Saudi Arabia: Interview with Romance Novelist, Kat Canfield

It is a pleasure for American Bedu to interview one of the followers of the American Bedu blog.  With this interview, readers learn more about Kat Canfield and why she has an interest in Saudi Arabia!

kat canfield


Firstly Kat, thank you, for the opportunity to interview you and share about yourself and your background with readers.

I am honored to have you interview me.

Let’s start with some details about you!  Where are you originally from?  Where do you live now?  How long have you been following the American Bedu blog?

I grew up in Ohio, in Amish country. I moved to Florida after we had a blizzard and the temperature on the thermometer was -32 degrees F! For me, even hurricanes were better than that and I lived through several of them.

I lived in Florida for 25 years before moving to Tennessee with my husband.

I found American Bedu while researching for my book. It has been helpful to learn and understand a very different culture.

Please share your background with readers.  How did you end up in law enforcement as your first career?  At what age or what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a police officer?

Law Enforcement found me I think. I had many people who thought I would be good in that field and encouraged me from high school on but I didn’t listen. I worked in Agriculture in Ohio and several businesses when I moved to Fl. Nothing fulfilled me or was I good at. Finally, I decided to prove everyone wrong that I didn’t have what it takes to be a police officer. Well, I proved to myself I really was!! I was thirty one years old and could beat the barely twenties in physical activities, the shooting range, martial arts, etc. I gained respect from my instructors when I could ‘fall down and give me 100’ (yes, pushups, the full military ones). Sorry, I have to brag on that, as several of the male instructors did not think women should be involved in police work, as it took a man. One of those instructors took me aside just before graduation and told me I had changed his mind about women in police work. It was then I realized I could be a role model for other women which is another reason I want to tell your readers about it. I think the American Bedu Blog helps empower the women in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world who are oppressed. I am all for helping women find their value in the world.

I must also relate this as it has to do with empowering women. I was married briefly in Ohio. I was a battered wife. I got the courage to leave in a time when it was socially unacceptable to do so. Thank God, the laws have change greatly in this area. As a police officer I could help abused women and children get help.

What were some of your most memorable moments when you were on the force?

I have so many memorable moments!! First I must say, read the book as several of them are in there, just the names, and some circumstances are changed to protect identities.

But my most favorite moment is this. I worked as a mounted police officer for eight of my years in police work. Horses are still my first love. One day I was working in the park when a woman and child approached me. The woman asked if her little boy, about seven, could pet the horse. This was a normal thing that happened in the course of the day. The boy was petting the horse and talking to it. I was trying to understand what he was saying to the horse so I asked his mother what he was saying. She was crying! Now I was worried. I asked her what was wrong. She told me her son was autistic and had never spoke a word to anyone before that moment. Now I was crying. The horse had opened up a door for that child. The police horse did that in a lot of instances and is a tool more police departments should utilize.

Did you ever encounter any Saudis while you were an active law enforcement officer?  If so, please share as you are able.

I met many people from everywhere when I lived in Florida. I met Arabs from everywhere in the Middle East. I found them pleasurable and respectful. I probably met more Pakistanis than Saudi. Because all that I knew where very nice people I found it hard to believe so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. I did not want to believe it. We have to remember that a few bad apples does not mean the whole bunch is bad.

You are also a multi-faceted individual.  At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing?

I started writing when I was a child. In high school and college I wrote for the school newspapers and was editor my senior year. I wrote feature articles for the local newspaper and authored many short stories. I just never thought it was that good so didn’t pursue it. However, as a police officer, I had to write, lots and lots or reports. Some of those were short but on more difficult cases they were very long and detailed. I think I improved my skills by writing all those reports! Plus, it gave me experience that found its way into my novels.

What gave you the idea to write a novel about Saudi Arabia?

Well, if you believe in the Ginn or spirits of the desert, it could be said one of them spoke to me. I tried several ideas but this one just felt right so I went with it.

When did you start to have an interest in Saudi Arabia and why?

The book, Arabian Nights. I love that book. I also love Arabian horses, I have owned and ridden them. And then there is Lawrence of Arabia. The country just has a natural romance to it. Every book I have ever read that had something about Saudi Arabia in it is fascinating. If you want to write a romance novel, why not have a character that is from Arabia?

Have you ever traveled to Saudi Arabia and/or personally know some Saudis?  How did you obtain your material about Saudi Arabia for your book?

I have traveled there only in pictures and via the internet. I want to go there very much. I did a lot of research on the country and customs through the internet. I found yours and other blogs about the country that gave me ideas. You actually helped me find books about Saudis that I read like Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil, by Jean Sasson and Ted Dekkers book, Blink of an Eye.

only love twice bookcover

Can you give American Bedu’s a brief synopsis about your first novel, ‘Only Love Twice?’

It is my fantasy. A story of fifty plus year olds. It is Cinderella and her Prince Charming. In this one Prince Charming is a Saudi and Cinderella is American. And if that isn’t enough to keep them apart, he is Muslim and she is a Messianic Jew. I like to use a line from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way” to describe it. In this story, Love finds a way.

Did you find it easy or difficult to write a romance novel featuring an American and a Saudi?

I wrote from the heart. (That Ginn again) The man is Saudi but raised in the western world so is not as ‘Muslim’ as the Muslims would like. I took what I learned about Saudi culture to compare the two cultures. I wanted more than just a romance, I wanted to show everyone that two cultures could learn to get along together despite the differences and even learn to love.

What has been the reaction of Saudi’s to your book, ‘Only Love Twice,’ which features a romance between an American Jewish woman and a Saudi man?

I really would like feedback from Saudi readers about the book. I have not to date had any reviews from them. My friends and family that have read it really liked it and asked how I got the idea and how I got the knowledge of the different culture.

How can American Bedu readers obtain their own copy of ‘Only Love Twice?’

The book is available at, and my website,

American Bedu has had the honor of reading ‘Only Love Twice’ and was captivated.  However, I must ask you, is it simply a coincidence that the featured female character resembles you?  After all, she is also a retired police officer and fond of horses.

Great question! It is my fantasy after all. But really, I just found it easier to use some of my experiences to give Madison a personality. Also, many of my friends have asked me to write about my experiences as a police officer. So this was a way to include those stories and weave them as threads in the story. And who is the personality of Saleem? He is the best of every man I know.

Do you have another book in the works about Saudi Arabia?  If so, what can you share?

I am writing a sequel. In it they travel to England and Saudi Arabia. In it there will be more of the differences of cultures and discussions about child brides, arranged marriages, and letting Saudi women drive. I borrowed the visual of one of Susie’s abayas, (Blue Abaya Blog) the one with the hand painted peacock feather on it for several scenes where Madison wears an abaya. (I hope that was ok, Susie?)

I have another completely different characters book working but have not decided if the male character will be Muslim or from a Muslim country. For some reason I find them easier to write about (Must be that Ginn again).

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spent two months this winter in Florida training with my instructor and my horse in the pursuit of better dressage; what I called Dressage Boot Camp. I also walk every day, I am up to 6 miles a day which I can do in an hour and 20 minutes, so I move out. If I am not walking or riding I am on the computer reading or writing.

What personal message would you like to convey to the thousands of followers who read American Bedu daily?

Keep an open mind. Listen to the views of others, express your views in a respectful way. I have found other views to be insightful and actually changed my opinion on some things.

Kat, thank you again for the interview.  I wish you all the success with ‘Only Love Twice’ and all future books.

Thank you, Carol, and wish you well and pray for you every day. You are an inspiration!

Saudi Arabia: Saudi’s First Flash Mob!


Other than the fact it is only men participating, this flash mob could have taken place in just about anywhere in the world.  It featured music, dancing and individuals having a great time.  What makes this flash mob unique, is that it took place in conservative Saudi Arabia where dancing and music are usually prohibited in public places.  Yet in this flash mob, you do not see a single member from the Ministry of the Protection of Virtual and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa) on site.  Instead, it is people who are all enjoying themselves and having a good time.  Yes; when panning to the crowd the women are wearing abayas but in most cases have not covered their face.  There are young men wearing shorts and many others in typical Western dress as seen in New York, London or Paris.  This event was part of a promotion for a company based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  While it may not be what some would view as a “traditional” flash mob, it is a flash mob Saudi style which was undoubtedly a success!

Saudi Arabia: Her Bravery Led to a New Life

manal alsharif



She never sought out attention for herself.  She was a quiet individual but fiercely dedicated to what she believed in.  One of those beliefs was that women should not be controlled by the culture of Saudi Arabia.  She would be the first of the new generation to go out and drive.

If you have not figured it out already, this article is a tribute to Manal Al-Sharif.  Her choosing to drive back in 2011 in Khobar, Saudi Arabia kind of reminds me of the “shot that was heard around the world” during the American Revolutionary War.

Manal’s video of her driving went viral, she was apprehended by the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa), she got forced out of her job at Aramco and life has never been the same.

The first time Manal drove, in May 2011, there was little activity or stir.  She drove around Khobar by herself in her Cadillac SUV.  She was not detected or stopped. Yet when the video made of her driving was put up on youtube, it immediately went viral and her name and her daring act became known around the world.  She did not let that attention or the subsequent threats that followed phase her.

Instead, she decided to drive again and with passengers.  She, her brother, his wife and her child took a drive together with Manal again behind the wheel.  All was fine and calm until when stopped at a traffic light she was confronted by the Muttawa.  When Manal asked them outright what law had she broken she was informed while having not violated any legal law, she had violated Saudi custom.  Both she and her brother were apprehended.  Her brother was subsequently released but Manal remained in custody for more than a week until King Abdullah granted a plea made by her father to release her.  Her father promised the King his daughter would never attempt to drive in the Kingdom again.

After her bold actions and attention she was forced out of her job at Aramco.  Manal left Saudi Arabia and created a new life for herself in Dubai where she can legally drive whenever she wants with no worry of apprehension by the Muttawa.  However, Manal paid a price for her brave and historical actions.  She is a divorced woman with a young son.  Her former Saudi husband refuses to allow her son out of the country.  As a result, Manal will travel back to Saudi Arabia whenever she can on weekends to see and spend time with her son.

She has, however, found love again!  After moving to Dubai she eventually married a man from Brazil who was one of her co-workers when she worked at Aramco.  They are very happy and much in love.  Yet, ironically, in order to marry the new love in her life, she had to obtain permission from King Abdullah to marry a foreign man as she wanted her marriage to be legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

New life old life road sign on background clouds and sunburst.



Manal is a young woman from Makkah who came from a conservative but open-minded family.  She looks upon herself as a normal woman wanting to do things, such as driving, that a normal woman would do.  She has shown to the world over and over that she is a strong woman with a resolve of steel for what she believes in.

Manal Al-Sharif is without a doubt a trailblazer.  It may not be there now, but when all woman are legally able to drive in Saudi Arabia, and eventually they will, her name will be cited in the history books.  She is the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: Can Online Matchmaking Work?

finding love online


It’s not surprising that with the plethoria of available social media, more young (and older) Saudis want to take greater control over finding a spouse for themselves.  These Saudis are expressing their interest and requirements in a mate through twitter, online forums, online matchmaking sites, muslim marriage sites and leaving the traditional matchmaker behind.

In addition to mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts who will search among their peer groups for possible matches with single loved ones, they may also turn to the traditional matchmaker.  The traditional matchmaker is a Saudi woman whose business is bringing together compatible and suitable men and women for (arranged) marriage.

The traditional matchmaker receives fees for her services, both to engage her initial service and other fees when a couple agrees to a match proposed by her.  She will match up couples for traditional Islamic marriages and she will may also put couples together who are seeking a misyar marriage.  Due to the unique requirements and sensitive details of a misyar marriage, a higher fee is generally charged for this service by the traditional matchmaker.

With Saudi men and women turning to the Internet to find a mate, the traditional matchmaker fears that her role and services performed have started to diminish.

saudis online


Saudi citizens reaction to the use of online sites is mixed.  While many Saudis like having greater control in finding and choosing a mate, there remain difficulties in overcoming culture and traditions concerning marriage that have been in place for decades.  In Saudi Arabia, unless it is a misyar marriage, one does not marry a spouse but rather the family and tribe as well.  Many marriages continue to be made within the extended family and tribe.  This is not only for keeping assets and family business within the family but also the most common network of contacts women in the family will use to find a mate for their family member.

Use of online sites do make it easier for the Saudi man to post and find a second wife or a woman willing to engage in a misyar marriage.

This video further discusses the pros and cons of Saudis who are turning to online sites in the hopes of finding a spouse.  Not all Saudis are in favor though of online matchmaking.  In 2011, Saudi Gazette published an article on this topic.  In the article, young Saudis share their experiences with social media towards having interaction with the opposite gender and follow up with what they see as the pros and cons using such media. Saudi women cite their concern about deception on the part of the man that he can make himself into who or whatever he wants to be.

In spite of the valid concerns raised, there have been success stories of young Saudi couples finding love (and marriage) .  One Saudi man did find his wife though online media.  They had an “electronic” courtship which was approved and sanctioned by their parents.

online matchmaking


Some of the more popular sites which Saudis (and other Muslims) tend to use for finding a spouse are:

On viewing the above sites, it is clear that one has to be careful in their use.  They must think carefully about what they say and how they say it.  Anyone starting a dialogue with someone met online should be careful and always cautious.  There are scammers and those looking to con individuals who prey on the online sites.  These unscrupulous individuals are looking out for themselves and their own venal desires.



Online matchmaking it not new, although a new trend to Saudi Arabia.  The Western world has been active with online matchmaking/marriage sites for years.  Following are some of the most popular sites in the Western world.  The same advice on using caution for anyone seeking love and marriage through an online site applies.




Someone accessing online sites for the intent of seeking love and marriage are immediately making themselves vulnerable by placing such an intent and desire on cyberspace.  A man or woman should be careful to not reveal too much about their vulnerabilities of loneliness.  It is also safer to use an alias and reveal little about your real name, family, financial status or any assets.  Start slowly and cautiously.  Beware of stalkers in addition to the scammers and cons.  In my opinion, a woman should not use an online site without advising someone she trusts of what she has done.  This is for her protection.  If a man or woman feels that an individual sounds like a compatible candidate for a spouse, validate as much information provided by the person as possible to ensure of their legitimacy and sincere intentions.  Don’t go from corresponding on an online site directly to a personal meeting.  First, correspond through the mechanisms within the site.  Eventually you may wish to chat via Skype where you can start by hearing one another (without video) and then when appropriate (especially for the Muslim world and its customs) have a video chat.  A Muslim woman may want a male beside her at that point such as father, brother or Uncle.  This further reiterates the seriousness of the intent and lets the male suitor know that the woman has male relatives who are looking out for her well being, safety and best interests.

Love and marriage can be found online.  I will acknowledge that back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I was a more of a geek and ran a successful bulletin board system (BBS).  These became pretty much obsolete with the introduction of the Internet then followed by other social media sites.  However, while I had my BBS, 3 couples found each other and ultimately got married.  My BBS was not set up in any way as a matchmaking mechanism but some regular participants got to know one another through common interests which were discussed.

Saudi Arabia: Speed Dating in Riyadh

speed dating

When one hears the term “speed dating” it’s usually associated with single men and women who gather in a common location with the intent to meet each under.  Each man and woman is giving a specific amount of time where they can sit down and chat with one another before time is up and then they move on to chat with someone else for the same amount of time.  If a man and woman feel they are compatible with one another they will generally exchange contact information before moving on to the next individuals to be met.

Speed dating is not a term one expects to hear in association with Saudi Arabia and especially a conservative capital city like Riyadh.  Yet, Riyadh recently held its first speed dating event…with a twist!

Towards maximizing the time available for direct and focused networking, a professional women’s group in Riyadh recently held their first speed dating event.  At this event, a small group of professional women had the opportunity to discuss a specific topic or address a question for three minutes before the question and rotation of women would change.  This was an opportunity for professional women in Riyadh from differing fields of expertise and nationalities to network, share knowledge and build both personal and professional relationships.

The women came to the event from different backgrounds.  They were comprised of business owners, doctors, consultants and managers.  The expatriate women in particular were able to gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in Saudi Arabia as a woman.

The event was such a success that future “speed dating” networking sessions among women are planned.

Saudi Arabia: It All Comes Down to Ethics and Professionalism


American Bedu is very pleased to read of stricter regulations on copyright violations in addition to consideration of greater opportunities for Saudi women.

Earlier this week an article appeared in Arab News which advised of the Ministry of Culture and Information placing a travel ban on 35 businessmen for violating copyright laws and then failing to pay fines imposed by the Ministry.

The Ministry has also received 870 complaints of copyright violations and has blocked 65 websites in 2012.  This is an excellent step forward that clearly indicates that the Ministry is actively viewing websites and responding to complaints of copyright violation.

copyright thief

What exactly is a copyright violation, the uninitiated and naïve may ask?  According to Wikipedia, a copyright violation or copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of works under copyright such as the right to reproduce, display, distribute without having received permission from the owner of the original material.  American Bedu and several other well known Saudi bloggers experienced having their individual blogs rape and pillaged as an unscrupulous blogger freely chose their original material to repost on another blog.  In fact, material from American Bedu and these other blogs has continued to reappear on a new blog that this blogger created after receiving pressure to close down the original blog which was full of stolen and copyrighted material.

This blogger is a female Muslim expatriate who holds a responsible position as an ER pharmacist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.


Yet, it is disconcerting to know that this “professional” has demonstrated not only a lack of judgment in regards to copyright violations, but also a lack of discretion on what is appropriate subject matter to openly discuss on her blog.

A pharmacist holds a position where privacy and confidentiality is expected.  Yet she has written posts on her blogs about serving specific patients.  Anyone who has spent any significant time in Saudi Arabia can easily identify the families of whom she has written about on her blog.  She also chose to discuss haram (prohibited) content on her blog such as Saudi female patients who have come to see her for treatment due to intimate encounters, whether they were married yet or not.


Her lack of judgment does not speak well for her, the position she holds at King Faisal Specialist hospital or  for the patients who have (mis)placed their trust in her.

Therefore, I am very pleased to learn that Saudi women will soon have additional opportunities to work as pharmacists at commercial pharmacies.  Such opportunities open up more viable employment opportunities for Saudi women and make a significant contribution to the Saudiazation of the work force.  It is further hoped that more positions will open up for female Saudi pharmacists in public and governmental hospitals and clinics too.  These pharmacies are already separated by gender with separate areas for male and female patients. Another thing too, one can count on Saudi women for their discretion.  They are unlikely to share with the world any sensitive details about the female customers or their families who are serviced.

Saudi Arabia: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Abdul Al-Lily, Saudi blogger

It gives American Bedu pleasure to present this exclusive interview with Dr. Abdul Al-Lily, creator and blogger of Sex and Beyond:  Saudi Arabia.  It is not only unusual to find such a candid blog and one written by a Saudi man.



First of all, thank you very much, Dr. Al Lily, for this opportunity.  I hope I dont overwhelm you with the breadth of questions I have for you!  I am also confident that American Bedu readers will likely have more questions in addition to their comments after reading this interview.


Lets begin first with some background about you. Where are you from in the Kingdom?  How would you describe your upbringing?  Do you view your family as conservative or open?

I was born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and lived there till I turned 21 when I moved to Canada for a few months, then to England for around 7 years, then back to Saudi Arabia till now. At the age of 11, I joined an ideological community that trained its members in so many skills (e.g. computing, languages, management, organisation and graphics) and, more importantly, educated them intensively in Saudi Arabian culture and its theoretical aspects. I was very active and disciplined in this community, to the extent that I became an authority in this community at the age of 17. Through this community, I got very ‘culturalised’ and managed to achieve a high level of theoretical understanding of Saudi culture, to the extent that this qualified me to become a cultural authority outside this community, becoming at the age of 16 a ‘mouezzin’ (i.e. the person who issues the call to prayer from a mosque) and then at the age of 18 an ‘imam’ (i.e. an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and a Muslim community, who may lead Islamic worship services, serve as community leaders and provide religious guidance). At the age of 20, I managed to memorise the whole Quran with understanding of the rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Quran, and therefore I became qualified as an authority to teach others how to recite Quran. I, moreover, was an educational supervisor in Hajj five times.

Because I was always very keen to influence the organisation to which I am attached, I was very politically and socially active at school and engaged even with the regional education agency. Likewise, at the university where I did my undergraduate studies, I was a leader of social activities. Despite me being politically and socially active, my academic studies still had a top priority, and for this reason, I managed to pass my undergraduate studies with distinction and to gain a royal reward for the highest academic achievement in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Beside my academic studies, I attended a great number of seminars and lectures in the theoretical and practical aspects of Saudi culture. When I got my BA degree, I decided to learn English. I always like to do what people find difficult to do, and since English is considered (at least by Saudis) to be something difficult to learn, my focus had become on learning English. But the problem was that my background in English was zero. I did not even know what the term ‘newspaper’ meant in English. So, since the second I finished my undergraduate studies, I started studying English intensively for a year in Saudi Arabia, and then moved to Canada to continue learning English, then to England to study particularly academic English and do my postgraduate studies.

What kind of experiences have you had outside of the Kingdom? To where have you travelled? How have these travels impacted on you and your outlook?  uk and canada flags

Moving to such multicultural countries (Canada and then England) gave me the opportunity to explore other cultures and compare them to Saudi culture. This has indeed improved my critical ability to analyse Saudi culture and look at it from a new perspective. I have decided to share my new perspective with the international community, believing that this sharing is of the essence given that the world is witnessing a high level of cultural exchange but the contribution of Saudi culture to this exchange was weak and limited. So, I decided to write about Saudi culture, thus enriching information about Saudi culture in this international cultural exchange. Many Saudis avoid critically and internationally writing about Saudi culture for various reasons, including not being good at writing in English, not being good at theoretically and critically analysing Saudi culture, not having the writing skill, not being good at expressing themselves and/or not feeling politically confident. Another reason why there is a lack of writings about Saudi Arabian culture is that Saudi Arabia is a collective society, and therefore anyone writing about Saudi culture thinks of himself or herself as a representative of Saudi culture, which therefore puts so much pressure on himself or herself, thus discouraging him/her from writing about this culture. Likewise, because of this collectiveness, Saudi citizens think of any Saudi writer about Saudi culture as a representative of Saudi society, and therefore they will be hard on him or her if s/he misrepresents the culture.

When did you first get the idea on starting a blog which address sex, intimacy, relations and customs thereof within Saudi Arabia?

I realised that my Western friends were fascinated by anything I mentioned about sexual practice in Saudi Arabia, even if it was a small and simple thing. This has indeed motivated me to blog about Saudi sexual practice. Another reason why I decided to write about sexual relations is that I am academically interested in relationships, including power relations and gender relations. For me, any connection between two social elements (here, the two genders) is fascinating, and I am keen to think about, analyse and write about such a connection. I decided to write particularly about sex because sexual considerations have been given so much attention to the extend that they have somehow impeded the progress of Saudi society and because sexual considerations actually influence fundamentally almost any decision and policy and shape fundamental aspects of the national culture, structure and even infrastructure. Yet, writing about such sexual considerations in English is weak and limited, and for this reason, I have decided to blog about them in English, hoping to help fill this gap.

I have chosen Saudi Arabia as the setting for my blog because of the nature of its culture which is seen to tend to resist strictly and uncompromisingly any socially deviant trend in behaviour or belief, making it very strong and so heavily protected that even those campaigning for change do not challenge existing configurations, but rather attempt to work within them. This culture is believed to have been politically protected not only from above by the social authorities, but also from below by most citizens – and moreover from outside by international Arab and Muslim communities. Some writers think that Saudis as a whole seem in no doubt as to where their values lie. It is believed that Saudis, as a whole, are still strongly attached to their culture and religion.

Did you have any apprehensions or misgivings on creating your blog and identifying yourself?

I am trying so hard to be diplomatic and charismatic as much as possible, which seems to have discouraged any cruel social reaction towards the blog. Besides, there has apparently become no (or at least hardly any) physical harm to anyone criticising Saudi cultural and social values and patterns – with the exception of the fundamental norms of the national political system which I intentionally avoid talking about in the blog. There, however, remains some social hatred towards such critics. That said, I have started to notice that some Saudis (whether young or old, liberal or even conservative) somehow admire, normally secretly, anyone who is ‘westernised’/’modernised’ and has its own distinctive way of seeing Saudi culture, especially when this person is successful and delivers his/her criticisms in a polite and delicate way. Frankly, given the fact that I hold a doctoral degree and am a faculty member in Saudi Arabia, this grants me so much prestige, which makes Saudis show respect to me despite my critical writings about their culture. Besides, the fact that I did my master’s and doctorate in the West and lived over there for a long time, this makes people somehow forgive me for viewing their culture through a critical lens. I am, as mentioned earlier, a faculty member in a Saudi university, teaching a large number of Saudi undergraduates, and since the relationship between me and my students tends to be good, these students are more likely to become influenced by my values, thus increasing the number of my followers and therefore my ‘protectors.’

How do you get ideas on which specific subjects you write upon?

I get ideas through talks with non-Saudi and Saudi friends and also through enquiries from the readers of my blog. I normally spend three hours on any post; an hour researching, an hour writing and an hour proofreading. I am obsessed with taking notes of any thought or idea that comes to my mind, thanks to Evernote.

saudi honeymoon     How easy is it for you to write each post on a topic dealing with intimacy and specific within Saudis culture and religious beliefs?

I already addressed this question in my answer to the previous question, but what I should stress here is that writing about sex is not a new thing within the Saudi context. There are actually so many publications in Saudi bookstores talking about sexual practices. But what makes my blog outstanding and sensitive is that it is written in English and therefore directed to the international community, thus exposing Saudi society to the outside world and therefore destabilising Saudi privacy. Besides, almost all these publications are religion-driven and/or -oriented and full of citations from the Islamic history, whereas I am trying so hard to do otherwise as much as possible, which has raised a new perspective with which Saudi society is not familiar. Another aspect of my blog, which makes it outstanding and sensitive, is that it discusses only those issues that have not been discussed yet in the Western media, trying so hard to avoid talking about any issue that has already been shed light on.

What do you view as your most controversial post and why?

This question leads me to an important issue, i.e. that the increasing emergence of communication channels (e.g. online forums and blogs) has encouraged Saudi people to start discussing their cultural and social issues. Yet, many of these discussions seem to exist within a ‘bubble,’ sustain one-sided arguments and lack extreme opinions and ‘wild’ views. My blog, however, hopes to offer such opinions and views, just for the sake of argument, helping blow such a bubble. That is, what I write in my blog does not necessarily represent my own beliefs but can be written just for the sake of argument.

What are your views on writings about Saudi culture?

There are serious limitations in many of the writings about Saudi society by Saudis. One is that they are written in an emotional way and lack a scientific aspect. Another limitation is that some such writings are written theoretically with no empirical research given that the social authorities will not allow for such research to be conducted given its social sensitivity and given that it conflicts with the national culture. For example, any research on ‘gender mixing’ (the opposite to ‘gender separation’) normally faces the challenge that the social authorities will not allow researchers to conduct any social experiment (i.e. trail and control group) whereby the two genders are experimentally physically integrated, as such an action goes against the core cultural norm of gender separation. For this reason, writings about gender mixing in Saudi Arabia are informed by writings about gender mixing in other non-Saudi contexts. Yet, gender mixing in other non-Saudi contexts (e.g. the West and even in other Arab and Muslim countries) is different from gender mixing in the Saudi context. For example, Western single-sex schools and colleges are different from the Saudi ones, since parents, employers and employees of the other gender can access them in the West unlike in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, no one of one gender (e.g. parents, employers and employees) can access schools and colleges of the other gender. This means that findings of any research on single sex education in the West cannot and should not be seen as relevant to the Saudi context.

What have you seen as a most common theme or query which individuals like to see addressed?

I have realised that the Internet is full of merely dramas (i.e. not facts) about social life in Saudi society. I thus have built my blog in a way that avoids dramas and rather presents facts. That is, I have noticed that readers about Saudi Arabia seem to be keen to know about facts, being told in a factual and therefore not dramatic way. Such readers are also keen to know about those aspects of Saudi society that have not been discussed by the media yet. Such readers are aware that Saudi culture is more than just those certain cultural aspects that the media keep repeating and going through again and again. This awareness has encouraged them to become keen to expand their knowledge about Saudi society beyond these repeated aspects.

How much do the cultural customs, religion and segregation impact on a typical Saudis knowledge or understanding of intimacy?     saudi family

Saudi Arabia is a highly structured, deeply directed and intensively religion-oriented society, and this is why the impact of its norms on its citizens is strong. This explains why a Saudi, even after travelling abroad and exploring other cultures, is likely to remain under influence by and loyal to his or her culture and can hardly be independent of it. Saudi culture, moreover, has the power to regulate not only public life but also private life, and this is why even one’s private sexual life is subject to regulation by the culture. Yet, science sometimes proves the culture wrong, and this is when some citizens feel they are left in a critical situation wherein they do not know whether to follow the culture or science.

In your point of view, at what general age range is sex and intimate relations usually explained to a Saudi male or female?

It is useful to talk here about sex education. As the reader might know, there is no sex education in Saudi Arabia. The question is therefore whether such education should exist within the Saudi context. Some might believe that one will learn about sex with or without sex education, thanks to the Internet. Others, however, might argue that the Internet might expose Saudis to only certain aspects of sex (e.g. how to achieve more pleasant sex, including positions) but not to other aspects (e.g. how to achieve safe sex). Sex education has the potential to, or at least should, cover all possible aspects of sex and give students a comprehensive view on sexual practice.

Subjective, but do you think Saudis (male or female) may be more focused on sex or the idea of sex, than other nationalities? Why or why not?

Inside the country, Saudi men seem to be less focused on the idea of sex than other nationalities given that their exposure to (i.e. the reminder of) the other gender is weak. Outside the country, however, Saudi men seem to be obsessed about sex just as much as other nationalities are.

Are you married or single? If married, was your marriage arranged? If you are still single, do you plan for a marriage in your future and would it likely be an arranged marriage?

I am 29 and single, although Saudis typically get married at the age of 24. Saudi marriage is typically arranged through mainly mothers. A main problem with the idea of arranged marriage is that it is arranged by mothers who belong to a generation that is different from the generation of the person getting married and therefore are less likely to truly know his/her real needs. The one getting married could be left in a critical situation where s/he feels s/he has to put up with arranged marriage given that s/he cannot actually hang around and find a partner himself or herself given the firmly applied gender separation. Even if the Saudi man decides to travel to the West to look himself for the right partner to marry, the Saudi immigration system makes it difficult for him to bring her to the country as a partner, or even as a visitor given that it is difficult for female non-Muslims to get a visa to Saudi Arabia, I believe.

love gone wrong     So many foreign women engage in relationships with a Saudi while he is abroad. Most of these relationships are destined to eventual heartbreak. What is your advice to these women? What is your advice to the Saudi man abroad?

As I mentioned earlier, a Saudi man, while studying abroad, might have a Western girlfriend, but he finds it very hard or even impossible to bring her with him back home when going back for good to Saudi Arabia given that the Saudi immigration system apparently makes it difficult for him to bring her to the country as a partner or even as a visitor given that it is apparently very difficult for female non-Muslims to get a visa to Saudi Arabia, I believe. Yet, the best a Saudi friend of mind could do after going back home for good was to have a distance relationship with his European girlfriend, with him going regularly to visit her in Europe and her coming to visit him in the Gulf (not in Saudi Arabia though because she cannot legally get a visa and, moreover, because they cannot meet in Saudi Arabia given gender separation). He, moreover, cannot, I believe, marry her according to Saudi law unless there is actually a reason preventing him from typically marrying a Saudi woman. All this may have resulted in huge disappointment and frustration on the part of some of those Saudis being in a relationship with a foreigner.

Thank you very much for this interview and for sharing your blog with the world.


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