Saudi Arabia: Love and Marriage – Are the Two Compatible?

I received a recent email from a follower of American Bedu who wishes to have some questions answered.  The individual brought up some good points, especially when you apply logic with the rules and regulations of Saudi Arabia.  Dating and public mixing of the sexes is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.  Many marriages are arranged.  Therefore, the reader wished to know with such regulations and traditions in place are there “love marriages” in Saudi Arabia or are they isolated to the upper class and Royals?  Additionally, with such strict laws in Saudi Arabia, then how does a man flirt with another woman or marry another woman?

These are powerful questions and sensitive questions.  Yes; dating and public mixing of the sexes is prohibited.  However, that does not prevent young Saudis from contact with one another.  The young Saudi men (and women too) can be creative when it comes to having contact with one another.  I am not necessarily referring to meeting for a tete-a-tete but rather the increase use of social networking.  Some young men may continue to use their Bluetooth on their mobile phone to exchange phone numbers and messages with young women.  Some young men may also toss a paper to a woman with their mobile phone number.  However more and more are going to social networking sites like Facebook or arabfriendz where they can “virtually meet” and get to know one another.

Contact between unrelated Saudi men and women remains frowned upon.  As a result, there are many within Saudi Arabia who view the use of social networking as haram (forbidden).  Naturally there are risks to the use of social network sites too.  A Saudi woman must always consider her reputation, honor and that of her family.  The Saudi men should take the same factors into consideration but in reality he is allowed much more leeway than a Saudi woman when it comes to interactions with unrelated females.  I am not going to go further into interactions or consequences of the use of social networking sites other than to reiterate it is a venue where some unrelated Saudis have made initial contact which eventually led to a traditional meeting of families and marriage.

In most cases, “love marriages” have been the arranged marriages where the man and woman have been able to have contact with one another whether by the phone, email or perhaps they were both students abroad.  Other cases which have lead to love marriages have also been where a young Saudi male and female have worked at an organization where segregation is not as strictly enforced such as some of the larger hospitals.  However, while there may be an initial physical attraction based on appearance and then opportunities to interact enhancing the attracting and feeling of love, marrying and living with a spouse each and every day is much different and one hopes that there will always be the feelings of love.

Traditional arranged marriages take place between families which know one another and believe their children would be compatible for one another.  Or is some cases, the marriage is viewed as a connection between tribes which has been a tradition even prior to the Kingdom being known as Saudi Arabia but simply as Arabia.  Marriages between cousins remain commonplace in Saudi Arabia.

It should also be pointed out that “love marriages” are not isolated to the case of upper class or Royals.  In fact, Royals will marry within the family, usually to a first, second or third cousin…at least for the first marriage.

Polygamy, the man taking a second, third or fourth wife must be covered as a separate topic unto itself.  However these earlier posts should help enlighten readers on the topic of polygamy in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: Please HELP Jeddah Flood Victims!!!

 

nb:  continued and up-to-date information on where and how to help Jeddah flood victims can be found here.

Jeddah flood victims need your help NOW!!!

Dear Friend,

Please forward this request to your friends and respective organizations.   If possible please sms or call and inform them to donate now.

Several NGOs and YIG (Young Initiative Group) have been tirelessly helping flood victims since Wednesdays’ devastating rains.  YIG is asking for your help and donations.  Please donate, water bottles, food, clothes, blankets, flashlights etc. Please bring your items to AL-Harithy Exhibition Center also known as  Jeddah Center for Forums and Events which located on the corner of Hera Street and Madinah Rd.  ( http://www.acexpos.com/company/venue/by-road/index.php) See driving directions below.

Al Harithy Exhibition center is open for everyone!  So if u want to volunteer or donate it is open from 9am-9pm. Starting today Friday January 28, 2010. They will continue to take donations at this location for a few more days.  But today it is imperative you get your donations there now.

Females are needed for buying, receiving, sorting & packing the donations received.  They will be working inside the Exhibition center and Males with cars 4X4 are needed on the field. Gentlemen are asked to be available in the Parking lot and be there in the morning or as soon as possible to register and be assigned in the groups to head to a specific area for delivery and distribution and to support the groups which they are assigned to.

Females are more than welcome anytime to participate inside the exhibition center to help sorting & packing the donations received.

Please do not forget to register once you enter, YIG would like to  keep track of everyone volunteering. If students need community service hours please make sure you indicate that upon signing in.   If you are younger then 18years of age, you must have your parents approval to volunteer.  YIG and all other organizations involved do not take any liability for damage to vehicles, or individuals during their volunteering work.  Please be aware of this disclaimer.

For further info plz join YIG  (Young Initiative Group) Face book group page for constant updates.

Thank you!

Best Regards,
Zulikha Hussain
Independent Consultant
Interfaith Activist/Youth Activist 

Increase awareness + Increase tolerance + enrich ourselves and others. = Peaceful world

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Directions to Al-Harithy Exhibition Center
From the City

Following the signs for the airport or for Madina, leave Jeddah City on Madina Road going north.
Prepare to leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit. Pass the Aramex offices on your right and go  straight ahead at the traffic lights, then with the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.

From the North

After passing the airport, leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit and make a U-turn under the Flyover.
With the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.


From the East & South

The roads from the Jizan & the south and Riyadh & the east join the main highway from Makkah and the Jeddah Ring Road. Once on the Ring Road, follow the signs for the airport and Madina. Ignore all signs for the city centre or the port.
Leave the Ring Road following the sign for the South (Saudia) Terminal of the airport, then with the airport on your right, follow the signs for Jeddah City. Do not take the airport terminal slip road.
At the intersection with Madina Road (options for Madina, Corniche or City Centre), follow the City Centre sign to join Madina Road going south. Leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit and make a U-turn under the Flyover.
With the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.

Is Saudi Arabia Simply Misunderstood?

 

I chose to rewatch a 2009 series which was produced by ‘Frontline’ about the ‘House of Saud.’  As I viewed the first of 11 youtube videos of this series I thought to myself how many ways a picture can be presented through selected words and images.

Saudi Arabia is not a democracy.  It is a tribal state under a monarchy.  It has been and likely always will be a tribal state.  Why do we, as Westerners, generally portray Saudi Arabia as either more or less than meets the eye instead of what it is?  We can agree to disagree with aspects of how any country is governed but that does not make the West the overall jury and judge rolled into one.

I believe Saudi Arabia gets more attention than other tribal countries because of its oil reserves.  Because Saudi Arabia has the vast reserves of oil and the long standing establishment of ARAMCO there is much more scrutiny and judgment placed upon its people and practices.

However, these are simply my own personal views.  Let’s hear and discuss your views after you have taken the opportunity to watch the first of the 11 videos.

 

Saudi Arabia: Beware of Local Hires

An expatriate may come to the Kingdom with a dependent spouse who is also a professional in his or her own right.  What opportunities are available for a spouse who would like to get hired locally?  Generally speaking the opportunities to work will be available but not always on the terms that the spouse may prefer.  As one hired from within Saudi Arabia, whether for a Saudi or an international company, will usually mean a lower salary and fewer benefits than the expatriate or hire of a Saudi national.   Therefore, one may ask, do companies take advantage of local expatriate hires? Yes.  Companies realize that they can engage an expat locally for far less than the sponsorship costs of hiring someone from abroad.  However, the cost saving benefit is not given to the local hired expatriate for his or her expertise.  That is kept within the company.  Benefits are kept a bare minimum too.  Some expatriates have had success with their local employer in their agreement for the expatriate to travel to nearby Bahrain where they can be hired as an international expatriate instead of a local.  However this is not the norm.

My advice to the dependent spouse who hopes to work is to do as much preliminary research prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia.  Try and identify an opportunity so both get to travel with their own international contracts and benefits.

Another suggestion for consideration is for the dependent spouse to have a viable skill which can be independently marketed in Saudi Arabia.  This skill can range from accounting, editing, writing, research, analysis, teaching, etc.  Additionally be careful and expect to be asked by many potential clients to do a percentage of the work at no cost towards demonstrating your skills.  Once the word gets out, you’d be expected to provide free or heavily discounted services to most customers.  Do not let any potential client try to convince you that is the way business is done in Saudi Arabia for free lances.

Talk to other expatriates.  Be imaginative, professional, identify needs and create a niche market.

Saudi Arabia: From the Mouth of a Child…Repeated

American Bedu’s earlier post “From the Mouth of a Child” was well received that it is with pleasure that we get to hear from another youngster!  This young man also lives in Saudi Arabia.  His parents asked him the questions but the answers are his own.  As readers have remarked upon previously, hearing the perceptions and views of a young child can be very enlightening indeed.  American Bedu would like to hear the responses of even more young children whether in Saudi Arabia or not.  It is always interesting to learn how a child’s mind thinks when asked questions that the answers may not necessarily be known to them.  If you have a child and wish to have your child’s views shared with American Bedu please email me directly at admin@americanbedu.com.


What is your name?

Abdullah

Where do you live?

In Jeddah

What is your nationality?

American

How old are you?

Almost 10

Who is the leader of Saudi Arabia?

King Abdullah

What is the capital of Saudi Arabia?

Riyadh!

Who is the leader of the United States of America?

Barak Obama

What is the capital of the United States of America?

Washington D.C.

How many hours does it take to go from America to Saudi Arabia?

11 hours

What is the best thing to do in Saudi Arabia?

Praying in Makkah and Madinah.

What is the best thing to do in the United States?

Visiting my grandparents and praying with them.

Why do women wear black in Saudi Arabia?

I don’t know

What is a muttawa?

A guy who is wearing tagiya, shumag and mishleh. Walking around like he is important.

What is the adhan?

Something you hear before the prayer so that people can get ready.

Are there muttawa in the United States?

No

What is a Muslim?

A guy who prays to god, and is an abd-allah (servant of God). He prays before he sleeps and he prays when he wakes up.

What is a Christian?

A guy who prays to a cross. And he doesn’t believe in god.

Do Muslims and Christians like each other?  Why or why not?

No. Because Christians don’t believe in god and Muslims don’t believe in the cross.

What do Saudis like to eat the most?

Rice and chicken

What do Americans like to eat the most?

Turkey

What would you like to say to other children around the world?

To always pray and listen to their moms and dads and to tell them that “Paradise lies under the feet of your mother”.

 

Saudi Arabia: Only Technically Married


She is an expatriate and married to a Saudi man…or is she?  During our conversation she stated that now she’s only married technically.  What does that mean exactly?  When and how does one go from being in love, happily married and then to have a marriage that barely exists in name only?  This woman has agreed to share her story.  Due to the sensitivity of her situation, her identity is protected.


To begin with, please introduce yourself.  Where are you originally from?  How did you meet your Saudi?

Hello, first of all I want to thank you for giving me the chance to talk with you American Bedu…I am a big fan of your blog. You do a wonderful job. I am a 53 year old from the Midwestern United States. I met my Saudi husband in the city I am from while he was in his third year of University.

How many years have you been married?

I have been married for 31 years.

Do you and your Saudi husband have children together?

Yes, we have 4 children.

Are you a Muslim?  Were you a Muslim prior to your marriage to your husband?  Do you feel he or his family pressured you to convert to Islam?

Yes I am a Muslim. I became Muslim the day I was married to my husband. I do feel as if he pressured me into converting too quickly. I wish I had followed my inner feelings and had studied the religion deeper before converting. Even though, I am very happy that I am a Muslim. I just feel as if it was such a struggle to have a new religion and not know much about it. My husband was not very helpful in explaining the many questions I had about my new religion. It was always that “I should just accept everything about it and not ask questions”. That is not the way I was raised. If I didn’t know the answer to something we were taught to ask questions until we found the answer.

How were you received by your husband’s family?

I was received with open arms initially… I was very welcomed. The problems started right away though. They obviously had thought I had came to the Kingdom because I wanted to be just like them.. That I must not have been happy with my life in the US and wanted to change my complete mind and soul… That was not the case at all!!!!!! My husband had promised me and my family a stay of 5 years and we would return to the US to live. That never happened. Every couple of years it was a different excuse as to why we couldn’t.

At what point did you and your husband’s relationship change?  What do you believe attributed to the change in the relationship?

Our relationship started to change about 5 years in. I suffered from major postnatal depression with my second daughter and had to be treated with medication. He never really understood what I was suffering with and didn’t really want to try and understand. The hurt that I felt from him was very difficult for me. I agreed after 9 years to have another child. I was really happy with my two daughters at that time but he really wanted another child and I agreed..After the birth of my youngest daughter things seemed to be better but then I delivered my son after 3 more years and things went down fast. I again suffered with the post depression.  He seemed to be jealous of my relationship with the children. He wasn’t happy because the children were not close to his family and he blamed me for it.

How would you describe the status of your relationship now?  What exactly does “technically married” mean?

My relationship now is very lonely. I am married but have had no intimacy for over 5 years now. He gives me no reasons as to why he has no interest in me. I say technically married because it is a marriage of financial convenience for me and my children. I also feel the children need their father in their daily life.

What do you see as your options for happiness?

My options for my happiness are very few at this point of my life. I am planning to finish my degree and also do my TESOL certification. I feel as if I am at a brick wall with him ever taking any serious steps in making our marriage better. My happiness is with my children and my beautiful granddaughter. I plan on spending more time with my family in the US more as soon as my younger ones are a little older. I look forward to that.

Do you feel that your life has become empty without having a relationship with your husband?

Of course, my marriage is very empty with no relationship and companionship with him. I do have a wonderful life though with my children. I thank God every day for those children.

What is a routine week for you?

A routine week for me is I teach English as a second language five days a week in an English Institute and private tutor three times a week on average. I spend time with my family and friends on weekends.

If the magic wand could be waved, what would you wish for?  What would you like for yourself at this time in your life?

I would wish for happiness and fulfillment. I would wish for a man who treats me like he loves me and adores me. I love to talk (as my friends all know!!!) and I would like a companion who likes to talk.

How are you supported?  How are your emotional and financial needs met?  What about children?

My husband is a good provider financially. I cannot complain about that. He takes very good care of my children and I and also his mother.

Do you feel there are many women who have married to Saudis and now find themselves in the “technically married” category?

Yes, there are many in worse situations than mine.. I know it could be worse.. I have been in this country for 30 years and I have seen a lot of marriages fall apart.

What is your advice to the starry-eyed woman who has met a Saudi outside of the Kingdom and is convinced he is the one?

My advice is not to marry a Saudi. Definitely do not marry him and come to the Kingdom to live. Do not have children for at least 5 years. Marriage is difficult in our own countries with our own men.. The difficulty is many times over as difficult with Saudi men.

How can a woman know that her Saudi is not going to change?

She cannot possibly know. He will change! He will tell you everything you want to hear just to get you to his country. It is permissible in their culture for them to lie. They think it is harmless to get what they need.

Looking back using hindsight, can you see any kind of warning indicators that your Saudi was changing and pulling away?

Oh yes, many warning signs. I was just in denial and wanted the marriage to work so badly. I really did marry my husband for love. I was so in love with him. He was my knight in shining armor. I just never wanted to let go of that but he chose to pull away and now here I am.

Are there any additional comments you’d like to add?

I again want to thank you. I hope my comments will help anyone who is considering marrying a Saudi. I’m sorry my comments have been very negative. I have been very honest. There are some good ones out there for sure but I don’t believe there are many.

I want to thank you for sharing with American Bedu and discussing such a sensitive topic.  I sincerely wish you all the best and that you do find happiness and peace in your life.

Saudi Arabia/Austria: King Abdullah funds Vienna Center

In July 2008 many scoffed when King Abdullah, partnered with King Juan Carlos of Spain, hosted the National Dialogue in Madrid towards opening up discussion and minds of differing religions and practices.  The naysayers said it was just another opportunity for King Abdullah to appear as if he were making progressive reforms in allowing Saudis to discuss religions other than Islam.  Naysayers further declared with confidence, “Nothing will come of this Madrid initiative.  After a few weeks it will be all but forgotten.”

When will naysayers begin to learn and believe that King Abdullah is a man of his word and of his honor?  When will naysayers recognize that King Abdullah is 86 years old yet has a progressive mind?  In fact, a recent article in Arab News highlights more ways which King Abdullah will be remembered for his word, generosity and open mind.

In a few weeks, the King Abdullah Interfaith Dialogue Center will open in Vienna, Austria as a recommendation made during the National Dialogue held in Madrid back in 2008.  The Center’s aim is to continue to foster greater understanding and awareness between differing faiths and cultures which were initially highlighted in Madrid.

The Center will host seminars, conferences, dialogues and other events bringing together individuals of different backgrounds and faiths.  King Abdullah is a visionary who understands that without taking the first steps towards reaching out to one another in spite of perceived or real differences, there can be no progress towards global peace and stability.

What specific topics would you like to see discussed at the Center or organized by the Center?  Do you think Vienna is a good neutral location of an Interfaith Center?  And last but certainly not least, what is YOUR definition of an International Interfaith Dialogue Center?

Saudi Arabia: Can a Non-Muslim Enter a Mosque?

 

One thing that will likely stand out to a non-Muslim expatriate in Saudi Arabia are the number of mosques.  For example, from my villa in Riyadh there were no less than 8 mosques within a three minute walk of each other.  This is not a coincidence either.  Part of the custom and tradition in Saudi Arabia is for each neighborhood to have a minimum of one mosque.  For many, one of the greatest honors is to be able to build a mosque in honor of a loved one who has passed away.

But, can a non-Muslim expatriate enter a mosque in Saudi Arabia?  After all, non-Catholics can enter the Vatican and non-Christians are welcomed at churches around the world.  While the holy mosques of Makkah and Medina are off-limits to non-Muslims, the rest of the country and its mosques are open.  However, there are protocols which must be followed.

Any expatriate, male or female, should enter a mosque clean.  A woman’s face should be free of make-up. As a non-Muslim it is recommended that he or she not enter the mosque during the time of prayer but rather between prayer times.  Similar to entering a church, he or she should be respectful and quiet.

First of all, for a woman, not every mosque will necessarily have a women’s section.  However if there is a women’s section then it would be okay to enter.  A woman must be properly covered and in this case she should not only wear the abaya but also have her hair properly covered and tucked away in her hijjab.  She should not forget to take off her shoes for individuals enter the mosque either barefoot or wearing socks. I recommend after entering, she kneel down on her knees and quietly take in the essence and ambiance.  It is NOT appropriate to take photographs from within a mosque, especially if it is a local neighborhood mosque.

The non-Muslim expatriate man should also be properly dressed.  He does not need to wear a thobe but he should be wearing pants which fall below the knee.  Sleeveless shirts or tank tops are not appropriate.  The man should also remove his shoes and leave them outside before entering.  Just like a women’s section, he should not take photographs or talk loudly.

Be sensitive to where you are and what is going on around you before choosing to enter a mosque.  If you are in an area unknown to you, then it may be better not to enter a mosque until you are more familiar with the area and surroundings.  If entering a mosque and there are Muslims inside, if you are given looks of suspicion or feel like you are intruding, then quietly exit.

Always remember a mosque is a place of prayer and worship for Muslims.  It is not a museum.  The ideal way to visit a mosque as a non-Muslim in Saudi is to be taken to the mosque by a muslim who can also be a defacto guide and readily answer any questions.

Saudi Arabia: Monthly Recipe

The following recipe is not a traditional Saudi recipe.  In fact it is a typical dish served in the Southern United States.  It can be used as a delicious alternative to the traditional rice which is accompanied by the majority of Saudi dishes.  I received this recipe from my son who enjoys cooking.

 

 

Corn Casserole

Bake at 350 – 45 minutes or until center is firm

 

1 can corn – undrained                            2 eggs

1 can creamed corn                                 8 oz lite sour cream

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix                      ¾ stick margarine or butter

 

Mix all together in mixer until well blended. Pour into a PAM sprayed brownie pan.

Bake until inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting and serving.      YUM!

 

Saudi Arabia: From the Mouth of a Child

Earlier I had asked American Bedu readers a series of questions to help me be a better blogger and provide readers with more of what they wished to know about.  That post in turn led me to the idea of wanting to hear young children’s responses and views on distinctions between Saudi Arabia and their home countries or other countries.  Omar, a nine year old boy, who lives in Riyadh was the first to respond.  If there are other young children whose parents wish to ask them questions so their views can be shared, please email me at admin@americanbedu.com

What is your name?

Omar

Where do you live?

Now my family lives in Saudi Arabia. I was born in California, USA.

What is your nationality?

I am American.

How old are you?

I am 9 years old.

Who is the leader of Saudi Arabia?

His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz ibn Saud.

What is the capital of Saudi Arabia?

Ar-Riyadh, the city we live in now.

Who is the leader of the United States of America?

Mr. Barak Hussain Obama.

What is the capital of the United States of America?

Washington, D.C.

How many hours does it take to go from America to Saudi Arabia?

It depends which airline you are taking. With Air France it takes about 10 hours from San Francisco to Paris, then about 6 hours from Paris to Riyadh. With Emirate Airlines it is 16 hours from San Francisco to Dubai and about 2 hours from Dubai to Riyadh, but I do not like that, because you have to wait for 18 hours in Dubai for the next flight.

What is the best thing to do in Saudi Arabia?

Going camping in the desert is fun.

What is the best thing to do in the United States?

Travel to Disney World, walk my dogs, ride my bike. You can do so much in the United States.

Why do women wear black in Saudi Arabia?

They do not want men to see them, because it is not modest for men to see women when they are not married.

What is a muttawa?

Religious people who tell others to go to prayer and close shops. They also tell women to cover their faces with hijab.

What is the adhan?

It is a call for prayer.

Are there muttawa in the United States?

No, and it is great, because my mom does not have to wear abaya.

What is a Muslim?

It is religion. They believe in Allah.

What is a Christian?

I am Christian, I believe in Jesus Christ.

Do Muslims and Christians like each other? Why or why not?

In USA people do not like Muslims because of September 11, 2001. In Saudi Arabia they do not like Christians because of George W. Bush, because of Iraq and because of Saddam Hussain.

What do Saudis like to eat the most?

They like chicken and rice.

What do Americans like to eat the most?

Hamburgers, “In and Out” is the best.

What would you like to say to other children around the world?

I want to tell them to have fun and be happy!

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