Comedy in Saudi

For those who may not be aware of it, comedy has come to Saudi Arabia.  Yes, indeed.  If you happen to live in Jeddah, you’ll want to mark your calendar for 03 June.  And for those in Riyadh, it’s 04 and 05 June.   Thanks to Smile Productions, Ahmed Ahmed and Maz Jobrani will be performing.  For further details and acquisition of tickets, visit the Smile Productions web page.

And to whet your appetite, here are a few videos of prior comedy shows held in the Kingdom:

A Former Saudi Wife Speaks Out


Many women from around the world may find themselves involved at some point with a Saudi and believe he is the ONE!  As many also know, a relationship with a Saudi man can be fraught with challenges and difficulties starting with honesty and candor on the part of the man and his status to approval of marriage between a foreign woman and a Saudi man to getting the official approval of the marriage from the Government of Saudi Arabia so that the couple may even live in the Kingdom legally together as husband and wife.  Then of course there is always the risk and the fear that as a practicing Muslim, the Saudi husband may choose, with or without his wife’s knowledge, to take another wife (or two or three since after all he is allowed up to four).

Jamila is an American national who was married to a Saudi.  She had lived with him and their children in the Kingdom for most of her life until unforeseen circumstances caused the destruction of their marriage and Jamila chose to return to the United States.  She is a very wise woman who is responding candidly in the hopes that her experiences can also educate, sensitize and inform other women on what they need to know if involved with a Saudi man.

First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview and allowing me to pose a medley of questions to you.

How did you and your former Saudi husband initially meet?  What attracted you to him?  How long did you know one another before actually getting married?

We were neighbors in an apartment building while we were going to separate colleges.  There was definitely a physical attraction, and I thought he had good values.  I thought he would care for me financially, emotionally and otherwise and that he would make a good father.  We knew each other for about 4 years before we got married, however after the first 9 or so months together in the same city after we first met, we were mostly apart until we got married.

Did his family know of his intent to marry you prior to your marriage?  What was their reaction?  How readily did they accept you?

His family did know of me prior to marriage.  His sister corresponded with me a bit via letters (this was pre-internet, of course) and also sent me some gifts.  They seemed positive about our relationship per her letters and what my husband told me.  Honestly I don’t know if they actually did accept me.  Looking in retrospect, maybe they were just being surface-polite.  From their interaction with other non-family members over the years, including other Saudi daughters-in-law, I have found out that they are very insular and highly critical of anyone not of their immediate blood relations.

How easy (or difficult) was it for you and your former husband to acquire the requisite approvals from the Saudi government for your marriage?

I don’t really know.  He told me that an uncle was supposedly working on the permission but later found out that the uncle was really sitting on the file, perhaps hoping that my husband would change his mind and marry a Saudi.  I honestly don’t know how my husband finally got permission, but I believe it was through normal channels with him doing all the requirements himself at the government offices in Riyadh.

Where did you live in Saudi?  What was your life like?

We lived in Jeddah.  I was dismayed when my husband drove me from the airport my first time over there to a neighborhood that looked kind of slum-y…I found out later we lived in a good part of town!  We lived in a series of apartments for about 10 years until we built our own villa.

I worked at different jobs throughout our marriage.  I slowly got to know many, many women in Jeddah, however I never became friends with Saudis.  Other nationalities, yes, including Arab women from other countries.  I participated in many women’s and expat events.

At what point and after how many years of marriage did you and your husband begin to face problems in the relationship?

In retrospect, it is hard to know when the problems began.  I think one of the biggest problems from my point of view was neglect from my husband who already was away a lot for his job.  He also because increasingly and unreasonably controlling and restrictive.  His money mismanagement and miserliness towards me was also a factor.  One huge issue I had about him was his lying which came to be pathological.  To answer your question though, the real problems began about 12-13 years into our marriage.

How and when did you become aware he had taken another wife?

Oddly enough, it’s hard to exactly say because of my husband’s habitual lying.  I knew that he was involved with an airline hostess which he was very in-my-face about.  He kept on telling me that they were not married, and at one point that he was not going to marry her, then all of a sudden and behind my back, they were married.  To add insult to injury, I later found that they wedded on my daughter’s birthday.

What reasons did he give for taking another wife?

Basically he said it was as a punishment to me, for my transgressions, many that were largely imagined by an overly-suspicious husband.

What choices were available to you when you learned of the changed situation in your life?

That I could accept it or get out.  He would ‘allow’ me to live in a small apartment in Jeddah by myself, and I could visit my kids under his supervision on Fridays.

How did your children react?

He had kidnapped our children in the middle of the night and stashed them in another city.  He later brought the boys back to live with us, but left the girls where they were.  The girls’ lives were pretty well ruined and the boys had no choice but to live with the situation out of fear of their father.

Most women will not tolerate a man taking another wife.  What are warning signs and/or indicators a woman should be watchful for?

I’m not sure that I know.  Men can be infinitely sneaky!  Each woman has to know what is normal with her husband and what is unusual.  Even still, a woman can easily be blindsided that her husband has been so exceedingly deceptive when one day a new wife pops up.

What rights were available to you when you decided to remove yourself from the relationship?

In Saudi?  You must be joking!  A woman and foreigner has no rights.  A court would laugh at your protests.

I realize polygamy is a delicate and sensitive topic.  Therefore before I segue to my next line of questions, are there any additional comments or remarks you wish to provide about your experience?

Seriously, Dr. Phil was a great help to me.  Many women wait around for someone else to make decisions about their lives, or they think well I have so much (so many years) invested in this relationship, that I should stick with it and make it better. As the doctor says, “The only thing worse than being in a bad situation for X years, is being in it for X years and a day.”  You have to accept reality – that your husband has married again and that you can never go back to what you had – and make decisions proactively and not out of fear.  Honestly, everyone I know that removed themselves from such situations have been extremely happy that they did so.  Yes, it’s scary and you have to go through a bumpy start, but it does not get easier to accept a bad situation or start over as time goes on.  Make a plan and execute it today.

I understand you are the creator and owner of the Saudi Wives newsgroup through  What prompted you to create this group  and how long has the group been in existence?

One thing wrenching about deciding to leave Saudi was that I had to leave my long-time friends behind.  These are women I had friendships of many years with and who understood my situation and background.  I originally created the group to sort of re-create a Koffee Klatch atmosphere where we could all share together.  Our group was founded in June, 2005.

Who is eligible to participate in this newsgroup?

That is a bit of a sticky issue.  At first I invited the women I personally knew.  Not all of them knew each other though.  Then friends of friends joined.  As we became more talked about, other women married to Saudis and some who were married to non-Saudi Arabs but who lived in Saudi joined.  Then women who were engaged to or involved with Saudis wanted to join.  Frankly this has been a problem.  We want to help and support other women, but then we are opening up our personal lives to strangers.  I have recently taken on another woman as a group co-owner and we are having to grapple with this issue of who to admit.  Definitely those Western women who are married to Saudis and living in Saudi are welcome as are some women like myself who were formerly in that situation.  Everyone else is now scrutinized on a case-by-case basis, and frankly our decisions over who to admit might be a tad arbitrary according to our level of comfort about a potential member.

How does one sign up and join this newsgroup?

They may be invited by myself or a member or apply for membership via the group’s homepage.

How has this newsgroup changed you?

Ooo, good question.  Not sure I have a good answer though!  I have definitely met some new women, yourself included, through the group.  I have learned about websites, found out news about my friends and have kept in touch with the goings-on, both social and political, in Saudi Arabia.

Does the newsgroup have many members? Generally speaking, where are they from?  Are they all married to Saudis?

We currently have around 85 members.  Most are American, followed by British, a smattering of Canadians and a few of misc. backgrounds.  All except for a couple of members are or were married or engaged to Saudis.

And in closing, when you hear of young women who are involved with a Saudi, what advice do you give them?  What do rate as their chances for a successful relationship with a Saudi?

I think the general consensus is that a Western woman should NOT to get married to a Saudi.  There is too much that can go wrong, and badly wrong at that.  It is the woman and her kids who mostly suffer.  Others may disagree with me, but I’d say the divorce rate over time for American women married to Saudi men is over 60-70%.  Women should not take chances with those sort of odds.  Better to hurt a little in the present over a break-up than to put up with anguish 10, 20, 30 years down the line with kids in the mix.

Would you like to add any additional comments?

How long have you got?? It’s a huge subject.  I’m not sure that I have the time to expound on things right now; my life is happily full and I’ve got a group to run!  Lately, though, it’s been running me!  The amount of ideas and posts exchanged can sometimes be daunting…never a dull moment though.

American Bedu footnote:  Again, I am honored that Jamila took the time and responded to my questions.  I have been a member of the Saudi Wives newsgroup ([email protected]) for several years and have found it to be an invaluable resource for advice, information and simply getting to connect with other women who like myself, have chosen to marry a Saudi.  I commend Jamila for taking the initiative and creating such a group which evolved into its own special and close virtual community.


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