Saudi Arabia: Which One is She? Maid, Helper or Friend?

domestic help

sulit.com.ph

 

With Ramadan 2013 starting on or about the 8th of July, many Muslims throughout the Kingdom will be looking for additional assistance during the Holy month and perhaps through the Hajj season.  This is a period of time when meals take on an additional importance and particularly after the second week of Ramadan has passed, many large families gather to spend the rest of Ramadan together.  Ramadan is a high season throughout the Kingdom with housemaids in demand.

But my question is, who is the housemaid?  Is she just a maid or instead perhaps a helper or friend?  I think it is fair to say that the Saudi families who have had the same domestic worker for multiple years the formal employee-employer relationship begins to blur a little.  Instead of a mere maid she may be better viewed as a helper (less derogatory sounding) or maybe even a friend.  Regardless of what term applied there still needs to be a modicum of distance to preserve the employee-employer relationship.

If you have the opportunities to talk to Saudis who have had the same domestic worker in their home for a period of years, they generally refer to her with affection.  They know about her family, her desires and goals for both herself and her family and in many cases, these Saudis will do what they can to further improve her life.  They’ll not only keep her clothed or have her receive medical attention when ill but sometimes go beyond to help with her family giving her children better educational opportunities.

When a housemaid is serving a family for whom both know is only a limited period of time, the same degree of closeness or trust may never develop.  This can be especially true among expatriates who have engaged a housemaid while in the Kingdom.  Unlike the Saudi family, the expatriate family will eventually either go on to another assignment in a different country or return to their home country.

Expatriates, with an emphasis on Western Expatriates, may have a reputation for treating their domestic help nicer and more like a family member or friend.  Expatriates will generally pay the domestic help a higher salary too.  As a result, many domestics would prefer to work for an expatriate family.

But that does not mean the domestic may view acts of kindness by the expatriate in the same manner as the expatriate.  Domestic help may try to take advantage of the expatriate who has not grown up in a culture where domestic help is the norm.  As a result, the relationship gets blurred and the domestic help may try to manipulate the expatriate.  The manipulation can take place in requesting salary advances, loans, request for medicines or simply sharing how bad they have it such as poor living accommodations, etc.

The domestic may start out working well for the expatriate but ultimately her work ethics may start to slack off.  She may not be as punctual or reliable.  Eventually the expatriate may learn she was also stealing small items or monies from the household.  This tends to happen not only because the domestic does not have a pure heart but because the expatiate family has been too kind as well.

I’m not trying to say that Saudis are the best managers of domestic help or that all is rosy if a domestic helper works for a Saudi.  But I wish to sensitive readers that engaging and retaining reliable and trustworthy domestic help is also its own work in progress.

I believe there could be a market for seminars on both engaging, treating and retaining domestic help in addition to seminars for the domestic help on training and having a successful long term relationship with their employer.

Saudi Arabia: Interview with Romance Novelist, Kat Canfield

It is a pleasure for American Bedu to interview one of the followers of the American Bedu blog.  With this interview, readers learn more about Kat Canfield and why she has an interest in Saudi Arabia!

kat canfield

 

Firstly Kat, thank you, for the opportunity to interview you and share about yourself and your background with readers.

I am honored to have you interview me.

Let’s start with some details about you!  Where are you originally from?  Where do you live now?  How long have you been following the American Bedu blog?

I grew up in Ohio, in Amish country. I moved to Florida after we had a blizzard and the temperature on the thermometer was -32 degrees F! For me, even hurricanes were better than that and I lived through several of them.

I lived in Florida for 25 years before moving to Tennessee with my husband.

I found American Bedu while researching for my book. It has been helpful to learn and understand a very different culture.

Please share your background with readers.  How did you end up in law enforcement as your first career?  At what age or what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a police officer?

Law Enforcement found me I think. I had many people who thought I would be good in that field and encouraged me from high school on but I didn’t listen. I worked in Agriculture in Ohio and several businesses when I moved to Fl. Nothing fulfilled me or was I good at. Finally, I decided to prove everyone wrong that I didn’t have what it takes to be a police officer. Well, I proved to myself I really was!! I was thirty one years old and could beat the barely twenties in physical activities, the shooting range, martial arts, etc. I gained respect from my instructors when I could ‘fall down and give me 100’ (yes, pushups, the full military ones). Sorry, I have to brag on that, as several of the male instructors did not think women should be involved in police work, as it took a man. One of those instructors took me aside just before graduation and told me I had changed his mind about women in police work. It was then I realized I could be a role model for other women which is another reason I want to tell your readers about it. I think the American Bedu Blog helps empower the women in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world who are oppressed. I am all for helping women find their value in the world.

I must also relate this as it has to do with empowering women. I was married briefly in Ohio. I was a battered wife. I got the courage to leave in a time when it was socially unacceptable to do so. Thank God, the laws have change greatly in this area. As a police officer I could help abused women and children get help.

What were some of your most memorable moments when you were on the force?

I have so many memorable moments!! First I must say, read the book as several of them are in there, just the names, and some circumstances are changed to protect identities.

But my most favorite moment is this. I worked as a mounted police officer for eight of my years in police work. Horses are still my first love. One day I was working in the park when a woman and child approached me. The woman asked if her little boy, about seven, could pet the horse. This was a normal thing that happened in the course of the day. The boy was petting the horse and talking to it. I was trying to understand what he was saying to the horse so I asked his mother what he was saying. She was crying! Now I was worried. I asked her what was wrong. She told me her son was autistic and had never spoke a word to anyone before that moment. Now I was crying. The horse had opened up a door for that child. The police horse did that in a lot of instances and is a tool more police departments should utilize.

Did you ever encounter any Saudis while you were an active law enforcement officer?  If so, please share as you are able.

I met many people from everywhere when I lived in Florida. I met Arabs from everywhere in the Middle East. I found them pleasurable and respectful. I probably met more Pakistanis than Saudi. Because all that I knew where very nice people I found it hard to believe so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. I did not want to believe it. We have to remember that a few bad apples does not mean the whole bunch is bad.

You are also a multi-faceted individual.  At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing?

I started writing when I was a child. In high school and college I wrote for the school newspapers and was editor my senior year. I wrote feature articles for the local newspaper and authored many short stories. I just never thought it was that good so didn’t pursue it. However, as a police officer, I had to write, lots and lots or reports. Some of those were short but on more difficult cases they were very long and detailed. I think I improved my skills by writing all those reports! Plus, it gave me experience that found its way into my novels.

What gave you the idea to write a novel about Saudi Arabia?

Well, if you believe in the Ginn or spirits of the desert, it could be said one of them spoke to me. I tried several ideas but this one just felt right so I went with it.

When did you start to have an interest in Saudi Arabia and why?

The book, Arabian Nights. I love that book. I also love Arabian horses, I have owned and ridden them. And then there is Lawrence of Arabia. The country just has a natural romance to it. Every book I have ever read that had something about Saudi Arabia in it is fascinating. If you want to write a romance novel, why not have a character that is from Arabia?

Have you ever traveled to Saudi Arabia and/or personally know some Saudis?  How did you obtain your material about Saudi Arabia for your book?

I have traveled there only in pictures and via the internet. I want to go there very much. I did a lot of research on the country and customs through the internet. I found yours and other blogs about the country that gave me ideas. You actually helped me find books about Saudis that I read like Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil, by Jean Sasson and Ted Dekkers book, Blink of an Eye.

only love twice bookcover

Can you give American Bedu’s a brief synopsis about your first novel, ‘Only Love Twice?’

It is my fantasy. A story of fifty plus year olds. It is Cinderella and her Prince Charming. In this one Prince Charming is a Saudi and Cinderella is American. And if that isn’t enough to keep them apart, he is Muslim and she is a Messianic Jew. I like to use a line from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way” to describe it. In this story, Love finds a way.

Did you find it easy or difficult to write a romance novel featuring an American and a Saudi?

I wrote from the heart. (That Ginn again) The man is Saudi but raised in the western world so is not as ‘Muslim’ as the Muslims would like. I took what I learned about Saudi culture to compare the two cultures. I wanted more than just a romance, I wanted to show everyone that two cultures could learn to get along together despite the differences and even learn to love.

What has been the reaction of Saudi’s to your book, ‘Only Love Twice,’ which features a romance between an American Jewish woman and a Saudi man?

I really would like feedback from Saudi readers about the book. I have not to date had any reviews from them. My friends and family that have read it really liked it and asked how I got the idea and how I got the knowledge of the different culture.

How can American Bedu readers obtain their own copy of ‘Only Love Twice?’

The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and my website, http://www.katcanfield.com.

American Bedu has had the honor of reading ‘Only Love Twice’ and was captivated.  However, I must ask you, is it simply a coincidence that the featured female character resembles you?  After all, she is also a retired police officer and fond of horses.

Great question! It is my fantasy after all. But really, I just found it easier to use some of my experiences to give Madison a personality. Also, many of my friends have asked me to write about my experiences as a police officer. So this was a way to include those stories and weave them as threads in the story. And who is the personality of Saleem? He is the best of every man I know.

Do you have another book in the works about Saudi Arabia?  If so, what can you share?

I am writing a sequel. In it they travel to England and Saudi Arabia. In it there will be more of the differences of cultures and discussions about child brides, arranged marriages, and letting Saudi women drive. I borrowed the visual of one of Susie’s abayas, (Blue Abaya Blog) the one with the hand painted peacock feather on it for several scenes where Madison wears an abaya. (I hope that was ok, Susie?)

I have another completely different characters book working but have not decided if the male character will be Muslim or from a Muslim country. For some reason I find them easier to write about (Must be that Ginn again).

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spent two months this winter in Florida training with my instructor and my horse in the pursuit of better dressage; what I called Dressage Boot Camp. I also walk every day, I am up to 6 miles a day which I can do in an hour and 20 minutes, so I move out. If I am not walking or riding I am on the computer reading or writing.

What personal message would you like to convey to the thousands of followers who read American Bedu daily?

Keep an open mind. Listen to the views of others, express your views in a respectful way. I have found other views to be insightful and actually changed my opinion on some things.

Kat, thank you again for the interview.  I wish you all the success with ‘Only Love Twice’ and all future books.

Thank you, Carol, and wish you well and pray for you every day. You are an inspiration!

Saudi Arabia: Which One is the Wronged Party?

deserted by bride

lemondrop.com

A young Saudi bridegroom had demonstrated good luck in the currency trading market.  Before he knew it, he had amassed a significant amount of money and had also bought a large house.  Newly wealthy and believing he was stable, it was time for him to marry.  He did not have any difficulties in finding a Saudi woman agreeing to be his wife.

They had a lovely wedding.  However, after the wedding ceremony and with anticipations of the wedding night and bright future ahead for the newly married couple, the husband wanted his wife to know about a recent change in his circumstances.

Lured by greed, he decided he would make one more investment just prior to his wedding.  He wanted to receive the maximum possible return so he chose to invest his entire fortune into the market even though he was strongly discouraged by investment counselors to do so.  Unfortunately, rather than receive the return of his dreams, instead he lost not only his monetary fortune but his house, too.

On hearing this news, the wife left him and has filed for divorce.  The new groom ended up in the hospital due to shock at this drastic turn of events.

This situation highlights the increased trend of divorce in Saudi Arabia as well as the need for investors, young or old, to either follow the advice of investment counselors or insure that they understand well data and risk management.

American Bedu has another question for consideration which she poses to readers.  Which of the two is really the wronged party?  The groom because his new wife chose to leave and divorce him so easily or the wife because of her husband’s foolhardy investment?

Saudi Arabia/USA: On Hugs and Kisses

universal greetings

waggeneredstrom.com

I never noticed until being immune-suppressed how “touchy” a culture we have in America!  While we do respect personal space, think about what happens when a typical American meets someone new or is just greeting someone they know.  They shake hands, they hug, they kiss …. And they pat each other’s back!  Because I am immune-suppressed due to my cancer (I have a very low immune system which makes me extra susceptible to catching a cold or a virus) I am prohibited from the traditional contact.  When I go out to a public place I have to wear a face mask and sometimes gloves.  Ironically this still does not keep Americans away from wanting to hug and pat the back!

Whereas in Saudi Arabia, even when one is not battling an illness, there can remain a reserve and a no-man’s land or red line that is not crossed.  Men will shake hands with other men but probably not with other women.  Women will air kiss and then sometimes shake hands with other women.  There is not as much hugging as a greeting among either friends or strangers.

Why exactly do Americans like to hug and pat the backs of strangers?  If you don’t want that to happen to you, you don’t have to resort to wearing a mask or gloves, simply cross your arms over your chest when greeting someone.  This is a universal sign of greeting but without touch!

Saudi Arabia/Australia: Insights on Polygamy

 

Polygamy in Saudi Arabia takes place more among older men who are already established and in better financial circumstances to take on additional wives.  The rising youth in Saudi Arabia overall state they are not in favor of polygamy.  I guess ultimately time will tell on their part whether they remain true to their present feelings or change their minds.

Rarely is polygamy followed as advised in the Quran where a man is to be just and fair with all his wives.  In most cases the Saudi man seems to have a mid-life crisis when he reaches his 40’s or 50’s and at that time decides to secretly take another wife whether she be foreign or a Saudi national.  I say secretly for the first wife (and any other existing wives) are generally the last to know when a Saudi man takes another wife.

However, there will be clues that the wife can pick up on.  The husband will not be home as often.  The household income may change with unexplained cuts in the budget.  He will be more secretive when he is on his cell phone or may text more often.  Eventually the wife will realize that the life as she knew it with her Saudi husband has changed.

Polygamy is not limited to Saudi Arabia.  It exists in every country in the world, legally or illegally.  The Australian program, Insight, featured a special on Polygamy in Australia.  Although somewhat lengthy, the video is mesmerizing, especially when seeing and hearing the testimony of two sisters who share the same husband.

Saudi Arabia: Why Won’t Saudi Men Use Protection?

use a condom

There has been greater global coverage in the press and on different blogs and other social media about Saudi men getting a foreign woman pregnant and then abandoning her and the child.  The fact that so many young Saudi men are unwilling and not ready to be fathers makes me wonder why they (obviously) chose not to use protection such as a condom?

I know from my own experiences in Saudi Arabia that there is little to no sex education taught in the schools or Universities.  Most young Saudis learn sex education from friends or trusted family members and exactly what or how much they learn is debatable.

Additionally, growing up in a gender segregated environment does have an impact that Saudi youth will have many curious and arousing thoughts about the opposite sex.  The lack of contact seems to magnify the allure and temptations.

Therefore, when the young Saudi man has the opportunity to travel outside of the Kingdom whether for schooling, business or pleasure, many take the opportunity to engage in sexual relations.  Once they find themselves in a  more open society without segregation it is not difficult for them to find a woman to charm and engage in an intimate relationship.

Sadly, most of them are probably thinking of only the self-gratification and not the fact that a sexual encounter can have long lasting implications such as a pregnancy.  It probably does not occur to them either that engaging in relations with an individual also poses the risk of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Why does a Saudi man choose not to use a condom as a protection for himself and for the prevention of an unwanted pregnancy?  Because Islam promotes and encourages large families, a Saudi man probably does not think about a condom.  If anyone is going to take care of birth control, it is usually the woman.  In private discussions with either women or Saudi men, the most common phrase on why the man does not use a condom is that “he wants the encounter to feel natural.”  Others have stated that using a condom is too confining or just an annoyance.

It seems that the Saudi man most likely to use a condom when having intimate relations is the man who chooses to use the services of a prostitute.  Additionally, some married Saudi couples have chosen the condom as a birth control mechanism.  However, the single Saudi male who wishes to have intimate relations is the most likely not to use a condom or seem to think about consequences by not taking appropriate protection to avoid an unwanted pregnancy or STD.

Saudi Arabia: Marriage with a Money Back Guarantee?

money-back-guarantee

oneindiashopping.com

 

A story which appeared in the PanArabia Enquirer has all the ingredients and makings of a “Tash ma Tash” episode, which is an all time favorite comedy show that airs during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia.

A 90 year old man from Jizan Province decided to divorce his 14 year old wife because they did not share similar interests.  Apparently during maher (bride money) negotiations and discussions of the arranged marriage with the bride’s parents, the man was assured that his new wife would enjoy and share the same interests as the man.  With their assurances, the man paid the family the equivalent of US$20,000 and the marriage took place.

typical teenager

community.sparknotes.com

 

Initially the marriage was great.  The groom readily admitting he enjoyed showing off his new wife.  However, the wedding bliss faded shortly thereafter.  The bride did not want to sit and listen to classic singers like Umm Kulthum or Fairuz or “potter” in the garden with her husband.  She was more interested in messaging with friends on Facebook, painting her shoes with glitter and putting up her favorite posters on their bedroom wall.  The groom had no choice but to divorce her due to irreconcilable differences.

Now he is seeking back the mehar that he had given to the bride’s family.  According to the groom, the marriage contract had an agreement that if the marriage did not last for more than six months he could receive his money back.

Since when does any marriage come with a money-back guarantee?  But more importantly, this is another case which highlights the need for regulation on the ages of couples who marry in Saudi Arabia.  The bride’s actions illustrate that she is just a young teenager and not prepared for married life, let alone a man old enough to be her grandfather or great-grandfather.  I am assessing that the bride’s parents were overcome by greed to allow their young daughter to marry a man so much her elder.

What happens now to the young woman?  Will she be warmly received back into her family’s arms after they have had to return the bridal money?  Will she be able to find future happiness?  Will she have the chance to marry a young man closer to her in age and interests or now that she is a divorcee and no longer a virgin, will she only be viewed as “second, third or fourth” wife material now?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,160 other followers

%d bloggers like this: