Saudi Arabia/Netherlands: Is YOUR House Halal?

halal apartment plan


When I lived in Saudi Arabia I never thought to consider whether or not my house was considered halal.  When hearing the word, halal, it is most often associated with whether specific food items or drinks are permitted in Islam.  It’s not the type of word regularly associated with houses.

I will say that my house was “Saudi compliant” in that it was constructed to adhere to the customs and traditions practiced in Saudi Arabia.  There were two distinct and separated formal living rooms (or salons as they are called in Saudi Arabia) so that segregation could be imposed if desired.  In addition, each room in my house could be completely closed off by a door to all connecting rooms, again in support of segregation.  The men’s living room (salon) had a large washroom nearby so men could easily make wudoo preparations for Muslim prayers.  There was a washroom near the ladies living room (salon) for the same purpose.

However, in the Netherlands, a state-sponsored housing corporation is building 188 apartments classified as “halal apartments” and built specifically for Muslims.  The apartments sound similar to the outlay of my villa in Riyadh.  An exception is that my villa did not have a special out-of-sight storage facility for shoes or a special water supply for performing wudoo.  An added bonus is that each apartment also comes complete with a Satellite dish which can receive up to 800 primarily Arab television channels.  Is a satellite dish considered halal?

So in retrospect, was my villa halal or simply Saudi compliant?

Saudi Arabia/USA: From the Mouth of a Child (No. 7)



American Bedu is very pleased to bring back the popular series of posts “From the Mouth of a Child.”  Really, who can build better bridges than children with their candid words and innocence?  Children adapt to people and cultures instead of putting emphasis on politics or religion.



What is your name?




Where do you live?

North Carolina


What is your nationality?

American and Latvian


How old are you?



Who is the leader of Saudi Arabia?

mommy and Daddy


What is the capital of Saudi Arabia?

I don’t know


Who is the leader of the United States of America?

Our president…not George Washington, but I forgot his name.


What is the capital of the United States of America?

I’ve never seen it


How many hours does it take to go from America to Saudi Arabia?

2 or 3 hours


What is the best thing to do in Saudi Arabia?

I don’t know


What is the best thing to do in the United States?

Play in my friend’s house.


Why do women wear black in Saudi Arabia?

So they can’t get killed.


What is a muttawa?

I don’t know


What is the adhan?

I don’t know


Are there muttawa in the United States?

I don’t know


What is a Muslim?

I don’t know


What is a Christian?                  

A school


Do Muslims and Christians like each other?  Why or why not?

I don’t know


What do Saudis like to eat the most?



What do Americans like to eat the most?

Chicken, corn, tomatoes, hamburgers



What would you like to say to other children around the world?

I like you.

Saudi Arabia: Typical Living While in America

This is the home we had while we were in the USA in Broadlands, Virginia

Many Bedu readers over the years have asked me what kind of life Abdullah and I had while we were living in the United States.  I must begin by saying it was a comfortable life and also an active life.

Abdullah in Annapolis exploring one of the ships open to public tours

Both of us always enjoyed exploring and socializing.  It was not unusual for us to take a weekend and go off on a short jaunt to someplace new.  Annapolis, Maryland was not that far away so sometime we’d go and receive a tour of whatever ship was in port or simply stroll around the scenic streets.

Me, with my hair windblown, after we had finished our ship tour

Other times we would entertain at home.  We enjoyed hosting our version of “Arabian Nights” functions where we’d invite guests from local embassies, neighborhood and among our friends to learn and share the Arab culture.

A lot of time would also be spent just the two of us at home.  We liked to watch tv together and read the papers together.  Every Sunday we’d have a variety of papers that we’d share and read and then discuss.

Abdullah and Max.  Abdullah loved my cats and my cats loved him.

We were not that different from any average couple.  We’d have our household chores and responsibilities but would also take time out for fun too.

Abdullah and I watching our guests enjoying themselves at one of our “Arabian Nights” them parties

Most of the time while we were in the States both of us always wore Western dress but sometimes just lounging around or for a special occasion, we’d wear Eastern dress.

My Desert Boy…He always prepared the best BBQ dishes!

Saudi Arabia: Living in Riyadh


Last March I wrote about compound life. Housing is a hot topic among expatriates who are locating or have located to the Kingdom.  Towards supplementing the post which I had written about compound life, the following video gives additional information about compound living in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia: The Ladies Salon

When one is invited to the home of a Saudi the guest will be taken to the salon.  The salon is the same as what the Western world calls either the living room or the parlor.  Due to families which continue to practice segregation, in Saudi Arabia there usually is both a men’s salon and a ladies salon.  The salon’s can also be separate from the family room which is generally limited to family and closest friends.

The men’s salon is generally the nicer and more formal of the salons.  It can be decorated in either neutral colors and furnishings or can be a very masculine room.  Many men’s salons will have lovely Persian carpets adorning the marble floors.

Whereas the ladies salon may likely be furnished in pastel colors and with feminine accessories.  If young children are likely taken to the ladies salon when there is company, it may be more casually outfitted.  I’ve seen quite a gamut of ladies salons which have ranged from very frilly, feminine and expensively furnished to casual furnishings with throw rugs.

Both salons will usually have a television.  The salons will also have easy access to a washroom.

Because my husband had a large extended family in Saudi Arabia, we kept our ladies salon casual and informal.  It was a large room and was equipped with a tv.  The floors were marble (as is common) and we had a large carpet over the floor.  The furniture was leather which was easy to keep clean besides being comfortable.

Since Abdullah passed away I now live in a small place by myself.  I no longer need to have separate salons.  Instead, I have a comfortable sized living room which does not hold a tv.  My living room is set up for enjoyable visits with comfortable furniture and an oversized coffee table ideal for impromptu meals.  While in Saudi Arabia my ladies salon was neutral in style, I did something with my living room that I probably would never have done were Abdullah still alive.  I chose to have the walls of my living room painted a pale pink!  The pale pink walls go well with the rest of my color theme of jade green, crème and gold.  I think my son summed up my living room better than anyone when he told me that I created my very own mom’s cave! 

I’m fortunate to also have a small den.  This is where I’ve chosen to have a tv.  The den is more like a men’s salon with its walls of seafoam green and dark wooden furniture.  This is also the room where my son likes to settle himself when he comes to visit me.

Even though I’ve been in my place in the States for two years now I still find myself often referring to my two rooms (living room and den) as the salons.  I guess old habits do die hard.

nb:  the photo was taken in American Bedu’s ‘living room’ while hosting a Japanese guest.

Saudi Arabia: Islamaphobia, Westernophobia – Where Shall the Two Meet?

To begin with I think individuals are more likely to comment in manners upon blogs that they would not do so in a face-to-face situation.  Secondly, I believe that Islamaphobia and Westernophobia are both on the rise.  Instead of more bridges being built towards fostering understanding, walls are going up quickly.

Why are Eastern Muslims and Western non-Muslims so critical of one another?  Why do they so incessantly want to prove that only one is right and other is wrong if sharing incompatible views?

Is there an innate fear that an Eastern Muslim feels of Western non-Muslims and vice-versa?  Are each afraid the other would destroy or defile their world?

During the time I spent in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the East I did not feel any kind of imbalance.  I was half of a bi-cultural marriage to a lovely Saudi man.  We experienced the odd situation where either an Eastern Muslim or non-Muslim Westerner did not know how to accept but over time those lines of acceptance or non-acceptance seemed to blur.  Speaking frankly there was a faster and greater acceptance of me by Eastern Muslims than necessarily by Western non-Muslims to my (late) Saudi husband.

However, now, at least on blogs, there appears to be less tolerance by both groups.  What exactly does each group fear of another?  If the answer to that question can be answered and reconciled then a large milestone would be achieved.

Putting faith aside, people are people with the same genuine concerns and fears.  Each of us is either a son or a daughter.  Some may also have the title of husband or wife.  We all have concerns for our families and want the best for our families.  We may have been raised under different customs, cultures, traditions and faith but there are commonalities.  Perhaps if we were to begin focusing on commonalities and then work our way to somewhat sensitive subjects we can set a foundation that will allow for open communications and bridge building.

Eastern Muslims and Western non-Muslims are here to stay.  Unless one wants to truly isolate themselves, we need to foster understanding to co-exist.  I’d like to believe that at American Bedu we do have a capability to hold a non-heated and meaningful dialogue on this subject.


Saudi Arabia: Interview with an American Expatriate in Tabuk

American Bedu is pleased to have the opportunity to interview Linda, an American expatriate who has lived in Tabuk for the past nine years.

First of all, Thanks, Linda, for allowing me this opportunity to ask you a lot of questions!!


Let’s start with a little bit of background.  Where are you originally from in the United States?  What was it that motivated or interested you in accepting a job in Saudi Arabia?

Where I am from is a hard question? I grew up as a military kid so I’m sort from all over.  The last place I lived before Tabuk was Steubenville, Ohio.  It is along the Ohio River about 30 miles from Pittsburgh, PA.

Getting married was my motivation.  I married an American gentleman who happens to be a contractor with the Royal Saudi Land Forces.  When I was doing the paperwork for my initial visa, I had to complete what was basically a job application.  The position I applied for was “Wife”.  I have the luxury of being a stay home wife.



Prior to your arrival in Saudi Arabia, did you have any contacts with Saudis?  How much did you know about Saudi Arabia and its customs? 

I didn’t have contact with Saudis but I had access to several colleges. I visited the Eastern Studies departments of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Melon and Carlow College. I did educate myself as much as I could so there were not a lot of surprises.  I knew I would have to wear the abiya and cover my hair.  I knew that I would not be driving.


What kind of work do you do in Tabuk?

AS I mentioned, my job in Tabuk is caring for my husband and our dog and 3 cats. In the US, I worked with at-risk kids as a behavior specialist.


How do you feel living in one of the Kingdom’s smaller cities rather than a metropolis like Riyadh or Jeddah?

Living in Tabuk suits me.  I’m not a big city kind of girl.  We drive to Riyadh once a year for a big shopping spree at Tamimis and I’m good.  For th emost part though, I find the big cities too fast, too noisy and too dirty.  I feel the same about US cities.  They are nice to visit but I don’t want to live there.


What is typical life like in Tabuk?

For me  and the other stay home wives, life is quiet.


Do you interact socially with many Saudis?

We really don’t have much opportunity to socially interact with Saudis.  Tabuk is an agricultural area and has a large Saudi military presence with both the Saudi Air Force and the Saudi Army.


Since Tabuk is a smaller city, how are expatriate women viewed by locals?  How much do you feel it is necessary to cover up?

In the time I have lived here, I have been treated with kindness and respect.


What kind of housing are you, as an expatriate, provided?  Do you live on a compound?

We live on a Western compound.  It is really four compounds within what we call the Great Wall. Seven companies are represented and we have American, Australians, British and French expats living together.  But the numbers are small.  There are maybe 150 people on all the compounds.  The contracts are smaller now so not as many people are needed and many of the positions are unaccompanied.


 Can you share some of your highlights of living nine years in Tabuk?

The highlights..hmmm.  I would have to say the travel opportunities.  Being only a couple of hours from the Red Sea, we go to snorkel and camp a few times a year.  It is an amazing experience.  The first time I went, I felt like I was living a National Geographic special.  I got to see sea life I had only seen pictures of in books.  A bit closer to home, we have what we call the Saudi Grand Canyon.  It is beautiful and more astounding because no water was involved in creating it.  The canyon has been the work of earthquakes.  There are also some pretty interesting rock formations in that area the result of wind erosion.  It is just beautiful.  We have also traveled to Petra and the area surrounding and to Medin Saleh.


What have been some of the lowlights?

Only one lowlight and I have learned to accept it for now.  When I first got here, I was into some redecorating projects and it was hard when I would run out of something to not jump in the car and go to Walmart to get what I needed to finish.


What can you do for entertainment?

Even though we don’t have many of the amenities the larger compounds have like bowling alleys and movie theaters, we make do.  We do have a rec center and once a week we have a movie night. We set up a dvd and make popcorn and watch a movie.  We also have parties for birthdays and holidays.

We wives had a monthly morning tea where we gather and eat chat. We are two Americans, one Turk, one Morrocan, one Malay and four Filipinas.  We each make a dish from our culture.


Is it easy to obtain what you need from the local markets?

This is a loaded question.  Supplies seems to come in fits and starts, so when something I like is available, I buy as many as I can and store them. I have stored ricotta cheese in the freezer for a year. When I first got here, there was one market with two locations.  Now there are three market chains, Astra, Panda and Zaad so there is now some completion.  When there was none, shopping could become a mission if you were looking for a certain item like canned green beans.


What have you missed most from the United States?

Walmart and Lowe’s


Since you have been in Tabuk for 9 years, do you speak Arabic?

Since Tabuk is rather small, there are not the programs for expats the bigger cities have so it was difficult to find someone to teach me.  I picked up a few phrases while out and about but not much.  Last year, an Egyptian, who works as part of my husband’s company, and his Turkish wife moved to one of the compounds within the Great Wall. She and I became friendly and she agreed to teach me some basic Arabic.  I know enough to not embarrass myself shopping and I can get around the airports and hotels fairly decently.


What kind of adjustment/adapting challenges did you face when you had first arrived?

The not having some place to be everyday and what to do with all the ‘down’ time now available to me.  Prior to coming to Tabuk I worked 12 to 14 hour shifts at least 5 days a week.  So I went from running full speed to STOP.  It took me a while to adjust to the slower pace of my life.  The upside it I rediscovered things I loved to do but didn’t have time for.  I love reading, crafting, gardening, sewing, and  cooking and baking.


  What advice would you give for other expatriates thinking of coming to a smaller city to work?

Since I don’t have a job outside the home, I really can’t speak to this.  What I have seen from others though is most will find a hobby.  Being as close as we are to the Red Sea, most everyone who does come here takes diving/snorkeling lessons.  I would also suggest making the decision to bloom where you are planted.  When I begin to get a bit sticky and fed up, I remember it is my CHOICE to be here.


What are the disadvantages?

Other than not being able to drive, I think the disadvantages are those of any small town anywhere.  There just isn’t the availability of some things here that are available in Riyadh or Jeddah


Does a woman require a driver to get out and about in Tabuk?

If you are living in the city limits so to speak, not necessarily, but that is changing.  When I arrived there were lots of open spaces and empty places.  Those are rapidly being built up.  It seems every time I come back from a holiday, some new road or building is going in. I am blessed in my husband’s company provided us with a van twice a week for shopping and the driver will take us anywhere we ask.  We do not have an on-call driver, but Hussein is available if we need him with prior notice, such as a doctor appointment or we need to go to the airport and our husband isn’t available.



Is good health care available? 

Not so much.  The health care facilities here are about 20 years behind the US.  I needed blood work done a few years ago and about walked out when the lab tech got a reusable need from the autoclave. This was after spending 20 minutes explaining to the doctor I needed an order for a liver function test because I was starting a new medication.  The doctor kept telling me the medication I was taking wasn’t available in Kingdom and I was telling him I was aware of that, which is why I brought year’s supply of it back with me.  I get all my female medical done in the US.



How long do you anticipate staying in Tabuk?

Maybe another 2 to 3 years. I will start spending  2 months in the US and 3 months in Kingdom.  I am ready for a change.


Many thanks for sharing your answers with American Bedu readers.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give a different perspective.



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