The Relationship between Saudi Children and their Pet Camel

 

One may not necessarily think of a camel as a pet or think of a young tiny child sharing special moments with a huge camel. But I think this video which captures the essence of comfort and trust between a little Saudi girl and her camel show it all:

 

 

Why Saudis Marry Non-Saudis

Tara maintains an excellent blog with an emphasis on bicultural marriages between a Saudi and a non-Saudi.  She strives to provide up-to-date information on the approval procedure as well as changes and developments pertaining to the convoluted regulations that abound bicultural marriages to a Saudi.  Her posts are always insightful, candid and thought-provoking.  Therefore it is with pleasure that I am providing a questionaire she has devised to help her prepare an upcoming post:

 

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem
Asalamu Alaikum

Why Saudis Marry Non-Saudis
Tara Umm Omar bint Curtis Gregory
November 28, 2008
Riyadh, KSA

I have been reflecting upon the catalysts behind the Saudi government’s restrictions of Saudis marrying non-Saudis. At least three possible rationale come to mind: 1) it is a concerted effort to discourage Saudis from ever endeavoring to marry non-Saudis 2) to prevent a high incidence of spinsterhood amongst Saudi women 3) as a response to the repeated occurrence of divorce between Saudis and their foreign spouses which have subsequently lead to custody battles for children and unfortunately, kidnapping.

The entire marriage permission process is so rife with encumbrance that it can be viewed as a collective punishment. Despite the various obstacles, Saudi men and women are still choosing to marry non-Saudis. What spurs them to do so?

I developed a questionnaire to help answer the above question and it will form the basis for an upcoming article titled “Why Saudis Marry Non-Saudis”. It targets Saudi men and women already married to non-Saudis, those engaged to non-Saudis and those who are neither married nor engaged to non-Saudis but desire a non-Saudi husband or wife in the future.

Some responses will be featured on my blog, “Future Husbands And Wives Of Saudis”, so if one wants to remain anonymous please note it on the questionnaire (question number 10). You can also use a nickname or kunya to help protect your identity. I promise that emails and names will be kept confidential unless you wish to have them displayed.

There are no limits to the length of the answers for numbers 5a, 6a, 7 and 8.

1. Are you a Saudi male married to a non-Saudi? yes or no:
   a. What is the nationality of your spouse:

2. Are you a Saudi female married to a non-Saudi? yes or no:
   a. What is the nationality of your spouse:

3. Are you a Saudi male engaged to a non-Saudi? yes or no:
    a. What is the nationality of your intended:

4. Are you a Saudi female engaged to a non-Saudi? yes or no:
    a. What is the nationality of your intended:

5. Are you a Saudi male who wants to marry a non-Saudi in the future? yes or no:
    a. What nationality would you prefer your future spouse to be and why:
    b. It does not matter which nationality your spouse will be: yes or no

6. Are you a Saudi female who wants to marry a non-Saudi in the future? yes or no:
    a. What nationality would you prefer your future spouse to be and why:
    b. It does not matter which nationality your spouse will be: yes or no

7. Why did you choose to marry or why are you choosing to marry a non-Saudi?

8. Is/Are there any reasons why you chose not to or choosing not to marry a non-Saudi?

9. Nickname or kunya:

10. Do you want your nickname/kunya displayed with your response in my article? yes or no

Send completed questionnaire to [email protected].com

Please forward to Saudi husbands and Saudi wives of non-Saudis and those Saudi men and women who are interested in marrying non-Saudis in the future.

Thank you!

FiAmanAllah, Tara Umm Omar

What is the Most Difficult Aspect of Marriage to a Saudi?

 

difficult-marriageSomeone recently asked me what as a western woman married to a Saudi and living in Saudi Arabia do I find as the most difficult aspect of marriage? Was it religion, culture, family, customs or something else. I am choosing to answer this question in more broad terms in the hopes of helping other women who may find themselves in the same position as well as informing those who might not have thought about the distinctions faced when living with a Saudi husband in Saudi Arabia as compared to somewhere outside the Kingdom.

 

The majority of western women who choose to marry a Saudi and live with him in the Kingdom usually have given up to a large extent their country, their family, in some cases careers as well as losing much of the independence and freedom that goes with living in the West. The Saudi husband will likely expect his wife to conform to the customs, culture and tradition of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi husband will usually have a large extended family which plays a significant role in his life. The foreign wife may not be viewed as number one in the husband’s life. She may be lucky if she falls around eight or nine in the hierarchy of important individuals.

 

Can religion be a difficult aspect of marriage to a Saudi? Naturally that depends on the couple and how they follow and practice their religion. A foreign wife does not have to be a muslim in order to marry a Saudi and live with him in Saudi Arabia. However my advice is if she is not muslim she should certainly get herself acquainted with Islam. She should be aware and sensitive to how important Islam is to her husband and his family. She needs to know that Islam is permeated into everyday life in Saudi Arabia and her day will revolve around the prayer times. She needs to know what exactly Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha are and the role she will be expected to play within the family at these times.

 

Culture and customs can certainly be a challenging aspect of marriage to a Saudi in Saudi Arabia. The typical culture practices segregation of the sexes which means that a foreign wife may not have the same ready access and availability to her husband as when outside the Kingdom. The man is King in Saudi Arabia and it is expected that his needs will be met first and foremost above others. If a foreign wife had a Saudi husband who in the West may have assisted in domestic tasks, this may not be the case once together in Saudi Arabia. If a Saudi husband was more open in showing his love and affection for his wife that may no longer be the case in Saudi Arabia. A western wife needs to know that just as Saudi Arabia is basically a closed and conservative country, the typical lives of a husband and wife can become more closed as well. While in the West it is more common to be open and share with family or friends when needing advice to a problem, this is not the case in Saudi Arabia. Saving face is paramount and problems are kept within the family as between the husband and wife.

 

Family is paramount in a Saudi’s life. When one marries a Saudi one does indeed marry into a family. Not all families may be readily accepting and welcoming a foreign wife. If the husband is not understanding of this aspect or becomes the wife’s champion, it can be very difficult for her to adjust. The wife of a Saudi will also be expected to make many concessions for family and familial commitments.

 

The traditions of Saudi Arabia are also different from the West in regards to expectations such as how bad news is delivered; how a husband and wife are expected to speak on issues where they may have disagreements; the expectation that politeness and courtesy will always come first even if having a disagreement/

 

In closing this post, I guess for me the biggest adjustments in being a wife of a Saudi in Saudi Arabia was getting my husband to understand and recognize the sacrifices I made in the “name of love” to relocate to a new country. It was a difficult transition for him to understand that while I was a very independent woman in the West and accustomed to taking care of myself, the culture and customs of Saudi Arabia did not allow such independence here and I had to rely on him much more than previously in our marriage. Additionally there is a language barrier to overcome which makes me all the more reliant on my Saudi husband.

 

Clear communication is critical to resolving any of the challenges which can occur.

Doorbells in Saudi Arabia

Those of us from the West have come to take so many things for granted. doorbellAmong them is automatically assuming that any home in America, Canada or Europe will likely have a doorbell with a pleasing tone or chime. I remember my last home in the States was built with a doorbell system that gave me my choice of tones. However here in Saudi Arabia it seems like we are back to the basics. While I have no doubt that one could probably find doorbells with pleasing tones and chimes, in most homes the doorbell is meant to alert and alert in a manner that (a) one is sure to hear it and (b) that it has such an unpleasant or grating tone that the door is answered quickly before the sound gets repeated!

 

Most doorbells in Saudi Arabia will either emit the loud piercing BEEEEEEEP which is further compounded if a young guest chooses to keep their little finger on the buzzer until the door is opened. The other most common doorbell tone here is one which sounds like a sick bird with a wing caught in a door so that it is screeching as loud as possible. Neither are the most pleasant of sounds.

 

Ironically while many Saudi homes are built without many amenities one takes for granted in the West such as appliances, kitchen cupboards and closets, all Saudi homes seem to come equipped with a loud annoying doorbell. And in my home you ask? Presently we have the annoyingly loud BEEEEEEP!

Saudi Arabia: WASTA in Action

no-wastaAccording to Wikipedia, WASTA is defined as “‘who you know’. It refers to using one’s influence or connections to get things done, such as quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and even garnering prestigious jobs.” The use of WASTA is endemic in the Middle East region and particularly so in Saudi Arabia. I have also written previously about WASTA but given its widespread use in Saudi Arabia and also a recent experience, felt it was prudent to readdress the subject.

 

One will hear both positives and negatives about WASTA. On the positive side WASTA can cut through bureaucratic red tape, get exceptions made to rules, facilitate processing whether legal, personal or otherwise, assist with employment or educational opportunities, just to name a few. On the negative side so many people depend on the use of WASTA that rather than try to undertake an action through the standard process or that of the common person without any WASTA, they immediately divert to the use of WASTA.

 

I recently had the opportunity to see WASTA in action. An individual required some medical procedures and was trying to go routinely through the system which meant long waits in line, hurried examinations and delays in getting appointments. This individual happened to know a doctor at the medical institution and the doctor wanted to know how his case was progressing. The individual provided a status report that was basically “well, nothing will be known for a few weeks yet since that’s when some tests will be taken.” The doctor insisted that the individual come with him to his office immediately. On arrival he picked up the phone and with one simple call all the various appointments and tests were rescheduled for the following day. This process took less than 10 minutes.

 

Some readers may protest on the use of WASTA and state it should be outlawed. Others may read and say “That’s great.” I will say this, WASTA is ingrained in the culture, customs and traditions of Saudi Arabia. Whether one likes it or not, is for or against, WASTA is here to stay.

The Hidden Secrets of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

eveIf only Jeddah could talk, what deep secrets would it reveal? I for one believe there are many unique stories just waiting to be told about Jeddah if only we are fortunate enough to unearth them.

 

For example, a few months ago, a good friend of mine, Donna Abu Nasr, who is the Bureau Chief of the Associated Press in Riyadh wrote this fascinating story about Eve and her final resting place at a graveyard in Jeddah: Sadly though if you are a woman and visiting Jeddah and wish to see this resting place, you would be prohibited from entry as women are not allowed in the graveyards of Saudi Arabia. As a result, my friend Donna was only able to get a photo of the gate leading in to the cemetery and hearing through the words and visions of men who were willing to speak on what they saw once inside.

 

And then just recently I was speaking with an expat who shared another interesting story with me. He was based in Riyadh but on one weekend a Saudi friend took him to Jeddah and proceeded to give him a tour of the out-of-the-way sites. According to the expat, the Saudi took him to an area to view the ruins of an old 17th Century Dutch church. That’s right…in conservative Saudi Arabia where no other religion but Islam can be openly practiced, there seem to be signs, such as the ruins, that it was not always this way in the Kingdom.

 

Now regrettably I have been unable to verify the location of these ruins. However I do know the expat well who shared this experience and have no doubt of its validity. Perhaps some of my Jeddah readers may be able to share more information on the location and genesis of these ruins?

 

While I could find little information about the existence of church ruins in Jeddah, I did find this submission proposing that the historical area of Old Jeddah be nominated as a World Heritage Site. The justification states that the history of Jeddah goes back to beyond Islamic times leading credence towards understanding how maybe Jeddah could have been openly an interfaith city so to speak in earlier times.

Another Saudi Man Speaks Out

saudi-flag1Perspectives from a Saudi Man…

It is not easy as a woman to have an opportunity to speak candidly and openly with a Saudi man (within the Kingdom) let alone have his permission to share his views. Therefore I do wish to thank him for allowing me to interview him on a multitude of topics which I believe will be of interest to readers…

Let’s begin by telling a little bit about yourself…where were you born and what is your age? What kind of work are you doing now?

 

I was born in Tallahassee, Florida in the USA. That was when both my parents were getting their PHDs. I am currently at the end of my 24th year. I am in my 3rd month as a Testing Software Engineer.

I have also studied a lot of theory regarding New Media Communications. I am trying to use my passion of videogames (I don’t play much anymore) and my knowledge of its technologies to create an interactive New Media Studio on my free time.

 

I have a technical blog at http://www.magiccarpetproject.com

Feel free to try my mini game – frat zombies

Do you feel that the expats whom you encounter are well-versed of the Kingdom and its culture?

Some are. Some aren’t. I have seen some that shut themselves in gated communities. I have also seen some that speak fluent Arabic. Though, I have not met that many expats nor have I known too many on a personal level.

 

Do you have much interaction with expats outside of the work place? Please share some details such as what kinds of interaction or why you do not have interaction.

Not as much as I would like to. It is hard finding people in my particular age group because most expats are older professionals so it’s hard for both sides to get to understand each other at that level. There is always that age gap. Maybe it would be easier for someone else since I personally feel like I can’t be myself around someone who is that older.

As a Saudi man, how do you feel about the Saudi women in the workforce? Do you think it is better for them to pursue employment in a women-only or mixed environment and why?

I don’t think it has to do with what I think. In general, Saudi women don’t feel comfortable in the presence of men as you stated in your previous posts. It has to do with the way they (we) were raised and brought up. It also has to do with how some people interpret our Religious beliefs. To each his own I guess. But, I have also seen many women who feel fine in a mixed environment and are able to work professionally and produce. They might even start to enjoy the challenge of going head to head with a male colleague. It also has to do with the way the men themselves feel around female colleagues and how they treat them. It is the same as anywhere in the world. If the females feel they are treated with respect and professionalism at work they will eventually let their guard down and feel at home at work. It is a two way street too. It depends on the particular person’s background and upbringing.

 

In the past few years more and more females have been working in mixed environments and its getting easier for both genders to accept it as a given. “Baby steps” is the key phrase here. Work places are now forced to have strict sexual harassment laws and are also forced to take strict action against violators of both genders. Female workers are supported by the government and more female jobs are created each year with government guidance. Gone are the days where females are only accepted to work in the education or medical field. Society has struggled in that area but we are doing it! Again, baby steps!

 

Many Saudi men would disagree with what I am saying or with the direction this issue is going but I see a bright future for female workers in this country. There are many smart, professional, and enthusiastic women out there who are many times more efficient in what they do than their male colleagues. Society is just starting to give them a chance, and in time, they will shine.

 

Also, a story worth mentioning is that I had a phone call a couple of days ago. A soft female voice was on the other side, trying to sell me a credit card, I think, or maybe it was discounts at some hotels. It was really weird because it felt to me that the lady was using her sexuality to try to sell what she was selling, but it also felt like she was not comfy doing it, that made me wonder. Will the road to gaining women rights and empowerment go through a phase of female exploitation first? Should we be prepared and learn from the trials of other cultures, or is our culture different? These questions are still lingering in my head, and are yet to be answered, thought on this matter are welcomed.

 

What do you believe is the greatest misperception Westerners have of the Kingdom? And how can such misperceptions be corrected?

I think the common westerner became more aware of the Middle East especially after 9/11

 

There are 2 types of misperceptions about the kingdom. One comes from the little educated, and one comes from the naive.

 

The little educated would see people in Saudi as filthy rich, spoiled, arrogant, aggressive, disrespectful, demanding, misbehaving, and clueless people. As true as some of that may be, unfortunately, as with any culture there are the good and the bad. These same people also look at the Saudi government as propaganda spewing evil. They are surprised to know that a monarch like this still exists in this new world order. They are also oblivious to what goes on internally on the personal level; they don’t understand the tribal nature of the culture, and find it very hard to understand.

 

As for the naïve misperceptions, Saudis appear to be camel jockeys. They drink a glass of oil every day in the morning before they ride their camels to work. The women are locked inside their houses covered in “burkas”. Men all have scary beards (part of why I grew one when I was getting my Bachelor’s Degree in the USA. It had power over the ignorant). These people also think that the gap between the rich and the poor is great and that the royal family is covered with women and gold, swim in pools of wine, and have slaves as far as the eye could see. They think that the religious police lash people publically for the smallest things, and women are beaten in public for leaving the house. They believe that body parts are chopped off at any sign of illegal activity, and that public beheadings are as common as rain in Seattle.

 

The biggest misperception in my opinion is the mixing between the religion of Islam and the culture of Arabia. This mistake also happens with the uneducated Saudis as well. That is why the educated are less aggressive against us. They understand that what is happening in the name of Islam really isn’t.

 

Some of these misperceptions are results of the media business. People want to see the weird, that’s why people go to the circus. It started a long time ago, even before Lawrence of Arabia. Book writers and travelers liked to add some spice to their stores so that their books would sell. It’s just business. Add to that the propaganda and fear mongering that the neo-conservative movements in the United States started distributing to the masses. America always had an enemy. It’s the only way that America could be united is if it had a common enemy to keep people busy. The Middle East is what was next. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that China and Russia’s turn will be next again.

 

To fix this situation we should start thinking about counter cultural imperialism seriously. The Middle Eastern culture has been so interesting to the American eyes even since Lawrence. Just look at the success of Disney’s Aladdin. People are interested, and we are not delivering. We are thinking too local with our media. The world is still flat to many of us. I guess if people knew that there is money in this global media market, everyone would follow suit. Like a successful shawerma place. Once successful, 10 other shops will open right next to it. Well I guess some misperceptions did turn out to be true.

Have you had opportunities to travel outside of the Kingdom? If so, what has been your favorite place? And all factors being equal, if you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to go and why?

I did travel to Rome, Geneva, Paris, Dubai, Orlando, and Los Angeles in the mid 90s. That was when it was ok to be proud that you were Saudi. I was too young to care about these places; all I wanted was Disney land.

 

I have visited San Francisco and Seattle when I was a bit older.

 

At the age of 18, I was dropped off alone in Corvallis, Oregon in the USA, home of the Oregon State University Beavers. I was enrolled in the Saudi government’s cultural mission. At that time, I was the third Saudi I knew in a town of 50,000 people, which 30,000 of them were college students. I fell in love with that place. I fell in love even harder with the metropolis of Oregon, Portland; the greenest city in America. Even though I thought that San Francisco was an amazing city, Portland was much smaller and warmer. Art is a common thing to see, smiles are not strangers to faces. Public debates and arguments between anarchists and religious people in the town square. There were Street music and performances, local poetry and organic coffee. What I liked most was the Saturday market. Everyone would bring the crafts they had, from food to earrings. It was just fun walking around in a place so full of culture. It’s a big city with a small town mentality. It’s also probably the cleanest city I have visited.

 

If all things are equal, I would visit the Far East, specifically, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. I have friends in all of these places, and I would like to see them as well as satisfy my interest in Japanese culture and my new interest in Korean movies. I also want to see Indonesia. I would also like to do some backpacking across Europe.

But what about travel in the Kingdom…what are some of the best places to go in Riyadh? What are the must-see places within the Kingdom?

 

You are asking the wrong person here. I have only been to the East Coast (Dhahran and Khobar), my sister lives there, and I have also been to Jeddah. I loved all three cities. Of course, as a Muslim, I have also been to Makkah and Madinah as almost everyone here has.

 

Jeddah is the place where I feel has the most culture. So many mixed bloods and different people. It’s a port town so it’s filled with different unique goods. The streets are filled with smells of different foods, as well as faces filled with different colors. It has amazing diving spots which I haven’t had the chance to check out yet. Jeddah is relatively liberal compared to other Saudi cities. The reason might be that it’s an open port connecting many countries. Jeddah’s youth has been very impressive lately. Art competitions and galleries of young artists are getting popular. Movements to clean out the city and parks by volunteers are maturing. That makes me happy. The only problem I have with Jeddah is that there are too many unskilled illegal aliens who enter the country through a Religious Visa and stay there. They end up begging on the streets or do odd jobs here and there. I guess that’s the result of having a city so close to religious landmarks. One thing I dislike about Jeddah is the quality of air. I should leave it to Jeddah inhabitants to comment on it.

 

Riyadh on the other hand is the capital so the infrastructure is more impressive. The standard of living here seems a little higher than many other cities. Riyadh is also the business capital of the country. Therefore, it is the base for big fancy hotels, big hospitals, luxurious restaurants, and breathtaking malls. The people of Riyadh are a mixture of mostly tribal folk from areas surrounding Riyadh. With harsher desert backgrounds and bubbled cultures, Riyadh became a very conservative place. Malls and high rises are trade marks of this city.

 

As for Dhahran and Khobar, I would compare them to a Western suburb. These two towns were built around Aramco (The oil company of the Kingdom) and around (King Fahad University) so this makes it an industrial and academic capital. I noticed that the people there are much more educated, and mostly middle classed. That makes it a great place to start a family raise your kids. I have not noticed a big gap in social classes there. This is also a port area that is a bit more open to cultures and accepting of foreigners. There, you can cross King Fahad’s Causeway to the country of Bahrain, watch a movie, and drive back.

 

I am ashamed to say that I still have not been to other places in the Kingdom. I think I will be doing a lot of the things I didn’t do when some of my American friends come over to visit. It’s like when New Yorkers say that they never see the cool stuff in New York unless someone else visits.

 

It’s a fact that my blog has viewers from all around the world. What message do you wish to share with them about Saudi Arabia and its people?

Some people might feel Saudi Arabia is still a developing country in spite of its wealth and power over oil. Don’t forget that the country was united in the 1930s. Most of the country was populated by barbaric tribes that fought over food and water. People just followed the elder of the tribe. They depended ultimately on family and tribe for comfort and power. The leader of an area was usually a tribe that ruled over other tribes after winning battles. That could have been seen less in places near the west coast where the cities were taken care of by the Ottomans for a long time. The progress made in Saudi Arabia in a just a few years is amazing considering the history. I am proud to say that things are changing fast in these areas. Someone might even say, too fast.

 

What would you like to know from Westerners? Here is your opportunity to also ask your own questions. I’m confident you’ll receive answers within comments from readers.

Actually, my request to them would be to feel free to ask as many questions as they need about Saudi Arabia. We know a lot about the western way of life (too much in some cases). We really want them to know more about us.

 

How do you think Saudis should approach improving their political system? Demand for their civil rights with the least amount of damage? Do you think that the culture here is ready for that type of change, or should more time be given?

 

 

Naturally I have to ask, what are your views on women driving? Will they drive? Should they drive? Would you endorse your mom or sister driving

Women’s driving is inevitable. But, like with everything else in Saudi, this is being taken very slowly and with the most care possible. The Saudi government is keeping in mind the place’s history, society’s background, many people’s misinterpretations of Islamic teachings, mixed upbringing, and many other factors before considering this step.

 

I for one am all for it! I don’t like my female relatives being with a driver, a stranger with an unknown background, driving them around. I also think they are strong enough to handle themselves.

 

Female police, female driving schools are also other things that should be taken into consideration. Like you said in an earlier post, females in Saudi are more comfortable around other women. Maybe that would make this transition go smoother. Moreover, strict laws against harassing female drivers should be put into effect immediately. Again, baby steps, it is a good thing that issues like these are being put on the table as it is. Our country is turning a corner. Every nation goes through these steps and I admit we are a bit late to the party, but it’s better late than never I always say.

 

Also Prince Naïf (minister of interior) said that it’s a matter of culture and that the people of Saudi should decide for themselves when it comes to issues like these. What I am annoyed with is that he was never asked about the methodology for which the people can decide these matters.

How about covering…do you believe it is necessary for a muslim woman to cover her hair? What kind of message as a Saudi man, do you believe a woman is sending in the Kingdom when she chooses not to cover?

Covering, or “Hijab” is an act of modesty that Islam requests a woman to practice in order to protect herself from the eyes of unwanted attention and to avoid the exploitation of her sexuality and body. It also allows people to look past the outer skin and judge them according to personality and persona.

 

But, as I said before, many people (including Muslims themselves) have two problems. First, they misinterpret religious teachings. Second, they mix up culture with religion. Many Saudi women cover in Saudi because that’s the norm and that’s how they were brought up. They could care less about what religious teachings say. All they care about is what their families think and what society would say if they don’t adhere. Other women do it because they were told that is what “good girls” do and not covering makes them “bad girls” in society’s eyes. The proof is the huge amount of women who uncover as soon as they are out of the boarders. The final group of women covers because they know the true meaning behind it and they are convinced of the reason why Allah wants them to do so. These, ironically and in contraire to what westerners think, are the educated and well informed bunch.

 

For instance, my mother covers, even her face, which is a controversial subject even between religious scholars. But she chooses to do it because she feels it bring she closer to what the true meaning of Hijab is and I am proud of her for that and support her opinion and choice. She chose to do after she studied abroad and came back with a PHD in Education.

 

Many feminists that I have met in the States understand the true purpose of Hijab. I heard of feminist movements that call for a more conservative clothing to avoid exploitation of their sexuality and bodies as I mentioned before. The most empowered women I have met in the States were dressing much more modest.

 

Ultimately it’s the woman’s choice. I do like the women in my life to be modest, but I don’t think it’s my right to control their life’s trip of self discovery.

 

As a Saudi man, what are your views on the men who have chosen to have more than one wife. And, how would you explain polygamy and its practice to a non-muslim?

 

At the beginning of the Islamic state, many battles had to be fought and many men’s lives were lost leaving behind widows and orphans. Females started outnumbering males in a big way. And since Islam is more a “way of life that is fit for all times and all places” than just a religion strictly for a certain time and place, there had to be a way for Allah to make sure that these women were taken care of. For this reason, Noble Verses were introduced as a way of solving this social crisis in the most humane way possible. These women could not be left husband-less and father-less. Those were harsh times and women needed male companionship so polygamy was permitted. Also, the Prophet wanted to increase the number of Muslims in the early stages of Islam. Allah is a just and compassionate God so he set boundaries and conditions at the very beginning of verses that permit polygamy. The verses in general were introduced to protect the orphans then they were generalized. The purpose was absolutely not for man’s sexual pleasure nor privilege, nor was it to support man’s personal ego.  It was revealed to solve a major social problem to prevent major sins such as illegal sex and prostitution.

Polygamy is not encouraged in the Noble Quran, nor Allah Almighty had allowed it because He really liked it.  He was clearly careful to highly discourage polygamy to men by telling them “but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…(4:3)” which clearly orders men to either be fair or to not marry at all, despite the fact that we lost many men, Allah Almighty still didn’t want polygamy to really take place.  That’s why He later told men Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire…(4:129)” which clearly nullifies the excuse that He gave them to practice polygamy.  Is this a contradiction then?  Absolutely not! It clearly proves that when Allah Almighty allowed polygamy, He only allowed it because we (the Muslims) had an emergency; we lost almost half of our men if not even more.

I will not go into details now but one of the very first and most important rules is that the man MUST be fair with his wives. “In one of the verses it says (Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practice self-restraint, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.  (The Noble Quran, 4:129)” So this verse clearly states that no one can be absolutely fair. Why didn’t Islam directly prohibit polygamy then? Because Islam is the most straight forward religion, and because Islam is truly a religion for all times and all places that doesn’t need to be modified as some of the other religions in the world do (including Christianity).  God Almighty left the issue of polygamy open for Muslims in case Muslims face dilemmas in the future like the ones we faced during Islam’s weak times by losing too many men.  In cases like this, Muslim scholars should look into allowing polygamy.” (http://www.answering-christianity.com/polygamy.htm) This website has all kind of answers to many Islam related questions. I suggest that you check it out.

In general, women tend to naturally gravitate towards monogamy. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to cheat (just a very general note). The more we study the human genome, the more answers we will find to answer that question. This divine permit might have been granted to cover a greater bad. But, to be fair, women have the right to put down a stipulation to be the only wife when writing the marriage agreement. Moreover, they are allowed to ask for a divorce if it happens without their consent. Ideally, there are many terms and conditions that have to apply in order for a man to have more than one wife. It depends on the scholars’ interpretation of the verses in the Holy Quran that permit polygamy.

 

I would also like to add the argument of Ahmad Dedat, one of the greatest Muslim debaters of all time, on this matter. He argued that in the western world, there is no law prohibiting men and woman from cheating on their husbands or wives. So a person can have many partners even though they are married to another person. So having a law to prohibit another official marriage just seems absurd.

 

I would also like to ask people who have to same question to go ask the same of Mormons.

 

You’re not married yet. What are your hopes, dreams and goals towards the type of woman you wish to marry? What are your views on arranged marriages? Do you envision your marriage being arranged or do you think you may “find” your wife yourself?

 

I am a person who wants more from life than just settling down. I like the chaos of life. I like to travel and live a minimalist life. Although my passion for computers and gadgets conflicts with that; I am easily managing with more and more portable devices becoming available. Thinking about a traditional stable life is scary to me. I would much rather feel free and lonely than with someone and tied down. Married Social life in Saudi creates dependence which I hate.

 

As for the woman I am looking for, she is an independent woman that would be able to handle her own wherever she is. I would love a woman with a passion for non-profit art (if you could call art for profit art to begin with). I would also like a person who is down to earth, modest, and one who possesses a higher conscious about the world. I would like a person that would think for herself and not fall easily for propaganda. I want a person that is aware of her rights as a human; self motivated to learn on her own, and has a passion to pursue her dreams. I would like a person who knows that life is ultimately not about making yourself happy, but about making other people who are less fortunate happy.

 

Arranged marriages in this area are strictly a cultural thing. Many people do it and lead amazingly happy lives while others choose their partners and end in divorce. Marriage is not about who your partner is, it is about who you two are when you are together. Making a marriage works takes more than just “love before marriage”. It is hard work and requires lots of sacrifices. It is a given fact that love completes the circle though. Marriage is about sacrifice, compassion, honesty, passion, selflessness, cooperation, sharing, understanding, and many other adjectives that don’t come to mind right now. Whether your partner was chosen for you or by you doesn’t make a difference in the long run. It could make things run slower to begin with but at the end the results are one. With that being said, I don’t think an arranged marriage would work for me. It might work for many (and has worked for many), but not for me. Different strokes for different folks. I didn’t like much of the women I met, even in the states. So it scares me to be under pressure of an arranged engagement. Choosing a person to spend the rest of my life with requires me to know them for a long time too. I am not the type who gets comfortable with new friends easily. It requires a lot to get to really know someone. Most people in Saudi get married after knowing each other for a couple of months, which scares me.

 

As for finding a woman for myself, I am sad to find out that most of the women I met so far through my means are not of the type that are looking for, something semi serious that could lead to something wonderful later, with some exceptions where I faced incompatibilities. Not to say that my means are bad, but in this culture, there is a thin line between what I am looking for and just playing around. I have my hopes up, but just in case, I am prepared to live a lone life. I have no problem with that.

What are you hoping for in a marriage? What kind of relationship is the ideal to you? How much sharing or distribution of tasks do you envision in your home once you marry? And of course, how much “freedom” do you think you’d allow a wife to have?

I dislike the concept of having a maid, driver, nanny, cook, or anything to that meaning. Many people here and in the west require this kind of help around the house. I don’t need someone to do work that I could do myself. It’s degrading and offensive to me to need help handling my life in that way.

 

Marriage is a partnership. But at the same time, I really dislike society’s predefined gender based jobs. I am a software engineer and she would be something else, those are our jobs. At home, we both live in the same place so we all should share responsibilities. I love to cook, so I will probably do a lot of that. Laundry can be done by whoever is free at that time. I wouldn’t want to live in a big place where we couldn’t manage it ourselves although society almost expects that as a given fact when you have a family (big house, big yard, garage, 2 cars out front, the whole nine yards). I love fixing things so I guess that would be my chore around the house. It’s like being in an agile team. Roles change depending on the need.

 

I don’t think I have the right to allow or prohibit my wife of doing anything. She is a free soul that could do whatever she wants. I still have never been in a serious relationship, so I wouldn’t know what to expect. I can tell her what annoys me or bothers me when I find out, but it’s up to her to want to hurt me or not.

What advise would you like to give to the expats who come to the Kingdom for work? How can they make the best of their time in the Kingdom? How can they get to know and become friends with other Saudis rather than only have them as a work colleague?

Working here has its pros and cons. The pay is good and the work hours aren’t that bad. I feel that bigotry and racism are very common here and tolerated and even celebrated more than I would like. It’s not just tolerated against foreigners, but also against one another. This is one thing that bothers me a lot about my country. We are so torn internally, how would we ever want to influence externally?

 

To be close and have friends with Saudis isn’t easy. We aren’t really an outgoing nation. There are many exceptions of course. As advice, I would say that most Saudis lead a private life and they don’t usually share that even with close friends. It requires time and patience to get to know them closely but when you do, they are very nice. Take it slow. Learn how to joke like a Saudi. This can be hard to someone who is politically correct since most Saudi jokes involve very sexist and racist remarks. Watch the TV shows they watch, that’s easy especially since most Saudis are addicted to shows like Lost and Prison Break.

 

Make the initiative and invite them over something they like. Saudi males can be like kids, lure them with a big screen TV to watch the game and some rice dish that you know they like. Women might like something different, but things like that are such well kept secrets from men.

 

For men and some women, learn how to play “Balot”. It is a fact to me that most of men gatherings involve playing “Balot”, I am not sure about women’s. I was forced to learn after a long time resisting.

 

Balot is a French card game; it also goes by another name that I can’t remember. It’s the most popular pass time to men in Saudi.

 

These are the only things that I could think about right now. I think it’s pretty hard for an expat to live and work in Saudi. I would like to hear about other people’s stories regarding this matter.

 

Please don’t take an offence to Saudis who will try always to show the differences in culture. Saudis are proud of their culture and respect yours, even though they seem like they belittle yours. They appear to because of how little they think westerners know about ours, so get driven by passion to show their own, and show its benefits compared to yours. They don’t mean any disrespect.

 

 

And in closing, are there any other comments you’d like to add?

These are all my personal opinions at the age of 24. Who knows what they will be at the age of 25. These opinions are what fits me personally, and might not be ideal for anyone else but me. This is not the only way every person should think or live to lead a good life.

 

There is not a day passes without asking myself, why won’t I just leave this place behind. The only thing that keeps me here is the love I had for both of my parents. Also, the thought that if everyone who is trying to create “good” change in this world left, who will it be left for?

 

Again, thank you very much for allowing a Saudi man’s perspective to be shared!

Thank you for allowing me to share. Sorry for writing too much, I tend to rant sometimes.

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