February is known as a month for love and romance. As a result, American Bedu has featured multiple interivews with individuals who have their own special connections to Saudi Arabia. These interviews are always a popular topic of discussion. With today’s posting, American Bedu has the pleasure to interview an American woman who has married a Saudi man. Due to sensitivities associated with her story, she is not identified by name.
Thank you for reaching out to American Bedu and offering to share your story and journey.
It’s my esteemed pleasure to share my story with you. I’ve been following your blog from time to time for several years now.
To begin with, please share with American Bedu readers a little bit about yourself. What part of the States are you from? What was your upbringing like?
I grew up in a small town in New Jersey a commuter suburb to New York City. I had a really troubled relationship with my parents. It led to me leaving to live with my grandmother, who then died after I got into college. After college when I had nowhere to go but home since I couldn’t find a job, I came to them. I even helped them move from one house to another and many other things since I was muslim at that point and had a better understanding of respect for parents. They had the same problems that they had with me when I was a younger. One day, after a minor altercation with my dad, he just told me to get out of the house and never come back. I spent about 4 months homeless, refused to get married until I had gotten at least some kind of job. Anyhow, that’s another story.
Did you ever imagine yourself meeting and falling in love with a man who came from a differing culture, country and religion?
When I got into college, I had pretty much given up on men after being picked on a lot and turned down by guys throughout high school. Not only that, but my university was quite dangerous, and I had been sexually assaulted not only at my university job, but also in the dorm laundry room and by a classmate. I really was not looking to be in any type of romantic relationship with a man. I was even turned off of marriage even further since I had been working in the center where they had English language classes for international students and a few guys had targeted me as a potential wife. I had at least two stalkers that I can remember. One even tried to get me into his car to go to the mosque to get married so he could get a green card!! (I have no clue how he could have forced me to marry him had he actually gotten me there.)
How did you and your Saudi meet one another? How long from your initial meeting did you both realize that you had feelings which were stronger than a mere friendship?
By the time I had actually met him I had already converted to Islam and was speaking Arabic fluently. It’s actually a funny story (only for me) how we met. You see, I had met this girl online who had similar interests in Arabic, and Saudi Arabia. I had by that time met a lot of Saudis at my school, and was getting somewhat interested in their culture, and I was also learning specific dialects from the country. She had been telling me about this guy that she knew online that was soooooo perfect.
“He doesn’t go out with girls, he’s so religious…” The more she told me about him, the more interested I became. She was also really infatuated with him. I felt I knew a little bit better about the Saudi culture and its language though; I was definitely a better match. I was probably hearing about him for months, so I’d ask different questions about him, getting to know a little more about him.
He seemed like my ideal guy. I told her one day that she should put us in a conference chat so I could see that he is ‘really real.’ When I talked to him the first time he was really polite with me speaking in Modern Standard Arabic. I wouldn’t speak English with him at all. I wanted him to know that my language was good in hopes of enticing him to like me. (I already knew I liked him before this point.)
After this meeting, I kept in touch with him but I never spoke with him by voice or even saw his picture. I just wanted to know his personality because I care about these things the most. Now, at the time we had met we were in summer breaks from school. I was about to go into my senior year and he was going into his junior year of university. I asked him to help me with my language, so we would watch Arabic cartoon series together in YouTube. I would write ‘Ready??? Play!!!’ to make sure that we both were at the same exact second each time. I felt really close to him. It wasn’t until I had gotten back to the university for a few months where I gave him a missed call in Skype. I wanted him to think it was a mistake, but he actually called me back. Then I answered and heard his voice for the first time, and I liked it a lot. Within a few weeks, I requested him to send me his picture. I had totally been thinking he was short with a big, black, curly hair atop his head and a cute potbelly (since he said he likes to eat a lot). I was totally wrong. His picture literally took my breath away. He was tall, balding handsomely and built. It wasn’t soon until I started wanting to tell him “I love you.” I think he felt that coming with my playful, “I….., I……., I……” He said that we shouldn’t say that, we aren’t married. I said, “Why aren’t we married?”
I told him I knew already about the whole ‘it’s not allowed’ thing, but are we really just going to not get married? We married (islamically) by phone, kind of as an engagement. Then, we could continue our chatting to the romantic level.
How much did you know about Saudi Arabia as a country and Saudi’s as a people prior to meeting the man who became your husband?
I can’t say that I knew more than he knows about his own country, but I could place people into which city(ies) they were from by listening to them speaking or by their face, clothing style or other. I had done my reading.
What part of the Kingdom is your husband from? What kind of an upbringing did he have? Would you describe him as open or traditional or conservative?
My husband is from the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia (sharqia). He is also a Shia (I am also). His father died when he was 2 or younger and his mother died when she was 17. The thing about his upbringing has a lot to do with the death of his father.
The story was that his father, a successful businessman who owned a bit of land, was having some pain in his leg. His (evil and jealous, but trusted) brother decided to take him to a public hospital. He died of mysterious reasons. The next thing that happened on the day that he died as told by his mother. His evil uncle went into their house into his father’s private room and closed the door. He took everything of theirs, and left them with nothing. As much as she complained, his family did not want to burn bridges with each other by getting into the problem. She tried to get aid from the government but they would give her nothing stating that her late husband was a ‘businessman.’ She was forced to bring up three children with no means in a very small house. It gave him a lot of reasons to respect women, one of the things that I admire about him. He cares deeply for the rights of women. 15 years later, she also died from mysterious reasons. Sometimes we think that she had completely tired herself out from the stress of living in such poverty.
I would say that he is open-minded.
When and how did he propose to you? Was his family aware of you before he proposed or that the two of you married?
We agreed to get married. His family knew nothing about it when we married (technically got engaged) on the phone like that, but some months before we got married on government papers (in the US), he called his brothers to let them know he had found someone and see what they thought. He let me talk to them. They really liked me, especially because I was a convert and probably more because I spoke their language and they could identify with that.
I understand that you and your husband are married. Please share some details of your wedding with American Bedu readers. Did you have a civil, church or Islamic wedding ceremony? (or combination!) Did you have a large wedding? What kind of a dress did you wear? Who stood up with you?
We had a civil wedding. We went to city hall in New York City, got our marriage license and then asked them to allow us to marry on the same day instead of having to wait another day; they allowed us. Then we proceeded back to the court and looked around for someone to be our witness. I just wore regular everyday clothes that I was normally wearing around that time. My black abaya and black scarf.
How long have the two of you been married? How confident are you that you know all you need to know about your husband? Please explain your answer.
We have been married almost three years now, not counting the engagement. I’ve known him for 4.5 years. I think I know more about him than he knows about himself. He relies on me for everything. I really have no idea where he would be without me. I also wonder where I would be without him.
What does your husband do in the United States? Do the two of you plan to remain in the United States? Do you want to travel to Saudi Arabia? Why or why not?
Well, he got dismissed from his graduate program. That was really sad news for us, but he is definitely going to try again. He is desperately trying to find a job. He’s had several interviews and a few offers so far but some are in other states and I will not be able to leave with him, as I am in my last semester of graduate school and working two jobs at the same time.
Do you ever fear that your husband will return or have to return to Saudi Arabia without you? How does that make you feel?
I used to fear that a lot, especially because we had no money to apply for permanent resident status. I finally got some money together last summer and we started it with a lawyer. We were really worried about the financial sponsor portion of the application, but I have really good news…. Our lawyer fought for us to count his scholarship salary as my income. It was slightly complicated to do that, but if any of your readers are attempting this, you can have them contact me, and I can tell them how to do this.
Do you know his family? Do you know how to contact them and feel that you can reach out to them at any time?
I know some of his family personally and most of them by reputation. I am definitely more than welcome to call them anytime. He has one aunt who sticks on me like molasses. She constantly calls me wanting to chat, and chat, and chat…. His brothers really like me a lot. One of them once called at 3 am to ask me how to spell ‘gergis’ (craigslist). They get a lot of help from me with English (so they had better not complain!). But sometimes some miscommunications happen between me and them and I end up being mad at them for some reasons.
I understand that you and your husband are also parents! How has parenthood changed your lives and your relationship?
Parenthood changed our lives a lot. We don’t get the time to talk like we used to. I kind of feel more like roommates right now. I’m co-sleeping with my one-year old daughter, and I’m not going to stop until we get into a bigger place, so he either sleeps at the end of the bed or on the couch, because we don’t have the money to buy a bigger bed. Lots of things are going to change when either I graduate or he gets a job.
Do you want your child to have Saudi citizenship? Why or why not?
I’d like her to have anything that she is entitled too. If she can get some benefits from being a Saudi citizen such as a college scholarship and such, I’d REALLY love that for her!
How do you feel your life has changed by marrying a Saudi?
At first, I had to be really secretive about this relationship. So it cost me a lot of friendships. I had agreed to be silent about this marriage, but it was really hard in the long run. Many of my friends who I miss never knew I got married and had a baby, and if I tell them now, they will be so mad at me for not telling them.
What was your family’s reaction to your decision to marry a Saudi? Are they supportive? Are they okay if you decide to make a future life in Saudi Arabia?
Because my parents and I had so many problems, by the time I had gotten married I had already cut ties with them for a while.
When my dad got prostate cancer I reconnected with them for a short while, but it was pretty hard to maintain a good relationship. I cut ties again after a fight with my mom. Now just three days ago, she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, so I am back in touch with her. We should be having a visit soon. She really likes my husband. I’m not sure about her specific reasons, but she never ‘didn’t like’ him.
If we had decided to move to anywhere in the world, I honestly feel that it wouldn’t affect her feelings at all given our relationship.
There are many women who meet and fall in love with a Saudi while he is abroad. What advice can you give to these women? How can they know their Saudi is serious (if they are wanting a committed relationship with him)? What are the ‘red flags’ a foreign woman should watch out for if she becomes involved with a Saudi?
I can tell you only from experience from knowing a few other women who married Saudis here in the US.
If he is hiding any type of information from you such as financial information, family information etc, beware.
If he spends more time with his friends than you, beware.
If none of his friends know about you or only a select few, beware.
If he has a lot of girls on his facebook, or numbers in his phone and he is one of the traditional types, I’d be suspicious.
Sometimes they might hide girls’ numbers under men’s names in their phones, if they are calling a specific guy really often you might want to investigate or ask how that guy is doing.
Are there any more details you’d like to share about your relationship and marriage? Any additional advice?
Advice: marry someone who respects you.
American Bedu wishes you all the very best and happiness! Thank you again for this interview.
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