Category Archives: Marriage to Saudi

A short reunion

Alhamdulilah, after 6 months apart, my husband and I were recently reunited for 2 and a half weeks. I am tempted by cliche to describe it as having been ‘blissful’. But despite obviously being very happy and grateful to see one another again, it is not a fitting word to describe the experience. What makes it decidedly ‘un blissful’ is that you are constantly aware that this offer is for a limited time only and very soon you will be thrust back into, what in comparison, feels like the single life.

I am also tempted to say that it gets easier but that’s not quite the truth either. Each reunion initiates a process of re-adaption in which you try to remember how to be a real life couple again. Both parties must reaccustom themselves to sharing all their time with another human being and when you are on ‘holiday’ it really is all your time. The knowledge that this short period of time together must sustain you both for at least another 6 months means that when you inevitably feel the need for your own space, you feel guilty.

To overcome this false shame and hold onto my sanity I lovingly recalled a common scene from when we lived together in Australia; me silently reading a book while he chuckled to himself on the other end of the lounge as he watched his weekly manga cartoon on his laptop. Recreating this scene in our hotel room felt like true indulgence and after we established that it was ok to have our own time, we rediscovered our rhythmn. Unfortunately, by the time that happened we had to part ways once more.

That brings me to the very worst part of such reunions which is of course their excruciatingly painful ends. Mine and my husband’s goodbye’s usually take place in foreign airports from which we return alone to our own countries. This time I was armed with the valuable knowledge that unless I mentally and spiritually prepared myself beforehand, I would definetly cry hysterically and once on the plane, break down in the arms of an unsuspecting stranger. I know this because that’s exactly what happened last time.

I prepared by making du’a and asking Allah for strength the night before then remembering Him through dhikr and reciting and reading the Qur’an to myself once I left my husband to enter the boarding gate. Alhamdulilah though I did do some serious crying, I managed to control myself enough that I avoided making a huge scene or involving bystanders. Considering the enormous amount of grief and despair I felt at that time, that is a huge achievement! Wallahi, it truly does feel as if a huge and vital part of your body has been forcibly removed from you leaving you completely alone and vulnerable.

 After becoming reacquainted with the beauty and intimacy of sharing your every day life with the one you love, it makes it that much harder to return to a life of sleeping alone and communicating with your partner through temperamental video calls where sometimes the only way I can tell it is him is by the colours of the blurry figure on the screen. So it doesn’t get easier but knowing what to expect does help you deal with it in a more effective way.

Upon my return to Australia, I awaited the heavy depression and sick feeling which sat in the pit of my stomach in the couple weeks immediately after the end of our last trip. But alhamdulilah apart from one much needed crying session the day I arrived home, I appear to have been spared. I think that is due in large part to the fact that I had many projects awaiting my attention when I returned which have kept me extremely busy. Unfortunately, my husband has also been extremely busy to the point we have had to delay applying for the Saudi marriage permission which we intended to do upon our return. I am doing my best to make sure we are at least ready to apply for a visa for him by Ramadan so that he may move here but without him being able to help it is unlikely even that will happen any time soon.

Please make du’a for us to make all this work easy on us and to be reunited permanently soon with the blessing of the Saudi government and his family inshaAllah. JazakAllah khair.

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Boy meets girl, fall in love, separated by oceans, waiting for family to agree, waiting for marriage permission…

Often when people discover mine and my husband’s nationalities, they are surprised; sometimes smirking at my husband as if by marrying a Westerner he has done something deliciously forbidden. However, we are not the only such couple out there and it has been my observation that many of our stories share similar characteristics…

Most Western wives meet their Saudi husbands at university where their husband is usually studying on a government scholarship. During this time, the young couple fall in love and enjoy their time together…until he finishes his studies. At that time, pressure from family, homesickness and a sense of obligation to serve the country which gave him his education, lures him back home. Even if he wishes to prolong his stay in the country to remain with his partner, it is often impossible due to an inability to obtain employment there. Ultimately, as a student fresh out of university, even at the Masters level, the search for a job outside KSA proves too difficult.

So he returns to a country to which she cannot follow him and to a culture which is likely still a mystery to her. He himself must deal with reverse culture shock and, in recent times, long stretches of unemployment. This is without mentioning dealing with the heart break and distress at having been torn apart from his lover.

Upon expressing his desire to marry his foreign lover he will likely be met with disapproval. This can be for a variety of reasons:

  1. For a conservative, tribal family it may be the very fact that the woman is not Saudi or even that she is not part of their tribe (some such families are so insular that they will not even allow their family members to marry outside the family)
  2. For most families it is a genuine fear for the ability of the foreign wife to adapt to the very challenging and unique environment in KSA. In the Western world we have the ‘not without my daughter’ stereotype but what many people don’t realise is that they also have their own horror stories about Saudi men who have married foreign women and lost their children. Indeed, there have reportedly been a significant amount of cases in KSA where non Saudi women married to Saudi men have effectively kidnapped their children and left the country without warning, never to set foot in the country again. This was not necessarily done to escape an abusive husband but rather to escape a country which they found themselves overwhelmed by and unable to adapt to. All families want the best for their children and if they see them entering into what they consider to be a high risk situation they will naturally be uncomfortable with that and unfortunately, mixed Saudi/non Saudi marriages are indeed high risk with half of mixed marriages failing as opposed to 22% of Saudi-Saudi marriages (see link).
  3. For those women who are not Muslim, often the family will have the additional concern of how a non-Muslim woman will raise good Muslim children in the future inshaAllah.

If family approval is given (sometimes even when it’s not!), they then move onto the next obstacle – obtaining marriage permission from the Saudi government. The government require that before any of their citizens marry a non Saudi, they must apply for permission to do so. There is no set processing time and it has been known to take anywhere from days to years.

A major determining factor of the speed and success of the process is wasta. Wasta is the practice of using your connections/influence to get things done quickly and easily, or indeed getting things done at all. It can be a wonderful thing when you have it but for the many who do not, it can be incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, big wasta is required if you want to get the marriage permission in a reasonable period of time i.e. months rather than years. However, if you are not blessed with this, there will likely be a number of people, mainly government workers, along the way offering to accept large sums of money from you in return for speeding up the process. Such under the table deals, while tempting for the many desperate couples whose patience is wearing thin, are inherently risky and it is not unheard of for these people to accept the money without keeping their end of the deal.

Meanwhile, the lovers, often compelled by circumstances to remain apart in their own countries, may marry under Islamic law without the knowledge of either of their governments. Should they choose to marry under the civil law of the woman’s country, the Saudi man faces a fine of SR100,000 which, at the time of writing, is equal to roughly AUD25,000 (see link).

They wait and they wait and they wait, at the mercy of a bureaucracy which seems only to care about wasta and dollar signs but alhamdulilah, as Allah promised us, after hardship comes ease. After what is usually a painful, lengthy wait, the couple often eventually obtain the permission whether through wasta and/or bribes or purely by the grace of God. InshaAllah they are finally free to begin the adventure that is married life as a mixed couple in Saudi Arabia.

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Why I want Saudi citizenship

It was recently announced that those wishing to apply for citizenship are now at the mercy of a particularly ruthless points system. On a practical level, for wives of Saudi’s to obtain citizenship, they must now…

1) Have had the marriage permission for 12 years (this does not include the years of marriage before gaining marriage permission from the Saudi government)

2) Had more than 2 children with their Saudi husband

3) Have at least a bachelors degree.

Now, personally I’m on zero. Even if I fulfil the first two requirements in the future inshaAllah, it doesn’t count for much because I don’t have a degree. And although I am aware that to protect my own future prospects in Saudi (not just to obtain citizenship) I should finish my degree, the reality is that I have attempted the university thing on three separate occasions so far, and I loathed it every time. So, the chances of my attaining a degree in the future, is rather slim especially if I’m in Saudi popping out all those kids as per the first two requirements! We must also consider those women who have been married to Saudi men and lived in KSA for years and have children but do not have a degree. They have more right than most to be granted citizenship and yet according to the new system – they cannot.

So now you may be asking why someone with a Western passport aka key to the door of opportunity, would exchange that for a Saudi one. Its appeal for myself and many others married to Saudis, is that it grants some degree of solid protection for the future inshaAllah.

Saudi visas, like most of the Arab Gulf countries, run on a sponsor system. Foreign women married to Saudi’s are also subject to this system. Until they obtain citizenship, which as we can see is neither quick nor easy, their Saudi husband must sponsor their iqama aka residency permit. The iqama is received upon entering Saudi Arabia after obtaining the marriage permission and marrying under their law. The iqama must be renewed every couple of years. This means that, should such a marriage end in divorce, your husband and his family can choose not to sponsor you so that you can stay. Without a sponsor, you will be deported. This is a problem if there are children involved because they will have Saudi citizenship and as such cannot be taken back to your country with you unless your husband gives written permission (very rare).

If  such a woman has been deported and is still unable to find a sponsor to live in Saudi, the only way to get back into the country on a long term basis is to gain employment there. Easy? Not so much. Applying for a job in Saudi Arabia from outside the country is extremely difficult if you do not have at least a bachelor’s degree and years of experience in a field of work. Employment opportunities for foreigners in KSA are concentrated in the medical and educational (teaching English as a foreign language) fields. Unfortunately, with the anticipated Saudisation of workplaces in KSA, it’s likely that in time it will only become more difficult.

However, it is possible to have someone other than your husband or in-laws sponsor you should the marriage go bad. I was recently advised of two separate cases where non Saudi women who were separated from their husbands gained not only sponsorship to remain in KSA with their children, but financial assistance from a Saudi prince mashaAllah may Allah reward him. Apparently Court appointed lawyers can also act as sponsors and I’m sure there are many other possible candidates.

If the woman cannot  find a job in Saudi Arabia, it is possible for her to visit her children in Saudi Arabia provided that her husband issues a ‘no objection’ statement.

For those women who are able to remain in Saudi Arabia  as well as those who wish to leave following divorce,  it is highly unlikely that they will gain custody of their children. It is not common for even Saudi women to get custody of their children and it is even less common for non Saudi women. Generally, the Saudi Courts grant the father custody and the wife visitation rights, however, there are cases where the woman didn’t even receive those. Needless to say, none of this reflects the way things should be done under Shari’a (Islamic) law. For a description of how child custody in the Shari’a works please see this link.

Ostensibly, the reason the government has been making the citizenship laws increasingly tough is that non Saudi women were marrying Saudi men simply to obtain citizenship and once they received it they would escape with their children and then the government would have to deal with distressed fathers begging them for help. And to that I say – where is the proof? We hear a lot of these sorts of claims by the Saudi government used to justify unreasonable laws and on the rare occasion evidence is provided, it is extremely unreliable. Two good examples of this are the laws which govern marrying foreigners and those against women driving.

Should all non Saudi wives, a large number of whom are Western women who have no reason to want citizenship other than to protect themselves and their family, be punished for the alleged crimes of what I suspect are a relative minority? Is this yet another attempt to punish and deter those foreigners who ‘lured in’ Saudi men? I suspect so.

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Yes, I am a ‘Fascinating Womanhood’ fan…

Salams all,

I wanted to speak about something which I’ve noticed has come up quite a few times now in the small but masha’Allah very active ‘wives of Saudi men’ community. For anyone who is/was involved with a Saudi, you will know that it’s rarely simple or easy to maintain such a relationship. Marriage is never easy, and marriage to a Saudi has its own additional, very unique challenges. There are times for all of us when we go searching for some sort of guidance on how to improve our marriage.

However, I actually began searching for this not long before I married. I knew as a Muslim wife there are high standards for me and it is very important that I fulfil them to the best of my ability but honestly I had no idea how.  For instance, I knew that I had to obey my husband in all that is halal but I had no idea how to go about this and I couldn’t seem to find any Islamic resources outlining how this works on a practical level. The only ‘wisdom’ I possessed in regards to marriage was what I had learnt from the Western society I live in.  That was not helpful at all and obviously hadn’t been much help to others within this society if contemporary divorce rates are any indication of marital success.

So, one day I fell upon a comment on a blog post I was reading, in which someone mentioned a book called ‘Fascinating Womanhood’ by Helen Andelin. In the crudest terms it is basically a vintage 1950s housewife-esque guide to pleasing your husband and having an awesome married life. I’d always been curious about this generation of wives simply because, unlike the current generation, their marriages tended to last and their dedication to homemaking (whilst looking a little bit fabulous) also had its allure. And yes, I have heard all of the arguments saying that ‘yeah the marriages lasted but doesn’t mean they were happy, they only stayed because they were too dependent to leave’. I’m sure that was true for some women but certainly not all.

So, I came to this book with an open mind and it has become one of my favourites. It goes against almost everything we are taught to think about our husbands and marriage in Western society but it all makes complete sense and with a couple of exceptions, it is in line with Islamic teachings and the most fabulous of all is that I can personally testify to its effectiveness. After reading this, I was horrified to realise how badly I had treated my husband in the past and how I must have hurt and disrespected him without even realising, because in mainstream Western society, what I did was acceptable and normal. I was always trying to prove that I was just as good and capable as him if not better. I had some serious feminine pride issues which I think I share with most other women raised in this society.

All in all, this book has motivated me to be the best wife and insha’Allah one day the best mother I can be and to cherish those roles rather than seeing them as something to run away from or put up with. Applying even just some of the principles has greatly increased my love and respect for my husband and motivated me to improve myself both inside and outside. It has even lead to me becoming more feminine to the point that my husband even commented on how masculine I now make him feel. Alhamdulilah. And knowing how important that is to a man now, I consider that a real achievement.

So, I would like to humbly recommend this book to those of you out there who, like me are married to a Saudi. I pinpoint this particular nationality because, as one of the sisters said, Saudi men tend to be especially masculine and in my opinion they expect their wife to take on a more traditional feminine role to some extent. Most Saudi’s have grown up in an environment where traditional gender roles are observed, so naturally, they expect something similar from their own wife and marriage as a whole. I don’t think it is often said aloud, and to be fair, they may not be conscious of the fact that they expect their wife to be like this and only realise they had those expectations when their wife does not fulfil that role.

I’m certain that this happens often, and like I mentioned earlier I had experienced it previously (even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time!) because Western ideas of marriage and gender relations are heavily influenced by modern, Western feminist thought which assumes that men and women are equal and as such have interchangeable roles. The concepts of masculinity and femininity and gender roles are completely diluted to the point they are now considered largely outdated. And needless to say, from where I stand it seems that traditional gender roles are very much the norm in KSA and are re-enforced by Islamic teachings. When a woman chooses to be a housewife in a Western country, people think she is absolutely mad, especially if she has no children because they see it as her being lazy and expect that she will be bored and wasting her talents etc. In KSA, again this is only judging from what my husband has told me and what i’ve gathered from others living there etc, being a housewife is viewed as your right and a legitimate choice (when it is indeed a personal choice).

So, for those of you interested in reading ‘Fascinating Womanhood’ but can’t find it the book shop here is an e book which is based on the book and shares most of the main concepts through a narrative. It’s written in a bit of a cheesy way but it gets the message across! http://www.ebookdb.org/item/295/SECRETS-OF-FASCINATING-WOMANHOOD

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The virgin post

Assalam aleikum everybody,

I hate firsts, so let’s just get this over and done with so we can all move on with our lives.

So, icebreaker. Hi everyone, I love life. Alhamdulilah.

Considering the trials my husband and I are facing in our efforts to do what is so easy for most- to simply live and start our lives together, some might think that it’s odd that I say that. But at this moment, I’m content with what Allah has decreed for me.

SubhanAllah it’s really amazing how as humans we adapt to situations, no matter how challenging or painful they may be. True, at first there is a period of resistance and you let your pain and suffering reign free. It’s a pity party at your house 7 days a week, 24 hours a day – why me? But then you realise, this situation is not likely to disappear for quite a long time and this behaviour will do nothing but destroy you. So gradually, you settle into these new, unwelcome circumstances and make peace with them.

I have made peace with the fact that insha’Allah until we are able to apply for marriage permission from his government and have it granted, my husband and I will be on 2 very different continents, with 8 hours time difference between us.

I have made peace with the fact it may take years.

I have made peace with the fact that his family and friends have no idea we are married and we can’t tell them until the government gives us the approval.

I have made peace with the fact that I will only be able to have a 2 minute conversation with him while he is at work, 5 days a week at most and that it will only be enough time to exchange pleasantries.

But alhamdulilah I have also made peace with the fact that on the day and a half that he has off work, we can speak on skype for a couple of, sometimes even a few hours. And his smile makes me forget how neglected I feel during the rest of the week.

And alhamdulilah I have made peace with the fact that although I have to wait another 6 months or so until I see him again, when I do see him insha’Allah it will be amazing. It will be in a country which is new to both of us and together we can explore and create happy memories.

I have made peace with the fact that once we get the approval, insha’Allah we will live in KSA indefinetly. I will leave all my friends, family and my country behind but insha’Allah I will take my Islam with me.  And at the end of the day, that’s all I really ask for.

“The one who has found Allah has found everything and the one who has lost Allah has lost everything.”

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