My marriage started along this Manama Corniche before the break of dawn. The weather was glorious and love was in the air. I’m thinking about writing a joint story with my husband on that lovely day, sort of like a he-said-she-said account. Until then, I think American Bedu’s interview will have to do. Be sure to visit her blog and check out the interesting follow-up comments. Keep up the good work Carol! Tara Umm Omar
Interview With Saudi Wife: Tara Umm Omar
By American Bedu
January 19, 2009
AB: It is always a pleasure to interview another “Saudi Wife” who is willing to share her views and experiences.
Thanks Tara for allowing me to interview you. To begin, please share how you and your Saudi husband met one another. There is always a story behind the marriage of a Saudi to a non-Saudi!
Tara Umm Omar: I have an American friend who is also married to a Saudi. Her husband is my husband’s best friend. They both acted as go betweens during our conversations on the internet. We all decided to meet up in Bahrain to see if my husband and I liked each other. Our friends invited us to a restaurant and gave us some privacy although they sat within earshot. We clicked instantly masha’Allah. I liked what I saw and he did too because the next time he came to Bahrain, he came with his three sisters and our friends for marriage. We got married on a beach in Manama before fajr, it was romantic. So actually I’m considered to have had an arranged marriage.
AB: What was your family’s initial reaction when they learned you had met a man from Saudi Arabia? And how do they feel now that you have relocated to Saudi Arabia with your husband?
Tara Umm Omar: It didn’t sit well with them and they were concerned about my well-being because they had never heard good things about Saudi Arabia and how the men treat women here. However, they respected my decision and didn’t interfere. They also trusted my judgment and that of my friend.
My father never lived to see the day I set foot here having died in 1994 and my mom died almost two months after I moved here. My sister and brother miss me and my son dearly and are always asking us to come back. My sister is always offering to support us financially until we can get settled in the US. Its tempting but we are determined to try to make it work here and will only consider relocating to the US as a last resort and after exhausting all of our options to remain here.
AB: Do you feel that you had to make any changes to your life and lifestyle due to marriage to a Saudi?
Tara Umm Omar: Not really. I’m Muslim and cover all over except for my eyes and hands so I fit right in. I do not try to fit in with my husband’s family except for trying to learn to speak Khaleeji with them. I try to be myself and if they don’t accept it then too bad. Fortunately, they have been very welcoming.
I did have to learn cultural do’s and don’ts. For example, the difference between what’s considered 3ayb and haram. Some things amongst the Saudis are viewed as 3ayb but not necessarily haram.
Please tell us a little bit of how you adjusted to life in Saudi Arabia. How long have you been here? How easy was it to get settled? What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?
Tara Umm Omar: I have been here 2 years and 3 months. Not being able to drive and the loss of independence has been the hardest adjustment for me. I had to find peace with staying at home more and not being able to jump in a car and drive whenever I like or even walk wherever I want. I’am not used to always having to depend on men and I absolutely loathe having to use a taxi.
I’ve also had to develop a newfound patience dealing with the slow Saudi bureaucracy, the curbs on womens’ rights and the way some Saudis behave in public places when there should be a line. I detest the me-first-attitude; pushing and jumping in front of others.
AB: How do you typically spend your days in Riyadh?
Tara Umm Omar: Never ending housework and taking care of my husband and son. I go to Dar Adh-Dhikr three times a week with my son to learn Arabic, Qur’an and Islamic Studies. I either read a book or do things online. Lately the internet has been taking up most of my free time so I hardly touch a book or watch TV. I attend get-togethers with friends in my home, their homes or somewhere outside.
AB: Was it easy to find and make friends? Do you find that most of your friends are other expat women or Saudis or a mix of both?
Tara Umm Omar: At first it wasn’t easy for me to make friends because I didn’t have access to the internet. I was also isolated due to transportation issues and living in Al-Khaleej (the boondocks). Once I got internet and moved closer to the center of Riyadh, it was easier.
My friends are expat women of various nationalities. My husband’s family is spread out around the country so I don’t have much contact with the female members. I usually don’t associate with Saudi women not by choice but because they usually are closed to outsiders. I know nothing about my Saudi neighbors!
AB: What are you enjoying most about life in Saudi Arabia? And of course, what do you miss about the United States?
Tara Umm Omar: Being with my husband and son. Hearing the adhan. The food. The proximity of Makkah and Madinah.
I miss everything about America except the government, taxes and Muslim haters. I miss the way the sky looks and the grass smells just before it gets ready to storm. I miss being able to go for a drive to clear my mind. I miss the variety of activities and entertainment available in America and doing them with my son. I miss autumn and the leaves turning colors. I miss spring and the feeling of rebirth that comes with it. I miss football season. I miss the beautiful greenery, the hills and pastures and even the smell of cow poo wafting in through car windows as I pass a farm. I miss going camping and hiking. I miss fishing with my sister, brother and son and hearing my sister yelling in frustration when a fish eats her worm and gets away. I got carried away, sorry.
AB: What are your five essential tips of advice that every foreign woman married to a Saudi should know?
Tara Umm Omar: Trust in Allah, patience, being grateful despite experiencing hardship because there are others worse off than you are, accentuate the positive, and be true to yourself.
AB: You also keep a very informative blog about marriage to Saudis. How long have you been blogging?
Tara Umm Omar: Masha’Allah, thank you. I have only been blogging since August 2008.
AB: What do you think is the most important post on your blog and why?
Tara Umm Omar: Advice on marrying a Saudi and living in Saudi Arabia. I can’t stress how much any woman or man considering a Saudi wife/husband needs to be informed before they make the decision to marry and move here. This way, they won’t go into it wearing rose-colored glasses insha’Allah.
AB: How does your husband feel about you keeping a blog not only about Saudi Arabia, but specifically on marriages to Saudis? Is he supportive of your posting?
Tara Umm Omar: My husband is proud of me and supports me. I have never heard him say a bad word against it alhamdulillah. He knows there is a need for something like this.
AB: Do you feel that enough public information is readily available on guidelines and regulations of Saudi marriages to foreigners? Why or why not?
Tara Umm Omar: We could use more information directly from the government on their websites. The information is sometimes inaccurate and not current. We have to depend on getting articles from reporters of online newspapers and sometimes their reporting can be biased.
AB: And in closing, is there anything else you would like to add?
Tara Umm Omar: I hope that more non-Saudis and Saudis involved in mixed marriages can contribute to getting our side of the story out.
AB: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. I wish you and your family the very best.
Tara Umm Omar: I also thank you Carol. May Allah grant you and your family good in this world and the next and continuing success with your blog ameen.