Saudi Arabia: The Story of a Saudi Bi-Cultural Woman

It’s a pleasure for American Bedu to have the opportunity to interview Sahar and have her perspectives as a Saudi female growing up in the Kingdom.

 

Thanks, Sahar, for allowing me to interview you and taking the time to answer these questions!

 Flag-Pins-Thailand-Saudi-Arabia

crossed-flag-pins.com

Let’s begin with a little bit about yourself.  I understand that you are a Saudi national, but what is your family’s background?  Are both your mother and father Saudi citizens?

Am a first born of Thai-Saudi couple , my father is a Saudi nation and my mother is a Thai national 

What has it been like for you growing up in Saudi Arabia but with a non-Saudi mother?  Have you ever felt at any time that you were not viewed as a Saudi?  Were you ever treated or received differently by your Saudi peers?

Yeas sometime when I was young since I used to be really weak at Arabic language and some of the life style are very different in my family than other one and (am sorry to say that) but when I was child I was trying to avoid any topic about my mom side , now as people are more open minded and more educated it became much more better   

Can you share with readers what a usual week is like for you.  Would you describe your life as a typical traditional Saudi life?  Why or why not?

It actually hard to say but I would say it not typical traditional Saudi life but it have a lot of traditional aspects since we live with my grandmother , as I said before the live style was so different from other , any one live in a multicultural family would understand that beginning from the perspective family to the food style are in way or other are different , sometime I view something as obvious and normally but others view it as strange or rather unique.

Where in the Kingdom is home for you?  Do you live with your parents or are you married?  riyadh houses

Riyadh is the home that embraced my memory , yeah I live with my mom and my grandmother ( from father side ) since my father passed away 

Speaking of marriage, if you are married, was your marriage arranged through your family?  If you are not married, do you expect or want your family to arrange your marriage?  Why or why not?

I think an arrange marriage is the obvious choice I see right now but I prefer if it was one I choose who have the same experience that I had

Do you consider yourself 100 per cent Saudi?

No

Do you travel often to Thailand to spend time with your Thai side of the family?

I was born and raised until the age of 5 after that we come to live with my father in Saudi since that we didn’t go back until recently and we are planning on doing regular visits  

People who never have the chance to hear from a Saudi woman often have many questions about them.  I’d like to ask you a few of the most common…

 

What do you like to do for fun and entertainment?

Gathering with family or friends, going out for shopping or restaurant sometime going camping in the winter

What kind of fashions do you like?  Do you listen to music?  If so, what kind?

I like more of cute or classic fashion and mostly I go with my own fashion – something that make feel comfortable- , in term of music I like soft rock or anything that have guitar in it 

traditional dress     How do you dress when you are out in public?  Ie, abaya, hijab and /or niqab?  Do you choose to dress differently if you are out of the Kingdom?  Why or why not?

abaya, hijab would be what I go with usually but when am with my father’s family they always ask me to go with niqab and I do so  , out of the kingdom I choose not to wear hijab but I dress modestly .

What are your views on Saudi women now being part of the Shura council?

It’s a good thing to make women part of that as everything need to even part to work well and I hope it lead us to better future .

What do you think are the most important issues for a Saudi woman and why?

That they are so dependent on men in most of the thing , they need to have more power in decision making .

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest priority, how important is it for women to drive in Saudi Arabia?  Please explain your answer.

7 , some women doesn’t have a male that could drive them around and other have different way to go that one male can’t drive then all in so in the end they need to use a driver with much of people can’t afford  , why it is the 7 and not higher ?! because there is other face that are part of the problem and could solve the problem which is the lack of good or at all public transportation . 

Are you in favor of the mahrem system?  Is it in the woman’s best interest that she have a male mahrem?

In some case a think it is good thing but mostly people here misuse this system to have overall control of the women

Do you think many Saudi women who are not married have contact with men to whom they are not related?  Why or why not?  If so, how?

yeah there is , as for why not really sure but most of the case I have acquaintance with are teenage and want to try love as any other teenage in the world or it is just out of curiosity toward the other sex .

What are the top five places and things to do you think an expatriate or any visitor to Saudi Arabia should do?

makkah     if they are Muslim I would say the two holy city , if not there in some historical place in different part of Saudi most of them are in north and south but we have national museum in Riyadh and Old al-drayah when you can see the traditional old house of Saudi , the following link of some good site I have passed by I hope it come to help :

http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2012/01/ten-amazing-places-to-visit-in-saudi.html

http://travelling-around-the-earth.blogspot.com/2011/01/top-tourist-attraction-places-in-saudi.html

http://www.hziegler.com/articles/historical-ancient-sites-in-ksa.html

 

In your view, do you think there is a wide gulf of understanding between East and West?  Why or why not?

Yeas the lack of information or I must say the correct information from both side and the way that the media present the other mislead a lot of people who do not try to look more and understand more about the other side

How can people of differing faiths, customs and way of life build better bridges of understanding with Saudis?

In my humble opinion if we want to understand other we should not view them in subjective way nether view them in our prospective we should view them in an abstract way  , we should ask more and try harder to go to their cultural root and understand it as culture make deep effect in people behavior and action .

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

That was really good and interesting

I hope to read more of your good article and looking forward to read something about multicultural or multinational family of Saudi  

Thank you, Sahar.  It’s been a pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to ask you these questions.

It have been honor for me too to be a part of your site and if you need any further information in the future don’t hesitate to email me 

Saudi Arabia: Update on American Bedu Documentary

Dear American Bedu Readers,

First, thanks for your continued loyal following during my period of ups and downs.  Additionally, I want to extend my deepest thanks, love and appreciation for some very special behind the scenes folks that have kept the blog up and going and made sure you were informed with ‘what was up … again … with Bedu!’

 

Thankfully, I’m a pretty tough nut and while I may get down sometime, it just makes me all the more determined to get back up and move forward.

Speaking of moving forward, work on the American Bedu Documentary is moving forward at an excellent pace.  I can not predict the exact date yet but you will soon be finding an updated and expanded trailer in place for your viewing enjoyment!  Production is exactly on track or even slightly ahead of schedule.

Creating this documentary is an important motivator for me.  I believe strongly in the need to build firm bridges among people, cultures, traditions, customs and faith in addition to the increasing importance of educational awareness and understanding for cancer patients AND their families.  I am using all that I have to combine these two key messages into the documentary including how my life and experiences as an undercover CIA officer made me into the person and fighter that I am today.

I believe this documentary will give readers drama, excitement, intrigue, challenge, love, courage and perseverance.  It may just give you a few more surprises about your resident Bedu too…. (cheeky smile)

Donations are still welcomed and accepted.  In addition to the mechanism already in place through wepay, one can also donate through paypal.

https://www.wepay.com/donations/fundraiser-for-the-americanbedu-documentary

We have an AmerBedu PayPal account. The email address is mbrstudiofilms@gmail.com, and they do serve Saudi Arabia. AmerBedu is what will appear on their credit card or bank statements.

Another area where assistance is sought is a need for hi-definition video from Saudi Arabia for use in the documentary.  If someone has this capability, please email me directly (admin@americanbedu.com) and I can provide the specifics set forth by Dr. Mary Beth Ross, producer extraordinaire.   I am not the techie she is but she has informed me that video can be taken and then uploaded through a mechanism called “Drop Box” which makes it easy to share and use video.

The footage we are seeking is about 6 – 15 minutes of Saudi footage for backdrop of the Saudi section of the film.  I am seeking shots of Riyadh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Housing compound (where I lived with Abdullah), Thamama, King Abdullah Equestrian Centre, Makkah, Jeddah and perhaps Maida’n Saleh.  I’d be thrilled with what we can receive.  Whoever could assist would be given assistant producer credit for their contribution.

I must also mention that because this documentary has segments which discuss my former employment with the CIA the completed documentary must be approved before any public showing.  However, I am very confident there will be no delays in this regard.

Once the approval has been obtained, the documentary will be entered into select international film festivals.

So in sum, stay tuned.  Soon you’ll find a new trailer in place to tickle your curiousity!  And in the meantime, please continue to enjoy the original trailer…

https://www.wepay.com/donations/fundraiser-for-the-americanbedu-documentary

Saudi Arabia: Greater Awareness of Breast Cancer Early Warning Signs

 

Arab News posted an excellent article about breast cancer.  While the primary intent of the article was to showcase a recent Saudi-Australian symposium held at King Saud University, I’m pleased that the article concludes with warning signs of breast cancer.

The article advises women to get annual mammograms at age 40 onwards.  This is an area where I disagree.  As a breast cancer patient myself and one who is very active in breast cancer advocacy and education, I can attest that I have seen hundreds of women who are in their 20’s and battling breast cancer.  Breast cancer does not discriminate by age, color or religion.

A significant mitigating factor which should prompt a young woman to get a mammogram before the age of 40 is if there is a family history of breast cancer.  For example in my own family, my maternal grandmother, several maternal aunts and several cousins had breast cancer.  They all died young and as a result of their cancer.  I began having mammograms in my early 20’s.

Self exams are also important and a pro-active measure a woman can do for herself.  It is recommended to perform the self exam monthly and at the same time each month.  I found a lump in my breast while performing a self exam which prompted me to get an early mammogram.  Ironically the lump I found was not cancerous but the mammogram revealed other areas deeper within the breast which did contain cancer cells.

One area where Saudi Arabia is still lagging behind though is the post diagnosis care.  In the United States, most hospitals now have a cancer coordinator who will be there for the patient and family members from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

Saudi Arabia is also behind with support groups and programs for breast cancer patients.  Many Saudis still view any kind of cancer diagnosis as a private and personal issue.  As a result, they are very reticent to acknowledge or talk about their cancer.  Yet support groups are known to help the mental well being of both the patient and family members.  They realize they are not alone and their feelings and roller coaster of emotions are perfectly normal.  In support groups the various types of treatments are also discussed.

Much of a cancer patient’s battle is about attitude and outlook.  A fighter perspective is going to make further gains against the disease than one with a defeatist attitude.  It’s important for a cancer patient to follow a healthy diet and to exercise!!!  In the United States cancer patients can contact the Livestrong organization for programs in which they can participate free of charge!  These programs focus on the health, mind and body of the patient.

Saudi Arabia has made positive inroads towards awareness and education of breast cancer.  It is going to depend on the team of cancer care professionals, the patients and family members to help change and broaden the minds in Saudi culture so that further inroads can be made towards additional benefits for cancer patients.

Saudi Arabia/Bangladesh: Gladiator’s Story

 

American Bedu is pleased to give readers a glimpse into the life of Gladiator.  Of course Gladiator is a pseudonym in order to protect the identity of this expatriate.  Gladiator has promised to speak very candidly with American Bedu on what it feels like to come to Saudi Arabia as a laborer and what kind of prejudice or racism he has felt.  I have chosen to leave Gladiator’s responses exactly as I have received them from him.

“Gladiator, how old were you when you first came to Saudi Arabia?  Which
city did you come to?  What was the classification on your visa and
eventually your iqama?*

I was only 17, but my country dose not allow to work abroad until its
22. I had to change some of my papers, had to do so because at that
time my family was in a severe financial crisis.
I came to Madina in 2007. I think my self blessed cause i live some
where which is  Prophet ( PBUH)’s living place. And I can pray at the
holy mousqe of Madina. Ofcourse its a blessing for me.
I actually its a Private Driver visa, same in Iqama.

Where did you come from?
What made you decide to come to Saudi Arabia at such a young age?  Did you
have any family in the Kingdom?*

I am from Bangladesh, its a south asian country. I
I actually came here for providing my family, gave up  my study so
that my younger sisters may continue their study and my mother can
manage the house hold.
No, I dont have any family here, I am not married yet.

What type of work did you start out doing in the Kingdom?  What was
included in your employment contract?  Were you given housing?  What was
your salary?*

As i told you before that in my Iqama ocupassion is house driver but i
never worked as a driver . My sponsor was willing to replace his old
shop clerk with me.
Yes, there was a contact that he will pay me 900 ryals at starting
month and will increase continuously in mutual understanding. But the
reality was something else. I worked random 9 months for only 500
ryals salary. i had to do cause i was told, work or I will send you
back to your country. I thought my self it will be a disaster for my
family if i got back. There was not any other options for me. I was
promised to my mother I wont get back until i made some financial back
up.
No, housing was not included to the contract.
Now am working in a watch shop which is owned by my sponsor. And now
we are partner I owned half share of it And our partnership is going
well. Now a days he take care of me and my side also.

How were you able to live?  What was your home like?  How many lived there? 


i was received by my auncle from whom i purchased the visa. And i
lived with him my first year of saudi arabia. It was a flat. We had
three rooms and a kitchen. We lived 8 at their. And now am living with
my country friends.

*Did you work more than one job?  If so, what kind of jobs?  Did you require
your sponsor’s approval to work another job?*

i never worked out side other than my sponsor’s job. First year  of my
abroad i worked as an assistant shop clerk, than another three months
as a tea boy at my sponsor’s office. Then next 7 months as a full time
guard in his reconditioned auto mobile shop. Then at the shop again as
a head clerk. And after a year and half he made me his partner. Though
it is illegal to have a shop owed by foreigners . You must show a
saudi name on the shop’s documents.
Yes it requires an approvment to do any other job but sometimes its
not acceptable by the authority , its not legal to work something else
which is not mentioned on Iqama.

How has your relationship with your sponsor resolved over the years?  Has
your salary been increased?  Have you been given better opportunities?*

It was not a healthy relationship at the starting. Specially it
became worst when he prevented me to work in a restuarent. I tried to
make him understand, he is paying be 500 per month when the restuarent
is offering me 1200 per month with housing and meals. Sad but true he
did not allow me to do so. He said,”you are a Bangladeshi and 500
should be enough for you. Look at the road cleaners they are being
paid only 200 ryals after work all day long!” Then I learnt from my
aunle, you have to butter up your sponsor. Smile at him always. Right
or wrong what ever he is just obey his order. Make him understand he
knows better than you and he is the superior one… And  it worked!
Now a days he is so kind and friendly to me. And also keeping his
word. And made me his business partner. This is the better opportunity
i have been given. And ofcourse  i am grateful to him for his
kindness.

*What kind of racism or prejudice have you experienced as a Bangladeshi
expatriate in the Kingdom?  Do you receive racism from other Saudis or other
expatriates too?*


let me tell you two real story of mine it will clear the  racism.
I experinced the racism for being a Bangladeshi and for being an non
arab At the very first day in kingdom.  When I arrived at Madina
airport the Saudi airport guard did not allow me to carry the curt he
just took away the curt from me to serve an egyptian visitor. An when
i was passing the exit door i  saw a saudi guard was checking passport
of egyptian visitors and when i offer him my one he just shouted at me
and said something rude!!
Once i was in a party at my sponsor’s house. When it was time to offer
pray. His younger brother who is my friend also and do respect me,
smiled at me and told me to be the Imam. But ine of his eldest brother
said,” oh! Are you crazy?? A Bangladeshi WILL be Imam and offer the
Salah when we Saudis are present at here!”

Youngs saudis love  make fun of us  they  swear at us. And it is time
to report at police they will allow the saudi to escape! We non arab
have no rights to protest against this. Because saudis Are superior
than us.
Yes it is true, You will find alot  of Bangladeshies  are committing
crime and some sexual harassment also happened by some bully
Bangladeshi but that doesn’t mean all are same . And  first has to
capture the root of that . You will pay them low and expect alot of
work. You pay them 200 ryals per month for road cleaning whom are
working more than 8 hours a day and hope them not to commit crime!
They have to learn that, TREAT A MAN WELL, HE WILL TREAT YOU WELL.
There are some saudis Whom are so kind to their labours and respect
them take them as a family member. Dont think that all saudis are
same.
Yeah, racism is present among the labours but not that much.

*What are your plans?  How long do you anticipate staying in the Kingdom?
Why?*

Am the sole provider to my family, i am carrying my sisters study cost
also . Its hard to save some money for my future so actually i dont
know when i will able to go my country and start a business their.

*What has been your best experience in Saudi Arabia?*

it is  my first Salat Al Eid al Fitar at Masjid Al Haram in Madina. It
was awesome! They were people from every part of the world. Later i
heard they are were at least 2 million people and all were offering
prayer of Eid!

*Are there any additional comments you’d like to make?*

dear readers of American Bedu, please dont get me wrong. I am not
blaming or condemning  saudi arabia or its people. Bad people will be
found around the globe not only in Saudi arabia. And dont think that
Islam is the resin behind this abusive behaviour.  Prophet ( PBUH)
said, ““He who has an atom of pride in his heart will fail to enter
paradise” and he also said, “Allah has relieved you from the burden of
ignorance with its pride in the fathers and the ancestors. You are all
from Adam, and Adam is from dust. There is no difference between an
Arab and a non-Arab, nor between a black man and a red man, except in
piety” and he told, ” Pay to labourer his wages before his sweat
become dry.”

There were some issues between employee and the labours, they still
are. And always will be. A employee will try to take out the best from
his labour by a possible salary and a labour will always try to get
better salary and contract. So there will be a collision. But please
dear readers dont be racist. A man is man no matter he is an arab or
non arab, a muslim or non muslim. Treat us well. Be a friend not a
master.”

Saudi Arabia: Popularity and Use of Viagra

 

**disclaimer – this post contains mature and sensitive content.  Read at your own discretion.**

 

I have always promised on American Bedu blog to write posts which cover a broad array of subjects and issues which shed insights and understanding of Saudi Arabia and its people, customs, culture and traditions.

 

Ever since its availability the drug Viagra has been popular and widely used among Saudi men.  I cannot speak for a Saudi man’s virility but a Saudi man likes to be known as being healthy, virile and with strong desires to not only satisfy a woman but to procreate.  For those Saudi men who do have more than one wife and wish to keep all the wives sexually satisfied it can be understood that Viagra would be an attractive option to them.

 

There are also the stories one will hear that Saudi men may be more prone to impotence.  This is based on the environment in which they have been raised prohibiting contact with women.  The premise is that Saudi males after reaching puberty and curious about sexual experimentation will have passing relationships with other men where they learn about their bodies and reactions.  However they realize their actions are wrong and against their religious teachings.  As a result there is a guilt complex and when a man marries may have struggles with impotence.  Therefore they use Viagra in order to sexually perform.

 

It is not surprising to hear that men of all ages, to include those of a senior age, will use Viagra to help them continue to have a satisfying sexual life.  An article appeared on 07 September in ynet.com news which discussed King Abdullah’s health and use of Viagra.  While the King’s age remains debatable; is he 82 or 92; I think it is great that he continues a full and balanced life.

 

Of course governments from all nations are always concerned about the leaders of other nations and how their health and state of mind can impact on bi-lateral relations between countries.  It is not a surprise to hear that the US State Department is tasked with reporting on King Abdullah’s health.  Acquiring details from King Abdullah’s medical files would be viewed as a coup, the more detailed the information the better.  As much as a public figure and leader tries to have control and privacy there will be those who are persistent to dig and acquire information.

 

Saudi Arabia: The Gentle Nature of Abdullah

 

One way I have of coping with the untimely death of my late Saudi husband is to write about him and/or experiences we had together.  The Saudi man can have many faces and Abdullah was no exception.  To the “outside world” and especially in a professional work environment, Abdullah might appear intimidating or unapproachable.  I think these are typical traits of the Saudi man raised in a conservative environment where privacy is protected.  Yet my Abdullah was a gentle soul from the time of his birth.  Not everyone who crossed his path may have had the opportunity to see this side of him but those who did never forgot.

 

This topic is on my mind as just this past week the nurse who takes care of me often when I receive my chemo treatments was recollecting about the time she got to meet Abdullah personally.  She saw him during his period of rapid decline and as an oncology nurse she recognized the signs that he did not have long in this world on Earth.  Yet in spite of his decline and pain she said his spirit and gentle nature shown through to her.  She called him the gentle soul which I think is a most apt term to describe my late husband.

 

My husband did not like conflict or discord and he would do all in his power that those around him and dear to him were happy and content.  He would perform many acts of kindness for others who may not have known him and will never know him but he helped them because he knew he could.  He was a gentle man who did not want attention drawn to him.  He was a “doer” by nature.

 

In my experience of living in Saudi Arabia and being part of an extended Saudi family, most individuals who “do” do so because they see a need they can fulfill but do not wish to be recognized for their actions.  As a result the outside world probably does not have the exposure or knowledge of how individual Saudis can be very caring and generous.

 

I wish I could share some of the acts of kindness my late husband performed but I know that in spite of his passing, my husband would prefer such actions to remain private.  I will generically state that my late husband assisted individuals to obtain necessary medical care; children to have educational resources; needy families to not go hungry and many other noble actions.

 

All men in Saudi use their positions and contacts as that is a common cultural practice in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region.  (WASTA)  Abdullah was no exception but he was discriminatory in when and how he called upon his WASTA.  He was also quite successful on making things happen through his own persistence and beliefs.

 

It still seems surreal he has been gone 1.5 years already when my memories of him remain so crystal clear.  We only had seven years together as a married couple but they were among the most precious years I’ve experienced and have left a lifetime impact and love of Saudi Arabia upon me.

Saudi Arabia: Perception of the Kingdom within the GCC

 

I received a request from a reader wanting to know from a political standpoint how Saudi Arabia is viewed by other countries in the GCC region.  I believe it is fair to say that Saudi Arabia is highly respected and looked upon as a leader within the GCC and particularly in light of the Arab Spring.  Saudi Arabia continues to have strong established ties with Lebanon and the Hariri family.  In fact, Saudi Oger, owned by the Hariri family, is among the top companies in Saudi Arabia.

 

Ties with Syria are now politically stressed to say the least with King Abdullah coming outright and condemning the actions of Syrian President Bashir Assad.  The issues between Saudi Arabia and Syria are political; on an individual basis they are cordial.

 

Relations with Egypt are entering in a new dimension.  Saudi Arabia had strong ties with the ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  In fact, the United States support of removing Mubarak from power created dissent and change between Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States.

 

Saudi Arabia keeps a watchful eye on Yemen and at its shared border.  This is a key transit point where militants attempt to leave Saudi Arabia to align themselves with Al Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula.  Additionally the same border point near Najran is where militants in turn try to enter Saudi Arabia towards wreaking havoc on oil facilities and actions against the Royal family.

 

Saudi Arabia will remain a close and staunch ally and protector of Bahrain.  Bahrain is a pivotal location where Saudi Arabia and Iran stand-off in a new era of Cold War.

 

Saudi Arabia is no longer a quiet sheep.  It is prepared to defend its boundaries and its style of government.  Externally the Kingdom is bolstering its resources with large procurements of military equipment and technology.  Internally King Abdullah is rapidly implementing initiatives to keep the Saudi citizens happy building opportunities for new jobs, increased minimum wages and affordable housing.  When or if necessary, religious leaders will convey messages to the masses aimed at maintaining stability.

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