Saudi Women in US

Throughout my life here in Portland, I have met many Saudi girls who are incredibly genius, creative and talented. In every discussion I have with each one of them, I always feel sorry for my society for never recognizing this treasure, for never giving enough space for women to show their ideas and thoughts.

Saudi Arabia was always represented by men and never by women and I can say this: If we change just a little bit in this formulae, in this representation, and make it more balanced to give more space for women to represent this country, I can assure you that the we would a have a different society, more modern and civilized one.

When I listen to Saudi women when they talk, When I see their dreams as they walk around university buildings, When I see their ideas as it reflects freely in the reality without restriction , I realized that it is true that you just need one woman in order to change the direction of a whole society.

I remember one time I decided to give a workshop about ( exchanging ideas, blogging & open discussion) and I knew from past experience that Saudi guys will never show up because they never care! I went the class and I found most of the attendance are mostly Saudi women (and only two Saudi guys came to the workshop)

In general I can summary my observation and my interaction with Saudi women in following:

  • Saudi women in US don’t have that much interaction with American men but they do have a great interaction with a whole society.
  • I feel that Saudi women are better off when they aren’t that much socialized with each other because first, each one of them get to have a unique experience, and second, getting socialized with each other sometimes creates tension and sensitivity among them. That is true for Saudi guys too.
  • Saudi women are doing better job in the university than Saudi guys. They have a higher grade than Saudi guys most importantly, they never cheated or plagiarized while many saudi guys do.
  • Most of Saudi women feel that Saudi guys here in US are chaotic and gives a bad representation of Saudi Culture.(I agree with them in that)

At the end of my post, I would like to thank Saudi women whom I have met, worked or studied with: They are

  • Aysha Alkusayer, She is philosopher and psychologist, Intellectual and knowledgeable in any area. I met her when she gave a presentation in one of Saudi event at PSU. She encouraged me  a lot to start blogging. In fact, the name SaudiAlchemist was picked from her blog post.
  • Hanan AlSaif: I always seeks her advise whenever I have any new idea or project. She has a great perspective in every fields. She looks at things differently and I think that is the secret of her creativity.
  • Fatima Alkhars: I have worked with her in PSU Volunteer group. She astonished me by her organized and hard work in the club. She has done a lot volunteer work ( cooking for homeless communities, cleaning school garden, writing letter for ill children, etc) Everyone in the school is proud and amused of her work.
  • Fatima Al-Mousa: She has done several great events in our university. She is creative and makes something from nothing. From the first time you meet her, you can tell that she will have a great future a head of her.
  • Alia Kabbani: She works in a way that would surprise everyone. She transform her dreams into her reality in artistic way. She learn from everything and everyone and she leaves her footstep behind every journey.
  • Fatima Albar:  She is pursing her master in double major (engineering and something else) She is such aspiration person to many of us.
  • Kholud Alsaif: She inherited her dad’s dreams as well as his amazing thinking.
  • Soha Alsharifa: I refer to her as a woman who is stronger than 10 men. She came to US to study journalism. She is kind, brave and funny in the same time.
  • Leena Neyaz: She has done a lot for the Saudi Club and I always see her as an example of women who never gives up. She recently moved to Florida to complete her master degree.
  • Byan Daker: She works part time job at PSU international office and whenever I come by, I always feel proud of her because she represent a great image of Saudi women in her workplace.
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28 thoughts on “Saudi Women in US

  1. T

    Murtadha,
    I bow and take my hat off for your kindness and for all of the women you praised.
    Let me be brave and tell you something; believe it or not, if our “lovely” country has only 10 guys just like you then we will have a heaven on the earth…YES,it’s going to be the heaven!!
    I love the way you think; I love the way you respect the woman and her achievements.
    can you believe that the list of names you mentioned above is just a little bit of what our country has!! we have great women that can change the whole world.
    all the compliment you gave them was for their wonderful characteristic in their personalities. Back home, people think differently; they don’t appreciate anything of what you’ve said about these women. that’s what we really miss to be creative… we need encouragement and support from you “men”..
    let me say that again; Murtadha, you are the kind of person whom the scientists invented cloning for. when you go back home, every single woman will need your voice and support.

  2. Countrygirl

    I’m wondering how many of these wonderfull women will be able to achieve their full potential when they will return to KSA. What about if they marry someone that will not let them work?

    The little I know from KSA culture is from blogs but I have the impression that is KSA a woman that works has few rights…I mean how can you have a fruitfully careee if you can’t work alongside men.

    I’m wondering how many of these women will decide to remain in the States (or western countries) when they finish their studies?

  3. Manal Saad

    I find it very strange that you only noticed Saudi women abroad and didn’t notice that we have plenty of accomplished highly educated young Saudi women here in KSA.

    I agree with you that we have so many talented people in our country (females and males) but generalizing the idea that Saudi women are suppressed in our country, that’s what I don’t agree with you on.

    King Abdulaziz once called himself Noura’s brother… So how come Saudi women are not represented? Many Saudi women are well known all over the world for their accomplishments.

    I think what you are talking about has to do with the families of the girls whom some will push their daughters to achieve their dreams and aspirations and some would suppress them. This is another story and another issue and it goes way back to convictions, experiences, call it whatever you want.

    As for the Saudi guys whom you met and didn’t leave a good impression that doesn’t mean that all Saudi guys are like them. There are two sides to every coin and it applies to everything in this world!

  4. T,
    I totally agree.. I think most women in back home are making great accomplishment and achievement.. I have been following many women bloggers and i am astonished by their way of thinking and all the great work they do.
    what is different here in US is that guys and girls can interact and work with each other without any restriction.. this enable me to recognize women voice,, to learn their story and their point of view directly from them and this enable me to see their achievement physically.
    Thank you for your sweet and kind words.. you seems a thoughtful and great thinker.. i really encourage you to start blogging so we all can get to read your ideas and follow your dreams!

  5. Countrygirl,
    most Saudi guys who i have met are really encouraging their wives to work because nowadays it become important to have financial support from more than one side. It has also become more like great prestige for guys to have their wives working because it show how modern and open the family is.

    as for for how many of Saudi women will choose to live in US or go back. I think most of them will choose to go back because of the following reason:
    1) Saudi girls unlike Saudi guys, they can’t live for along time away from their family. They value family relationship more than anything else
    2) most Saudi girls like to marry Saudi because it is more life sustainable for them( i mean living closer to their family) and because of religion issue ( Muslim only marry from Muslims)

    I have read about feminist movement in US and other wester countries and I learn one thing.. it is that women can transform the whole society and gain their rights if they put all their power together. They can gain their rights regardless of how harsh and bad the society is.. the problem is that Saudi are struggling to be together because some women are happy with what they have and they don’t want any change while other women are eager for change movement

  6. Manal Saad,
    I have been following your nice blog for a long time and I am learning from your great lesson in photography as well!
    as for your comment, i can summary my respond in the following:

    1) I didn’t say that women in back home hasn’t accomplished or achieved great things but what i say is that living in US has giving me a great privilege meet personally with Saudi women and see their achievement and listen to their point of view directly from them. and that is great opportunity

    2) I don’t necessarily mean that women are fully oppressed in back home but to be fair, they have more rights and opportunities here in US more than back home..for example, even though Saudi women have a higher grade then men, they don’t have a lot of university options, the majors options are limited.. take the work opportunities as another example, there aren’t that many for Saudi women. another example, is that girls can’t go anywhere without Mahram, can’t meet any person unless he is related to her and so on.

    3) as for Saudi guys, I clearly stated that I have met great Saudi guys who in fact renewed my dreams and hopes. but in the same time, i think we men, have a long way to go in recognizing women rights and respecting their dreams. I think we need to improve our understanding of women and fully support them to achieve their dreams.
    again, I am sorry if i made a bad generalization.

    at the end, Thank you so much Manal for your great comment, It is great to see you in my blog

  7. T

    thank you Murtadha for inviting me in the blogging world.
    I actually have been thinking about blogging but whenever I start writing anything from scratch, my mind freezes and stops thinking. also, I prefer reading others’ writing and sharing my opinion on the subjects they are interested in 🙂

  8. Manal Saad

    Hey there,

    I’m sorry; I’m not the Manal you’re thinking of… though I would love to see her blog since we share the same name. 🙂

    1. Well if you put it this way, I do agree with you to some extent. As for having the opportunity to talk to women directly and find out their point of view… I don’t need to point out that we live in a country that has its norms and traditions… I’m the last person to talk about this issue.

    2. Again this point also has a bit to do with our religion in regards to traveling with a Mahram… I have known and worked with great women for the past years and one thing that I know for a fact, that no university or a job will stop a person from achieving what they want in this life! Some would use these as an excuse for quitting on their dreams… I’m saying this as I have seen people doing things and beating the odds!

    3. Saudi guys and their attitudes towards women starts from home in my opinion… it depends on how the guy was brought up by his parents and how he interacts with the females in the house and family.

    It’s alright… I just felt the need to point some stuff out. It’s a great opportunity to to speak your mind, though it’s greater when you do it objectively and show those whom are reading your posts who Saudis really are. I have seen positive changes in our country over the years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t negative ones… but at least we’re heading somewhere! 😉

    Thanks.

  9. -T,
    then it would be great to have you here and hear your point of view.. i am very sure that you will rich my blog with your thoughts and comments:)

    -Manal Saad,
    sorry for the mistake,, but you have exactly the same first and last name as she is 🙂 anyway, I really enjoy your comment and here is my responds:

    1) I agree but tradition change so do people! I mean as the world become smaller and smaller and more globalized, the tradition is failing to keep its place as it has in the past.. I guess this would be a great topic to talk about in another post! but I agree with you, some tradition are valuable and great and some traditions are bad

    2) I agree, women have this great miracle inside them,, they never give up regardless of how life is treating them..

    3) as for saudi guys attitude, I agree it all comes from family but the fact is that most saudi guys spend their time in school or out of their family.. so we need to work together to create an atmosphere of understanding that would enable the guys to improve their attitudes toward women.
    by the way, I realized that the younger generation are totally different than all past generation because of TV and internet and I think their attitude has been improving as well.

    Finally as pointing out the negatives and positives of my country,, I am trying to point out the negative so that we share the solution and solve them.. we can’t move forward unless we speak clearly about our problems and admit them in the first place. take american society as an example, American never feel satisfy and they always complain and talk about their problems in public because they always seeks improvement to be better.

    I will keep your comment in my consideration in my next post and I will try to present the two sides of the argument so that I can achieve the objectivity. Thank you again sister Manal for your comment and the great discussion.

  10. I love how you showcased some wonderful women whom you’ve met. Another great post. I agree with the commenter who said they need to clone you. 😀

  11. Hi Murtadha,

    Great blog about Saudi women, especially since it’s written by a Saudi man. My MA Thesis was titled: “Belive me, that’s the true Hijab”: An Ethnographic Study on Saudi Women Studying in American ESL Classes. I am sure it will interest you as it has interested many non-Saudis too. It’s quiet long but it will answer most of your questions, as of your friends.

    It’s strange how your sense of identity shifts when your looking through someone else’s lens. I felt proud to be a Saudi woman in US, but as soon as I arrived to Saudi, I suddenly started to only portray myself as the American woman married to a Saudi. That way, I can get away with so much more.

  12. susanne430,
    Thank you for your kind words:)

    Tasneem,
    I would love to see your MA thesis.. It seems very interesting.
    as for the identity shifts, It is also intersting to see that many of us who study abroad have felt the way about our identity when we move back home. I haven’t been home for the last four years and I am still confused when it comes to my feeling of belongingness..It is always difficult to live as are part of something while the reality is proving otherwise!

  13. Dearest Murtadha,

    Thank you for your kind words; what a wonderful surprise to find this post. Enlighted people like you are indicative of the”milestone” our generation is headed for.

    Missing Portland already!

  14. Bayan

    Dear Murtadha,

    Thanx a lot for your sweet words about me, its such an honor for my name to be mentioned on ur post in ur wonderfull blog.
    I would like to respecfully stad up for ur words, and wish you all the best in ur life.

    Best Regards,
    _ Bayan Daker ..

  15. Aysha,
    you are most welcome,, glad to hear from you.. Hope the little angle is doing great in back home.

    Bayan,
    Thank you for the wishes. I tried to describe all of you in one small paragraph which was very difficult because I felt that I need a whole page to describe each of you:)
    hope to see around in portland

  16. Chiara

    You are a wonderful friend to these Saudi women I am sure.

    Although upbringing and tradition form everyone, university both because of the developmental age of students and the opportunities to learn and interact usually contributes greatly to the development of an adult identity. In that sense even those who choose the most conservative home identity for themselves do so more knowlingly. Most modify their attitudes considerably even if they ultimately make rather conservative choices about lifestyle.

  17. Chiara,
    I would add that American university are unique when it comes to diversity and experience. I mean it is amazing that I get to meet people from different regions, religions, culture all in one place.
    I think that helps me a lot to find and sometimes question my identity..

  18. Chiara

    Murthada–I agree that we learn about our selves and shape our identity in interaction with others–or “grow in connectedness”. North American and most major European universities are very diverse which is very enriching if a little unsettling at times. 🙂

  19. Fatima Al-Mousa

    Dear brother Murtadah,
    I can’t thank you enough for your very sweet and kind words walah I was so pleased to read such an article full of the names of my dearest sisters and friends 🙂
    Just like each one of us make you proud of the Saudi female image she represents, you and guys like you who appreciate and support female accomplishments make us very proud too.
    I know I said ” thank you ” when you first showed
    me this but I also wanted to leave it written in your page for memory,I guess.
    I wish you all the best brother Murtadah and thanks again 🙂

    Regards,
    Fatima Al-Mousa

  20. Fatima Al-Mousa,
    It is my honor to mention all the of your names in my blog,, 🙂
    thank you for the wishes and I hope you have enjoyable summer in Saudi

  21. What an enlightened young man you are. I dare say, you are part of a pivital movement towards embrassing the feminine not only in SA and USA, but globally. I want to encourage you wholeheartedly, for you have only just begun. Expand these views and continue to put them forth with eloquance and a genuine heart. Continue to be bold and commited to your ideals– continue to dare think expansively and have the courage to rethink dogmatic traditions- for in doing so, you honor not only women, but humanity overall.

  22. Leena Neyaz

    Dear brother,
    If I had done something for the Saudi Student club, it just because it was with you guys. I was enjoying what I’m doing because I was one of this great team. So, I’m very thankful and grateful to all the members I’ve worked with ( Saeed, Malik, Hanan, Fatima al Mousa, Fatima al khars, Ali and of course you ). Really you guys are more than brothers and sisters for me.
    Best wishes.
    Leena,

  23. مها نور إلهي

    It’s great to here such good news about our gals in the States 🙂
    Yet the case isn’t a lot different here…Girls score higher grades and many have made amazing accomplishments. I am actually interviewing some great Saudi women and girls for my blog.
    However, they are not a lot.

    Here is a link to my role model …an incomparable woman in every sense…
    http://saudirevelations.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/the-league-of-positive-women/

    Thank you so much for this post and for your lovely blog!

    Maha Noor Elahi

  24. Heidi

    Hello there:)
    These are encouraging notes to read.
    I have been interacting with a lot of remarkable Saudi women and guys in an ESL program in Spokane. I was wondering if there would be a way for me to be able to contact the woman with the blog that you mentioned? http://ayshak.blogspot.com/ I would love to see her blog but I am not able to see it as I was not requested to see her blog. Anyways, I am excited to read more on your blog about different topics. Thank you:)

  25. escortdiary

    Great post….

    I’m glad to see a Saudi man exists with your viewpoints……which is rare indeed.

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