“Welcome to the ‘Big Prison!’ ” My father-in-law jokingly said in Arabic passing the border into Saudi Arabia.
Little did he know, he was 62% right.
Born and raised in the United States for 25 years and living independently in Spain for 1 year: moving to Saudi seemed daunting.
- Not being able to drive (June 24th, may you change our ways)
- Having to wear the abaya (cloak-like attire) and hijab (headscarf)
- Experiencing culture shock
- Relying on a man to get anything done
No matter how much I mentally prepared myself, nothing compares to living it.
It was around 3 AM when we arrived. Driving to my in-laws place, looking out the window all you see is desert, building, desert, desert, and more buildings. You don’t realize your love for trees, grass, flowers, and bright nature until you dive into the world of desert and unfinished construction. Man, how I craved greenery.
Arriving at my in-laws, I was overwhelmed and sorta dazed. Jet lag creeped on me and blurred my conscious. I was exhausted from the 15hr flight.
My husband had the best solution: a tour of his childhood.
He took me to the different schools he attended, where he grew up playing soccer, his favorite food joint, and where he would get together with his friends after class.
I was seeing my husband in a different light, experiencing his origins.
I can only imagine the culture shock he went through after his coming to America for 8 years studying finance at VCU.
- Females dressed in jeans, shorts dresses, hair exposed
- Mingling between females and males
- Food (non-halal, different taste) My husband would always say Saudi food is better (he’s right btw)
- Learning a new language: English
- And of course so much greenery and nature. *sigh* (def my bias)
Now it was my turn to face the music
After a couple of months of living in Saudi, these are what I noticed:
- Women wearing the hijab and abaya
- Most men wearing the thawb (white Arabic man ‘dress’) and shemagh (a white, or red & white checkered cotton scarf) on their heads
- Depending on my husband or Uber/Careem to go ANYWHERE
- Social gatherings being separated by gender
- Blending of religion and culture
- Treatment of Men vs. Women
BUT, there is always a silver lining
- Being with my husband (cheesy, I know)
- Having two adorable kittens (Simba & Luna)
- Speaking and understanding Arabic (but the Dammam dialect I had to get used to)
- Food is AMAZING and FRESH
- Asia and Europe are SO NEAR
- Weather during the winter is FLAWLESS (the lowest it gets is around 50s)
- People are polite, humble, so hospitable
- Living by the corniche
- Living in a neighborhood where malls, cafes, grocery stores, are all within walking distance (depending on the weather)
The first couple of months, not going to lie, living in Saudi was difficult.
But then I realized, I came at the most convenient time. Women are going to start driving, Cinemeas are OPENING after 35 years, people are finally able to attend concerts and events and SO. MUCH. MORE. It is absolutely insane that I am experiencing and witnessing one of the biggest changing points of Saudi.
Thank you, Allah!
June 24th, 2018 is just the beginning. Especially for women!
I hope you, my dear readers, enjoyed this brief summary of my transition to Saudi. Let me know in the comments below what you would be interested in reading about!!
Please, feel free to share 🙂
Dans in Dammam