This post is not an attempt to denigrate Saudi Arabia. I asked the respondents to be frank but respectful towards Saudis and their country. The target audience of the questionnaire are those non-Saudi wives of Saudis who are trying to determine whether they should follow their husbands to Saudi Arabia after having lived abroad together or joining him if he is already residing in the country. It is a major decision to make and they should be aware of both positive and negative aspects that such a relocation would entail. Insha’Allah I hope the answers the respondents provide will help ALL non-Saudis weigh the pros and cons of a future life in Saudi Arabia. A big thanks to all of those who participated.
1. Name: Faazz
Length lived in KSA: 9 years
Pros of living in KSA: Safe and secure place. Islamic country. Affordable. Makkah and Madinah
Cons of living in KSA: Bureaucracy, sponsorship system, wasta
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Thank you
2. Name: Laura Of Arabia
Length lived in KSA: Since January 2010
Pros of living in KSA: A. living in a Muslim country B. Being able to wear hijab unselfconsciously C. free health care D. not having to work seven days a week
Cons of living in KSA: A. not being able to drive B. going to a restaurant only to find that there is no family section C. the way people drive D. the fact that people from different countries are treated differently
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Personally, I love it here but I would have to say that most Western women wouldn’t like it. I’m a Muslima and I read and speak Arabic. I’m married to a Saudi national who is retired and able to spend a good deal of time with me. It’s rather difficult to find employment, both as a woman and as an expat, unless you are in the medical field. Luckily, I am able to teach at the university I worked in back in the States via the internet. Working for me was important in order to have my own income and to fill the free hours. Stay in touch, Laura of Arabia
3. Name: Noor A.K.
Length lived in KSA: 2.5 Years
Pros of living in KSA: 1) Family time, lots of it 2) Luxurious life 3) Calm and quite atmosphere 4) Ideal for raising a family of girls and even young boys for that matter 5) Ideal for saving as much as possible 6) Tax free salaries 7) Respect for women in society in general…..making way and moving away from a woman, courtesying for women, etc. 8) Housing and petrol is cheaper than in most Arab countries. 9) If you are rich and have lots money to spare then you can be quite independent with your own maid, your own driver and less dependency hence.
Cons of living in KSA: 1) Women’s rights – actually don’t exist – 100% dependency on men whether that be her husband, son, brother or her driver especially if she’s a housewife. Life is a bit easier for working women and not all are privileged enough to have drivers. 2) If you have a social life then good or else be ready to be under house arrest especially in case of traveling husbands. 3)Street crime is normal in some areas. 4) Safety is not guaranteed. 5)Women cannot trust taxi drivers if they do not know the roads properly. 6) Schools are a sore point. Education is good at British and American establishments but their fees are sky high which only can be afforded by parents whose employers are paying for the same. Indian and Pakistani schools generally don’t have proper qualified teachers, mostly housewives looking for a meager income. 7) Jobs are generally for men. Some women oriented companies are there but they can’t fulfill all the job needs of all the women in Saudi, especially in Riyadh. 8) Discrimination among employers regarding employing women and nationalities too. A highly qualified Indian or Pakistani would be offered a lower salary and less benefits but a less or say equally educated Westerner might be offered a higher salary and full benefits just because he/she holds a graduation from the West and they speak in an accent and have a first world country passport (this also includes Asians who are Western passport holders). 9) Lack of socializing. 10) Too much parda (segregation) even during parties. There is a men’s section and a women’s section and during certain times it sounds annoying, just troublesome. 11) Children who stay in apartments tend to like the TV more and play more of Play Station and video games. There are no outdoor game sessions for them and clubs are also very expensive or in school. Children some that I have seen are more obese and prefer the couch more than going to the kid in the next apartment and playing. Children don’t socialize and hence become recluse. I know kids who cry at the very sight of a new person.
4. Name: Carol Fleming Al-Ajroush aka American Bedu
Length lived in KSA: 3.5 years
Pros of living in KSA: lifestyle, ability to save, salary/benefit package better than USA, felt safer and more secure, ironically greater professional opportunities, more time for family
Cons of living in KSA: lack of independence, fishbowl effect, sandstorms, closures during, prayer time disrupting day, shopping challenges, traffic and crazy drivers
5. Name: Anonymous
Length lived in KSA: Since 1992
Pros of living in KSA: A) Hearing the Adan called 5 times a day B) Having a driver to run errands C) Having a maid to help around the house E) Having a built in baby sitter F) Less expensive food G) Bigger family for children to be with H) Exposure to Arabic language and positive side of culture I) Slower pace of life J) Good gas prices K) In the early years less TV influence on children, not the case these days L) Ability to build good relations with husband’s family M) Found wonderful friends from all over the world N) Forced self-evaluation and I think I am more active in the community for the sake of having things available for my children. O) You stay close to your children because their world is so protected. This keeps you close to your kids. P) No snow Q) Nice shopping if you are into that kind of stuff R) Great point to jump off from if you like to travel S) Lots of restaurants at all levels of pricing if you like to eat out (I don’t) T) It is common for a tutor to come to your home for your children if you want extra class U) Omra is easy from Riyadh, just a quick plane ride V) There is an active community of expats if you are so inclined but you need to meet your own crowd. It is very cliquish here. W) If you put your mind to it you can be happy here, but you must have a good attitude.
Cons of living in KSA: A) Having a maid in the home changes the dynamics of your parenting. B) Without real strong effort on parents part, the kids with a maid become lazy and spoiled C) No consistent affordable quality education. D) Fear of sending your children to the mosque due to bad influences or possible bodily violations E) So many religious subjects shoved into the backpacks of the kids they learn to hate religion class instead of love it. This is the biggest disappointment of all for me. I really thought soft-hearted spiritual people were going to lovingly guide my children like I was never guided. I am a revert and I am glad I found Islam and lived it before coming here. F) The lack of respect for the law on the road, very stressful. Would like to be allowed to drive but would not want to subject myself to the fear of driving amongst all these nuts. G) High chlorine and TDS in the tap water H) No neighborhood feelings I) No free sports facilities for anyone to speak of J) Complications if you want to walk alone for exercise. (heat, dirt, shabab (youth), air pollution) K) Difficult access to quality, affordable health care you feel you can trust. They are out there but very difficult to find. One must have a network of people advising you. L) Housing is difficult to find and expensive to start up, big down payment to rent a villa. M) Maintenance on a home is frustrating to find. N) Living with AC on all the time effects skin and to some degree overall health O) Grocery stores bring food from all over the world with labels that are hard to decipher and eating well may be easy but to eat healthfully is a challenge. P) Social inequality is in a sorry state here and if you have a heart it is painful to see, i.e., the way workers are treated for the most part. Q) Bringing your children up as what is called 3rd culture children is scary. You can not be sure where they will land. Children here are taught to hide what is not to be seen and so duplicity reigns supreme. Leads to rebellious, lying teenagers which is a difficult period no mater where you live. R) A family under stress or with special need children should not come here. There is no help for them here (it is few and far between) and things could fall apart badly.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: I used to believe that my husband and I could be happy in a tent as long as we were together. I have learned that the small things will add up. And sweeping your basic needs under the carpet will catch up with you eventually. Know yourself and provide for your basic home based needs and the rest you can manage with perseverance. Preservation of a family unit is so important but takes two in the effort. Then the extended family or community needs to be considered. We can not all home school or live with out family and friends. Build that net carefully and you can be happy.
6. Name: Um_Abdullah
Length lived in KSA: 14 years
Pros of living in KSA: Cheaper living and Islamic living environment
Cons of living in KSA: No women drivers. We must depend on foreigners from 3rd world countries, who have never driven a car, to transport our children and ourselves.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: I have faced ignorance and predjudice during my 14 years of living here in Riyadh. Saudi women have been misguided in their beliefs about America. Many Islamic lectures that I have heard/attended speak badly about America and Americans, as well as other cultures and societies. Many Saudis overlook the last sermon of the Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him. They have become ignorant of the concept of spreading Islam (dawa). Instead, they fuel up hate and damn others for their lack of knowledge about Islam. Being an American Mulslim does not prevent the stereotyping from these misguided, ignorant Saudi women. My children have faced the same ignorance from teachers and students. Life is pretty much a struggle which has toughened me up over the years. This is pretty much what I do not like about Saudi Arabia.
7. Name: Joey
Length lived in KSA: 6 months
Pros of living in KSA: Money is easily made here and the cost of living is relatively low. If you can get on in a good company with full benefits, it’s even better.
Cons of living in KSA: Inequalities between men and women and between working titles. It is illegal to use a driver that you didn’t give an iqama to. If you are a single female, transportation gets pretty pricey! You aren’t readily paid enough to provide an iqama for a private driver, so you have to use taxis, and they will try to get as much out of you as they can. Being western, we are trained to pay the stated price, and they know that. If you are marrying a Saudi, expect issues with his family, and especially the money made. If he dies, the family may deny you any of it.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Westerners are accustomed to defending themselves if anyone degrades them, be very careful about that. If they have a high title, you WILL get fired!
8. Name: Umkhalid
Nationality: American with Saudi nationality
Length lived in KSA: From 1987-2000/from 2006-present
Pros of living in KSA: A) Muslim country. B) Things are still socially “shameful”, no if-it- feels-go-do-it attitude C) Islam taught at school (also a con!) D) Hearing the athan E) Halal food F) Kids are expected to live at home, not on their own G) More parental control H) T.V. still somewhat cleaner than in U.S. I) Alhamdulelah not a poor country.
Cons of living in KSA: A) Women cannot drive B) Health care is horrible C) No help for women who are married to Saudis D) Cannot leave without husbands permission E) Crowded, noisy, rude F) Nothing for the youth to do G) Lack of “nice teachers” teaching deen in public schools H) Lack of community in the masjid for women (I loved this in the U.S.)
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Alhamdulelah for everything. I think your happiness in living here depends a lot on your marriage. I wish it did not but its a hard place to live if you are in a difficult marriage. I do love this country but not everything about it. I feel the same about the U.S. Wish there was a blend of the best of both countries, hee hee 🙂
9. Name: Julie
Length lived in KSA: Almost 2 years
Pros of living in KSA: Almost everyone wheres hijab so you feel comfortable and your kids do too. Mecca is really close. Malls have a place to pray. You can save money here because you don’t pay taxes.
Cons of living in KSA: You are a prisoner unless you have a driver. Air pollution is really, really bad so asthma is a widespread disease here. Its very very hot. Many things are really over priced here. People have very bad manners here, bad representation of an Islamic county.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: If it wasn’t for my husband’s family living here we would have moved home after the first year. My husband and I both hate it here.
10. Name: Ghada
Length lived in KSA: Only 2 Years in Jeddah
Pros of living in KSA: Cheap, close to Mecca, very good shopping malls and good places for kids to hangout.
Cons of living in KSA: Lack of kids sports, women can’t drive, no intellectual life, no big parks, discrimination, there are certain jobs only for Saudis, non-Saudis are not allowed to work legally and have all the benefits unless she has an a legal Iqama.
11. Name: Orchidthief from email@example.com [I am not ready to ‘come out’ on the internet yet ;)]
Nationality: Non-Muslim Canadian married to another non-Muslim Canadian
Length lived in KSA: 1.5 years
Pros of living in KSA: A) The money…let’s be honest – that’s why most Western expats are here. There is still opportunity here like there is nowhere else in the world. B) The heat and the sunshine, because when you have winter for 6 months of the year, you never want to see snow again. C) Traveling in the Middle East because it’s so exotic and Islamic architecture is so amazing! D) You get a chance to slow down and reflect on life a bit. E) You can afford a maid here F) The gorgeous shopping malls G) Traveling in the region and visiting dunes in the Arabian desert H) Challenges your world view and changes your outlook on life.
Cons of living in KSA: A) The numerous ways in which a woman’s life is restricted here makes you feel like a prisoner sometimes. This is the number one drawback I feel living here, and it’s something I could not truly grasp until I arrived. B) The isolation, and again, nothing can truly prepare you for it. C) Not being able to work in my profession for a reasonable amount of money makes me feel powerless, useless and a bit like a poor version of a Stepford wife. I never knew how much of my emotional well-being was wrapped into being a breadwinner. No wonder my mother was so adamant that I be able to earn my own money when I was growing up. D) The heat and all that blasted sunshine (yes, it falls into both categories) E) Feeling tied to my husband for entertainment and general joy in life, though admittedly he is a reliable source 😉 F) It has been hard to meet younger people here that I have things in common with. G) The sheer and utter boredom of living in a city that actively discourages public mingling and play. H) Once you get in, it’s hard to get out. The money pulls people in and it’s hard not to dream about what you could do with it if you just stayed one year more. Many westerners find their skills deteriorate the longer they stay, and cannot function at the capacity they are expected to when they go home. Hence two years turns into three…five…ten….
Use this space to say anything else you would like: For those women out there who are considering moving to Saudi to be with their husbands, I would have to say that on top of knowing the lifestyle and being honest with yourself about what you can handle, you should also know your partner inside out. You must understand how your partner responds to peer pressure and stress and you can’t let love get in the way of your evaluation of what kind of man he is. There are three common characteristics I see in the men who have happy, or at least well-adjusted, wives here – the husbands are 1) selfless 2) mature and 3) secure in who they are. If your man does not have all three qualities, I personally think you will have challenges ahead of you, as the environment lends itself to selfishness and chauvinism in the deepest degree if a man absorbs too much around him. You do not want to find yourself in the unfortunate position where he makes all the decisions, inflates his ego while he sends yours down the toilet, and allows you to feel trapped. Even among the Westerners here where you would think the men should know better, a lot of them do what’s socially acceptable in Saudi rather than what is right and respectful. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a Saudi to ignore his colleagues at work or his mother at home if his social milieu is not progressive.
My husband and I do not regret coming to Saudi. Despite all the restrictions and inconveniences of living here, we have come through it being able to communicate better, growing closer together, improving our financial situation, and having some unique experiences along the way.
12. Name: ‘B’
Length lived in KSA: Been living in KSA for nearly 6yrs.
Pros of living in KSA: Great place to learn Quran and Arabic.
Cons of living in KSA: Unislamic, Govt is corrupt, Extremely closed society, Women cannot drive, Education system is horrible, Health care is horrific, No infrastructure, No customer service in any establishment, and it’s HOT!
Use this space to say anything else you would like: I suggest that if you are thinking about moving here, you second and triple guess your decision. You MUST do your homework. Even though you will research and ask questions and do all of that, you will never really know what it is like living here until you actually come and live it day after day. The 1st 2yrs I was here, it was nice. I was still in the ‘honeymoon’ stage. After that, it’s been difficult at times. It will help if you’re able to travel outside Saudi Arabia yearly.
13. Name: Krista Williams
Length lived in KSA: 16 years
Pros of living in KSA: A) Living amongst Muslims B) Hearing the adhan C) Wearing hijab and niqab D) Raising children in a Muslim community E) Being able to learn Arabic and Qur’an F) Lower cost of living
Cons of living in KSA: A) School system – teaching methods B) Culture differences C) Rudeness – especially waiting in lines D) No recycling E) Women can’t drive
Use this space to say anything else you would like: As with any country, there is good and bad. Nowhere is perfect. The pros of living in Saudi greatly outweigh the cons. Most of the cons are mere annoyances rather than reasons not to live in Saudi.
14. Name: A non-Saudi/Saudi couple
Length lived in KSA: 39 years combined
Pros of living in KSA: A) Safety in your life and with your belongings because of low crime rate and less exposure to fitnah B) Living with Muslims in a Muslim country: access to halal foods/restaurant (taste great too), a lot of masjids and hearing the adhan so you know when to pray, variety of modest clothing especially for women C) Better chance to manage finances and preserve (save) your money. There are not a lot of opportunities to waste your money on frivolous things or places D) Learning Qur’an and being forced to speak Arabic since not a lot of Saudis speak English or other languages, thus you learn Arabic as well E) Can practice Islam without being judged F) Wonderful shopping and deals G) No taxes H) Traveling easily to the Gulf, African and Asia are also nearby to travel to L) Proximity to Makkah/Madina M) Country is developing steadily under King Abdullah, more opinions for chance taken into consideration, started monitoring corruption more closely
Cons of living in KSA: A) Women can’t drive, rights of women are limited and so is participation in government, decision making and voting B) Lack of physical activities for women such as in schools and public gyms C) Hypocrisy: mixing of culture and religion and making traditions precedent over the religion even after its proven to be detrimental to society in the current time period and the pride of people not admitting that and willing to change for the better. D) Not a lot of places for families to enjoy themselves and you can easily get bored E) Prevailing attitude of putting down foreigners (superiority complex) and racism against those who are dark-skinned. Fixation with light skin and it being the ideal beauty, things can “happen” for you if you have lighter skin. Criticizing or disliking those Saudis who marry foreigners F) Complications of government procedures and paperwork G) School system: employing unqualified teachers, teachers hitting students, homosexuality, drugs, fighting. Universities are supposed to be free/at a reduced cost for Saudis but in order to get in, they have to use wasta H) Public transportation isn’t very good: old buses, not enough buses or routes, taxis are corrupt and dangerous, men drive crazy I) No nature, need more greenery J) Unruly and uncontrollable youth K) Disparities in salary according to nationality, Westerners are paid more than Saudis who are equally qualified to do the same job, non-Muslims are given priority for a job instead of filling the position with Saudis or foreign Muslims with similar credentials.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: For a non-Saudi wanting to marry a Saudi and live in Saudi Arabia, it is a serious decision and you must study it well. Saudi Arabia is a different and special country, you should study it by itself. It is not an adventure. Once you live here and make a family, try to be committed to it since if the marriage breaks up then it could be devastating. Things are rarely resolved between couples peacefully such as the mother kidnaps her kids back to her native country or the father deports the mother and keeps them in Saudi Arabia where the mother can never see them again.
We have to be realistic about things in KSA, not only mention the good but the bad much to the consternation of die-hard KSA fans. Going in detail is the best thing to can do, being as specific as possible about the situations one can encounter here. I find that some Muslims who want to make hijrah to KSA are very naive and have idealistic views of the country. They are very quick to defend KSA whenever something bad is mentioned about it and do NOT want to listen to the truth of the people who have lived here or living here currently. I think that’s bad preparation on their part but to each his own. There are VERY few present-day ansarun helping muhajirun when there are great examples to follow from the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Also the governments of Muslim countries do not help the muhajirun continue their hijrah. We see them giving priority to non-Muslims for work when a Muslim has the same qualifications. Which is such a shame because we see Israel giving citizenship to any Jew that immigrates there. Why can’t the Muslim governments do this? KSA did it a long time ago but stopped.
Its hard not to complain and easy to complain, especially if you are at odds with the culture and society of the KSA. People say if you don’t like it then get out. I say, if you don’t like what you’re about to read then don’t come! Factors to consider before moving to KSA: 1. Emotions: leaving family and home country, living in a foreign country, sacrificing some of your rights/independence, possible isolation from expat community or large support network, your life is how you make it (sad or happy) and Saudi spouse could affect it for better or worse, if you are prone to depression please weigh your decision VERY carefully. 2. Length of stay: will you be moving permanently or dividing your time between two homes (one in KSA and one abroad). 3. Accommodation: Living with in-laws or in own nuclear household, in a villa/compound/flat 4. Accompanied by children: education, activities, disabilities 5. Health & Medical care: provided by you/your Saudi spouse’s employer/sponsor, health insurance from abroad, govt provides free health care or may pay out of your pocket for private health care 6. Work/Finances: will your husband allow you to work, will cost of living determine if you have to work and help contribute to household finances with spouse, can you work from home or have your own business 7. Visas/Citizenship: Spouses of Saudi men living abroad are usually given a 3 month visit visa from the Saudi Embassy that has to be transferred to an iqamah at the jawrazat (passport office) in KSA. Failure to do so before the visa expires results in a fine. 8. Transportation: women can’t drive or avail of public transportation except taxis, husband may provide personal driver or share one with in-laws.
15. Name: Anonymous
Nationality: I’m British
Length lived in KSA: 8 years. I have 2 kids that I am currently raising here.
Pros of living in KSA: The pros for a woman would have to be that you have lady only malls, 3rd floor of Mamlaka [Kingdom Tower], able to visit the beauticians and take off your stuff at the entrance. A haircut is easier than in England!!! Also, you can attend women only gyms and go to funfairs.
Cons of living in KSA: The cons are many. I’ll simply state them then go into detail in the next paragraph: A) Women can’t get around. B) You’re totally reliant on your husband for the paperwork side of things. C) I also feel that deen is harder to practice here. D) And education sucks here, from nursery level all the way to uni [university].
Now to explain my cons, I have to say that I have answered this survey because I believe that many people do not understand how hard it is for a woman here. When you’re used to being able to nip down to the newsagents for a bottle of milk or just a loaf of bread or when you’re the one that does all the paperwork in the household and does the shopping, you’ll find that it will be extremely difficult and downright depressing and frustrating to live here because you will have to wait till your husband comes home and if he works 9 hour shift it’s hard for them to take you round to visit your friends or out to the shops. You won’t like it either because you’ll be used to your independence. At first it’s not so bad but when you have kids it gets even harder because your husband will have to do the school run or fork out a fortune for the school bus. And then there are after school activities that your child may want to undertake and that is an extra trip.
Also, contrary to belief, personally as a British Muslim, I find that practicing Islam here is a lot harder. I found that the society is hypocritical and culture here is mixed in with religion. For example, we all know that plucking one’s eyebrows is a major sin, however everyone does it. We all know about dressing modestly and yet what people show here!!! Now I’m not saying that this relates to everyone. No, just like in every country there are good and there are bad, it is the same here. However, when you move here for the sole purpose of Islam you need to ask yourself first, am I prepared to be able to tell the difference between culture and Islam? Secondly, when you can’t go out, will you get a driver to take you around, meaning you are traveling in a car alone with no mahram? Your Islamic values will slip away piece by piece.
I find this society to be very materialistic and dependent on who you are and where you come from. Although we know that we are not allowed to be in a car with a man alone, a driver is fine, just because he is from the Philippines. So we are saying he is less of a human being than us? Also, maids here are so cheap that you can get into the pull of it and hire one and end up treating her as a slave. They pay them the minimum amount, make them clean and tidy, their children do not even address them with the respect due towards an elder. They are simply the maid. This teaches a child to stereotype that people who have certain definitive features are slaves. Whether you like it or not, this is the truth.
And also it is unfortunate but some of those who are what people term very Islamic are downright rude and will not listen to your opinions of what is Islamic because they think they know better.
All in all, if you are a White Brit you’d do great here but if you’re an Arab Brit or an Arab American, e.t.c., then expect to be treated differently.
These are my personal feelings as I conflict with: is it best for my child to be raised here in a society where because they’re White, they are treated differently and are going to end up growing up with a superiority complex. Also, colour of skin will eventually begin to dawn on them and they will become unknowingly racist. And that they will feel that slavery or having a servant is a normal thing in a household so they will grow up always thinking that there will be someone to pick up after them. Where Islamic teachings will be difficult as their friends will listen to music and think nothing of it, where they celebrate birthdays, where they worship the Western society but cannot admit it. And when your daughter will ask you the question of, “But Mama, why do I have to wear a scarf when I’m a woman, they’re not? or ask to wear slutty and tight revealing clothes.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Anyway, make sure that as a woman, you know what you’re in for. This country is not for all. However, with the economy in the present state, yes you will be able to bring up your child here comfortably and be able to afford extravagant school fees if you land a good job at whatever cost. I believe it is very hard for children to be brought up with good values and strong beliefs without it compromising the person they will one day become. And don’t forget, university is not an option here, it just isn’t worth the cost. They don’t teach the students really. So don’t bring teenagers here is my biggest advice. They will in no way be happy here, boys or girls. And young children, well I don’t know. But at the moment as I’m sitting here, I don’t think so and yet I have met some very nice sisters here and they have lovely children. But all the children know are colour and maids. That’s all I’m saying.
I just feel that most Brits that come here want to for the sake of Islam but when they get here they’re sorely disappointed. They shouldn’t be coming here thinking of this as the Islamic country because the people here are humans just like everyone else. Many people that have left Saudi to go back to England have unfortunately gone back and stopped practicing Islam. So a life here should be one that you think of if you are very sure about your deen and are up to the challenges of it being tested.
I hope that you find this useful.
16. Name: Um Saad
Nationality: American passport, but in my heart I belong to the land of the two Holy Mosques.
Length lived in KSA: I first arrived in 1983- 27 years ago.
Pros of living in KSA: A) Mosques in every neighborhood and even road-side mosques 🙂 B) Hearing the call to prayer, and usually more than one at the same time. C) Modesty in dress still prevails in public, although it has recently loosened more for non-Muslims than for practicing Muslims. D) Alcohol is not sold or consumed in public (stores, restaurants). E) No pork in the stores or restaurants, and imported foods strictly monitored (although a few questionable items have been reported). F) School curriculum includes many religious subjects. G) Quran lessons for all! In the mosques for men & boys, and at the “dar” for women & girls, plus Arabic language courses in the University and various other institutions. H) Neighbors are usually very helpful and friendly, sociable. I) Segregation in the workplace and schools (but not in shopping or most medical centers). J) No taxes! K) Shopping from all over the world and lots of malls in Riyadh (too many, if you ask me). L) Medical care and medicines at private medical centers are much cheaper than in the US. M) Saudi University students pay no tuition, receive a monthly allowance, text books are cheap and the girls get free busing. N) The government is based on Islamic law ‘shariah’. Maybe not 100%, but much more so than any other place I know of. O) Fruits and vegetables are cheap and so is the bread. P) Islamic banking (no interest) is available with comparable services. Q) The Qur’an radio station- 24/7 of recitation and educational programs, ma sha Allah! R) There is some crime, but not at all what you’d expect for a city this big. Also depends on the neighborhood and common sense precautions. S) Convenient location for traveling to Europe, Africa and Asia.
Cons of living in KSA: A) The heat!!! It can be real hard on the body, but I noticed that once I passed 45 years, I came to tolerate it much better. Inside with air conditioners you don’t notice the temperature, but once you go out, even from your door to the car, it is oppressive. I am talking about May to October. B) TERRIBLE drivers!! Excessive speed is one thing, but the utter lack of consideration for others on the road is frustrating, if not totally intolerable- thank God I don’t drive! A vast majority of the drivers are care-less and therefore risk all of our lives and property. The police force is not enough for the sheer number of incompetent drivers, all from ‘undeveloped countries’. And it isn’t any better than 25 years ago, even with the new roads. C) The waiting list for certain departments at government hospitals. However, you could go to private places, find someone who knows someone at the hospital, or simply hang-out at the clinic until the doctor can get around to seeing you. D) Personal prejudices against specific nationalities, based on bad experiences with a few. E) Lousy customer service in 90% of the stores. F) Getting the run-around in government offices, schools and hospitals. Lots of red-tape and “I don’t know” from the indifferent staff, who send you to someone else, who also doesn’t know or isn’t there, et cetera. The worst of it is that the majority of employees (Saudi or otherwise) don’t care or even make an effort to help you with your problem. G) Lack of creative problem-solving on all levels, from kids to executives. H) Early childhood education programs are all based on developmentally inappropriate practices (save Montessori), and the parents don’t know any better. I) Limited services for Arabic-speaking people with special needs. J) Special Education services in English are just not available, except for medical services. K) Land is ridiculously expensive. Just dirt, no view or blade of grass- sold by the meter! L) No city bus or rail system. M) Only paper is recycled, and lots of littering!
Use this space to say anything else you would like: Most of the negative things I mentioned are typical of any developing country. In sha Allah, the next generations will be more civilized in their behavior, and more advanced in their general development. At first you may be frustrated because Saudia looks so modern, and you expect it to be like the developed country you came from, but it isn’t. You learn to be patient, to compromise, to adapt, and try ever-so-hard to raise your kids (the next generation)to be responsible Muslim citizens.
I didn’t write specifically about being married to a Saudi man because the only one I know is my husband 🙂 Arab men in general are know to be generous and protective of their families- as Muslims they know their great responsibility to Allah to take care of those dependent on them. It all depends on the person you’re married to and certainly, people are so unique! Likewise, so are the families you marry into. While it may be harder to win over your in-laws than say, in Denmark or Mexico, that is only because of stereotypes about American women, learned from the media. Anywhere in the world, if your mother-in-law likes you, you’ve got it made! And the best Saudi-American marriages I have seen are where the family has accepted, and appreciate, the American wife due to her efforts to join in and her excellence in religion. You become a source of pride to them, and example to others.
I’m very happy to be here, and I believe that even if my husband wasn’t so wonderful (ma sha Allah), I still would choose to live and die here.
17. Name: Anonymous
Length lived in KSA: 11 years
Pros of living in KSA: A) Religious freedom (practice, hijab, Adhan) B) Mecca and Medinah, close for travel C) The opportunity for Hajj (which I made 7 years ago, al Hamdulilah) D) The ability to make Umrah in Ramadan. E) Safety was a big reason for my coming here. F) The freedom to raise my children the way I wish. G) Less peer pressure for my children. At least I feel that way. H) My husbands family being close by since I’m an only child. I) Finances are better (not a big factor but it helps) J) I wanted to protect my children from the influences of the Western world and I still feel it’s easier here.
Cons of living in KSA: A) THE HEAT! B) Having to rely on a driver if your husband is busy. C) The houses being so big compared to the States and sometimes wanting a maid. D) Sometimes you feel like your religion was better back home. Although there are great resources here, something about being a minority keeps you charged. E) Schooling, most of the schools are lacking in so many ways.
Use this space to say anything else you would like: For new ladies, I would recommend discussing the rights to come and go to your home country. What happens when the marriage doesn’t work out, who keeps the children. Will you have a driver? This is a hardship for many ladies. Schooling is something to discuss.
Photo Credit: Mimi Frou Frou