“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
– Charles Bukowski
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
– Charles Bukowski
Whenever people hear that I’ve come back from Saudi, I’m usually greeted with a raised eyebrow, an uncomfortable side glance or a “really? Saudi?” I thought I’d shed some light on my experience there, culturally, not just spiritually.
Firstly, the strictness people associate with Saudi Arabia is relatively accurate, but this is fundamentally due to a strictness in cultural lifestyle. Additionally, what we in the West may consider to be “strict” is the norm for them. More and more often, I find myself talking to people who condemn the lack of freedom in their dress code; it’s conflicting, because on the one hand, it’s completely irrational to dispute another country’s cultural values when you don’t live there yourself. However, the lack of freedom for women is a growing concern within the East, especially in Saudi Arabia with more women desperately seeking freedom, independence and the desire to become something greater than a daughter, wife and mother. While it’s not exactly desirable being covered from head to toe in black garments in 35 degree heat, it respects the religious values of the kingdom, especially with it being an Islamic country.
Furthermore, it’s also imperative to understand the differentiation between orthodox Muslims and liberal Muslims: the latter of which is increasingly growing in the East. Once girls get their first period, they’re required to ‘veil’ – wear a burqa and niqab (face veil). As this necessity doesn’t extend to all Muslim countries and is not obligatory within Islam, it therefore becomes a cultural aspect of living in Saudi Arabia for the orthodox. Whilst some see the burqa as oppressive, other see it as liberating. This conflict is also very evident with Saudi women. Hearing stories of women’s experiences in Saudi, I’ve come to understand that women breaking the moulds set to confine them to their gender. The age of stay-at-home wives and daughters is slowly coming to an end as young members of the Saudi royal family are seen to be wearing jeans and dresses instead of the traditional burqa. Maybe we’ll see a drastic increase in western clothing becoming a prominent part of Saudi culture in a few years.
Finally, whilst on my travels I noticed the undeniable amount of wealth Arabs are born into. From families of seven travelling in first class on flights around the world to hands and necks adorned with gold, it’s clear that the rich, have a good life out there. Yet, when you pass a shopping centre and turn onto a side road, slums slowly come into view with children sitting outside, begging for money whilst the elders take refuge in the shade. They’re not wealthy enough to afford a fan, or pay electricity bills. This paradox of extreme wealth juxtaposed with extreme deprivation within metres of each other brings to light just how little is being done for the people of Saudi, 15% of which live in poverty. Since the assassination of King Faisal, a King who had great ideas for Saudi in his plans to liberate the country and introduce more freedom and independence as well as financial reform designed to help the people, the country has digressed. The royal family live with an abundance of wealth at their fingertips: the people’s money. Instead of projecting this wealth onto poorer parts of the country, helping eradicate poverty and poor living standards for those who can afford very little, the royal family are seen to be travelling across the world, to their villas in Spain and Cannes or apartments in central London.
My love for Makkah and Medina stems from a spiritual enlightening I gained whilst on my pilgrimage. My love cannot extend to Saudi Arabia as a whole, simply because of the explicit inequality which is grossly overlooked by the country’s wealth as a whole. The people’s money is not being used effectively. Women are awfully restricted in that they still cannot drive; if they don’t hold a valid driving license, they cannot vote. They’re required to travel with a chaperone. They cannot take part in criminal proceedings as they’re considered forgetful and too emotional. Saudi has a long way to go to achieve gender equality and freedom; something which may never be achieved, predominately due to Wahhabi sects exercising their beliefs on how one should live their lives as a true Muslim. It’s the 21st century, but it appears Saudi are still centuries behind.
I guess the sign of adulthood is learning to understand someone when they break you in half, and to let them put you back together once they’ve learned from their mistakes. To forgive their wrongs by accepting their rights.
Having spent this week recovering from another attack of pancreatitis, I was overwhelmed to find that Star of Persia had nominated me for the Liebstar Award! Please please please check out her blog as it’s fascinatingly intellectual; her pieces are a great read! This is the second nomination I’ve had since starting my website, so bear with me whilst I fangirl a little at being nominated.
I understand there are a few rules to this award, so here they are:
1. You must include a link to the person who nominated you for this award
2. There are certain questions put forward to the nominee which require answering
3. You are required to nominate up to 11 bloggers
4. Put forward 11 questions for those who are nominated by yourself
For what reason did you begin to blog?
I’ll let you into a little secret; it was never my decision to set up a blog! My colleague at the time helped me set up a WordPress blog, telling me it would boost my google ratings and make me easier to find, if one was to search my name on search engines. I went through with it after I uploaded a few of my pieces and was rewarded with a warm reception. Since then, my website and I have been inseparable 🙂
Three words to describe yourself and why?
Compassionate. Ambitious. Dedicated. If I care about someone, I make sure they’re happy no matter what. I make sure they’re aware of how loved they are; even if they’ve wronged me in anyway, I’ll forgive them. I also strive to achieve the life goals I’ve set myself; I intend on teaching abroad and I’ll do whatever I can to help make it happen! Lastly, I’m dedicated; to my degree, to the ones I love, to my blog and to my career.
Favourite place of all time?
I have to break the rules slightly and give you two favourite places as I can’t possibly decide between the two! I visited Amalfi, Italy last year and the town was beautiful. One of the best holidays I had ever been on; I had a lot going on back home in London and Italy was the perfect retreat to get my head straight. The people were lovely, the food was exceptional and the views were like no other. Highly recommend! My second favourite place has to be the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square, London. I visited it recently, this July, and had the most amazing time; having been three times already, the gallery never fails to appeal to the artist within me. It’s inspiring to say in the least. I also had exceptional company that day, which made it one of the best visits to Saatchi. I see the gallery as a place where social inequalities meet modern art and it never fails to fascinate me.
Foods I couldn’t live without?
Probably any kind of chicken. I’m a chicken girl. Anything chicken related
Favourite person and why?
My best friend is probably my favourite person. I only met her this year, in May actually, at work, and since we’ve started working together she’s been the one girl I couldn’t possibly live without. She’s been by my side through all my ups and downs (the latter of which there have been many, recently) and she’s the kind of person who’ll show up at my house one day after work and instantly make me feel better. We spend most of our time together and we’re off to Paris this Friday ! I adore her; she brings out the best in me and tells me everything as it is.
MY FAVOURITE QUESTION SO FAR.
(a) Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (It fills in all the gaps in Jane Eyre)
(b) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (Not only does the author explicitly portray life in 20’s, with it’s social class divisions and inequality, but it also takes us on a journey of a man who would do anything to be reunited with the one he loves.)
(c) Poppet – Mo Hayder (One of the most terrifying psychological thrillers I have ever set my sights on. The novel questions everything you know and kept me up for weeks)
(d) Lullabies – Lang Leav (My favourite poet; she’s contemporary, sexy and edgy: exactly like her poetry. Her book pretty much retells the journey she went on when she fell in love and lost love, too. It’s very hard not to relate to the poems she writes, with such raw agony and emotion. One of the very few books which inspired me to write poetry and shaped the way I look at society today)
(e) Lament – Maggie Stiefvater (I was a 14 year old when I first read this book, and I’ve actually started re-reading it again. This was the first book in which I fell in love with one of the protagonists and felt what it must be like to indulge in a tragic love affair with someone you couldn’t possibly have.)
If you had once chance to do anything, what would it be?
Travel back in time. For one, I would change the person I was growing up. Looking back on my time spent in high school, I was controlled by a dictator-like authoritative figure or two who made my life a living hell. I was bullied beyond belief, and if I had the chance to, I would go back and stand up for myself. Secondly, if I could go back in time, I would stay the hell away from the people who I’ve now painfully lost; the people I’ve had to sit back and watch walk out of that door, never to return. Pain makes you grow as a person, but it hurts like a bitch.
Activities I enjoy?
– Reading, although that might be a given. I’m forever being inspired by authors and the way they articulate their morals and life stories through protagonists.
– Writing, again possibly a given. Writing, for me, has been a form of therapy. It’s helped me come to terms with the health problems I have and the losses I’ve gone through. Turning someone or something into literature is quite possibly the best way of destroying them.
– Painting. I’ve intertwined this with my poetry and made a little scrapbook come art portfolio in which my inarticulate thoughts found themselves completely explicit on paper.
Biggest pet peeve?
Selfishness. I absolutely despise people who think their problems are bigger than anyone else. It’s another form of ignorance. I’ve come across too many people in life who think they’re the only ones who have suffered. Pathetic.
One thing I want to bring to people/the world’s attention?
Inequality. This branches out in so many ways; sexism, racism, gender inequality. If we learn how to tackle inequality, the world will be a peace and there would be no violence, no murders and deaths of the innocent, no genocide and no terrorism. Not enough is being done to protect those in the firing line; those vulnerable to attacks which so often go unnoticed in the media. Of course the media is our worst enemy; we don’t see what THEY don’t want us to see. Once a majority, instead of minorities who get silenced for speaking out against oppression, speaks out against the inequalities of society, we can move forward. Until then, we are trapped in a limbo of wanting to fight for our freedom but not having the manpower or the tools to do so.
If someone asked me for one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t look back. Ironic, considering I would love to go back in time. Move on, move forward from the person or people holding you back. We are worth so much more than the treatment we receive from the ones we hold closest to our hearts. I’ve been so deceived by people who I thought were positive influences in my life. Life is one big lesson, and we can only learn from it.
Now for my nominations! I nominate:
The questions I put forward to you all are:
I apologise for not uploading the questions the first time round! I completely forgot. I hope you enjoy picking your brains as much as I did whilst answering these questions.
Thanks once again to Star of Persia for nominating me.
Have a fantastic bank holiday!
Before I met him, I would dance in the shower. When he was in my life, I would think about showering with him. After he left, I would sit on the ground in the shower and cry. When I got over him, I showered so quickly, there was no time for dancing, fantasies and tears. Someone can invade the smallest part of your life, you won’t even realise it until you dance in the shower again and wonder why you ever stopped.
“No more tears; I didn’t lose you. You lost me.”