An interview of me by Umm Latifa was translated by her into Polish which can be viewed on her blog, obce żony Saudyjczyków – Tara, Umm Omar. Insha’Allah I hope other wives/husbands of Saudis can derive some benefit from it, those who haven’t been in Saudi Arabia for very long or haven’t yet made it here. Umm Latifa and I have agreed to a joint venture of publishing interviews of foreigners married to Saudis using the below questions. I will post them in English on my blog and she will post them on her blog after translating them to Polish. If you are an English-speaking wife/husband of a Saudi and would like to volunteer a peek into your life, please copy the interview, delete my answers, enter yours and then send it to me (email can be found on my profile). If your first language is Polish and your wife/husband is a Saudi, contact Umm Latifa through her blog, ARABIA SAUDYJSKA (email address can be found on her profile there) if you would like to submit your interview. You may remain anonymous or indicate which nickname you would like to be used. Thanks as always,
STORY OF A WESTERN WOMEN AS A WIFE OF A SAUDI
13 July 2009
Saudi Arabia is one of the most mysterious countries of the world. Until recently, people had very little knowledge about life over here, especially about the lives of Saudi women. A Western women choosing to marry a Saudi and moving to Saudi Arabia is often considered a person who has lost her mind. This interview is to show who are Western women married to Saudis, their experiences in the Kingdom and encounters with the Saudis.
I’d like to thank you for your willingness and involvement in sharing your experiences with other people, shedding the light of your life and unveiling the truth.
-Can you please tell us something about yourself? I am Tara Umm Omar and I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with my Saudi husband and son.
-What country are you from? America
-What are your interests, hobbies? I like to learn the Qur’an, read, travel, and maintain my two blogs
-What did you do before coming to Saudi Arabia? I was a stay-at-home mom. I also helped my own mom around the house or drove her where she needed to go. An unexciting, quiet life but that is how I prefer it alhamdulillah.
– When and where did you meet your Saudi husband? Through mutual friends who arranged our marriage. The first time I met him was in Bahrain in 2002.
How long did you know your husband before the marriage took place? I knew OF my husband for a year prior to our marriage in 2002 but I didn’t actually KNOW him until I met him in person. I met him for one day in Bahrain accompanied by our friends and that was all the time I needed to decide I wanted to marry him.
Did your husband inform you that he wanted you to live in Saudi Arabia and when did he do it? Right from the beginning of our marriage as he hated Bahrain and I didn’t want to return to the US.
Did you like the idea of living in Saudi Arabia? Yes or No. Please explain why. Yes I did. I was under the impression that since it was the Holy Land of Islam that I should be destined to live there as a Muslim making hijrah and nowhere else could compare.
Was there anything you were afraid of or concerned with regarding living in Saudi Arabia? Nothing! It was only my mom and sis who expressed reservations with me moving there. They were unsuccessful in dissauding me from going though.
-How long have you been in Saudi Arabia? 2 years and 9 months alhamdulillah.
When you came to Saudi Arabia, did the reality meet your expectations? Please explain what was different (positive, negative) and the most difficult thing you had to adapt to. I got a reality check when I got here and some things fell way below my expectations. I was sorely disappointed and still trying to come to the terms that all countries have their good and bad aspects, including Saudi Arabia. I was also reminded that while Islam is perfect, Muslims aren’t. Even so, I still have a problem reconciling the loss of status and rights of women in Saudi Arabia, specifically the ban on women driving and total dependence on the male species, when Islam gave women their rights and independence 1400+ years ago. On the positive side, I have come to the conclusion that I would rather raise my son in Saudi Arabia as opposed to America for better access to Islamic education and because Saudi Arabia is generally a safer place to raise a family. Sometimes I need a reminder when I overlook the fact that I am actually blessed to be closer to Makkah and Madinah than some other Muslims would ever hope to be masha’Allah. This definitely makes it worth all the emotional suffering.
Did you have to change anything about yourself to fit in? I try to be myself no matter where I am. I did have to be more culturally sensitive and considerate when it comes to some taboos in Saudi society. Some things are ‘ayb (shame) which I consider to be normal part of life from my American upbringing. Islamically I believe its ok as long as it is not disliked or forbidden. However I respect their views and change my actions and attitude accordingly. One thing that I had to change about myself was my level of patience and staying positive on my down days.
What do you think about the abaya and is it a problem for you to wear it? I think the abayah doesn’t have to be all black as there is nothing in Islam to prove this. Yet all women, non-Muslim and Muslim alike, are required to wear black abayas and that is the only color they are available in. It is very hot during the summer as black absorbs heat from the sun more. This is the only problem I find with wearing the abaya. Other than that, the abaya provides modesty. It is a convenience when I can just run out in my house dress and nobody would ever know what I was wearing underneath. Also when I am outside of my house at a public place or a friend’s house, it serves as my outer prayer garment.
Do you cover your face? If yes, do you do it of your own will or because your husband wants you to? Yes I cover my face with the sole intention to please Allah. My husband does prefer that I keep my face covered but I have been able to lift the flap up when there is no perceived danger, usually at night in the car or on a long road trip during the day or night. But when the check point comes up, down goes the niqab lol. The second reason is that I actually don’t like any man to see my face and I feel naked without it as some men tend to stare at uncovered faces more in this part of the world.
– Did your husband change when you came to Saudi Arabia? If yes, in what/which ways? I have been spared from this changing husband phenomenon because I have only lived with my husband in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In Bahrain, he was still able to be a Saudi man and there was never any transformation in his behavior.
Do you have children? Yes, one son.
Is it easy to raise children in Saudi Arabia? Yes and no. Yes it is easier to raise children in Saudi Arabia due to this being a Muslim country and not too much exposure to the chaos that is witnessed in the non-Muslim countries. We are better able to screen our children from bad temptations. But it is not easy to raise them in a country that has limited extracurricular activities.
Is your Saudi husband involved in raising your children? Most definitely!
Does your Saudi husband help you with the house chores? When his busy schedule permits it and I request his help. I often don’t request his help as this is MY job. I don’t work outside the home and don’t expect him to contribute to anything other than taking out the trash or other manly things or tasks that I’m incapable of performing. My husband is pretty hands-on and non-demanding. He will go into the kitchen and fix himself a bite to eat if I appear too busy, tired or sick alhamdulillah. His mother raised him well! Allah yarhamhaa ameen.
What did the family members (especially parents) of your husband think about his idea of marrying a foreigner? My father in law sent me a beautiful forest green dress with gold embroidery as a wedding present and this I took as his silent approval of the union. My mother in law died in 1999, Allah yarhamhaa ameen. My husband’s sisters and brother accepted me into the family and made me feel very welcome. His sisters attended my wedding at the beach in Bahrain, the walimah thereafter and helped prepare me for my wedding night. I felt so special. They were loving and attentive towards me masha’Allah.
Did you meet any of your husband’s family before coming to Saudi Arabia? Yes I met them in Bahrain, it was their first time and that was the day of my wedding.
How are your relations with your in-laws? Distant because of the distance of our residences. We do come together for iftar dinners and the two Eids.
You have had a chance to observe the lives of Saudi women, meet them and talk to them. Who are the women under the abayas? Human beings like us!
What do you think Western people should know about Saudi women? Their culture and language are different but they have the same aspirations, dreams and hopes as Western women. They are intelligent, strong-willed and assertive. They do not view themselves as oppressed but want their rights just like any other woman.
Do you feel trapped in Saudi Arabia or do you feel comfortable living here? Sometimes I feel in a prison because I can’t drive or walk when I want to. Other times, I’m happy to be safe inside my home and out of the blazing heat.
Do you think a Western woman can be happy in Saudi Arabia? I’ve found a happy medium. There are good days and bad days. There is no utopia aywhere on Earth and nobody is 100% happy until they reach Jannah insha’Allah. Life in Saudi Arabia is how you make it, if you are always negative then you will be depressed but if you try to find the positive then it will help you get through the day, months and years with the permission of Allah.
– Do you think you would be willing/able to live in Saudi Arabia alone? Not really. In Saudi Arabia, women are dependent upon men and if she has no male family members to help her then her life would be that much more difficult. Some of the foreign single women working here manage it but that is because their company sponsors them. Since my family are non-Muslims, I have only two other mahram besides my husband, my father in law and Omar. If something happens to my husband, Allah forbid, I don’t wish to be under my father in law’s guardianship and my son has a way to go before he is 21 years old.
– What advice would you give a foreign woman considering marriage to a Saudi? Ask questions of other women married to Saudis or divorced from Saudis. Join groups and forums to interact with them and gain knowledge from their experiences of being married to Saudis and living in Saudi Arabia. Read all you can on Saudis and Saudi Arabia and verify what you read, start with Future Husbands And Wives Of Saudis and all other blogs/websites similar to it. Interrogate the Saudi man and investigate his background. This is your right and he should respect and honor that. He should have nothing to hide except his sins. If he protests or objects angrily, then he may be hiding something. You don’t want to start a marriage off not being able to trust him to be honest and forthright. Make sure his family accepts you or you will run into problems with them later. And be aware that he will be compelled to always side with his family rather than you as tribal bonds are strong in Saudi Arabia. If his family rejects you and you still insist on marrying him, then you need to discuss with him regarding where you will live. Living with him in another country is not so much of an issue…until the in-laws comes to visit you there! Persist on being given a separate residence from the in-laws BEFORE you come to Saudi Arabia. Don’t go into the marriage wearing rose-colored glasses and don’t let love blind you to reality. Don’t ignore warning signs or alarm bells when you hear them going off in your head. Think with your head not with your heart. Use the common sense you were born with.