A Saudi Woman Shares Her Story of Marriage to a Westerner


I’d like to thank “M” for allowing me to ask her questions and share her responses with readers of this blog.  “M” is a Saudi woman who lives in the United States with her American husband.

To being with, what part of Saudi Arabia are you from?  And how long has it been since you last lived in Saudi Arabia?

I am from Jeddah; mainly known as the “Hijaz” area. I left Saudi at the age of 5 only to return when I was 18. I returned to the USA at 20 and ever since, I have not gone back to Saudi.

I understand that your father was a Saudi diplomat.  What was it like for you growing up as the daughter of a Saudi diplomat?  What places did you get to see and where all have you lived?

Well, first of all, we moved all over the place. We have lived in Austria and Pakistan, where I was born.  We always had tickets for travel as well as good financial benefits. We were able to make purchases tax free but honestly, we never used it to our benefit. We paid taxes for everything just like everybody else. Although, I must add that my father, bless his soul, has seen his friends purchase a cheeseburger using their tax exemption cards which made him puke!!! LOL And of course, we had diplomatic immunity. But unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to murder someone and flee even though my chances were pretty good!!! LOL

What advantages, if any, do you feel being the daughter of a diplomat gave to you?

Not much really. It didn’t give me any advantages other than dealing with the Saudi Government. Perhaps being a diplomat had its upside for those who took advantage of that. As a family, we were not the types to abuse or take advantage of the situation. Trust me, I know of many families who did and still continue to do so.

  1. Did this marriage take place in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, I was married in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Was it arranged between the families?  How much say did you have in that marriage?

It was arranged. As to having a say in the marriage, honestly, and I can now freely be able to say this. At the time there was so much pressure from family members that it was very difficult to say no. In a sense, I was stuck!

When that marriage ended in divorce, were your parents and extended family supportive?  Did anyone attempt to convince you to remain in a bad marriage just to avoid the “stigma” of divorce in Saudi?

My parents as well as SOME of my extended family members were supportive. The reason why I say some is because it was my uncle’s wife’s brother who I married in the first place. Of course when I asked for a divorce, it did not go too well with my uncle nor his wife but I did not care at that point of how they felt.

The ex-mother-in-law ALWAYS convinced me to stay and give the ex a chance. She would always tell me that as a divorcee it will be very hard for me to find someone and especially someone that would take my kids and treat them good. She would take me to several women whom I met who supposedly had issues in their marriages but despite the issues, they still stayed for the “sake” of the children.

See, you have to understand that although in Saudi, divorce is widespread, it is still considered “taboo” and not quite accepted. In fact, you will have many women that stay in bad marriages just so they can avoid the taunts and “stigma” of a divorce period. Many will use the excuse the “children” but in reality, it is more because of how society looks at a divorced woman.

My father was very supportive and even paid a $10,000 bribe that the judge demanded if he were to grant me the divorce. In Saudi, when a woman asks for a divorce it takes a very long time to get it and it is not usually in the favor of the woman anyway. For me, it took one day and I was done. But that was strictly due to the bribe really not because of anything else. Unfortunately, bribery still exists in Saudi.

Where were you at the time you met your American husband?  What was your family’s reaction when they learned you wished to marry a non-Saudi?

I met my husband here in the USA. I met him through an online Muslim Matrimonial site. My father is deceased so it was really just my mother whom I had to worry about. It was pretty interesting how she completely fell in love with my husband the moment he walked in. In fact, there were a few suitors before my husband and non of them pleased my mother and they were all Arabs.

What’s funny is that three weeks before I met my husband, I had a talk with my mother about how my bad luck was in finding a good husband, someone who will be not only good to me but my children. She was the one who implied that the best man for me is an American man because of my personality and mentality. I simply laughed it off because it was something I completely never thought about nor did it even cross my mind period. Three weeks after that conversation, I log into my email account and find a message from the man who became my husband.

What about his family?  How did they accept you?  Were they surprised to learn their son was taking a Saudi wife?

Nothing really came as a surprise to my husband’s family.  Ever since he was a child he had done his own thing without too much regard for what others thought. They accepted me just fine, although they certainly didn’t have much experience with Muslim women, let alone Saudis.  His mother and I get along rather well and we visit each other on a regular basis even though the rest of his family is in Arizona. In fact, she will be visiting us in September so we are all looking forward to it.

What was it that attracted you to not only a non-Saudi husband, but to an American?  Prior to meeting and getting to know your husband, did you ever think or dream that someday you’d marry an American?

To be honest, like I said, it never crossed my mind that I would marry an American due to religious purposes.  When I met my husband, it was very easy. There were no red flags. I never had to worry about what to say or how to say it or what he might think if I talked to him about a certain issue. Our conversations flowed and there were never any moments of silence or awkwardness. To me, I saw beyond the color and the race. He is a good Muslim gentleman and that was all that mattered to me.

I remember specifically mentioning to him that I had children. He came back with a stern “so”, which was very surprising. For many Middle Eastern men, a divorced woman is a problem. So, imagine a divorced woman with children. Definitely, baggage that is a deal breaker…..LOL

Where did your wedding take place?  Did you have a traditional Saudi style wedding?  Can you describe what your marriage ceremony was like?

We had our wedding at a  well known local hotel. It was not your traditional Saudi style wedding. It was an interesting wedding, a mix of the east and the west and the in between. It was comprised of different backgrounds from Christians, Muslims and Jews. I would call it more of an Islamic wedding vs. a cultural type wedding. For one, we did not serve alcohol nor pork. The guests knew this very well because they knew of our background.

The “sheikh” himself gave a beautiful speech that to this day people who have attended our wedding still remember and talk about it. He was incredibly eloquent in his speech and he made it very easy to understand for those who had no prior knowledge of a traditional Islamic wedding. After the “sheikh” made his presentation and left we had music playing while dinner was served. I remember lots of  people were taking pictures. Of course we cut our wedding cake and ate it too! LOL It was a fun and happy event for not only us but for everyone who attended. It lasted about 5 hours or so. The only thing I regret is that we did not take a video of our wedding and neither did anyone think about it as well. We have lots of pictures but that’s about it. Maybe we will have a ten year anniversary and get a chance to have it on video……….who knows?:)

How is your husband similar as well as different compared to a Saudi man?

As far as differences goes, there’s A LOT. When it comes to similarities, I am not sure there is any. As an American, he does not find me intimidating because I have my own opinions and speak my mind. He appreciates that I am my own person and he prefers for me to be assertive. Basically, in our relationship, we are equal partners in this marriage. It is not a one way street! We have very good communication and it was an essential part of our marriage from the beginning.

One thing I would like to make clear is that my husband is a Muslim man. Although he is American, he lives his life fulfilling his duties in a marriage as a Muslim man. He is not consumed by the cultural aspects that many Saudi men are. An example, at home he will change diapers, cook, clean, and do any house chores that a woman does. When he comes home and finds me tired and I did not cook, he will go out and get something to eat. He remembers birthdays, anniversaries and important dates. When we are out together he holds my hand and he is always telling me how much he loves me and how much he appreciates me. I think these things mean A LOT in a marriage.

Another example is in Saudi, a male owns the house and when there is divorce, the woman is kicked out of the house. Islamically speaking, the house is the woman’s and in case of divorce, the man moves out and the woman stays in the house. We plan to own a house soon, Insha’Allah and my name will be on the house as well as my husbands. In fact, his job requires a life insurance policy of which my husband wrote me as the beneficiary. (I haven’t considered killing him just yet!!! LOL) It just seems that the priority with an American husband is his wife. Where a Saudi husband it is everything else and last his wife. Of course, this is just my opinion and from what I had experienced throughout the years of my life when dealing with Saudis in general.

Another example of a difference is that when I married my husband, I, of course, had children and he knew that. But keep in mind that blended families are always tough. It is a known fact. In fact, statistics show that divorce is very high among blended families. My son was lots of trouble. He has put my husband through a lot. He pretty much gave me a hard time before I met my husband and continued to do so after we married. If I was married to a Saudi man, never mind that probably from the beginning the fact that I have children is a problem anyway, he would have left a long time ago and gave me my paper. Yet, my husband was willing to stay and work hard to try to solve the issues. We all attended counseling as a family and we still continue to grow and strive. I don’t think a Saudi male would be willing to go through a lot of hard work and marriage requires a lot of hard work to keep it going.

I guess if I were to  sum it up,  a Saudi male does take care of his family and he does a good job at it but it is no more than just a caretaker without the emotions involved. Where as an American is involved in the caretaking, he is also completely involved in the emotional life of the family.

Do you know many Saudi women who have married a Westerner?  And if so, how many of the western husband’s are or are not Muslim?

We know four Saudi women married to Western men.  In only one case is the Western husband not Muslim, he happens to be Jewish.  She was not religious before the marriage and is heavily involved in the arts scene here in the US.

Did you and your future husband attempt to obtain marriage approval from the Saudi government prior to marriage?  If not, why not?

This is a work in progress and a very sore spot for us.  Saudi is supposed to be the land of Islam, yet in this aspect they are putting their rules and regulations above God.  According to God we are married, shouldn’t that be enough for the Land of the Two Holy Mosques? Maybe one day this will change but for now, I am not sure why such a huge deal when two people are married according to Islam?

What makes this worse is that the requirement, although supposedly about protecting women, really is about protecting tribal money and tribal honor. My husband doesn’t even want to live in Saudi and neither do I. We just want our marriage recognized so that we can visit family and perform our religious duties with Hajj and Omra. That is it!!

Have you and your American husband encountered any cultural challenges?  And if so, what were they and how have you resolved them?

Between each other we really haven’t had any significant issues.  We find most of our issues from outside of the family.

Being that I was raised in the West for most of my life culture wasn’t that important to me, but Islam is.  The same goes for my husband.  He was born overseas and has traveled and lived all over the world so we both adapt and both look to Islam as a guiding light rather than any particular culture. I was never intrigued by the cultural aspects of Saudi. I find that, unfortunately, a lot of what goes on is based on  culture and not religion. What bothers me most is that when you point something out, the answer is that the religion says this and that when it has completely nothing to do with Islam.

What advice would you give to any other Saudi woman who may be considering marriage to a Westerner?  What does she need to know?

I am not sure I would advise such a marriage to a Saudi woman that has been raised and cultured completely in Saudi.  I think the only way such a match could be successful is if both parties have had a broad experience with cultures and are open to change and accommodation.

There must be some common ground between the two and nothing is better than Islam.  The religion, in my honest opinion, can be a great connecting ground between two people even if they have different cultural backgrounds. I also feel that it is very important that if she is seeking a Muslim Westerner, he would be a convert of many years. At least 2 to 3 years unless she is willing to marry someone and be his teacher.  It simply makes it easier if he is already knowledgeable about his religion. My first question to my husband was how long have you been a convert”? To this day, I tell him jokingly, if he answered me “7 months or a year”, I would have probably said “good luck with your search”!!  LOL But, it is true! Again, this is simply my opinion and really it is about what is important for the person in the situation. Everybody’s priorities are different. So even if it was my friend, I would give her the advice and she can take it or leave it.

The other thing that would be important of course is the ability to communicate. The Saudi woman who is considering marrying a Western man should very well be able to speak English. I think it would be extremely hard to be with someone and not understand their language.

Also, what about the Western man who wants to marry a Saudi woman?  What changes or compromises should he be prepared to make?  What tips can you give him towards gaining acceptance from the Saudi family?

In any inter-cultural relationship there are going to be a lot of compromises made and accommodations worked out.  Anyone getting involved in such a relationship should not be someone too wedded to everything in their culture because things can and will change.

Food will be an issue, he better be open to trying new things and even having older things adjusted “Saudi style”.  My husband still nags me about my Middle Eastern spiced spaghetti sauce.

Cleanliness is another issue. We Saudis have a level of cleanliness that is a bit more rigid than the typical Western ways.  Although my husband would point out that goes at home and for personal matters only.  He always complains about how dirty the Middle East is outside of personal residences.

As this personal cleanliness is based on Islamic precepts, if the Western man is a Muslim he will have already adopted some of these ways, or at least would be willing to make the change to further his religion.

The Saudi family can be a difficult matter in that they are so big with so many different people and personalities.  He needs to understand that it is entirely likely that some people in the family will never like or accept him.  This is more of a function of where he comes from more than a personal issue, but he must be able to deal with that.

Otherwise, treating their daughter well is a good start and a good attempt at learning Arabic will endure him to many in the family.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most favorable, what do you rate as the chance for success of a lasting marriage between a Saudi and a Westerner?  And please explain your rating.

Any answer would have to be pretty subjective.  It all depends.  If the Saudi women is cultured only in Saudi and has never lived or traveled abroad I put the chances of success rather low, maybe 2-3.  There has to be some common cultural points of reference.

If the Saudi lady has lived and traveled abroad, the odds get better, maybe 5 or 6.  If they have both lived and traveled abroad, the odds go up again, maybe 8-9.

Many Western female college students may be involved with a Saudi while he is a student in the United States.  Not many of them may be aware of the various barriers which either prohibit or make a long term relationship difficult if not impossible.  What advice would you give to these women?  Should they continue with the relationship?  Do you think it’s possible to make it work and be long-term and lasting?

The majority of these, at least from the point of view from the Saudi man, will be relationships of convenience. He is doing something in the open which is hard to do in Saudi and most certainly would have to be kept quiet.  To paraphrase a Western saying “what goes abroad stays abroad”.  Many Saudi males have lived the high life of drugs, alcohol and women when they lived and studied abroad only to go back home and sink easily back into the role of a strict conservative Muslim.

Most Saudi families would not accept such a marriage, especially since it will be clear to all and sundry that the marriage was “haram” (unlawful/prohibited in Islam) in it’s inception.

The Western lady needs to understand that the chances of such a relationship ending up in a marriage are rather slim. She also needs to realize that if he decides to move back to Saudi, which most do, the terms of the relationship are likely to change drastically.

If it was a friend of mine I was offering advise to I would suggest that the best way to protect her and the interests of any future children she should require him to stay in the US.  If he loves her he’ll do so.  It is a lot to ask a woman who has been raised free for her entire life to change into a life of controlled domestic servitude where she has little or no rights and almost no options for herself or her children should the relationship end in divorce.

And in closing, are there any issues or additional comments you’d like to make?

Well, I would like to mention that not every Saudi man is a bad guy nor is every Saudi woman a bad woman. The ones I got to deal with were unfortunately horrendous. My ex among them and the others were family members which is pretty pathetic. But, you will almost always find the good and the bad every where. It really depends on each and every individual human being. Unfortunately, some stereotypes and generalizations made are true. But still, one can not judge an entire country based on a few people. It is important to keep an open mind in life period where ever you go. Although this is very hard, especially considering how much turmoil we hear and see happening in this world today. Still, know that the good will always exist.

Thank you American Bedu for giving me the opportunity to have this interview. It’s been fun! J

Again, thank you “M” very much for taking the time to respond to these questions.  I wish you, your husband and family all the very best!

American Bedu Blog Rules of Behaviour


When you travel in different countries you may want to learn about the local customs and etiquette. Depending on the country and customs you may inadvertently insult people you wish to communicate with, or even get into serious trouble yourself.
For example, in Saudi Arabia a man should not ask a Saudi man about his wife.  Instead he may inquire about his family since in general most Saudi wives are never seen by an unrelated Saudi man let alone an expat man.

As a part of cyberspace the Blogworld is like a country of its own too, and has its own rules, politeness’s, and etiquette.
I would like to share some of the peculiar rules when engaging into the world of Blogging, both as a blogger, and as a visitor to other blogs.

I sincerely hope that all my esteemed readers and commentators will abide by these rules:

For visitors to blogs:

  • Make sure you know what the blog is all about before you start commenting.
  • If you want to ask a question, put it in the right post, if it does not pertain to the post, take it to the ”Dear Bedu” page or the Debate Page.
  • When commenting, try not to go off-topic!
  • Do not yell! (using caps contuniously is like yelling)
  • Be polite both in your comments, and in responding to the blog-owner, or other visitors.
  • Don’t be a “blog hog” and make too many comments. Leave some space for other visitors.
  • A visitor who is rude, or even abusive is called a ”troll”, the best way of dealing with a troll is to ignore them!
  • Do not repeat what other visitors have said before you: if somebody has made the remark you wanted to make, and they were there earlier, leave it.  Rather than repeat their words, acknowledge that you agree with them.
  • It is the blogowner responsibility to respond and greet visitors. Others may welcome a new visitor but choose the words very carefully, mentioning that you are a regular reader and welcoming them to the blog.  It should always be clear as to who is the owner of the blog.
  • Do not make your comments too long: try to make your point in a few sentences. Longwinded comments tend to get skimmed over by other readers.
  • If you are a blogger yourself, your own blog can be accessed by clicking on your name, there is no need advertise your own blog by adding a link to your comments, this is considered ”spamming” in the blogworld.
  • Repeating the same comment multiple times is also considered spamming.
  • Some visitors may feel they are ‘invisible’ when posting to the blogosphere.  However attacking individuals and or characters will NOT be tolerated.  It is okay to disagree with what another visitor has commented upon but do so in a respectful manner.


If you find you really enjoy blogging, and sharing your thoughts and views with many people all over the globe, you may decide to start a blog of your own! Most people enter blogging in this way. Here are some rules you will want to keep to when you are a blogowner:

For the Blogowner:

  • You really write for yourself, that is the reason most blogs are interesting
  • Don’t keep your visitors waiting, write every day or maybe only once a week, but write regularly.  If you want regulars to come to your blog they need to know you are reliable and dependable.
  • If your blog has a theme, stick to the theme.  Remind your readers in a diplomatic way if they tend to go off theme or off post.
  • Welcome each new visitor.
  • Respond to your visitors when they comment on your blog; they put in effort by writing, give them the respect they deserve.
  • Always be polite to your visitors. Remember; if you really don’t like a visitor, you can always block them from your site!
  • Be alert to spam, mark those comments as spam, by doing this you are helping other bloggers as well!
  • Research your posts, and make it easier for your readers to look up the information for themselves by adding hyperlinks, and/or list your sources,
  • Don’t quote other peoples blogposts, or writings, or link to their sites without their permission
  • Send trackbacks when you link to a post
  • Don’t be longwinded; try to keep your posts short. the Blogworld is like a newspaper; few people read really long posts.

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