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!

80 Responses

  1. A very interesting interview with a very interseting person! I really liked reading this post. Although her 1st marriage didn’t work out, her 2nd marriage sounds like a fairytale ma sha’a Allah. I think her story gives people strength to do what they think is right for them without feeling ashamed, something a little hard to do for many Saudis.

  2. Very inspirational story…but she sounds like someone somewhat familiar to the blogs…anyone we know Carol? Are we allowed to know…lol?

  3. I don’t think we are allowed to tell red.. I wouldn’t risk it. Hope the best for you M and to your family!

  4. I think I know, but I won’t tell. Great interview. This couple has a wonderful attitude and commitment. Inspiring.

  5. Yes, this is an excellent interview, and yes much of it is familiar. Kudos and all the best to the whole family.

  6. @Daifuku – glad you liked her story. She is indeed a very strong woman and not afraid to stand up against culture and tradition when necessary.

  7. @Coolred – I have to defer to her if she wishes to reveal herself!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this interview.She should have married a westerner from the begining,since she’s very westernised.She expirienced freedom and there was no way she would have lived without it.Good thing that she is happy now.

  9. @gugu – maybe she should have married a westerner first but when you are in Saudi, the society and traditions may make that difficult if not impossible!

  10. I totally agree with her when she emphasized on distingushing bewteen culture and religion. Sadly, a lot of people in Saudi mix between the two.

    “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..”
    Is she saying that this is what life in Saudi is like for women?!

  11. Thank you for the insight- I really think you’re guest is generalizing a tad! can we really say that most relationships with Saudi’s will have a sad ending? I have lived abroad all my life- I know many saudi men who have been married to non-arabs for decades! I dont know, I do understand what is being said, I just feel its a little exaggeration!

  12. @Rafimous – I don’t think it is an exaggeration at all. The odds are in the favor that a marriage between a non-Arab woman (read Westerner) and a Saudi man will likely end in divorce…..or unhappiness without divorce because there are children involved. This subject is written about extensively in Arab News as well as Saudi Gazette and of course within my own blog too. Of course it is not what one wants to hear. Some do beat the odds and I’m so happy for them!

  13. @Houstonian,

    That is exactly what she is saying. Growing up in the West is COMPLETLEY different than growing up and living in Saudi as a female.

    The majority of Western women most certainly WOULD think the life of a Saudi woman is not much more than domestic servitude.

    I am sure some women raised in Saudi might not agree, but most women I know who have been raised in between the cultures would agree.

    Not many Saudi women have the benefit of being raised in the West, but also have lived in Saudi. I have known more than a few and the vast majority share these types of sentiments.

    Here in the West a Saudi woman is completely any man’s equal, both in the work place, legally and at home. In Saudi no one in their right mind would try to put forth the idea that men and women are equal on any level.

    That is the point I think she made rather well.

    As to the marriage issue, I think she is right. American Bedu made the point well. Of course there are no statistics to draw upon, only anecdote and personal experience.

    My wife and I have known many Western women married to Saudi men. The majority have ended in divorce, or with a failed marriage were divorce isnt an option for many reason, leaving misery and dysfunctional children in it’s wake.

  14. The thing is,Saudi and Western culture is totally different.I realized that you can give a western /Western raised woman all the money in the world,but it is all nothing without her freedom.

  15. The best, though insufficient, divorce rate statistic I have seen for Western-Saudi marriages is 50%.
    This is roughly equivalent to divorce rates in the US, Puerto Rico, Russia, and ?; and is roughly double that of Saudi-Saudi marriages (approximately 22%).

    Since divorce rates vary in great part according to the availability of divorce, cross-cultural rates are hard to compare. Where divorce is not available, or highly undesirable, people are sometimes technically married though living highly separate lives, including in different countries, this is another confound.

    Western-Saudi divorce rates may be higher in part because divorce is less stigmatized in the West, and Western women are acculturated to work, and to leave an unhappy marriage. They also have another country to run to, including with the children who may hold dual citizenship (tough I know, and yes subject to international child abduction laws, and culturally approved snatch backs). Their families may well be more than happy to support their initial transition period, and their societies usually provide a high level of social services compared to some others.

  16. assalamu alaikum everyone! School is finished and i’m back in the USA after a long overdue visit to home – KSA.
    I loved this post. As a saudi female (or saudette, as I like to say), I have been convinced for some time that marrying a saudi (male) would be difficult for me.

  17. @Mariam,

    When I got married to my wonderful Saudi bride I had more than a few of the Saudi females there tell us that they wanted to know if they knew of other Western converts that were single.

    I used to get the same thing when I did my blog regularly. A lot of Saudi women would marry Westerners, the biggest impediment are their families and the unIslamic restrictions Saudi government places on such weddings.


    Reminds me William Wallce in “Braveheart”. I guess we could redo it for Saudi women “You can take away my Mercedes, you can take away my $1,000 custom Abayas and keep my Coach bags, but you can never take my FREEDOM! Banat Saudia Lil-abad”! lol

  18. My husband has changed diapers, given the kids baths, and could take care of them – and the same for the husbands of my friends (men from various Arab countries) who don’t have maids. I’m not going to exaggerate and say that they do it all the time, but they can do it when necessary. One of the factors is whether or not they have a maid, though; If there is, then the woman doesn’t usually change the diapers either. I’m curious… Abu SInan and/or M., when Saudi couples come to the U.S. to study, and they don’t have maids, does the husband help with the dhildren or does he refuse?

  19. Not dhildren… children.:)

  20. @Munaqabah,

    “M”can speak for herself, but my wife and I have known Saudis who have come here on the scholarship, often with VERY mixed results.

    Many of them who come have money and they get maids here just like they do back home. We have known other Saudis who didnt spend the money on the maid, although they should have.

    Dirty clothes all over the place, inability to cook for themselves or clean on any level. Why? Because from the craddle in Saudi many children are raised with multiple maids so they never learn to cook, clean up after themselves or do anything more self sufficient people would learn to do.

    We have also known other Saudi couples here, on the scholarship and not. Helping with the household chores and anything indepth with the children was not done by the males. Basically they continued their “back home” culture over here. Why wouldnt they?

    It’s not like moving to the USA/West suddenly makes a Middle Eastern man into a Western man. Besides, I dont think anyone said they wouldnt help in a pinch, it is the every day routine that is being talked about.

    Personally, I think they miss out. The day to day things, spending lots of time with the kids is a wonderful way to get to know them. My boys actually like me to do certain things more than their mother or sister. My youngest one will actually ask for me to change his diaper, brush his teeth or give them a bath. I enjoy it 100%.

  21. In my experience, all the Arab Muslim men living abroad that I have known have risen to the occasion of household chores, as well as any other man living away from home for the first time. This does however include relying on takeout if they really hate to cook, or preferring a university residence to an apartment, buying only non-iron clothes, doing laundry only when absolutely necessary, etc.

    Many of the Western men I did medical and specialty training with had a weekly maid/laundry service, seeing that as a better investment of their time and money than not. I didn’t, but their actions helped me reconfigure my notion of time/money well spent.

    Hands on Dads get different, and in some ways fuller bonding experiences with their children. I recently met a man whose wife died when his sons were 6 and 8. He raised them solo, with no domestic help, while building his law practice. They both have gone on to lead successful career and family lives.

  22. One thing that this post brings up is how different perceptions are in the West compared to KSA. For example most Saudis regard themselves as having a high standard of cleanliness (and evidence shows that they do on a personal level), but most Westerners are appalled at the how dirty public spaces can be.

    Cleanliness isn’t the only issue.

  23. @Jerry,

    I have often wondered if the personal cleanliness of Arabs isnt a response to the nastiness of their outside environment?

    I wonder if the thought crossed anyone’s mind that it would be MUCH easier to keep personally clean if the outside was kept clean as well?

  24. @Abu Sinan, Jerry,

    I understand your comments but then why are the washrooms in private homes sometimes flooded and in a disgraceful condition? A good clue that a washroom will not be pristine and dry is whether bath slippers are on the floor outside the door. In fact one thing my Saudi brother-in-law picked up on right away when visiting us in the States was how all the public washrooms (at least in his experience) were clean and DRY!

    You would think that most would realize that wet, damp and dirty bathrooms allow lots of nasty things to simmer and grow!

  25. @American Bedu,

    I think the cleanliness of someone’s bathrooms speaks to their over all cleanliness. If someone is really clean they will keep their restrooms clean. If they struggle with cleanliness their bathrooms will reflect that.

    The whole wet floor, nasty thing is exactly why I completely avoid bathrooms in mosques. Some of the stuff I have seen in them would make good fodder for horror movies.

  26. *sneaks away to check how clean are her bathrooms*…

  27. Coolred, you are HILARIOUS!!!LOL:)

  28. @Chiara:

    I think your Saudi divorce rate statistic is a bit low. Depends on who the source of the statistics is, I suppose.

  29. ”I think the cleanliness of someone’s bathrooms speaks to their over all cleanliness”
    Yeah that’s how one decides if they’re going to eat from a certain place, 1st check the bathroom. If I have a feeling the bathroom isn’t going to be clean and I am desperate for food, I just don’t check. If I’m invited somewhere I actually avoid taking a look, cuz I know I’ll have to swallow something to not offend. In Ksa though if something looks uh, just a lil bit disgusting in the place itself I back off immediately without even checking the bathroom. Double standards.?

  30. Abu Dhabi-the statistics for Saudi-Saudi divorces are from international studies by reputable researchers (eg Saudi physicians based in Saudi; internation groups) which I have referenced on another thread. The 22% is an average of course, and rates may well be higher among the better educated, higher income, more influential who would have the attitudes and means to divorce and the wasta to effect it; and lower among the more traditional sectors of society. There is likely underreporting both of legal divorce, and the “I send a cheque and visit my children for two weeks each year but we are not legally divorced kind of ‘marriage’ ” (a true example). If you are interested I will re-reference the sources.

    The Saudi-nonSaudi divorce rates were from a study reported on Tara Umm Omar’s blog which has a low “n” (few subjects-specifically 35) but was in other ways well conducted. Again there may well be underreporting, divorces legal elsewhere but not recognized nor recorded by Saudi, or marriages in name only that are not being reported.

    Thanks for the comment and the opportunity to elaborate. If you want the references let me know.

  31. Coolred-so is it a good bathroom day (recently cleaned) or a bad one (not yet tidied)?

    Is it just me or has this thread started to be conflated with the “Saudi Public Washrooms” post comments?

  32. @Chiara,

    ” Is it just me or has this thread started to be conflated with the “Saudi Public Washrooms” post comments?”

    I guess I was the one who dragged this marriage thread in the washroom direction.

  33. @daifuku:

    OMG!!! Finally, I find someone who thinks the same way as I do! I totally AGREE with you 1000000%%%%

    But for me, it doesn’t stop there, just at the bathroom! It is the way the individual carries themselves, how they handle nasty situations, how is their home kept, and the list goes on!!! But overall, I think, the number one, is the BATHROOM!!

    That;s why when I go into a restaurant, if the bathroom is nasty and smelly, I am outta there!!LOL Funny, I was at our local mall here (Fairoaks mall) and I commented to my daughter, one of the biggest reasons I LOVE this mall, is their bathrooms! AWESOME!:) Can you say Mr.Clean!!!?

  34. Jerry-it seems you did, and that others ignored the “cleanliness isn’t the only issue theme”.:)

    To perhaps refocus on some of the issues raised by others (out of the bathrooms, and the OCD? , and back into the marriage):

    As Munaqabah asked about shared parenting responsibilities within a marriage:
    this seems to be a challenge for traditional couples arriving in North America, especially since extended family are most often not available, nor is inexpensive domestic help. Some adopt a more shared parenting role, some struggle with a more traditional division of parental labour, and others find members of their community to help out, eg. honorary aunties, uncles, grandparents, and less fortunate willing to clean.

    As Mariam suggested:
    a Saudiette might have decided that marriage to a non-Saudi or a Westerner best suits her. Given the closure of Abu Sinan’s other blog, what options remain for such a Saudiette? How realistic a choice is this? Do marriages with American born and raised men of Saudi origin fare better than those with Saudi born and raised Saudis? Do the same warnings against returning to live in Saudi apply.

    As Rafimous speculated:
    Is there overgeneralization or exaggeration in this account?

    As Abu Dhabi raised:
    Anyone have better statistical evidence of divorce rates?

    Just some suggested paths out of the bathroom and back into the main focus of the post! LOL?

    For all those who prefer the bathroom:
    Do Saudi men recap the toothpaste tube more often than Westerners?
    Are Saudis better at leaving the seat down or re-placing it?
    What are the implications, if any, on the Saudi Man/Western Woman marriage of either or both of the above?
    His and Her towels-a way to harmony and sparing the cost of therapy/divorce????

  35. “In fact one thing my Saudi brother-in-law picked up on right away when visiting us in the States was how all the public washrooms (at least in his experience) were clean and DRY!”

    But American Bedu, there is a difference… Saudis use a lot more water – inside the stall to wash themselves, and then they might use water to make wudhu, etc. Americans usually only use water to wash their hands, and according to the studies that are reported every once in a while, often they don’t even do that.

    (I guess this should be in the public toilets thread, shouldn’t it?)

  36. Chiara, I’ll try not to be too graphic, but one thing going for the men is that they don’t stand to use the toilet, so you don’t get that splatter… (Sorry!)

  37. Munaqabah-agreed. Although it has been used to ridicule Muslim men this practice is definitely preferable for cleanup. Also, no wasted Cheerios trying to teach the little ones how to aim! :mrgreen:
    Both statements reflect on the immense improvement to marital and parenting relationships (still trying to get out of the bathrooms? )!

  38. “But for me, it doesn’t stop there, just at the bathroom!”
    Manal- I get you! Especially since most restaurants caught on to this, it doesn’t always mean they are hygeinic.? We should go bathroom hunting together hehehhe. Maybe put up a yelp like site to rate public bathrooms around the globe! Ok, I think i took that a tad too far.ehehe

  39. @Munaqabah,

    Of course Islamic teaching is for men to sit when they use the toilet, however, when outside of the home most of the Muslim men I know stand because they refuse to sit because of the unclean nature of public toilets, hence constributing to the problem.

    In the Middle East where sometimes the toilet is simply a hole in the floor, this isnt an issue, but if you think most Muslim men sit in public bathrooms you’d be very surprised.

    It isnt just in the Middle East, I remember attending a Saudi institute where there was actually a sign in Arabic telling men not to stand to urinate, someone as an afterthought penciled in a translation later in Arabic. Anyway, it is clear that men had to be reminded not to stand.

    As to the copious amounts of water used in the Middle East, it is no excuse. We do the same thing at home, wedu and proper bathroom cleaning and we dont have those messes.

    It is entirely possible to use the toilet, do wudu and not leave a flood of water. The fact that some people do speaks more of carelessness and not thinking about others.

    It is no excuse and it is rude. Mafee adib.

  40. Opps, meant to say that the sign was in Arabic with a penciled in English translation later as an afterthought.

  41. Heck, that is when I have ALWAYS wished I was a man, when I am in a public bathroom ONLY!! LOL

    {I gotta emphasize the “ONLY” cause I am very happy being a woman, thank you! ;)}


    U are too funny! But, I actually do like your idea!!lol

  42. Jerry-alas, it seems that having been led into the bathrooms, people refuse to get out. Could you perhaps lead us/them out of the sanitation wilderness? LOL?

  43. No, a lot of them won’t sit on a public toilet. In places like those hole-in-the-wall gas stations in Saudi, you sometimes see Western (i.s., not Arabic-tyle) toilets with no seats. If they have to use them, they squat on the rim – which I found amazing…

  44. One can only assume that a Saudi woman who is interested in a Western man is already a bit independent. Given the failure rate of US/US marriages, there doesn’t seem to a big difference when you compare them to US/Saudi marriages. For a Saudi woman it is probably worth the gamble as long as she gets legal US residency in the bargain and if the woman has a university education.

    (I don’t know any Saudi women but I have know a few foreign women who have married for US residency.)

  45. @Abu Sinan, Munaqabah, et al – I have noticed when at say an Islamic center in the US that the washrooms are never as doused with water as the ones in KSA.

  46. @munaqabah – I’m surprised by how many western toilets I’ve seen in various Saudi residences with no seats! Wonder why that is?

  47. Why can’t Muslim men pee standing up?

    I remember the bathroom at Krac des Chevaliers was sooooooo wet. I wondered why. I had to roll up my pants so the bottoms wouldn’t be soaked. After reading this it makes more sense still I don’t care for really wet bathroom floors!

  48. Susanne-he can. It is permissible, especially if sitting would result in contact with unsanitary surfaces. It is preferable to urinate sitting as Aisha said that was the way of the Prophet.

    Jerry-thanks for trying. It seems we are destined to remain in the toilettes! LOL?

  49. Generally when they make wudu here…they just spray their feet with the water hose provided near the toilet etc…in the states we generally lift out feet into either the sink or maybe hang them over the bath rim to wash them. Makes all the difference…especially when we like bath mats etc on the floors of our bathrooms…which means you avoid trying to soak them. Over here…Ive never seen bathmats in an Arab residents house.

    btw…no bathmats equals very VERY slippery floors…sigh.

  50. I really liked the interview with M, and I sincerely hope she and her husband, (whom I also like very much) will get the permission which should be theirs, and be able to go on Hajj and Umrah soon!

  51. Chiara, thanks for the explanation! I did not realize Mohammad’s bathroom habits were something that needed to be discussed by his followers. I guess nothing is too private for Islam to regulate. Incredible.

  52. Everyone I know lifts their feet into the sink and washes them. The floors can get slippery; that’s why there are always bathroom shoes.

    Susanne, Islam is a complete way of life, and we believe that our Creator, who knows us better than we do, gave us guidelines for every aspect of life. If you compare the hygiene situation in Europe in the “Dark Ages”, it’s quite amazing to see that Muslims at that time were making ablutions (washing hands, nose, mouth, ears, face, arms, feet…) every time they used the bathroom and before each prayer. And we are instructed to wash the whole body, including the hair, at least every Friday, after sexual relations, and after the completion of menstrual or postpartum bleeding.

    Among other things, we need to have purity before prayer; if one urinates when standing up, it’s very possible that he will get some on his clothes, so it’s usually better to sit. (Many Muslims are astounded to see – in movies, for example – men who use a urinal, button up their clothes, and walk out of the bathroom. There has to be urine on their clothes, and their hands aren’t washed… and surveys show that this is quite common in real life. )

  53. I wonder what he was sitting on to urinate as Aisha says he was. Seems very odd considering that the traditional Arab toilet is just a hole in the floor. And if they are to sit, then why would they take the seat off of a normal toilet?

    There is no excuse for a slippery wet bathroom. I am able to get out of a full shower and even before toweling off I don’t leave as much water on the floor as one Muslim performing wudu in it and that isn’t even an Arab muslim so it isn’t just Arabs. Do they think that toweling off their feet is going to undo the wudu or something?

  54. Susanne-you are welcome. Yes, Islam is a complete way of life. Also most little boys are taught by their mothers explicitly and by their fathers, brothers and schoolmates through imitation what constitutes “normal”. So Muslim little boys are taught what is normal for their culture and religion. My non-Muslim little nephew was taught, and imitated grampa so I was very pleased to observe he washed his hands immediately after in the same sink with the same gestures as the “man of the house”.

    Munaqabah-thanks for the fuller explanation. I left that part out because where there is great debate within Islam, each side quoting hadith, it seems the deciding factor is Aisha’s statement (a further tribute to the “Queens of Islam” as Fatima Mernissi calls them!).

  55. Lynn-most likely squatting, not sitting. Think camping in the wilderness, “Turkish toilets”, etc. LOL?

  56. I find that very yukkie; lifting you feet into the washbasin for washing them! There’s where the other people want to wash their hands and hope to have some hygiene.
    And I don’t understand the water-wasting either. It can’t be that islamic, because water isn’t abundant in the desert and you see real desert people do not douse themselves with water, but use sand instead. What is described here is excessive and exesses should be shunned per teachings of the prophet.

    And talking about ”astounding”, a Arab man-friend told me some muslim men actually urinate in the washbasin!!!!!!
    We were shopping and he pointed out a guy in a thobe entering the men’s room and told me he was probably going to do something yukkie in there, and when my friend came out he told me he had seen him peeing in the washbasin! And he said that was quite a normal thing to do for some muslims!
    At least I can’t imagine women doing that….

    Oh, and the hygiene-problem in the middle ages was caused by the church who forbade people to bathe, basically becasue people who bathe have to take their clothes off, and that might lead to sex, and as we know the abrahamic religions are phobic about sex.
    Before that people in Europe were very clean and did a lot of bathing…

  57. “a Arab man-friend told me some muslim men actually urinate in the washbasin!!!!!!”

    Speaking of urinating where you aren’t supposed to. I’ve been to a number of train stations in which the elevator smelt like pee-I used the stairs instead-I asked my friend *insert physical & other descriptions here* why that is. She replied that some people do indeed pee in there-she didn’t give a full description of what sort of people might do that. I am thinking they must be Arab & Muslim. It’s just a story, no one take it seriously…everyone is free to tell a story. =)

  58. On international experiences (in various parts of North America, Europe, Asia, MENA) of public urination in inappropriate places (as personally witnessed, no third party hearsay evidence):
    -the homeless of any size, shape, colour, ethnicity, religion, or gender
    -drunk students: ditto
    -desperate backpackers: ditto
    -totally respectable, sober people in extremis: ditto
    -adorable four year old boys having too much fun playing outside to go inside to the bathroom: well not exactly ditto, but I’m not telling ?

    To the extent that all of them try to do so in as private a place possible, and none blasphemed, they are to be commended.

  59. The Medieval (broadly defined ie early to late) Church injunction was against PUBLIC bathing (as the Romans before them practiced) out of concern for sexual improprieties (with some justification given the different Roman mores), while advocating and themselves practicing private bathing (including in the monasteries), and dental hygiene, with what plumbing was available: Roman baths/plumbing that still functioned, piped (cold) water for the wealthier, half-barrel “bath tubs”. natural water sources, etc.

    All this is evidenced in Medieval art, and literary, historical, medical, and religious texts.

  60. daifuku, alas, no, all men do that, all over the world I guess: pee in elevators, staircases, corners and against trees…
    What is it with men and urinary hygiene????

    Is it something from our pre-historic ancestors? They need to pee against trees to mark their territory????
    Why did we evolve and they didn’t???

    I just had a nasty tree experience; I was in a park in Brussels, I wanted some quiet, some green, and I wanted to lean against a romantic tree and look over the lake…
    And you guess… it smelled of urine!!!!!
    Brrrrr, and pooof! went my romantic mood.

  61. @coolred – so very true! I had bath mats and floor rugs in ALL my washrooms in my home in Riyadh. But when we have extended family visiting, the family themselves remove them….which I appreciate since the washrooms quickly become flooded and slippery as you stated. I make sure that NOONE gets into my room so at least I have a clean and dry place for myself (with a nice rug remaining on the floor).

  62. Aafke: “And I don’t understand the water-wasting either. It can’t be that islamic… What is described here is excessive and exesses should be shunned per teachings of the prophet.”

    You’re right. We are told not to waste in general, and when the Prophet (pbuh) saw someone using too much water in wudhu, he specifically told him not to be extravagant in using water for ablutions.

  63. Aafke-I think if a woman were to do the same thing, she’d be caught during the act not to mention the mess she’ll eb making if she were to hasten up. The risk of getting caught for a a man is probably way less due to their physical nature.? maybe we should have a survey put up, so we could figure out the reasons for this LOL.

  64. I’ve put the question out in the open on my own blog; I will be very interested to find out if we get any answers to men, and what their ”aim” is when going to the bathroom.

  65. “…he had seen him peeing in the washbasin! And he said that was quite a normal thing to do for some muslims!”

    I don’t want to leave this with no response, so that anyone reading this will think this is normal. I’ve never herad of anyone doing this, and I don’t believe that it is normal.

  66. Munaqabah-agreed. No Muslim I have ever known, no matter how impaired (new to a country, drunk student, or sleep walking BIL) has ever done this, nor does anything in Islamic codes of hygiene make it “normal”. That one person did so, should not be generalized.

  67. Munaqabah, Perhaps he was taking me for a ride, I’m still wondering, if so he was successfull: I was absolutely flabbergastedly shocked!

  68. women are treated like sex object in saudi. they dont have the freedom to truly express their feelings. i sympathize wid their feelings. i understand women. WOMEN from saudi. just fly to other sountries if you cant take anymore what they are doing to you.
    Bec in saudi. you have to respect their rules. look at the women in other counries. theyr happy bec, we are free,, just pray always pray to God what you wanna say. God will bless you.

  69. The Chicago Sun Times chose to pick up this post:


  70. The world has turned around 180 degrees in a year’s time!

    People have changed colours and taken off their masks, some are no longer around and Carol has gone through a sea of turpitude.

    How much water has flown under the bridge! 8)

  71. isn’t that the truth, Daisy.

    I started this blog with our journey to Saudi Arabia and now never imagined I’d be continuing with the blog back in the States or that I’d even be in the States.

  72. Yes Carol, life can be stranger than fiction!

  73. Well done sister and good luck and happiness.


  74. Well done sister and happy life.

  75. Inspiring story. @Natalia Women are not treated as sex object in Saudi, i lived there and please do not generalize.Do you think women are no treated as sex object in the west ? if you say ‘YES’ you are mistaken, just look at the ads around you where women are exposed half naked.


  76. As a Saudi woman, I think about following her in seeking to marry a western muslim. I wish her the best of luck.

  77. I would love to marry non Saudi but our Saudi rules are complicated, damn, it shouldn’t be this way, this is not Islam, may Allah help me to find my half.

  78. I would have to disagree with many points about the U.S. men according to this lady.

    Though I am happy for her marriage, I do not think highly of neither U.S. men or women but in this one I will focus on the guys. I can say an honest view considering that I have lived for 13 years in the US.

    First of all, I am a Mexican guy that comes from a middle class background in Mexico City, and my mum married a gringo man when I was 12 years old that he worked in the same company that my mum worked. We left our country (though I disagreed with it) and lived into this man’s country. It was Hell on Earth for my mum and for me as he was the most abusive, misogynistic bastard I have ever met and I defended my mum all the time against this scum of man. He also thought stereotypically about Latin American women which I found it insulting and ignorant.

    Contrary to what US people often portray Mexican men as macho and sexist, in reality, that image is of 50 years ago though it still exist in certain regions of my country or in rural areas and it has changed a lot in big urban areas like Mexico City, Guadalajara or Monterrey for example.

    I think US men are much worse than Mexican men from Mexico City if both are from middle class backgrounds as in Latin America, the majority of the stereotypical Mexican/Latin American men are from the lower classes or the rural areas. We middle class and upper class Mexican men for the most part help our wives with home duties or hire a maid to to the work in order our wives have times with their careers.

    About U.S. men being more physically affectionate, I am skeptic about this considering that in Mexico and other Latin American countries, gringos are often portrayed as cold and gringo couples not showing public display of affection compared to us Latin Americans which we are known as being physically and emotionally affectionate and supportive in a relationship.

    My girlfriend is Arabic, and like this Saudi lady, she does not prefer Arab men for the same reasons, however, she does not like US men for her own reasons, but loves Latin American men because though we are Westerners like US people, we are different from the Americans and there are some similarities between Latin American and Arabic culture, and in Mexico we had a significant Arab immigration in the early 20th century and I myself have some Arab blood since my great-grandparents were Lebanese immigrants, and in Mexico, we think positive of Arab people and it is common marriages in my country between Arabs and Mexicans, and often they work well. And my girlfriend likes how I am supportive and loving in all manners and showing her public affection without fear and the Latin-way of course, lol.

    I never denied my origins and retained my lifestyle, mannerisms, dress style, and mentality of a middle class Mexican from Mexico City despite living in the US for 13 years. I never wanted to be like the Americans because I am proud of where I come from and do not have an inferiority complex.

    Again, I feel happy for this Saudi lady, but I would have to disagree about her views on US men considering that I know them much better how they behave both in their country and in my country.


  79. this can only mean one thing for us arab guys , since our girls want to marry white or western men ….. go get the white girls!!!

  80. I found this story so interesting. It gave me some hope and at the same time no. I leave at the U.S but my I was born in a Latin America country. I meet this amazing man he is from Saudi; since the moment I met him I felt something for him I don’t know exactly why or how but it happened. We started talking and getting to know each other and it was evident we both had interest on the other, I knew he was muslim and he knew I was from another religion. But that for me was not a problem, I respect him and his beliefs and I will never ask him to change something about his culture or beliefs because thats how I felt in love with him. He showed me what a truly gentleman is, he is caring, in general a great individual. When we started dating I knew our cultures were different but that didn’t matter at all. I forgot to mention that he is a Student here at the U.S , and one day he came to me and told me he couldn’t continue with me due to his family and culture even though he loved me. We were both destroyed by the fact that we can be together I insisted that there must be a way to be together. He told me that because I was not born in saudi he wouldn’t be able to marry me, but truth is I think he is afraid of the rejection of his parents ( he mention it several times) and thats why he can’t thing outside the box or look for any way/possibilities for us to be together in a long term. Any advice? Thank you for reading.

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