Howdy, dear readers. It has been an exciting week here at islamwich! Firstly, because snowball stands have reopened in the New Orleans area after an off-and-on winter, and I (Corbin) have had one too many.
Secondly, because Gracie Lawrence was accepted to a PhD program and promptly left the continent. Don’t worry, she’s a busy lady but she will be back to islamwich and to her PhD program.
And lastly but not least-ly because, islamwich is welcoming a new blogger to the team. Her name is Stephanie, she hold a Masters in English (impressed yet?!) and she loves long walks off of short precipices … But let’s let her introduce herself in the third person:
Stephanie Siam, a native of Mobile, Alabama, converted to Islam approximately a decade ago. Currently, she resides in Muscat, Oman, with her husband and daughter, where she teaches English in the Foundation Programme of the country’s top university. When in the US, she can usually be found navigating between Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, as these are the four corners of her heartland. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing and spending time with her family doing various activities. Her intention is to share her perspective on being a non-Arab Muslim living in an Arab Muslim world.
And now it is time for you, dear readers, to snuggle up to your laptop and a cup of tea and hear the tale of how Stephanie unwillingly became a Saudi … kind of.
(To the tune of “Party in the U.S.A”)
I hopped off the plane at DMM
With an abaya and the hubs in hand
Welcome to the land of religious men
Whoa, am I gonna fit in?
Jumped on the bus –
‘Cause I’m not allowed to drive –
Look to my right, and I see a Camel Crossing sign
All the drivers so crazy
Transportation’s so dangerous
So I put my hands up
And say a little prayer
The butterflies fly away
Sayin’ takbir, oh yeah
Make du’a, like yeah
When I put my hands down
And take a look around
I know I’m gonna be okay
Yeah, residentin’ in the KSA
Yeah, residentin’ in the KSA
Okay, so I’m not exactly a songwriter. But it embodies those first feelings I had when the conversation my husband and I had several months prior to this event (the one that began, “Why don’t you try to get a job in Saudi?”) culminated in the three of us – me, my hubby and our then 2-year-old daughter – landing in the middle of nowhere with nothing but some luggage and curiosity.
But before we go on, I want to share with you about how we got there in the first place.
After I finished grad school, I became a stay-at-home mom, and I tried to take on that personality of Domestic Diva – the one who cooks and cleans all day and greets her man at the door with fresh makeup and gorgeousness to spare. But it’s not me.
And, honestly, being a SAHM isn’t me, either. I have a lot of respect for women who do stay at home and raise the children and cook, clean, launder and look fabulous at 5 pm for their husbands. It made me lazy, overly tired (read: depressed), and I felt like I was failing as a wife.
I had been trying to learn Arabic in my free time (when I wasn’t busy being lazy?), but it wasn’t coming along as I expected. We were living in Florida, which is pretty insanely uncomfortable for me in general – plus, I am a hijabi, so just tack on another fifty degrees of perpetual grumpiness because I hate heat. I wanted to work, but I had no idea where to start. I had no contacts, and I had few friends.
Then one day, when my husband’s friend-slash-business partner was over for a visit, he mentioned trying to find a job in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. At first, the idea was almost a joke. When we got married, it was practically understood that I had no desire whatsoever to ever live in Saudi Arabia. My husband, a Palestinian-by-blood/Jordanian-by-nationality Arab, wasn’t exactly keen on the idea either. But ever-the-open-minded, he said, “Just try it, and see what happens.”
Me: Okay, but I’m not moving to Saudi Arabia.
Hubby: Yeah, yeah, I know . . . let’s just see if they offer you a job . . .
Me (going back inside from our screened-in back lanai): Okay . . . but I’m not moving to Saudi Arabia.
So, I applied for a job, and they wanted to interview me. I got up at some awful hour of the night to be waiting for the Skype call. The interview lasted approximately 3 minutes.
Husband (calling to me in the living room while still asleep): Was that it?
Me: Yeah . . .
Husband: I don’t think you got it.
Me: Ya think?
We went on with our lives, and I continued being a SAHM. I put the idea of working in the Middle East out of my mind, half relieved that we wouldn’t move to Saudi and half dejected because they weren’t interested.
Then out of nowhere, a few months later, I get an offer by email asking me to join the university as an instructor. Shocked, and duly unimpressed by the length of my interview, I sat with the hubby and shared the news.
Husband: I’ll ask (friend) if that’s a good offer.
Me: But we’re not moving to Saudi Arabia, right?
Husband: No, no . . . I just want to see if it’s a good offer.
Me: Okay, but we’re not moving to Saudi Arabia, right?
And he asked his friend, who told him it was a decent package.
So, we’re sitting outside one night after dinner, and we’re talking about the offer. I’m joking around about the likelihood of us ever moving to Saudi, and he’s talking about other countries in the Middle East where it might be nice to find work.
Husband: What do you think if we try it out?
Me: Try what out?
Husband: Saudi . . .
Me: Are you kidding? You want us to move to Saudi Arabia?!?!
Husband: I mean, I don’t want to force you. I was just thinking it would be interesting to . . . try it out.
Me: But what if we don’t like it? It’s a two-year contract.
Husband: If we don’t like it, we’ll come back.
Me: But what if I don’t like it?
Husband: I’m not going to stay somewhere you’re unhappy. If you don’t like it, we’ll leave.
Me: Yeah . . . (I think it over for a few minutes, ever-the-impulsive) Okay. Sure. Are you sure?
Husband: Why not?
Me: And if don’t like it, we’ll leave? We agree on that here? Absolutely?
Husband: Of course, insha’Allah.
Me (most likely cocking an eyebrow): We’ll leave. . . . ? . . .
Husband: . . . if we’re not happy. Yes.
So began the back-and-forth of paperwork and emails and negotiating that, eventually, led to us arriving in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in the near-middle of the night. Luckily, my husband had a family member whose husband was also working at the same university I would be teaching at – different campus, of course. They gave us a warm welcome and some food, and the husband helped us get settled in our apartment, which wasn’t as bad as I expected.
And that is the beginning of our two-year residency in the Magical Kingdom.
Click here to find out if Stephanie likes the Saudi life, if the camels will obey the crossing sign we saw in the beginning, or if she will dress like a man just to get a driving fix. Click here for the continuation
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17 thoughts on “Stephanie Goes to the Magic Kingdom”
My first thought at the title was that Stephanie enjoyed a day in Orlando with Walt Disney, lol.
Tricked ya, lol
I’ll be moving to Jeddah after this Eid inshallah. Finally, my daughter will be able to play with her Saudi cousins.
Is Stephanie in Riyadh?
No, Stephanie (me) is in Oman now. But I was living in Al-Khobar, which is in the Eastern Province (“borders” Bahrain). I’ve heard Jeddah is nice…never been. Visited Riyadh a couple of times. Interesting, to say the least.
Looking forward to reading your story Stephanie! 😉
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Never understood why American Converts especially women move to the middle east. What is wrong with being a Muslim living in USA like sister Corbin ?
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In Stephanie’s case, it was for work. It is difficult for a hijabi to find work in the US, no matter how educated she may be. For a lot more converts it is the feeling of being rejected by their society that drives them to wanting to be closer to the Muslims. And there are a million more reasons converts want to go East. But I will say that I wish more converts would stay in the US and hold their ground, and represent Islam, and pave the way for the next Muslim. Our dear Stephanie didn’t want to leave, but she had an offer she couldn’t refuse. And she is happy now in her Eastern life. No matter how much we miss her, I hope that Allah blesses her in it.
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I don’t know how I got to this video, but sent chills down my spine.. perhaps one or ore convert sisters can explain…
I will watch (when I get a moment. going to a crawfish boil right now! YeeeHaaa!) and see what I can tell you but I am not sure if I know why people apostate.
I was also a closet Muslim for a while, until I decided to wear hijab (at which point it is impossible to hide your Islam- I have also outed my husband by wearing hijab and he got a lot of shit at work for it). Yes, the communities can be harsh!!! I still feel ostracized from mainstream Muslim communities because I am seen as the token white person. I am seen as a mascot. And it is always assumed that I am not a “real” Muslim because I don’t practice any culture from overseas.
It is also assumed that I have some magical power to grant hadiya and I should just go tell all the other white Americans to be Muslims, LOL!! Yes, people will expect you to totally disassociate from your former self (firstly by changing your name) NOT cool!!! New Muslims shouldn’t abandon who they are!!! And no one should make them feel like that! And if the new Muslim is doing the haram, let them walk before they can run, and run before they can fly. yes I have experienced this and it is super pushy and has pushed people out of Islam.
If person “A” makes dawah and person “B” is granted hadiya from person “A’s” effort, the opposite is also true. If you push people away from faith by pushing them and pushing them and pushing them finally out of Islam, image what a reward the pushers will receive! She says, “Most judgmental community” she is absolutely right! And she is so strong for realizing that as a Muslim she is not required to be perfect, and she will continue to hold on to her Islam despite the push. Alhamdulillah for that.
Exactly! This monopoly that Asians and Arabs have over Islam is stifling…Please do read when you have time.
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LOL I meant this
Brother, thank you so much for sharing this with me. I tried to comment on the post on the blog, but was for some reason prohibited from doing so (perhaps comments are closed). So, out of frustration, I will post my comment here:
I was lead to your blog by brother Hyde. And to him I owe a debt for recommending it. And to you, I must say it is hugely refreshing to read your work. It is nice to hear from a fellow Muslim who is willing to look at the big picture without a predetermined scholar to hold your hand through it all, as most would -small minded-ly- feel all too necessary. I have long said that the Muslim world is in its dark ages. We are not even allowed to think for ourselves!, as Allah requires of us.
We as individual Muslims cling to our schools of thought, conspiracy theories, and pettiness so tightly that we are squeezing people out of Islam unnecessarily. You said it best when you said, “it is not Islam that is being defended, but the opinion of the favorite latter-day scholars of the various speakers for Islam.” Hopefully with folks like you, we can claw our way out of these dark ages of the ummah and return to our golden age, where arts and science and ideas and people flourished.
But forgive me for speaking out of turn as a women who should certainly be beaten into submission by her husband! LOL! I would like to see him try.
Umm.. excuse me but Asians get treated like second class Muslims by Arabs, there are clear examples of it so please do your research well before you speak, thanks a lot.
Secondly, I agree many Asians do behave as if they know better than Muslim converts from WESTERN world because this is what they learn as a process of being discriminated by ARAB Muslims and I don’t agree to this, but I am going giving you a reasoning behind it. Its all wrong in my opinion.
Muslims are what is wrong with Islam big time, I always said this and I stand by it. Do you know that there are restaurants in Riyadh and elsewhere where Asian Muslims are not allowed to go and eat because its disgusts the white rich Arabs? They don’t even hide it, they have sign boards with these instructions. Yeah right, Riyadh is amazing!!
I agree with sister Corbin, for American Muslims however hard it is, but its better to stay in America and show the society that not all ISLAM’s followers are insane and living in the second century.
As I wrote before, the Arabs are coming to an end…