Saudi Arabia: Mama Moudy and How My Cats Won Her Over

Although my late Saudi husband and I left Saudi Arabia in March 2009, I still have so many fond memories that I enjoy sharing with American Bedu readers.

Mama Moudy is my dear Saudi mother-in-law.  She is both a traditional and conservative Saudi woman but also open in many ways.  In August 2008 she allowed me to interview her for this blog so that people would have a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and both its cultures and traditions during the period of her childhood.

max     Today I wish to share about Mama Moudy’s indoctrination to my cats.  When Abdullah and I first arrived in Saudi we came with my three cats:  Max, Tripod and Saheba.  Max was an all-black Persian which I acquired while in the United States.  Tripod and Saheba, on the other hand, were my “Pakibillis.”  Both of them were feral cats which I had rescued from the streets of Pakistan.  Tripod had been hit by a car and left to die.  Thankfully I found him and with emergency surgery, he survived albeit minus one leg.  Saheba was a scrawny little cat who appeared at my home in Islamabad and once I saw her, I could not let her go.  Tripod and Saheba were both born in Pakistan and have the traditional features of Asian cats.

cats nov 09

My cats have been around the world twice and wherever I went, they came too, to include Saudi Arabia.  Abdullah knew that when he asked me to marry him me and my cats were a package deal – non negotiable.

Now, not everyone in Saudi Arabia is enamored of cats.  In fact, a lot of Saudis actively dislike cats.  Saudi Arabia is plagued by thousands of feral street cats which are commonly referred to as Saudi street rats.  As a result, when Abdullah’s family was first exposed to my cats, they were not thrilled to say the least.  However, my cats eventually won almost everyone over, including Mama Moudy who became their champion.

tripod nc 1

The first few times Mama Moudy saw my cats she was naturally afraid.  Cats were believed to carry both germs and disease and people did not have them inside of their homes.  Over time and with observation, she noted that my cats were clean, healthy and disease free.  She also noticed how friendly they were and that they had their own distinctive personalities.

Mama Moudy lives in Makkah so when she came to Riyadh she’d usually come for an extended visit.  My husband and I both worked while we lived in Riyadh.  Mama Moudy started noticing that each afternoon my cats would suddenly become alert and scamper off to the front door of our house.  She realized that the cats were attuned to when I came in from work and were always at the door to meet me.

saheba nc 1

Her bedroom was located at the end of the hallway from the master bedroom.  Mama Moudy was the earliest riser in the house.  Next she discovered that each morning my cats would be sitting in front of my closed bedroom door waiting for me to get up each morning.  It was at that point she told my husband in Arabic, “Those cats know her and love her.”

After continually seeing how loving and non-threatening my cats were around people, Mama Moudy began to lose her own fear of cats.  She started hesitantly at first touching and then petting my cats.  Eventually it was okay for them to sit beside her and she would pet them.  Finally though and to my chagrin, Mama Moudy started feeding them food from the table while we were eating lunch or dinner.  When I dared to bring up the subject and request that they be left to their cat food, Mama Moudy candidly let me know that my cats were creatures too and deserved to enjoy the good food.  My husband told me to drop the subject and let his mom enjoy her pleasure of spoiling my cats.


I’m proud of my cats for winning over Mama Moudy.  She also became their champion.  When anyone attempted to hint that it was not appropriate to have a bissa (cat in Arabic) inside of a Saudi home, Mama Moudy would say with pride, “but these bissas are American, they’re not Saudi street rats.”

Saudi Arabia/Italy: Meet Amelia


“Amelia” courtesy of

Anyone who has been a regular follower of American Bedu blog knows that I simply adore camels!  Therefore, it is with great delight that I take a time out from a Saudi oriented post and share this link which introduces newly born Amelia.  Amelia is a new arrival at the zoo in Rome.  One of my favorite memories of Rome was spending a leisurely afternoon its zoo.

And for those who may not have seen some earlier posts I have written about camels specific to Saudi Arabia, you may enjoy these links to earlier posts:

Saudi Arabia: Mark Your Calendar’s for Janadriyah

janadriyah 2013


It’s almost Janadriyah time!  The Janadriyah festival is the annual highlight for both Saudis and expatriates in the Kingdom.  It is the annual cultural festival which showcases the traditions and customs of each Province within the Kingdom.  It is the best event that is produced and held in the Kingdom and provides the best image of Saudi Arabia.

The Janadriyah festival begins on 04 April and will last for 17 days.  There will be separate hours and/or days for men, women and families so be sure to check out the schedule.

Each year the Janadriyah festival will have special events oftentimes featuring different countries with which Saudi Arabia has special relationships.  This year the Janadriyah festival will feature a 2,000 square meter China Pavilion.  In addition to Saudi Arabia, visitors will also receive a taste of China.  The China Pavilion will feature traditional Chinese handicrafts, artifacts, clothes and textiles, along with modern products using state-of-art methods and devices of display.

camel race


Another hallmark of the Janadriyah Festival will be the annual camel race.  This race will have participants from throughout the GCC, Sudan and of course, Saudi Arabia and showcase the different camels.

The first four days starting Tuesday, April 4 through Sunday, April 7 will be for single men and the remaining 12 days will be for families, from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight. Students have been allotted three hours starting 9 a.m. during April 6 to 10.

The Janadriyah festival is one event anyone in the Kingdom or who is able to travel to the Kingdom will not want to miss.  It’s too bad Saudi Arabia does not allow tourism visas for the Janadriyah festival showcases the best of the Kingdom and could bring in thousands of visitors to the Kingdom just for this specific event.

Saudi Arabia’s food supply

Saudi Arabia has a very hot climate and very little arable land. Yet it is home to 16 million citizens and about 9 million ex-pat workers. Where do they get their food?

Saudi Arabia grows some of it’s own food, and it has farms for poultry and cows, but most of the food is imported. Saudi Arabia spends about 6 billion a year on imported food. And food for the poultry, sheep and cows is also imported.

saudi milkproduction

Keeping cows in the desert is a very expensive project.
The Afu-Safi diary farm in Saudi Arabia originated in the 1970’s. It was modelled on a dairy farm in California, but is twice the size holding 38,000 cows. Each cow requires 30 gallons of water per day for drinking and cooling. Oil drilling technology was used to reach aquifers beneath the desert.

There is also a growing ”outsourcing” of the food supply. Saudi Arabia’s Hail Agricultural Development Company, Hadco, stopped producing wheat in 2008 and is purchasing land abroad. Hadco has already purchased 9,239 hectares of land in Sudan, and is considering purchasing another 32,755 hectares in Sudan within the next five years to grow wheat, corn and other crops to be used for feeding livestock. In January 2009 Saudi Arabia received the first batch of rice produced abroad.


Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, and Asian states, have purchased a total of over 20,230,000 hectares of land suitable for arable crops in Africa in the past years, about ten per cent of the farmed land in Africa. This would secure food supply and stable prices for the wealthy importing countries. The likely outcomes for exporting countries like Sudan, which are unable to feed their own people, appear less favourable

saudi sheep

A Naijdi sheep costs twice as much as an imported sheep.

Saudi Arabia has indigenous sheep, but at least 75% of the sheep consumed are imported.
Saudi Arabia imports close to 18 million sheep and goats per year. More than a million sheep are imported for Hajj and eid alone.
To feed all these sheep Saudi Arabia also imports enormous amounts of Barley, mostly from Russia and the Ukraine.
One reason why barley imports in Saudi Arabia are so high are subsidies. The Saudi Government encourages a sheep fattening industry. Economically it makes more sense to import lamb and feed it on subsidized barley than importing grown up sheep.
This industry is mostly located in Jeddah and other coastal cities, not in traditional livestock rearing areas.
Beside this industry barley subsidies are also important to feed the camel and sheep of Bedouin in rural areas and ensure tribal loyalty there.


Animal activists complain about the horrible treatment of animals sent on ships to the middle east, a yearly loss of 2 million animals is considered a sustainable risk by the companies who deal in them. Many animal lovers also complain about the way these animals are slaughtered, which is considered animal abuse.

With an ever increasing population and no chance to ever be able to grow enough food to be selfsufficient Saudi Arabia is in a very dangerous position. One could imagine when the oil dries up, and no other industry of note there would be nothing which could keep the Saudi population alive. They would have to either mass emigrate, or die of starvation.



Saudi Gazette

Oil for food

Arabian gazette

Saudi Arabia: Three Years Already Without my Love

abdullah othman alajroush

At times these three years have passed by excruciatingly slow and at other times they have gone by so fast.  I still remember so clearly taking care of Abdullah as he battled against his insidious leukemia which took his life on 08 February 2010.  He put up such a strong and brave fight against the aggressive disease.

With today being the three year anniversary of the day he moved on from this world into the heavenly world, I’m sharing my tribute to him with American Bedu readers in a simple letter postmarked to:

Abdullah Othman Al-Ajroush

09 June 1956 – 08 February 2010

Location:  Heaven

My Dearest Desert Boy,

Although the years without your physical presence continue to pass by I continue to  miss you and the great love we shared in our short time together.  However, rather than grieve and be engulfed by sadness, I want to keep this letter upbeat as I reminiscence on some of my favorite memories about the short and precious life we had together.

Our courtship was so slow and cautious on my part even though you knew by our second meeting you wanted me as your wife.  Your words scared me to death and actually slowed down the courtship on my part.  Of course I had heard too many negative experiences between Western women and Saudi men.  However, from day one you demonstrated you were such an honorable man and with only sincere intentions.

Among some of my special memories during our courtship was giving you your very first birthday celebration.  I’ll never forget the pools of emotion in your eyes filled with tears of joy, love and surprise!  It was the first of many celebrations until you were taken from me all too soon.

naran pakistan         Pakistan was a magical place for us to get to know one another and form the foundation of our relationship.  I loved traveling with you to Naran and Shogran where we went trout fishing together, had a picnic by the shore of a mountain lake, went horseback riding in the mountains and you demonstrated to me your skills and prowess in handling a 1953 Willie’s Jeep!  We learned so much about each other and our shared values and goals in life then.

I was convinced when I was transferred out of Pakistan that our relationship would change.  We’d either remain good friends or maybe you’d ultimately forget about me.  I remember as I drove away from Pakistan realizing that I did love you but had been afraid to say those words to your face.  However, I never forgot what you told me when I gave you my “canned” goodbye speech about how special you were to me and remaining friends.  You said, “Desert Girl…a mere border is not going to keep me apart from you. Neither will any oceans or our individual nationalities.  I love you, Desert Girl, and I intend for you to be the wife in my life.”

You always were a man of your word.  You visited me multiple times in India.  In addition we got to meet up a few times in Dubai.  Each time our love and devotion to one another increased.  When you asked for the phone numbers to call and introduce yourself to my family members so that you could tell them your intentions were honorable and serious and for them to ask any questions of you, my heart was overflowing with love and joy.  I had no doubts that you were the right man for me.

It still astounds me that you were prepared to resign from your well-established career if you had to, in order to marry me.  Thankfully it did not come to that and I remember our very joyous celebration when we received the official approval from King Abdullah for our marriage to be recognized and I had my legal place beside you as your wife in the Kingdom.  mofa emblem

You treated me like a Princess in Saudi and were my champion in every way.  You made sure I was comfortable and welcomed so warmly.  When the first crisis, my cancer, touched our lives in June 2008 you took a month off from work to take care of me.  You made me feel so cherished and helped me overcome so many fears I had about cancer.

Just when our lives were getting back on track, we received our second blow with the diagnosis of your own cancer.  Yet, Love, you were so brave and stoic.  You did not complain and conserved all your energy and channeled your fears into your battle.

It’s funny that as close as I know we were before cancer entered our lives, I felt we elevated to a new level of closeness with your battle.  How many nights did we sit up together, me sharing your hospital bed, and revealing our hidden dreams and desires?  I knew you well before but I learned even more during those times.

Since your passing, my life has changed in so many different ways.  I’m the same person you knew yet in some ways I’m not.  I know you’d be happy to know how widely and deeply my faith has encompassed me.  I don’t take any day for granted.

greyhound        I do believe you are looking down at me from heaven.  I’m sure you know each time I’ve held conversations in my head with you.  Also, I can easily imagine you in heaven with the faithful greyhound or saluki you always wanted sitting loyally beside you.

I miss you, Baby.  I always will.  You filled a void in my life and gave me a love that I know I’d never experienced.  In every way, you will always be my Prince.

God Bless you, Abdullah.  May you continue to know you are deeply loved and rest in Peace.

Your Desert Girl,

Carol (your American Bedu

Saudi Arabia: Are There Any Circuses?



By the time you read this post I (hopefully) will have attended the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus with my Grandsons here in Charlotte. We have tickets for the circus but my participation will depend on my white blood counts since I’m still in active treatment for cancer.  It will be the second time for me to ever have attended a circus.  The first time was last year, also with my grandsons, when Barnum and Bailey came to Charlotte.

elephants at the circus

The circus is full of never ending excitement.  It is mesmerizing to not only watch the performers and the circus animals, but I equally enjoyed seeing the rapt attention on the faces of my grandsons and others.  The circa two hour show literally flew by way too fast.

But what about Saudi Arabia?  Can Saudi families and expatriates enjoy a circus while they are in the Kingdom?  According to a comment made December 2012 to a Jeddah based chat board, there are no circuses in Jeddah.  My own continued research unearthed that there are no circuses in Saudi Arabia, period.

riyadh zoo elephant


A database which keeps track of the location of circus elephants claims that there are four living elephants within the Kingdom.  Not surprisingly their located is cited as the zoo in Riyadh.

While there may not be circuses inside of Saudi Arabia, Saudis have gone to the circus when opportunities permit.  King Saud attended the circus in Baden Baden, Germany, with a full entourage in 1957.  The article is accompanied by an embedded video showing the King and his entourage thoroughly enjoying the circus and the antics of the well-trained animals.

Would it be feasible to have a circus in Saudi Arabia?  Socio-political analyst and writer, Tariq Al-Meeana shared, “No..I have never been to a circus in Saudi.  Most likely the prevailing paranoia against mingling deprived most of us of clean family fare in our own country.”

There is no doubt that it would be interesting and provide another venue for family entertainment in the Kingdom.  Yet, at the same time, would the circus animals be taken care of properly?

abused circus animals


Princess Bessma raised a very good point as we were dialoging about this subject:  “As for circus performance here I would be worried about how the animals would be treated. The acrobats would have to wear baggy clothes. Would they allow music? Not sure if a circus here would work! People will go for sure because we don’t have many options for entertainment but would it be a proper circus experience?”

Saudi Arabia: Cows in Saudi Arabia?

One thing I did not see during my 3 years in Saudi Arabia were cows.  It was not that I was specifically looking for them but made the mental comparison that seeing camels along the roads was as common as seeing the cows in America.  Now I discover through this Wall Street Journal article is that there is in fact a dairy farm with 67,000 white and black splotched  Holstein-Friesians cows and unlike any dairy farm one would likely see in the United States!

Bear in mind that the Holstein-Friesian cow originated in Europe.  The major development of this breed occurred in what is now the Netherlands.  Needless to say, it does not reach 117 degrees Fahrenheit in the midst of a Dutch summer.  Whereas in Saudi Arabia, the breed had to adapt to the new terrain of the desert and the intense temperatures.

In Al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia, the Almarai dairy farm is the largest dairy farm by value in the entire Middle East!  Almarai (which is Arabic for the world pasture) is the largest integrated dairy foods company in the world!  It was also the first dairy farm in the world to have been accredited with ISO 9002.

This video gives background on Almarai dairy:


Here is an interesting video taken during milking time at the dairy:




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