Bicultural Relationships: An American Husband and Saudi Wife Speak Out

Bicultural Relationships: An American Husband and Saudi Wife Speak Out

First, thanks for your cooperation in responding to my questions which I’m sure in turn will also generate a lot of additional comments from readers of my blog.

To begin with, how, when and where did the two of you meet one another?

Well Carol we met through a family member, whom I had known for a few months. After asking him about Islam, he invited me to a family gathering where he introduced me to a young lady (my wife) who he said I could learn a lot about Islam from her. So we talked supervised of course, about Islam, and she told me she would arrange for me to go to the AWARE center to learn more and she would accompany me. Well this kicked off a very close friendship in a sense of religion, not going to dinner or anything.

Did you have a Saudi style courtship or a typical American courtship with dating?

I wouldn’t label our relationship as a traditional Saudi Courtship; this would forbid her from ever being able to teach me about Islam. Also it wasn’t a typical American courtship either, we never went on a “date” so to speak. Our relationship was never more than her helping me convert to Islam.

How long did you know one another before broaching the topic of marriage? Maybe 5 months

At what point in the relationship were families informed? And what was the initial reaction of the respective families? Her family was asked about the marriage after they met me. All of her close family accepted it, although her other brothers & sisters from different mothers despised the thought. Obviously we went ahead with it anyway.

What kind of a wedding did you have? Were you both Muslim prior to your marriage?

We had a traditional Gulf wedding. Of course we were both Muslims. Islamic law requires this.

How have your families accepted your marriage? Did her family ever make any efforts to match her up with a Saudi man when they learned she was interested in a Western man? My family being conservative Catholics were a little annoyed but soon came to terms with the idea. Now the relationship with my wife and my family seems to be stronger than mine hamdullah.

How long have you and your spouse been married? Almost 1 year

Did you require any special approvals for your marriage? And if so, were they easy or difficult to obtain? LOL ok we had hard times with this. I had to take part in 6 Islamic classes, be certified as a Muslim through the Ministry of Justice. That was easy! The difficult part came when we wanted to go to the courts and sign the marriage papers. My wife’s father has passed away and as you know in Islam the father or brother is required to approve the marriage with the courts. So we had a headache trying to prove the death of her father to the Ministry of Justice. This took 3 months! Then we had to have her oldest brother come and approve the marriage. (he was from a different mother than my wife) and he refused, so we were thrown another curve ball. Well after a few weeks we received the death certificate of her father, and it usually states the names of his children on the back of it, and hamdullah it didn’t. So the courts accepted the death certificate. But we still had no one to sign for my wife. By this time we were very frustrated with the whole process. My wife and I then went to the Undersecretary for the Ministry of Justice, to ask for help. He quietly talked to my wife and I individually and then together. When our meeting with him was over he wrote a formal letter to the Ministry of Justice Sunni marriage courts requesting they accept us to marry without family present. And so we went that day with an hour left before they close the marriage office and found a soldier and a police officer to be our witnesses and were finally married with the courts. The wedding took place a month later. Hamdullah

What were some of the greatest challenges you and your spouse encountered due to having a bi-cultural marriage? How did you resolve those challenges? Carol the only problem we faced was culture. As you may know most all GCC citizens have a house maid. In the United States this is unheard of. So I had to get used to the fact another human being was going to live with us. But it only took me a day to understand why they have house maids. Most people think it’s because GCC citizens are rich so they have a maid. This isn’t the case. The reasons behind this practice are to have free time to enjoy the marriage and develop a strong bond between one another. So I thought about it and it’s true. My mother was always busy cleaning or cooking or working or washing clothes and barely had free time to be with the family. Also the culture where we as men don’t bring our single friends to our home when my wife is home, this was hard to understand, but again my wife had a great explanation. This is so the single man doesn’t have thoughts or see my wife in any other way.

What advise would you give to other Western men who may be thinking of marrying a Saudi woman?

Get to know the culture in the Middle East especially KSA’s culture. i.e; Family values, dress, Islam. After you know these things you will not only marry a wonderful wife, you will have a lifelong best friend, and the only thing that can change this is Allah. I have never been happier in my life hamdullah.

And what about a Saudi woman who is involved with a Western man? What should she know? What questions should she ask of him?

Ok Carol this is a hard question to answer but I will give it a shot. She should know a little about the liberal way of life. But if a Western man wants to have a successful marriage to a Saudi woman he has to be the one that changes his way of life. I find it will be easier for him than her, and this is due to the way of life here. If anyone needs me to be clearer I will discuss on a one-on-one basis.

Again, thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you both all the very best!


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