When Alan Cordova decided to take Maliha Khan to a pop-up Moroccan communal dinner for their first date, one question he didn’t anticipate being asked by their fellow EatWith diners was how long they had been together.
“Twenty minutes” was the honest answer.
“It sounds douchey, but it’s supposed to be a higher-quality dating app,” said Khan, whose friends helped her set up her profile right before she left her job in finance in New York to move to San Francisco.
Khan, 33, is originally from Karachi, Pakistan. She attended Smith College as an undergraduate and has an MBA from Harvard.
Cordova, 34, was raised in Seattle. After attending Williams College and Columbia University for his MBA, he also lived in New York. He moved to San Francisco in June 2015 and is business development manager for NRG Worldwide, which develops power plants for hospitals and universities.
After their first successful date, both were ready to go on a second one. And then a third.
Before their fourth date, Khan said she wanted to break in her new hiking boots for a gorilla-tracking trip she was taking to Tanzania with her best friend. Admittedly “not very outdoorsy,” she’d never owned hiking boots before. Cordova ended up taking her on a 16-mile hike, and Khan had a bit of a hard time, becoming terribly dehydrated and drinking up Cordova’s water. “He was amazing,” she said. “He was so kind and chivalrous.”
They stayed in touch during her two weeks in Tanzania and both realized how much they missed each other. As soon as Khan returned, they became a couple.
It was on a camping trip soon after to Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe — her first time camping — that they both thought this might be it.
“I appreciated her willingness to go to a place with no cell reception and to trust me and go way out of her comfort zone and do something different and be together on this adventure,” said Cordova. “That set the tone. Each of us saw how we work together really well.”
Added Khan: “I had been used to being so self-reliant for a long time. I’ve chosen to live far away from home and my family, and that trip made me feel like I could depend on him, and that cemented us together.”
The fact that she was Muslim and he was Jewish was not an issue.
“My family is not particularly observant, but we still define ourselves as Muslim,” said Khan. “But I was actively seeking to not date Pakistani men. Both of us experienced zero resistance from either of our families or communities at large.”
Added Cordova, “My family is very supportive and open and just wanted me to find someone that made me happy.”
Early on in their relationship, Cordova told Khan that he attends The Kitchen, an independent Jewish community in the Mission District, and invited her to join him.
Khan had a Modern Orthodox roommate at Smith and many other Jewish friends, so Jewish practice in general wasn’t new to her. But it was at The Kitchen.
“Everything was different than what I was used to. There was this cacophony of joyful singing,” she said. “I liked it enough to want to come back, as I really love to sing.”
Cordova said he used to go to services sporadically and sit in the back without really participating, but now he and Khan attend every service and sit in front, and Khan said she feels very much part of the community.
This past summer, they decided to marry. “As a feminist who went to a women’s college, I would have been mad if he did the whole on-one-knee thing, that’s not for me,” she said.
They married on Nov. 4 in Seattle to accommodate Cordova’s elderly relatives. They started with a Muslim ceremony that featured a number of South Asian cultural rituals, like placing long flower garlands on each other and feeding each other sweets. The ceremony was officiated by a female family friend, who also read some Sufi poetry. The Jewish ceremony followed, with Cordova’s childhood rabbi officiating as the couple broke the glass together.
Their signed marriage contract is both a ketubah and a nikah, representing similar Jewish and Muslim traditions. It features the Song of Songs opening, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” and includes modern egalitarian text in English, Hebrew and Urdu, the language of Pakistan.
“We feel balanced in a way that neither of us ever felt before, which is really wonderful,” Khan said. “And given that we come from South Asian and Jewish families, that was very important to us. My family truly loves Alan and his family truly loves me. We feel very loved and supported in that way as well.”