RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The course of true love never did run smooth. While applicable the world over, Shakespeare's words are particularly true in swiftly changing Saudi Arabia.
Long forbidden, dating has arrived in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom with some Saudis meeting and marrying without the help of relatives. Well-heeled millennials meet via Tinder, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.
While most restaurants still separate men and women into sections for men and "families," young couples are increasingly appearing in public together in a handful of cafes and other eateries.
"Two years back we wouldn't even be able to sit together — people would get the wrong idea," says Waleed, a 27-year-old software engineer with the square jaw of a model. "Change has come to Saudi Arabia."
"Why would you date — where does this go?" Katherine Lam / for NBC News
Much of Waleed's "love relationship" with his girlfriend has taken place online. The pair finally met in person in Egypt, where gender mixing is more accepted than in Saudi Arabia, long dominated by a puritanical form of Islam that has been challenged recently by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's push toward a more moderate interpretation of the religion.
"Our culture here, they make love a sin," Waleed said. Because sex and romantic love remain highly controversial subjects in the kingdom, interviewees spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, and pseudonyms have been used.