Saudi Arabia: Noorah’s Story

The relationship between a foreign woman and a Saudi man is always a topic of hot discussion.  Even more so, if they have married and made it to the Kingdom.  American Bedu is honored to interview Noorah, a non Saudi woman who met, married a Saudi and is now living in the Kingdom with her husband.  Here is her story….

 love saudi style

zazzle.com

 

Prior to meeting your husband, did you ever envision that you would meet and marry someone from a different country, culture or religion?

I never envisioned myself married to a someone not sharing the same traditions,culture and religion as I.

 

By way of background, where are you originally from?  What kind of background do you have such as what religion were you raised, where you went to school and what you studied?

My grandfather was a Portuguese Jew, who married a Mexican women and adapted her religion (Catholicism). Both my parents are   Mexican. I am from San Diego, California and majored in Child Development.

Now of course, we all want to hear just how you and your Saudi husband first met!  Everyone loves a love story.  What was your first reaction upon meeting him?  What kind of a courtship did you have?  When did you know he was The One?   cafe lu lu

I met my husband at this hip coffee shop called Cafe LuLu on 4/19/93 it was destiny all the way. I was suppose to meet some friends from Prague, and bumped into my husband…we spoke for hours getting to know each other, exchanged phone numbers and courted over the phone for about a month. After the month passed I introduced him to my family and told them I had taken some courses in school with him (parents were pretty strict and meeting him in a coffee shop would not be ok). We fell in Love instantly, and I just knew he was the one.

How much did you know about Saudis or Saudi Arabia before you met him?  Do you feel like he was a good teacher in educating and sensitizing you about Saudi’s culture, customs and traditions?

I knew absolutely nothing about KSA. We were taught our senior year about OPEC, that was pretty much it. My husband comes from a very good family, and has always been proud of it..he is open minded but still very traditional and very spiritual, I believe he was the perfect tool in introducing me to Islam and his wonderful traditions and customs.

 

When did you first meet or speak to any of his family?  What was their reaction on learning he had fallen in love with a non-Saudi?

We were always around the shebab(guys), most of them were his cousins..thank God they liked me and encouraged us to marry. When I was 20 and my husband 24, he had to leave back to KSA to fix his I20, it was a Thursday 1/95 and just blurted out and asked me to marry him before his flight on Saturday..we went to the Mosque the next evening and married, I returned home and could not believe I had just married without no one knowing (till this day my family does not know). He returned to KSA for about 5 months, I studied about his country and religion..after two months I took my Shahada at Masjid Abu Bakr in SD,CA. When my husband called me to see how I was doing, I greeted him with the Sallaam, he was in tears. Amazingly a week later his family was suggesting him to marry before he returned to the US, he told them he was married and as I like to say “all hell broke loose”(lol). His mother (allahya hum a) asked if I was muslim, he said “yes”, she asked him to call me and they all congratulated me. We had a wedding on July 29,1995 

 

How easy was it for you and your husband to ultimately receive the approval?  Were there any challenges?  Did it take a long time?

As for govermental approval we had no problems, he was asked for our marriage,birth and shahada certificates. It took about 3 months in total.

When did you and your husband move to the Kingdom?  Were you able to travel together or did he have to go before you?  What part of the Kingdom do you call home?

Our first visit to the Kingdom was in May of 97, we stayed in Riyadh for 9 months. We returned in 2001 with our first born Hessa and stayed for about 8 months. We finally moved to Riyadh in September of 2005.

riyadh skyline     What were your initial thoughts and impressions of life in Saudi?  Was it easy or difficult to adjust?  What changes did you have to make in your lifestyle?  Do you know Arabic?

My initial thoughts of the kingdom was it was tremendously boring. Coming from San diego, beaches, bays and ports..I had to make quite an adjustment. I took me about a year to adjust and make friends.

I am an optimistic person, so I never felt my life here was a challenge. I have always found the good in everything here. I am well aware one’s thoughts are a persons garden..you can choose to plant flowers or weeds? I choose to plant lovely flowers!! I did learn to speak Arabic and as for changing my lifestyle I did not. If anything I tweaked it. I am more subtle and formal with my husbands family and I have a group of foreign friends married to Saudis as well, and we mix with together.

 

When and why did you choose to change your Western name?

I never changed my name legally, my husband’s mother could not pronounce Norma so she insisted in calling me Noorah, which I loved, so I kept it.

 

What is your typical routine like in the Kingdom?  Are you working?

I have domestic help in the home, so I do not raise a finger in tidying up, but I do love cooking. I am the one who makes the breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner (if we don’t order out). Lunch is the main meal in a Saudi home, so I take pride in having variety. Our dinner is always light. When the children are in school, I go out for coffee with my friends come back by noon to cook lunch, kids are picked up at school by me..return to eat and do homework. We usually go to the Diplomat Quarter so the children can ride bikes, come home and wait for my husband to return home from work. Kids are off to bed by 8:30 and my husband and I sometimes go out for a bite, or visit his elder family members. Weekends are always spent very busy (lots of social events).

Have you seen any kind of changes in your husband since living in Saudi such as in his personality or demeanor? 

Have not seen any changes in my husband’s demeanor, obvioulsy we are constantly maturing but nothing alarming. He is still a sweet spiritual loving husband.

Have you been able to make many friends in Saudi?  Are your friends primarily Saudis or expatriates?  How did you meet?  How often do you interact with your in-laws?  What do you all do together?  saudi family 1

My husband comes from a huge family, and he the youngest of 15 children. He is the age of some of his nephews and nieces. This has helped me a lot in the sense that I have many people my age around me but with the respect of being their aunty.  As I mentioned before I also made friends with a large group of Latina and Americans married to Saudi, they are my family here in the Kingdom. My husband family gathers for dinner or just women with children to socialize. As for my group of friends we gather at least 3 times a week. We celebrate birthdays, halloween, x-mas and so forth..many pot lucks!!

 

Can you share your views and experiences on having and raising children in the Kingdom.  How many children do you have?  Where were they born?  Who was with you when they were born?

I have four children in total. Two girls 13, 10 and two boys 9 and 3. All of my children were born in the states, with the exception of the last one. I found that raising children in the Kingdom is ideal. This country is very family oriented, from play structures in restaurants, to theme parks in the malls. As for values and morals, I can’t complain. I am proud of being a mother to these beautiful Saudi children. My husband was present at all my births, he actually cut all the umbilical cords.

 

Do you have any fears or qualms on raising your children in the Kingdom?  What do you see as the benefits your children receive at being raised in Saudi Arabia?

I have absolutely no concerns for my children being raised here, if anything they have family security, stability and most important a strong religious foundation.

 

What are the top five things you enjoy most about living in Saudi Arabia? 

Five top things: family security, food, inexpensive living, near many travel destinations (europe, india..) culture

 

What do you wish Saudi Arabia had that is presently not available and why?

I will say Riyadh needs to focus on more outdoor activities and facilities as Jeddah has.

 

san-francisco-beaches-pictures     What have you missed the most about home and why?

I have missed the beaches!

How often do you return to your home country?  Has any of your family come to visit you in the Kingdom?

I try to go home every summer and visit my family. My family has come to visit me in Dubai.

 

You are one of the few who have married their Saudi –and- made it to the Kingdom to live.  There are so many Western women who have relationships with Saudi students.  Many of them believe that their Saudi is “The ONE” and sincere.  What advice can you offer them?

Always be very honest with your needs and wants. 

 

Do you think most Saudi men who are students in the United States are as sincere as they claim to Western women?  Why or why not?

I think they are sincere with their feelings, standing up to their family is a whole other subject.

What are the five most important things a Western woman must know about her Saudi if she believes he is ‘The One?’

Saudi man is very traditional, protective, proud, god fearing and stubborn(lol)

 

If any young lady finds herself married to a Saudi, always be true to who you are, and try to learn and incorporate both of your traditions and values in one. Do not lose yourself, this is why he chose you in the first place.

 

I want to thank you for this interview and wish you all the best and for a continued life filled with happiness!

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68 Responses

  1. Is this Norma Ortiz? loved the interview.

  2. That was a nice interview worth reading everyone. Very interesting.

  3. @mrsB, I am Norma Ortiz, 🙂 Thanks
    @Ibrahim, thank you..I wish I would have proofread before sending the answers, I had my three year old on my lap 😦

  4. i understand the toddler issue Norma or should I call u Noorah 😉 Too bad you’re not in Jeddah ‘coz i will be there a month before Ramadan inshallah and would love to get together.

  5. @mrsB, I will send you my e-mail so we can exchange contact info.
    Cutenoorah@yahoo.com

  6. thanks so much Norma! will get in touch with u. soon inshallah.

  7. @mrsB and others
    Aslamo-Alaikum. It’s a beutiful interview with beautiful words. May Allah swt bless Noorah and her family. I will pray for them to be steadfast on their journey of pure and pious life to JANNAH. Aameen.

  8. thanks for sharing!

  9. @Sami, jazakallahair brother. You almost made me cry with such sweet words
    @susanne, thanks for reading.
    @,Americanbedu thank you for the opportunity to share my experience being married to a Saudi.

  10. It’s amazing to me that one can be married for years, have children, and your family doesn’t know… Something sounds very dysfunctional here.
    Or is that a typo?
    It’s just too weird for words….
    It must be a mistake, maybe Carol should adjust it.

  11. I will never for the life of me understand why some women end up marrying Arabs – I spent two years in the Gulf as an expatriate woman and the Arabs are, for the most part, a very unattractive lot. In fact, I added “for the most part” to soften my statement – 99 % of them are nothing to write home about: incredibly average-looking at best and dog-ugly at worst. However, what makes them even more unpleasant is the added confidence with which they think that every foreign woman is obtainable in the blink of an eye. This is the most stressful part in a foreign woman’s life in the Gulf – no woman deserves to be subjected to the instant assumption that she is a prostitute but the Arabs enjoy thinking that all foreigners are infidel whores that can be bought with a restaurant dinner or a couple of gifts. I was sick and tired of going through a situation where I had to reject the gifts of Arab men I didn’t know over and over again, because they got angry at the refusal and demanded an explanation in a very rude way. No manners and no respect at all. Sorry, I don’t cost a bottle of perfume and you can shove your sweet talk and dinner invitations where the Sun doesn’t shine. The Arab race is still in the jungle with regard to women and won’t change anytime soon.

    I visited the “Blue Abaya” blog yesterday and the Valentine article made me sick. The Finnish woman who writes it is trying really hard to persuade everyone in sight that Saudi Arabia is a magical kingdom as well as a place where you can find true love. (I am sure that the Asian housemaids waiting on the death row in Saudi will agree with you, Layla! After all, they almost found “romance” with the employers who tried to rape them.) As someone who has experienced extreme loneliness in the Gulf, I can tell that there is a lot more to these “love stories” that meets the eye – the sense of disconnectedness and isolation is such that many people start seeing attractiveness where there is none and start going out with people they wouldn’t have given a second look in normal circumstances. In short, you have to start making compromises with your usual requirements unless you want to spend your only day off between the walls of your company accommodation without meeting anyone at all. And if you go to one of the overrated expatriate parties in this area, you will find out that the conversations are incredibly shallow and most questions are borderline indecent and rude. I am sorry but it’s none of your business whether I have a boyfriend or not and whether I want to be in a relationship or not, but most of all it is none of your business why I DON’T want to be in a relationship with anyone in this place. It is because I have never seen such animalistic attitudes in my whole life and the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” approach of the Arabs is disheartening. It takes a lot more to start a relationship but the Arabs simply gape at you like total idiots refusing to believe it.

    So the myth of the “lively night life” in the Gulf is just that – a myth. As soon as you went to two parties, the others become the same. There is nothing but drinking, whoring and empty talk between people trying to kill the loneliness in a very restrictive country. There are no museums, no theatres, no concerts, no cultural events – just work, eat, sleep and work, sleep, eat again. After all, that’s what the Gulf folk brought you for, right? Not to enjoy yourself or anything. Lunches, brunches, sunbathing and going to desert is for the well-paid Western expatriates who can afford cars because the Arab cities are not built for pedestrians at all – the distances are such that if you can’t afford a car, you’ll either need a “boyfriend” with a car (understand someone you’ll have to sleep with in return for free transport) or you will be broke because the taxi fares will eat your miserable salary in no time at all.

    That much about romance in the Gulf. All of you dreamers need to have your rose-tinted glasses removed by force.

  12. Actually Aafke, the reference to the family not knowing about the marriage was when Noorah and her husband married prior to his first return to Saudi Arabia. They have not shared that with his family. Otherwise both their families are fully aware of their marriage, children and relationship! Sorry for any confusion caused by reading!

    On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:43 PM, American Bedu

  13. Oh that sounds much better! 🙂 I thought I must be getting something wrong!

  14. @Reality Check,

    I am certainly very happy that I met my Saudi husband outside of the Kingdom. I think I’d be much more critical of a developing relationship from inside the Kingdom. However, that being said, Layla did meet her spouse within the Kingdom and I can attest from personal knowledge that she is a very happy individual.

    I also know of several expatriate couples who did meet their future spouse in the Kingdom. Not each relationship came out of desperation, loneliness or frustration!

    In all cases, it depends on the circumstances and the individuals involved.

    On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:43 PM, American Bedu

  15. No….not you!

    On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:57 PM, American Bedu

  16. @Reality Check,
    I didn’t think “Arabs” had a particular look, although I have met quite a few Saudis who could pass for Hispanic. I married my husband because of his warm heart. I have yet to meet another man with as warm, kind, and caring a heart as him INCLUDING “Western” men. (The one exception to this was an English guy who I didn’t date because of a bad habit of his.). In fact, my husband reminds me of my own AMERICAN family. Cultural issues we work on together to find a middle ground where we can both be happy. However, we live in “Western” society for right now and met here.

    So while I understand your complaints, I would request that you not lump all men of a given ethnic/regional background into the same category. And I also find my husband quite attractive, though I don’t expect everyone to feel that way. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. For me, the beauty of the soul is what I look for, and my husband is one of the most honest, kindest, caring individuals and has a pure heart/soul. I could find someone who is my match in intelligence, interests, and physical attraction (among others). Finding someone with a good heart? Not so easy in any place. That, my dear, is why I chose him irregardless of culture or nationality. (I had pretty much sworn off men when I met him, especially Arab men due to cultural clashes.) My husband also is as stubborn as me, which again, is not an easy task. 😉

  17. I think Arabs are like any other group, some aren’t outwardly attractive, but many are quite handsome and some ACT very handsomely which is even better. 🙂

  18. Strangeone, my husband is always mistaken as an Italian.Once in Turkey, there were some Italian tourists and they actually thought my hubby was an Italian. My ARAB husband is not as RC described not by a light year.

  19. @reality check
    ROTFLOL.
    Without denying your experiences it contrasts so acutely with the above…:)

  20. @aafke, I know I had a couple of typos due to having my three year old on my lap. If you read carefully I mentioned I married at the mosque quickly before my husband left back home to Saudi (never told my parents about the wedding in the masjid, they would not understand). On my husbands return to the states we had our formal wedding with both our families.

    @reality check, What can I say?…Obviously nothing to change your mind. 😦

  21. @ALL
    Reflection can not be seen in Boiling Water, in the same way Truth can not be seen in a state of hate and anger. Analyze before you Finalyze.

  22. Hello Sami,

    The following quote that you quoted and made it look like you are the original author should have been rightfully attributed to Dr. Krunal:

    “Reflection cannot be seen in boiling water, the same way truth cannot be seen in a state of anger”.

    There is a thing called ethics and professionalism which is severely lacking in your persona!

  23. Norma, I though I must be getting it wrong, and having a three year old on your lap and still being able to do Bedu’s interview is some feat!

  24. Wow, Reality Check, you do sound extremely bitter. Not good for the heart. I do have ,
    My issues living in Saudi & in a compound that we joking call Egyptian Central, but never have I had such extremes views…

  25. Also, I have happy for Noorah that her story is beautiful & her life with her Saudi husband very happy. Wishing you continued happiness Noorah!

  26. @,Rahma..Sallam, I wish you and your family the best, thank you for your warm wishes.

  27. Wondering what his families reaction and the acceptance of your marriage would have been if you had not been Muslim? Also, you professed to lying twice to your family about him. Hope he is worth the lies. One more thing, yes arab culture is very family oriented but to say you are very happy to raise your children there, especially your daughters, knowing how discriminated and oppressed that same culture makes them is such a huge let down after all the rest. No mother on this earth should accept second class citizenship for her child…especially when it leads to abuse of her personal rights, safety, and status. What a shame.

  28. And no mother should judge another mother for the choices they make for their kids.

  29. @coolred38, I am sure that everyone in their life has kept the truth from their parents at one time. I am not sure what your ethnicity is, but in the Mexican culture parents are very protective of their children. My father at that time(19 years ago) would not except me bringing home a young man I met at a coffee shop or a club. Growing up in California I was surrounded by Caucasians, hispanics and Asians. In my experience I had more in common with Asians because of our similar upbringing. When I married my husband at the masjid, we were going there to ask what a muslim and catholic needed to marry. When the sheikh asked my husband why did he want to marry me, my husband answered him by saying he wanted our relationship to be halal/kosher, so he married us there and then. Since I was not muslim at the time, I did not take it as serious…why should I have my parents so upset, at something they could not understand? I knew when he would arrive from Saudi he would ask for my hand properly. As for his family excepting me if I was not muslim, his older brother married a christian 15 years before me. I will tell you something, his family excepted me instantly, where as mine were very hesitant at first. As for your ignorant comments about women as second class citizens, I will not bother to explain. I am appalled at the ignorance and racism I constantly hear about Islam and the middle east. I will tell you one thing, my loving husband for the last soon to be 19 years, treats me equally as him, but not similar. He is aware that I am a lady, mother and wife…in Islam, the man and women are equal, but have different roles in society. May god keep you safe and happy in this life and the next, peace be upon you!

  30. Children have no voice…so yes, we can judge a mothers choice when it is a proven fact that her choice can, and most likely will, lead to some sort of harm to her child. Like a mother that remains in a marriage r home that is abusive to her child. Her obligation is to protect her child at all costs. Many reasons why she may not leave the home but none of them protect that abused child….so we judge her for her failure to put her child first.

  31. Coolred
    Your advice is good and useful and I think no one will disagree with you. But from what AB has done here she is informing up of a happy marriage. Your advice is not restricted to just Saudi but anywhere. However it is unfounded if you are thinking it is applicable to the lady here.
    I think people should be a bit more thoughtful and see things from all sides. Perhaps cool has known of someone who had had such bad experiences and she’s sharing them. People make mistakes…treat with kindness people.

  32. coolred38, I actually posted two comments before this one, but no luck with them being posted..godwilling this one will post. As Ibrahim mentioned before, no one disagrees that a mother/father should be the voice of a child, throughout the globe where abuse is unfortunately present. As for you questioning my husband’s family accepting me if I were Christian? We will never know, but I am sure they would be more accepting of my husband marrying a Christian, than one of your children marrying a muslim or Arab. As for me “professing” lying to my family about how we met, I had a strict Mexican father, much easier at that moment to tell him I knew him from school. When we married at the masjid It was not planned, my husband was leaving the next day and returning in a few months to ask for my hand properly (fair to say most of us have withheld the truth from our parents at one point in our “Early” years) You said what a shame that I am raising my girls as second class citizens..you are right. My girls are being forced by the father to travel abroad every summer and learn about other cultures and traditions, he makes them study in a private school, he forces them to kiss and hug him when he enters the home from a long day at work, and the worse abuse is he makes them dress modestly so men will respect them as a female.
    “women and men are equal, but not similar” I know my role, do you know yours? I looked froward to sharing my experience with you on my interview, did not think I would come under attack, now that’s a shame!!!

  33. 😦

  34. Coolred38

    I posted three comments before this one, but no luck…maybe they were too long, so I will make this short. It really made me sad to see so much hate in your post. I did this interview to share my lovely experience married to a Saudi, I did not think I would be attacked so awfully. Funny thing is that all of my 19 years of marriage to my Arab/muslim/ Saudi husband, he has never offended me the way you offended me in less than a minute. As for my girls, they are intelligent happy ladies. They play soccer,basketball and my eldest paints. My husband “forces” them to travel abroad every summer to learn about different cultures and traditions, so they will not grow up with the ignorance you showed on this blog…God bless you in this life and the next.

    We have a problem with ”spam”, for no reason comments of accepted commentators get lost in spam now and then. Everyday at the moment. It’s very annoying. We don’t know why this happens. We try to check the spam folder several times a day. Carol is not doing too well at the moment. We the moderators cannot be here all the time.
    If your comments does not appear and you already have been through moderation please don’t try to post your comment again but contact Admin. and we will find it and take it out of spam.
    Moderator

  35. @reality check

    either put on a wedding ring and let everyone know hubby (white american) is home with the sniffles, or get outta dodge. please dont argue this.

  36. One thing I am taking away from the interview and the discussion which is more informative.

    It makes it clear that besides the privileged wealthy position it really helps if you are thoroughly indoctrinated as a Muslim, you have to know your place as a woman and be happy with being a lesser subjected being, and then of course you think this is fine for your daughters too.

    It seems clear that Noorah is very lucky to have the rare advantage of living with a wealthy, open minded husband and family, and Noorah is accepted by the Saudi part of her family which is extremely rare in Saudi Arabia, but very lucky for her..
    And her personal feelings of self-worth and ambitions fit perfectly with her chosen religion and position in islam and Saudi society.

    Why not? Not everybody is the same and wants the same out of life, and for Noorah it all fits.
    So Noorah is a lucky gal and she is happy.
    It’s always nice to see people who are happy.
    We should all be happy she is happy.

  37. What’s missing is this’ ma-sha-Allah.

  38. @aaflke-Art, I have read all your comments on previous discussions…you are bitter, rude and think you know everything. It is obvious that you dislike Saudi Arabia, so one question..Why do you keep coming back to this blog? Is it a common practice that you talk down to people? Who gives you the right to say ” I am a lesser subjected being”? Or my daughter as well. How I wish I never would have done this interview…You are truly nasty!! I feel disgusted with all this negative feedback.

  39. Norma, I have done an interview as well, you could go there read it, and undoubtedly there will be some answers in my interview which will inspire you.

    I am sorry though you are upset.
    I don’t know how long you have been reading this blog? Almost all interviews inspired some criticism, it is to be expected.
    It is generous of you to share your story, I do appreciate that.

  40. @Norma Ortiz
    Aslamo-Alaikum. Well done Norma. Aafke-Atr deserved it.

  41. Hello, You have shown your Persona. You are burning in HATE and anger. No good for your heart.

  42. Congratulations norma – and hope you have a great life ahead.
    I think in this day and age we as women should be working to empower women. let women make their choices, and yes some of them may be great some not so great, but we should fight for ourselves and our daughters to have the right to make the mistakes andlive them without repercussions in whatever country and religion we please. whats right for one may not be right for another . I think we all have a huge fight against patriarchy especially int he eastern part of the world to worry about private things like religion.
    .
    In saudi it all comes to acceptance and wealth and how comfortable your life is made. My biggest issue with saudi was that my chosen career was not what women usually went for there.
    i really didnt care to change my chosen profession to conform to saudi sensibilities.
    but apart from that i dont see saudi as a bad place to raise a family, yes it didnt suit us and i didnt like my daughter being raised there, but there are plenty of women raised there fine, it’s what every individual wants, their mindset and their views.

    all that matters in the end is you are happy, you have been given one life, live it well adn live it happily with no regrets and looks like Norma is doing that 🙂

  43. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Radha. Since the time a woman decided she was going to worship her creator shaitan and his army have been jealous. It started with Adam and Hawa and continues until today.
    I wonder what you really think of American Bedu while she was living with her husband in SAUDI Aafke.
    I have learnt a great deal about Saudi culture from AB posts. I don’t think there is anything she has posted which she would regret or we would reading. I keep bringing that up because at the end of it all, it is an AB site.
    I am curious to know (curious guy) how many married early had children watched them grow, lived in a multicultural environment mind you not always at the same time and can still be interviewed to talk about it with tout being ashamed of any of it.
    You see Sister Noorah, people who hate Islam will try and make you like them. Be angry and what displeases Allah and happy and what pleases him. The criteria for judgement is not whether another human being likes you. So far even your mistake when look back you will realize it wasn’t one.

  44. Norma…my children are Muslim…at least the older boys still profess to be, not sure about my girls and youngest son. Your happiness in your marriage is great. Your acceptance of your religion and new cultural expectations is no problem for me. What bugs me is your comment that you have no problem raising your children there, specifically your daughters. You cite close family ties as the lynch pin that makes it a wonderful environment for children to grow up in. Again, that in and of itself gives me no issues. It is always beneficial to children to have extended family around as they grow up. My problem is that you did not mention the drawbacks that also come with living as a girl in that culture. Either you have lived a very sheltered life in the Magic Kingdom…or are whitewashing a culture that can turn your daughters into whores and have them lashed in Chop Chop square due to nothing more than a rumor of sexual misconduct. I hope the magical life you live there is just as good to your daughters as they grow and mature. The choice you made for yourself to live and raise your daughters there was a choice they didn’t get a vote in. I hope it turns out to be a good choice for all concerned. Congratulations on your happy marriage and healthy happy children.

  45. I did say I am happy for Norma to be happy didn’t I?
    Reading is só difficult…

  46. @Norma, Sami, and Ibrahim,
    I think Aafke was actually trying to be nice to Norma. Why are you hating on her? I thought comments such as the ones you all just made towards Aafke are considered “haram” in your religion? Why the hate when Aafke was trying to make an effort to be nice? Or is it an English language problem? I thought hate is from Shaitan and not Allah? So why are you all spewing it towards Aafke? For shame….!

  47. @Norma,
    I think Coolred’s opinion come from her experiences in the region. Why not ask her why she feels the way she does? Coolred’s had a tough life and for her, life is better in a Western society. Although I may not always agree 100% with Coolred, she does bring up some good points.

    While I am very happy that you have a good life in Saudi Arabia with the man (and family) of your dreams and couldn’t be happier, that doesn’t mean it’s the life for everyone.

    I, for one, would have a difficult time in a patriarchal society because I am a woman who is very independent and enjoys her freedoms. While I have utmost respect for women who chose to be housewives and mothers, it is not something that would fully satisfy me; I need a career and life outside the home.

    I also do not understand modesty other than acknowledging that it is cultural. One ironic thing I have noticed is that Arab men check me out more when I’m wearing a hijab and abaya, which is a major reason that I prefer to wear jeans and a t-shirt here in the “Western” world (to detract attention from myself). In fact, I’m probably safer where I’m at now wearing short shorts and a t-shirt than in KSA wearing a hijab and abaya.

  48. Honey, you are safer wearing a bikini in the Netherlands than wearing an off-the-head-abaya in Saudi Arabia.

  49. Modesty is not in how a woman dresses, it’s in your behavior. The effect you have in men depends entirely on the men. if they are decent well trained men they will respect you in your bikini, if they are not brought up well and are lascivious, sex-obsessed, lustful ……. (fill in description of your choice) with no respect for women, they will harass and assault you if you are wearing a Sumo suit.

  50. @Aafke,
    Actually, the more I cover, the more I notice Arab men’s eyes light up. Apparently, I look good with a hijab. I have also noticed that men tend to look at certain body parts rather than my face when I’m wearing an abaya. Then, I get confused when the same people tell me that it “protects” the women to cover. Haven’t ever tried on a niqab, though, so I’m not sure what effect it would have on the male population. So I’ll stick to my “Western” clothing for now. However, in certain countries it would be safer (and more respectful) for me to cover so I would if and when I went to those places.

  51. And just to add, I mostly just wear abayas and the like inside the home. I like dresses, and I like the way they flow. However, I am not sure if I’d ever wear one outside the home as I wouldn’t want the attention I’d get from wearing one (which would probably be a mix of good, bad, and indifference).

  52. In bet that the more you cover the hotter they will think you. Abaya is sexually titillating dress. 😈

  53. The criteria for judgement is not whether another human being likes you.

    This statement is so true! Norma, it should not matter what others think of you and your choice. You are happy and Allah has blessed you with a beautiful family mashallah so ignore the bitterness that emanate from a few haters. Just because they had a horrible experience, they project it on everyone else and expect everyone to feel the way they do and they cannot believe other people could actually be happy in what they failed. Just continue doing wht you do which is being a great mother, wife and human! As for Aafke, I have seen her bitterness in every topic that addresses Saudi or Muslims especially hijab. You should expect that from her.

  54. @ Coolred of Feb 19
    Your words are very insulting and upsetting” or are whitewashing a culture that can turn your daughters into WHOREs and have them lashed in CHOP CHOP square due to nothing more than a rumour of sexual misconduct”.
    You must be ashamed of yourself thinking such ————–.
    Instead hoping better to pray for all FEMININES.
    May God guide you.

  55. Sami…actually, Saudis should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such a disgusting practice to exist in the first place.

  56. Come on Sami, we all know the Saudi judges love to hand out lashes to young girls in Saudi for such heinous crimes as having a cellphone with a camera.
    I would never want a daughter of mine to grow up in such a wicked country.

  57. Norma,

    The way I understand this, “American Bedu” is not a blog whose purpose is to make us fall in love with Saudi Arabia at any cost. The way I see it, its purpose it to make us informed about Saudi Arabia, so that we choose whether to fall in love with it or not. This is one of the noblest intentions I have ever seen and I commend Carol for starting it on the Web.

    I hope I have understood its purpose correctly. At least, that’s my view of what this blog is for and I hope it’s in harmony with the writer’s view. Aafke has every right to express her honest opinion. It’s called “democracy” – a word you should be familiar with as a long time ago, and in a galaxy far–far away, you were actually a Christian. Remember?

    So stop behaving as if somebody entered your living room and spat on your beautiful carpet in your presence. This blog is not limited to fans of Saudi Arabia – it is open to everybody who wants to read, learn and make informed decisions about it.

    If the blog owner wanted to reserve this piece of web space for 100% respectful conversations about Saudi Arabia, she would have made it 100% private and accessed by usernames and passwords. I have been a member of such a blog in the past and I know what I’m talking about.

    It is the opportunity for discussion that makes AB so interesting, not the agreement.

    RC

  58. I agree with Reality Check. This blog exists for the purpose of information and open discussion. Now unfortunately if you have an open discussion about the practices of SA, like the lashing of women, you will inevitably get some well founded criticism.

    And though I admire Norma for sharing her story, it’s both a brave and generous thing to do, she does make some comments which I consider merit some criticism.
    However, we are all different, we have a different look of life, and if one is happy with ”knowing her place” and following a religion in which she is regarded as a deficient second class human being that is her own look-out.
    I don’t like it. On this forum I am free to express that dislike.
    Of course conversely some people don’t like my opinion and they are free to express their dislike. (and they do)
    That’s what an open forum is all about.

  59. Norma:

    Very interesting interview. I do admire your courage to put yourself out there even if we will disagree on religion. So long as you apply it to yourself and never to another then no problem.

    I do however have an issue with this statement:

    “and the worse abuse is he makes them dress modestly so men will respect them as a female.”

    This statement implies that dressing modestly is what allows men to respect them as female. I have issues with this statement. Modesty has nothing to do with respect of another it is about judging another and control of another.

    Men should be taught to respect another human regardless of what sex, race or orientation they are based upon humanity not base upon a piece of cloth. Clothing has nothing to do with being respected or being a good human but it doesn have everything to do with superficial and shallow aspects of humanity which judges another based upon fluff. However religion is all about superficial, shallow self serving aspects of humanity.

    However, you sound happy and if it works for you then great so long as you don’t force it upon another. I however considered what is taught to females by religion and how they are seen and valued to be damaging and hateful.

  60. Realitycheck and bigstick:

    When I was asked by Carol if I can answer some questions on how I met my husband and how I lived in Saudi Arabia, I did not hesitate. This was an interview about “my “personal experience on meeting my husband and how I lived in Saudi. I never stated that Saudi was a wonderful country, and problems were nonexistent. I by no means in my interview did I force or try to persuade anyone to be muslim. I happen to live a good life here like many people, and I am well aware there are also many people who do not. Again, this was an interview on my life, this does not pertain to other women living in the kingdom.
    I did become upset when some of the comments were accusing my daughters of becoming “whores”.”second class” citizens.by the Saudi culture. I do not represent Saudi, I am en expat who happens to be living here and I am making the most of it. I am sure you are both intelligent people, and are aware it is possible for “some” women to have a good life here, it is not as bad as some people paint out to be.
    Again, I really try to stay away from politics..I only wanted to share my experience. Have a good day 🙂

  61. Norma:

    I think religion actually belittles women and I think Saudi culture treats them similarly to chattle. However, there are good men who allow women freedom and to be treated well. The question is…….should this be the right of the man or the woman. I think it is should be the right of the woman and your place is where you feel you most properly fit based upon your expectations and comfort level.

    You should feel lucky to have such a person in your life that allows you to have such an existence in the prison that is saudi. However, I think you have drink the Kool aid on the mantra that your have a defined “role”.

    You are the maker of your role but if you accept the tradional role that religion and societies often have forced women to play and are happy with it then so be it but there are many who find these forced roles to be bogus and socially constructed to ensure that women are forced from the public sphere thereby forcing them to be left out of shaping their own lives and potential. However the same could be said for men as well on their defined “roles” and how they may not fit into such restrictive or non-conforming narratives.

    However you do seem happy and that is what counts. Let’s hope others are allowed to shape their own destiny and roles that best suits them. 🙂

  62. Bigstick

    I agree there are obstacles within the kingdom for women, but it all comes down to the family and how they choose to live within the kingdom.

    As for “drinking the kool aid of my defined role”, I guess I have as many mothers have through out the globe. When I said I knew my role as a women, it pertained to me being a mother and wife..as my husband role being a husband and father. You know nothing about my life or many Saudi women for that matter. The Saudi women around me work, have a high level of education (phd’s) and still come home and continue their work as mothers..as we see in many households around the world.

    As for me, I have been working since I was 18 years old, with a break between having children. What do you mean about “knowing my place and comfort of level”? I finished school, I worked as teacher, I am married and have children and still balance all that with being a wife. Tell me what else do you think me or many women here in the Kingdom must do to show they are not confined to the “prison”you speak of . I think this converstion is pointless because we both have different experiences on the matter, I actually live in the kingdom and I am almost 100% sure you never have, or if you have, only for a short time.

    Listen, I would have never dreamed of picking Saudi as the country I would live or die in…but I fell in love and here I am. I can truly say it is not as bad as one thinks..let’s leave it at that. If you ever make it out here like many Europeans, Canadians and Americans have because they find themselves without a job in their own countries…give me a call and I would love to show you the country, you will be my guest of honor in my home…I promise you will have fun, no matawas involved!!(lol)

  63. Bigstick, I do agree with you that one is the maker of his/her role!! 🙂

  64. norma will be taken care of in her older life better than she will be in her life if she were to marry an american or stayed in america. i know the benefits of saudi. she knows what shes doing. leave her alone.

  65. G: thanks, you are to sweet.

  66. Norma:

    I do believe you are firmly aware of what it happens to women who are not as lucky to have a husband, brother, son, etc to be in charge of their lives to include getting an education, leaving the country and so on. Remember you are a dependent at all times. Next, women are not allowed to drive in the country as well which if you are limited on mobility you are limited on opportunities and that is even without going into the very limited number of positions allowed to women in Saudi. To say that women in Saudi have the career opportunities is not true unless they have a family that is well to do and you have a higher education such as a PHD in certain fields such as a doctor or teacher. Even those who have PhDs find that they lack the ability to obtain jobs and this has been discussed by large numbers of individuals and media reports. This is also with the understanding that expat women often times have more opportunities than Saudi women.

    The difference for you is that you have a family that allows you a good life not that the Saudi government or establishments does so.

    Next you tend to use phrases and statements that go along with the typical defined areas of conservative establishments who perpetuate the stunting of women. Then you later explain something that is completely different from the established realm of stunted societal construction. Thus you leave both the reader questioning you on your actual standing while at the same time validating conservative constructs. Then you come back with something different than what you initially conveyed.

    I am not exactly sure if you even understand that you are doing this but you are. Which is why you are receiving questions or feedback in such a manner that you may not have initially intended it to be taken.

    If you are in Saudi as a man you have a great deal more ability to maneuver however as an expat (or Saudi) woman you are limited and dependent on others to shuttle you and that is without even touching on the issue of the external sex organ bag (as you are a walking sexual object) that you are forced to wear which as you have stated allows men to respect you as a female. This of coursse is not acceptable at all and ridiculous.

    Next there are numerous middle eastern countries that hire individuals in their country if my country is no longer employing without going to or supporting such a country as Saudi in any manner. Now I understand yours is based upon a marriage and that is a different matter.

    The fact is you are lucky to have found an open family who welcomes you and that has everything to do with how you are treated in Saudi.

    As for your question:

    . What do you mean about “knowing my place and comfort of level”?

    This is not my statement it is yours….you have changed the meaning by asking it this way.

    What I stated is as follows:

    ” I think it is should be the right of the woman and your place is where you feel you most properly fit based upon your expectations and comfort level.”

    As a man that same statement fits. Here is an example, I hate extreme heights particular if it involves extreme exertions so I would not feel comfortable in climbing mountains. Therefore it is my right to know that my place for me is to not exert myself while climbing extremely sheer tall mountainous areas. Now If I had no problems with this then I would have the right to do this so my place for me is what I feel is appropriate based upon my expectations and comfort level.

    In other words (your place) is what you determine to be correct for you based upon your expectations for yourself No else but you has the right to deter you in achieving what your think your are capable of (expectation).

    So have I explained this in a manner that you understand?

    Just for the record…I think you are a very open and a nice person from what I have been able to discern. You remind me of Sandy in some ways. She to is a nice person and very intelligent and lives in Saudi as well. 🙂

  67. Always interesting when I hear women say something like…well MY life is pretty good…here in this place that discriminates and treats women like property…but MY family, thankfully doesn’t do that…but i shall ignore the fact that not all women are as lucky as I am..and will also ignore the fact that if MY husband ever decides to make MY life less than wonderful here in this foreign country in which I have no rights to my ownself much less my children..that there is very little I can do about it other than ask myself what did I do to deserve this? Oh yeah…I thought it couldn’t happen to me…cause MY life isn’t like those women whose lives are a freaking misery because of their husbands/families aren’t as nice as mine. The end.

  68. @G,
    Actually, I have yet to find a difference in how women are treated in their older years in the US vs. Arab countries. Thinking back on my relationships and what I’ve noticed from other people’s (friendships, marriage, family, dating, etc.), I don’t think there is a huge difference. The only difference I’ve noticed is that in Arab culture, there is a higher importance placed on protecting the woman while in American/”Western” culture, there is a higher importance placed on allowing women more independence. Each has its positives and negatives. As far as I’m aware, children in the US still look after their parents even as their parents age, especially the mother.

    However, there are differences in the law from country to country.

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