What Do You Think Would Shock A Woman Who Wants To Move To Saudi Arabia?

I received an email from a non-Saudi woman whose Saudi husband would like to move to Saudi Arabia in the future. She is asking what things about the Saudi culture and the culture of Saudi Arabia that would shock her if she moved there…

Esselamu alejkum! I have a question. My husband is Muslim and I will be converting to Islam as well I am just taking things slow, and in no way is this for him but for myself. But he always talks about moving to saudi arabia, and I have to say with all the things I see on TV and read I get scared. People 99% of the time have something bad to say about it. I would like to move and see how it is there but I am scared. I dont mind not driving( I dont drive now) and I dont mind not working ( I dont work now), but is there anything else that you think would schock me if a moved there. Please write to me, email is [email]. Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.

Right away I think about the driving, uncleanliness of some road-side toilets when travelling, the heat and impatience of some people (not only Saudis) when standing in line and they jump ahead of the person in front of them. It would be fair to list the positive points to accompany the negative ones. For instance, women aren’t allowed to drive and are spared from having to deal with traffic and constantly trying to avoid an accident. When on the road and you can’t find a suitable toilet, there are miles and miles of desert. Where there is heat, thank Allah for the invention of air conditioning and being able to afford it! If you stand your ground and put your foot down, the impatient people will respect your space and not try to take your place in line.

What else would she be shocked by? Try to think of a positive aspect of it if possible. We want her to be informed and know what to expect but we don’t want to scare her out of her wits. She will be reading all of the follow-up comments.




Published by

Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

7 thoughts on “What Do You Think Would Shock A Woman Who Wants To Move To Saudi Arabia?”

  1. >Chiara- Masha'Allah you went all out. Thanks! Most of it is relevant for Saudi Arabia. Here is what I can add: #2: Businesses will shut down for prayer. This can turn into an inconvenience for some shoppers (if it isn't already) when employees take advantage of this rest period and prolong it more than necessary. Sometimes a half hour to an hour.#5: Since the questioner is non-Muslim at the time of her email, I think it is important for her to know that the extent of covering varies throughout Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is conservative so non-Muslim women are expected to at least wear an abayah and have an "emergency" hijab on hand in case they run into the hayya (morals police) who are bold enough to instruct them to cover their hair (and some will even include the face needing to be covered). In the Eastern Province and Jeddah, the religous atmosphere is more relaxed. Anywhere else and she would have to use her best judgements when it comes to the level of covering…her Saudi husband would also be her best guide on this.#6: And as long as your husband is a willing driver! There are men who when they get home, are tired from work and driving and just want to relax for the rest of the evening. If a woman has no driver or access to taxi services, she will most likely have been at home all day and is itching to go out! If she is independent, this will be a frustrating part of life for her in Saudi Arabia.Taxis and taxi drivers are should be approached with caution. A lot of opportunities for them to take advantage of foreigners if 1) they are women 2) they don't know their way around 3) how much should be charged for a certain distance. My pet peeve is having to trust a stranger with my life and depending on him to take me where I need to go when I'm more than capable of driving myself around. I will stop there but I haven't even scratched upon the surface of this taxi issue. #8: There is a debate going with some conservatives who insist that it is not appropriate for women to exercise and want public gyms closed. Physical education class is even discouraged in girls' schools. Fortunately there are "moderates" who argue that there is nothing in Islam that prevents women from physical exercise. Recall how Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) wife, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) raced her when she was YOUNG and then she when she became older and had gained weight.


  2. >I don't mean any harm but folks need to moveback from Tv and Travel and see for them selves. Why do folks Assume Saudi is golden or just desert lol What i mean Every Where you go i mean everywhere has issues Allaah. Even so- paradise in this dunya has issues not every place is where u born rather in America or other places so we can't assume places are bad or good. A place can be dirty and ghetto but the people or nice and respectful. Not everyones personal travels is the same and not every place is Golden or grass is Green. Ummismail


  3. >Loss of independence is a HUGE shock (it was for me)… I was used to going wherever I wanted, not worrying about asking hubby, or the driver being sick and unable to take me. Or someone else is using the driver thus you have to postpone your plans.I was personally shocked for the first time whilst in shargiya. I was in a music store, and when I walked in with my 2 cousins (but at least 10 years younger than myself). I was confronted by the worker, and told to leave the store…I asked why?! And he told me that women were forbidden from entering. (This was 5 years ago now… and I can still feel the embarrassment I felt… lol. In point there is a lot of segregation, there are many restaurants that may not serve females alone unless they have a muhrem (male guardian with them)… but I must add that I have not noticed this happen in quite some time.. So things are changing.The EXTREME heat is another shock… lol… but you will learn to work around it.Another shock to me was how men here seem to not understand NO, or dude you're being ignored. I have never seen men soooo persistent and so in your face. I have had men give me looks while I was walking with my husband! My elder brother nearly jumped a guy once for that reason… lolI am sure there is more… but that’s all I have in my head at the moment…At the end of the day, wherever one goes, things will be different, it will take some getting used to, and I pray that you have a husband that understands of this fact.


  4. >Umm Ismail- Exactly. People can watch travel documentaries on TV and read articles in magazines, etc. but won't really know how a country is until they experience it firsthand themselves.Umm Latifa- And the fact that it is more culturally acceptable for a woman to wear black material which is hotter and men look so cool in their white cotton!Om Lujain- When I first came here, I wanted to accompany my husband into a video store to show him the best movies I had seen when I was in the US. He wouldn't allow it because its not proper for a woman. I was miffed because it was a huge store with ample space and I would have been with my mahram. But now I understand his reasoning because as you said, the men here can be very persistent in their looks. That can sometimes gravitate towards them copping a feel if they happen to “accidentally” brush up against you in a crowded room. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!Another place my husband refuses to let me go with him is the phone suq which is rampant with all kinds of men and shabab. Once he gave in to my begging because I insisted on being able to choose the phone of MY choice with MY own eyes. It went smoothly until we went inside a shop that sold phone accessories. There was a Sudanese man behind the counter who kept staring at me unabashedly. My husband got so angry and asked him, “What?! You have never seen a man with his wife?” I was shocked at the time but now its really funny.I agree with you 100% that if you have an understanding and considerate husband, he will help ease life here for his wife as much as possible. But also we must remember to take pity on the men and have mercy on them because life here can be a challenge for them too!


  5. >Great topic. The only thing I will add (being a male) who was born and raised in Saudi until reaching 18 is that the vast experience of Western people who go there for the first time is polorizing. You either absolutely love it or hate it. It is extremely different place, but look at it as an adventure as you live life only once.


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