foreigner marries one of the chief's daughters, but on a provisional basis. She is free to dismiss him at any time and take all of his wealth and keep all of her children, etc. Power to the ladies.
2) Zawaj Muta'a - This is a Shi'a version of provisional marriage that is fully legal...in Iran. Sunnis consider it to be heresy. It's basically so that people (students, for example) can have sex without their relationships being illicit. Marriage merely requires two witnesses and signatures, and then the two can go at it, and, as long as they don't have children, its all dandy. I think you can write into the document how long it is meant to lasts. It can be anywhere from a couple of days to a few hours. Try telling American college students to do that. Ha.
3) Zawaj 3rfi- This takes place in Egypt most commonly. The situation is this: A married man takes a mistress on the side that, generally, his wife is unaware of. He proceeds to marry HER and maintain her in an apartment somewhere where she may or may not have kids, build a life, etc. (the mistress) so that this one man has two wives, one of which does not know about the other. And then, say, the man dies. Since he was legally married to both women, the second wife/mistress obtains half of his property. SURPRISE first wife!
4) Zawaj Misyar - Saudi Arabia is messed up. No joke. This case happens usually with well-off, older (pushing 30) unmarried women, and because there are lots of wealthy people, and there are often not enough men to marry all of the women in each respective tribe (to continue the tradition of endogamy), this happens. A rich girl who hasn't found a husband from her tribe marries an already-married man (who's wife is OK with this) found by her father. And the girl lives at home, under her parents roof, supported by them, where she will raise her children and make her life. Her husband may fly in once or twice a week for a couple hours, and then leave. Talk about an absentee father. But for them, its a win-win situation. She gets to have a family, and he gets a no-strings-attached mistress. Incredible.
I'm going to Casablanca this weekend. We have plans to stay at this adorable old hotel and spend Shabbat with the Chabad there. We leave Friday right after class. The composer of The Strokes' music is named Julian Casablancas -- so here's some Strokes for you today. Sometimes I feel like this when it comes to speaking Arabic to people. They just speak French back, so "I Can't Win." Pictures coming next time.