I might sound like a sourpuss, but that is just a risk I am going to have to take to get this out. There are two opposite ends of the spectrum present in Saudi Arabia and they both bother me for different reasons.
The Bitter Ones
I hate when people wallow in misery, oblivious to their abundant blessings. Some people will never be happy in Saudi Arabia, because they would never be happy anywhere else in the world. A few bad experiences have left a bad taste in their mouth and they are taking it out on all of us.
Please, enough with the negativity. I understand you hate it here. Please stop trying to make us all hate it. Don’t act like you don’t have a choice. We always have choices. We might not LIKE them and they might be difficult, but they are there. If you decide that you do not want to accept the consequences of leaving, then it is still your choice to stay here. Unless you are being held prisoner by the government or otherwise, do NOT say you are captive or stuck here. There are some people who actually can’t leave and I imagine your whining could be quite annoying.
The Green Ones
The new fresh faces I see every day here or meet online. Those girls who are recently married or are seeking the marriage permission always have a spirited viewpoint on Saudi Arabia. Most believe that there husband or husband-to-be has prepared them to live their life here. The trust that is put into these Saudi men to prepare these women for a life they have never lived themselves is ridiculous. Don’t feel bad; I thought my husband prepared me as well. The thing is, what I didn’t understand is how Saudi Arabia truly consists of two worlds; the man’s and the woman’s. If your husband has never been a woman, he really can’t accurately prepare you for life in Saudi Arabia.
I understand you have studied about Saudi Arabia and listened to all his stories. I get that you have a million Saudi friends back home and you already wear an abaya. Perhaps the culture of your parents is even similar to Gulf culture. Maybe you have been to Dubai or Bahrain, lived in a conservative Christian camp, observed Catholicism as a nun, or just escaped prison; but that is still not living in Saudi Arabia.
I hate to tell you that will not prepare you for living here. Your experiences will contribute to your experience here, of course. However, regardless of whatever preparation ritual you went through in your country, living in Saudi Arabia is an experience known only to those who have done it. I’m not saying you will hate it. You might love it. All I’m saying is don’t kid yourself into thinking that knowing ABOUT Saudi culture is practice for living here.
I don’t hate Saudi Arabia. I am here because I choose to be. I just wish that I could find more balance here. I’m trying not to sound bitter. I’m just tired of the back and forth, the up and down. I am not a fresh newbie or a bitter oldie. I am just trying to live my life and be productive while I can.
As always, salaam wa alaikum
Everyone in life has difficult choices and questions about how to survive abroad. However, usually the choices and questions of expats are exacerbated by their dealings with foreign cultures, governments, and laws.
Should I visit home this holiday or push on to make more money?
Should I forgo comforts in the country I am living in order to save for when I return to my home country? Do I stop “living my life” here and crawl into a dark hole and return with a large bank account or do I truly embrace my experiences here and perhaps return slightly less better off?
Should I immerse myself in my host country’s culture or should I build walls to ensure I won’t be “corrupted” by this foreign culture?
Should I compromise and follow the “laws of the land” or should I march onward because, “I’m an American” or “I’m a Canadian” or “I’m Indian” or “I’m British or “I’m Afghan”.
Although all of these questions have answers, the answers can vary from person to person. What is right for me and my family might not be right for someone else’s. One expat’s positive life-changing experience is another person’s spirit-breaking negative one.
How do we maintain our lives and sanity abroad, while simultaneously maintaining relationships and ties to our home country?
Is it better to lose our sanity than our identity?
How do we cope with the loneliness that comes with experiencing a world outside of our own?
Can we explain the changed viewpoints we have when we return to our lands?
Is it realistic to think you can just “work and make money” somewhere and exit unchanged and unaffected?
Where does the law of diminishing returns take effect to tell us when to pack up and go home?
Will I ever be the same? Do I want to be?
As always, salaam wa alaikum
I think one of the reasons why Saudi/non-Saudi marriages fail is the lack of support a wife receives upon entering the Magic Kingdom. When dizzy and giddy in love with her Saudi, she blissfully thinks “He is all I need”. However, eventually reality gives way to “Oh my God what have I done”. Although for some it is much less than earth shattering (and for others it is burn the house to the ground-oh my goodness); every expatriate in Saudi Arabia has suffered from the cultural restrictions and changes required to live here. The lack of support is by no means all upon the Saudi himself (he is only one person after all). However, most Saudis expect their social lives to continue on as usual and to not have to put out extra effort in order to “make-up” for whatever friends, relatives, and hobbies you lost from your move. In fact, I would say that a lot of Saudi men do not even consider it a responsibility of theirs to “be-it-all” (actually, probably most men). So why do we women move halfway across the world and expect them to be our everything?
When I figure it out, I will let you know.
As always, salaam wa alaikum
In exactly twenty seven minutes, I will reach my twenty-seventh birthday (at least the Saudi preview). Last night I waited to see the clock strike midnight and afterwards I tossed and turned for hours. All I could think about was where I have been and where I am going.
Last year, I was in a different city and had a different job. After a year of free-lance writing, Master’s course work, and housewifery; I am not the same person that I was 365 days ago. Last year at this time, I had just booked tickets for our visit to America. I was preparing for our vacation and laying the groundwork for my exit at work. This year, I have anxiously awaited a decision from the labor office in regards to my case, and have carried around the weight of the unknown.
I have also carried around the normal weight of the past, which typically makes itself known in the quiet of the night, whispers over the hum of the air conditioning or wraps itself around me; swallowing me like the darkness.
Every milestone, every year, and every birthday I wonder what could have been if reality hadn’t happened.
She would be twenty-four.
It has been almost ten years.
Would she be married?
Would she have children?
Does her brother remember the day I got knocked out? His motorcycle followed our car, weaving in and out of traffic, while you giggled in the backseat; merrily turning our makeshift ambulance into a treasured memory.
Does he remember house his voice sounded when he said my name at your funeral?
Were you there?
Did you see me?
I still see you in my dreams sometimes.
You are always playing softball; always happy and calling out to me.
Do I deserve the guilt I feel every time I remember that you will never get what I did? Every candle on the cake I have more than you? I don’t feel entitled to the guilt. In fact, I wish I could shake you.
I don’t think you mean to haunt me. In fact, I’m glad to have you there. You push me, because I know how quickly life can end. You shattered my illusion of youth and invincibility. I remember you and remember to hug my loved ones, to hold tighter to moments, and to never get into a car without realizing I might not get out. I remember you and my breath catches; baby’s toes, weddings veils, sparkles and sequins; do you miss those things? Do you even remember them?
The end of your life marked the end of my childhood.
As I add one more candle to my cake, you remain suspended forever in time at fifteen. I promise to never take those candles for granted.
P.S I’m sorry I broke your tooth.
As always, salaam wa alaikum
I am really sick of feeling like a cliché every time I do something. Simply because I am a Muslim woman, if I go out alone, ride a bike, or get a degree, I am a spokesperson for the entire ummah and suddenly circulating the internet on a MEME for woman’s rights and hastags like #LookMuslimwomenarehumantoo
This is one thing I hate about wearing hijab; people automatically make judgments about which camp to which you belong; normal human being or alien jihadist. Non-Muslims are not the only guilty parties by ANY stretch of the imagination; Muslims and non-Muslim alike judge women for their choices.
If I wear hijab, people view me as pious and conservative. If I did not wear hijab, people would view me as “less of a religious woman” and “open-minded”. If I wear niqab, people think I’m either crazy or “masha’Allah wearing true and full hijab”, despite the fact that I could be using my niqab to obscure my identity as a drug addicted, bank-robbing, tranny hooker that sells souls to the devil for chocolate bars and yoga pants.
Oh yes, I understand I am supposed to live outside the sphere of human relationships.
Just do what is right, they say!
Go forth with no thought of wordly consequences and you will be fine!
How many people are actually able to do that? Seriously, I know some of you are nodding your heads along with this!
And where am I supposed to get information on what is right…when EVERYONE thinks what they are doing is the right thing?
How do I know what is right?
How do I know if I will be ok?
I am so sick of everyone telling everyone else how to live their lives.
Why can’t people just “be”?
This morning, I read an opinion piece about hijab (abayas) in the Saudi Gazette (I know no one there is going to win a Pulitzer) and I found it to be a perfect example of irony and Saudi style ridiculousness.
The piece is titled, “What type of abaya do they wear?” and is an opinion piece from a Saudi national (man) who muses on about “Saudi women’s rights to choice in clothing”.
The main point of the piece is that Saudi women should be able to choose the abaya they wear without trouble from others. The funny thing is it doesn’t address a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to wear an abaya. So really, the fact that he is arguing for a women’s choice of abaya is similar to allowing someone to decorate their jail cell.
And no…I am not equating an abaya or hijab to a jail cell.
What I am equating to a jail cell a world in which women are forced to function within the confines of other people’s expectations.
This man-champion for women’s rights brings the rant home by spouting out this delightful piece of freedom fighting, “We should give women the freedom to wear the type of abaya they like as long as they stick to decency and observe social norms. No one has the right to select an abaya for any woman.”
Well thanks, honey, nice try. I’m glad you are a champion for my rights as long as they align with your expectations.
This is not exclusive to Muslim women or Saudi Arabia. When I visit America, I am also expected to fit into the niche society has carved out for a twenty-seven year old white American female. God forbid I make my own choices.
So there we have it folks, men aren’t allowed to select a woman’s outfit; they are just allowed to force her to conform to societal norms with said outfit.
Thank you and good day!
*This post was not meant to imply that drug addicted, bank robbing, tranny hookers that sell souls to the devil for chocolate bars and yoga pants should not be loved, harmed, or judged in any shape, matter, or form*
As always, salaam wa alaikum.
Originally posted on Future Husbands And Wives Of Saudis (FHWS):
I welcome you to Islam! May Allah increase you in knowledge, faith, righteousness and worship ameen. Congratulations to you and your Saudi obtaining the approval of her father. Your future father-in-law’s request is just one more obstacle to tackle before you can start the marriage permission journey. I’m sorry to say that I am not a doctor. I can say with utmost optimism that any marriage can succeed no matter what nationality or culture as long as the couple work on it together and have the support of family and friends. I recommend that you contact Dr. Khaled Al-Batarfi and kindly ask if he is interested in writing a letter to your Saudi’s father. He has been addressing non-Saudi/Saudi marriages in his articles on Saudi Gazette and apparently familiar with the subject. He is available on Twitter https://twitter.com/kbatarfi. Insha’Allah he will agree to assist you. I am publishing your…
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This video was shared on the Facebook wall of a friend and I wanted to share it. However, I do want to include this sentiment: This is really more of a snapshot of a certain group of Saudi women.
Unfortunately, many women here would risk being considered not marriageable material by going to study abroad! I have talked to many women here that dream of studying abroad and taking advantage of the scholarship system, but cannot get around the “mahram” issue. Since they have no one to “accompany” them; they cannot go abroad to study. They are the women that cannot work in hospitals and other mixed environments due to the social ramifications. The women that cannot simply choose to be different because their entire survival in this society is dependent on their reputation. Some women might be considered shameful for appearing in such a video! Some families here do not support change in any capacity; let alone the change that would lead to their daughters alone and abroad.
Although I think this is a lovely video and conversation, I think about the ladies that are not represented here and how to add their voice to the conversation.
I think one of the problems with me writing this blog is my inability to compartmentalize the life I have.
Yes, I live in Saudi Arabia.
Yes, I am an American.
Yes, I am Muslim.
Yes, I am female.
The problem is that a blog requires you to tag and categorize your thoughts. Unfortunately, my thoughts do not come out of my head in categories.
Aren’t they all equally relevant and irrelevant?
I am a Muslim, but does that mean my thoughts automatically can be categorized in that manner?
Perhaps it is partially an existential crisis that has me thinking this way, but I know a lot of ladies in this Kingdom who blog. I know many of them personally.
I know so many people in Saudi Arabia who fit into the female, Muslim; married to a Saudi, live in Saudi Arabia category just like I do.
We are all so different.
That is what categories do to a person; they eradicate personality quirks, past experiences, and nuances of culture. It simply smashes people together.
We all throw our thoughts into the abyss hoping that someone will hear and understand. What I hope you understand from this is that I am so sick of trying to figure out which label to put on myself. I am not a cartoon, an educational program, or an item that belongs on a shelf.
I can’t be labeled if I want to do justice to myself.
My writing isn’t “Muslim” or “American” or solely dedicated to “travel”, “faith, or “religion”.
The only hashtag I belong to is #human.