Saudi Arabia: How Well Do We Really Know One Another?

Veils are commonplace in Saudi Arabia.  Yet when you really think about it, we all wear a veil of one type or another.  For example, when someone asks, “How are you?” What do you usually say?  “Fine, thanks.”  Or perhaps, “al humdill’allah.”  Yet inside you might be ecstatic with happiness or writhing in agony but your face will reveal nothing of the inner feelings because the veil is in place.

I was reading an article today in a local magazine.  In the article the writer wrote about American funeral services and how so many little known facts about a person and their experiences may only come out at the time of death.  It is very common in the United States when a loved one has passed away to have a memorial which honors the individual and his or her life.  Now many memorials will have a constant slide show playing in tribute to the life of the loved one.  Family members and friends will speak and share experiences of the loved one which can include hobbies, achievements, accomplishments and humorous times.

It should not be because of a funeral that one finally learns much more about someone, especially if that someone is a relative or close friend.  I wonder though because of the inherent privacy of Saudi culture, how well do Saudis really know one another and how well can we ever get to know Saudis?

Perhaps my reading the article today should be taken as a lesson for all of us.  There are many who have been following and commenting on American Bedu for years or at least since its inception in 2006.  There are others who may be brand new to American Bedu.  Regardless of how long or how short one has chosen to follow American Bedu we do create a cyber community of sorts with a common interest in aspects of Saudi Arabia.  Don’t we also then owe it to ourselves and fellow commentors to get to know and understand one another?  Shouldn’t we take turns sharing some aspects of each other so that when one sees a comment by this person or that person we know where they are coming from and why?

I’ve shared quite a bit about myself since it is my blog.  It should not be too much of a surprise for readers to know that my interest in Saudi Arabia is very personal.  I came to view Saudi Arabia as another home thanks to the love of my life being a lovely and pure Saudi.  What you may not know is that I dislike beets but I do love to cook.  My favorite past time now is playing with my Grandson and pretending for him that I am Cookie Monster!


15 Responses

  1. Good idea Carol. I didnt have any connection or real knowledge about Saudi Arabia until I met and married my wife, a Saudi citizen.

    I was born in Europe to parents who were officers in the US military. All three generations of our family that have been in the US have served in the US miltiary, the first being my grandfather in WW1. Before my family came to the states they were military back in what is now Germany and Austria.

    I really get into learning about Sephardic Judaism. Judaism and Jews in the Middle East and Africa is a subject that has driven me for years.

    One of my main interests in life is trying to draw together Muslims and Jews, culturally, religiously and politically, because I feel that Jews and Muslims, rather than hating each other, should really be natural friends.

    Despite haters on both sides of the divide, I am always pleasantly pleased by how many Muslims and Jews will support these idea and movements despite opposition from those in their own community.

    Shalom Shabbat.

  2. Carol,

    I first came across your blog when I had a job offer in Saudi and I wanted to know what is like to live there. While I did not take the offer, I found the subjects very interesting. I suppose with my degree in International Relations and living off and on again in Muslims countries, I find that this blog has more of a healthy dialogue.
    Me: Well my life is’Mayberry to Minerats’ my life has all been stark contrasts. A big interest of mine is for others to see the otherside of ME, not the picture that media generally portrays. As a hobby, I enjoy reading history in MidEast, Persia and the Gulf States. I also enjoy studying all the Abrahamic religions, their differences and similarities. I love animals, dogs in particular and love to eat Indian, Lebanese and Thai food.

  3. Hey all! ❤
    From reading on here, you've probably figured out that I basically majored in textiles and apparel, love dancing so much that I nearly majored in it, and my hobby is learning about medical subjects such as human anatomy and physiology.

    I am interested in this blog because I am in a relationship with someone from Saudi Arabia and have many friends from there. I have been exposed to many different cultures and lifestyles growing up, and therefore can claim none as my own, other than being American (generally speaking). No matter where I live in the world, I'll be homesick for somewhere else. I consider my "home" to be wherever my loved ones are at, which could be multiple places around the world.

    Something odd about me is that I love tea but generally dislike coffee. The exception to this rule is that I recently tried arabic coffee(with cardamom) and absolutely LOVE it!!!! 😉

    If I had to choose a cause which I feel very strongly about it is that women and men both should learn to appreciate their bodies as they are and focus on being healthy rather than being perfect. Confidence is one of the most attractive things about a person, so love yourself! ❤

  4. I love that you pretend to be Cookie Monster for your grandson! Do you say, “COOKIE?!?! Me love cookie!” and then proceed to gobble “cookies” (or maybe Jacob’s hands) with gusto? 😀

    This is a great idea, Carol. I really enjoyed this post!

    I grew up in North Carolina, attended church each week (Sunday morning/evening and Wednesday evening) and went to a Christian school which I loved. I had a small graduating class and felt I was friends (or maybe just friendly) to some degree with everyone in my high school. Many of us still keep in touch and I went out with three girls who graduated with me just last night.

    My life was going along fine when I got a message on MySpace (which I no longer check since Facebook rules now) “From Damascus.” Reading and answering that message opened up my world to one very different than my own. I was introduced to Syria, Arab culture, Muslims, Islam and their prophet Muhammad. (I’d never met a Muslim before as they aren’t very common where I live.) Samer and I became very good friends just by chatting on MSN Messenger. We would discuss everything from our respective spiritual beliefs and practices to politics to what foods we liked to eat and what times of day we ate them! (They eat supper WAY later than I do!) 😀

    My husband and I traveled to Syria early in 2009. This is very odd for me as I’m not much of a traveler and I have never, ever, ever wanted to travel to the Middle East not even Israel despite my people being favorable of it and, of course, the whole connection to Jesus in the “holy land.”

    So for us to travel to Syria was just bizarre. But, of course, I absolutely *loved* it and have yearned for it ever since we got back. I secretly dream of living there for a while one day.

    I came across your blog about 2 years ago. Samer (my Syrian friend) and I were thinking of doing a blog together. We would joke about Hannity and Colmes (?) and the opposing sides that we could offer to issues. You know me the Christian American woman and him the Muslim Arab man. Well we did that for a while and then I think I went to Syria and it fell by the wayside. Now he is studying for his Master’s in Germany.

    So I found your blog back then when I was checking WordPress. I think it was advertised as “one you may enjoy” and I did and have so I keep coming back for more interesting insights.

    I found it “small world” cool when you ended up in NC yourself although the circumstances were sad. We are only about 2 or 3 hours away now.

    My husband and I have juiced raw beets along with our carrots, spinach, broccoli and ginger root. They make the juice have a nice “dirt” flavor. 😛 I prefer ice cream though. I am one of those who stops to smell the roses or exclaim to my dad while I’m on the phone talking to him, “I just passed one of the most beautiful trees…the leaves were so pretty! (as I did just yesterday). I love round hay bales in rolling hills with cows and barns, wildflowers, nature and looking up into the sky to enjoy the clouds, colors and stars and moon.

    And I enjoy reading and looking online rather than watching TV. I am not a movie person.

    The End.

  5. I have a Spanish friend who constantly complains that we Canadians (and I know it is not just Canadians) are so private. She says how can you know a person when they are always saying “I’m fine” when you know that they are excited or hurting or angry or whatever so from that point on I learned not to not ever give her a stock answer. 🙂

    Anyway I came to this blog through Susie’s blog because I was trying to learn as much as I could about Saudi Arabia before making my first family visit there. Since visiting Saudi I am even more interested in following and learning about life ‘inside’.

    I’m a grandmother, I’ve done a lot in my life, I enjoy travel and learning about other cultures and I do volunteer work in Canada helping new immigrants get settled and to learn our Canadian customs.

  6. I grew up in india , in a large family, my passion is medicine, closly followed by running , dancing and baking.
    I met and married my saudi in med school in india, 2 kids and am so so proud of my sone who’s in MIT and my daughter who has 2 yrs more of school but is aiming for med school. we’re absolutely 100% sure she will get in, she wants to be a neurosurgeon like her dad. ( yess they all can’t stand urology 😦 )

    F shares my love for surgery, running and eating the baked goods 🙂 we lived in riyadh for a few yrs, to get closer to his family and bond, since that didn’t happen and my career took a beating in th eprocess we decided to leave and complete our fellowdhips in UK and US and setteled down in the US.
    We run a charitable hospital and take turns volunteering with a group of wonderful surgeons, we both worked with MSF till the kids came along & F continued the service for 20 more yrs 🙂

    hmm what else , i have a short temper, love chai , have a sweet tooth and am 5’3″ ( yes v v sad) since i live with a family of giants .. F’s 6’3″, my son’s 6’1″+ and my daughter is 5’7″ ( & growing) .. so i’m the tiny dwarf, i’ve been lifting wts for the past 30 yrs in hopes of building up and yet am as puny as ever.

    If i stand behind F or my son i’m invicible and getting that way with my baby girl.. my brothers greatest fear was F would give me a pat on my back and i’d break in two 🙂

    I clean obsessively inspite of having a cleaning service !! My bad temper is almost always soothed by F’s excellent chai and my babies hug .

  7. Thanks Carol,

    It has been months since responding to someone’s blog or writing a post of my own. This is my senior semester and I am on overload.

    My “handle” is anthrogeek10. I am a 40 year old woman approaching the final period of my B.A in Anthropology. I entered this wonderful field thinking that I would want to study converts to Islam and identity but that thought has been put on the back burner due to a lack of response from professors who study this topic and/or may know someone who does. That said, I have had an amazing experience in my graduate class last semester taught by a woman who specialized in tourism/commodification of textiles and South American cultures. She died of cancer one month after the class was over. Part of me died with her. I was deeply affected by her and her influence. I am now working on an ethnography on eco-tourism and I think I may have found my niche……..

    RIP Dr. Zorn, your appreciative former student.


  8. Oh…..

    I did not share much about me…..:-)

    I love Indian/Pakistani food (mostly Indian vegetarian). I am a vegetarian but not thin at all. I LOVE cooking for others but usually only cook for my lonesome.I cook pizza, yummy homeade soups and big salads. In addition, I have a sweet tooth and bake my fair share while giving some away!

    I am technically married but on my way to a divorce. I am open to marriage once again–maybe. I am a strong feminist and believe in egalitarian marriages!!

    I do not own a tv and rarely watch tv online-Grey’s Anatomy and PBS is all I may muster. I utilize the library regularly.

    I want to run again; I used to be a long distance runner and tore my acl several years back. I have been on a pt program which will, ideally get me on the long-distance running track once again.

    Oh–I have traveled to Turkey twice, Holland, France, Mexico, Pakistan, and lived in Bahrain.


  9. Saudi was always in question in internet community. I got Carol’s amazing site when I searched about Saudi women to know the real and realiable news when Saudis/Arab in particular Muslims were mocked in one internet forum. In Internet world, Saudi and Arab, Muslim women, terrorism are constant points for mockery and teasing against Islam and Muslims. Luckily, real world is not how people spit religious venom in Internet forums.

    For the past 2 years, I have been in ORKUT.COM (like facebook. Its so famous among paksitani, Indians, Iranians, Brazilians). Here we do a lot of discussion. And its orkut from which I came to know that world has bitter part too in opposite to how I was brought up with a lot of nice friends from different relgions.

    Personally, I am a Software Engineer born in India. I did my Engineering also from India and MS module from University of London. I got married few months back with a spanish. I worked in Ericsson before and now in PayPal-eBay, Singapore. I have travelled UK, Spain, Sweeden, Malaysia, Germany, Dubai and going for holiday to Indonesia resot in coming Eid.

    I love to see a peaceful world one day and love to make freindship with nice people from all over world. I regret if I miss to share contacts once I form an opinion that “this man/woman is a nice person”

    I will be happy if there is a way to share contacts among willing members so that people like me can do freindship with the help of Carol 🙂

    I cant follow all the topics in Carol’s site due to personal and professional engagements. I m thinking to dig out all amazing post one day so that I can learn more abt Saudi and its culture.

  10. Also, I feel painful when I see the suffering of people or an innocent is harmed. I feel more hurtful to think that there are legal and iilegal terrorists like Bush, Taliban and AL-Qaida who enjoy with blood of innocents. I always pray to Allah to show right path to all and give a peaceful world.

  11. Good idea Carol. I like hearing from the other readers.

    Since I am one of the group that have done an interview on the blog. I’d rather refer to that article for those interested in knowing the thought process I bring to discussions.

  12. Okay….I know we have all heard the “but…my dog ate my homework.” Now in my case it’s “argh….Tripod was using the keyboard as a pillow and his one front paw hit the wrong button and I lost half of my messages which included the comments I’d not seen or replied to!” As a result, I am now trying to catch up on what all happened while I was away from the blog.

    I so enjoy hearing about folks and from those who contributed – Thank you!!!

    So much is already known about me but if you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask!

  13. This is a wonderful idea. It’s really nice to see an internet community where people begin to know each other. I enjoy reading your blog as a well appreciated break from muslim and arab bashing. I came to it because my husband’s dream is to live in Saudi but I am pretty certain I would not do well there (minimally because it is too hot!). But I am interested in how Saudi’s feel and deal with some of the challenges their form of Islam brings to them. My parents were “back to nature” hippies so I was brought up in a very free environment. I converted to Islam because I read the Quran and saw it was true, but I struggle with the ideas that there should not be music and dance and some of the ideas about women are just strange to me. Your blog often helps me to see through the strangeness. Anyway, at the moment I am the very happy new mom of a beautiful boy, mashaAllah, struggling with being over forty and a full time professional at the same time. Babies are a young woman’s game! but I wouldn’t trade him for all the world!

  14. Hi Aj,

    It is really nice to hear from you. My 41 year old niece just had a baby two weeks ago so I can relate to what you mean about having children at different stages in life! She also works full time.

    Most of the Saudis whom I know do enjoy music and dance. In my experience it was common to have music on in the home and not unusual to see the young women (and at times older) dance with enjoyment.

  15. Salam Aj,

    Nice to see u here. I will try to clear all ur doubts as much as I can. Plz come to http://www.orkut.come and search “Azad Ali Shah”
    I have been discussing in these topics for around 2 years in Orkut forum. Music is not haram as long as it is not lustful(I am not sure what word I will use) but there are scertain restrictions on the type of instruments used in music

    May Allah grace you, ur kids and family.

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