meet mr. mostafa.

February 26, 2015

So, a few weeks ago, I was inspired by a blog post on The Kardia and decided that it was time to let my blog readers get to know Mr. Mostafa a little bit better. After all, he is one of the very main characters here, and he’s generally so understanding of how I consistently provide a glimpse into his life through the lens of my own admittedly limited perspective, as each individual’s perspective inevitably is (although I think part of the reason why he’s more chill about my blogging habits than a typical Saudi guy would be is because he’s actually the one who encouraged me to start this blog in the first place. In other words, he created this monster, so he’s got no one to blame but himself. Ha!). So I figured he deserved the chance to speak for himself a bit.

For the basics, I used the interview questions from The Kardia, tweaked a bit to reflect our own cultural foundation. Then I asked questions submitted by readers via Facebook, Twitter, and email, which I lightly edited for length, structure, clarity, etc. where necessary. The result is a very long but meaty interview (but heck, if you expected a short post from me, welcome, ‘cause you’re obviously new here). So, if you’ve made your cup of tea and are settling in for some reading time, here you go: Mr. Mostafa, in his own words!

Introduce yourself.

My name is Saleh bin Mostafa. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. My family is originally from Medina. Most of my family members are located in Medina and Jeddah and Mecca. But I was born and raised in Riyadh. Let’s see…I’m a certified public accountant. I guess that’s it.

What do you think about my blog?

I really like your blog, and I think you differentiate yourself from other bloggers by not talking about a specific topic or a specific location or just your personal life. You kind of, you know, merge all of them. Like, you’re basically talking about everything in your experience, but especially in Saudi Arabia as a foreigner, which I believe is what makes your blog unique.

What is your favorite post that I’ve written?

I can’t really recall all the posts right now, but probably one of my favorites, one that drew a smile on my face, is our kitchen…when you wrote about our kitchen. Because I put a lot of effort…you know, it was kind of difficult to design and buy appliances for a very small, teeny-tiny kitchen, like a small fridge that has a freezer, a small washing machine and dryer in the same thing, a small oven, stove, you know…then after you wash the dishes, where are you going to put the dishes away…so yeah, I was kind of proud of myself when I read that post.

Have you ever had a blog, or have you ever considered starting one?

No. I used to hear a lot about blogging when I was in the States, but I never really knew a lot about blogging. I guess I’m not that kind of geeky guy.

Oh, so I’m a geek?

That’s what they say. Bloggers are geeks.

Oh, really? This is news to me. Well, kind of.

I don’t know, haven’t you watched the episode of The Office when they launched the Pyramid? All the bloggers there are geeks.

Hmm…that’s true. Those bloggers were geeks.

Yes. But those aren’t my words, those are Dwight’s words.

If you could meet any famous person, who would you choose?

Any famous person…well, for me, superstars or singers or whatever are not really role models to me. I don’t really have a role model in my life, so…but right now, maybe…I don’t want to say I have a crush, but maybe Taylor Swift…you know, I like her.

Good idea not to say to your wife that you have a crush!

Well yeah, I don’t want to say I have a crush on her, but I like her. I even, you know, I took it so personal when she released her new songs. I was like, “This is not Taylor.” I was totally disappointed. Even after I watched the video, I was extremely disappointed. But then, you know, I started to like the music, so…

So you like to shake it off?

I do, I do.

It’s okay, because, you know…I kinda feel the same way about Bruno Mars. Like, I won’t say I have a crush on him, but…yeah.

Well, I really like Bruno Mars songs, but, you know…I got disappointed in him when I found out that he was doing cocaine. So…

Let’s hope Taylor Swift doesn’t have a similar scandal.

Yeah, I very much hope not.

Tell about a date night gone wrong that we’ve had.

I think you’ve already blogged about the worst one…the date in the States, our first date after Lavi was born. Another one was…I was very excited, it was our first anniversary. I wanted to take you to a special place and have a very fancy date. So I made a reservation at Spazio, at the top of the Kingdom Tower. I wanted to make special arrangements; I told the guy I wanted a special cake and music. And I told him it was our anniversary, everything should be “Happy Anniversary.” Happy first anniversary. Well, after we had our wonderful dinner, I saw the waiters coming with the cake, behind you. And I was disappointed when they started singing “Happy Birthday.” And they wrote on the cake, “Happy Birthday,” too. Then we went to French Corner to grab you some macarons, because you love macarons. Well, when I came back out, the car wouldn’t start. The battery ran out. So I called the driver, he came and we tried to jump the car. But we couldn’t figure out where the battery was on the other car. We finally figured it out, but jumping didn’t work, so I had to go buy a new battery and put it in there in the parking space in front of French Corner. Yeah, it was a cluster.

Okay, so let’s cover all the bases…sports. Who is your favorite football (soccer) team, and why?

I remember before 2002, or let’s say up to 1998, I’m gonna say, I was very crazy about soccer. I could never miss a game of my favorite team. My favorite team, in my heart, was Al Ittihad…which is, you know, the team from Jeddah. But due to the environment and the cultural impact and the kids’ influence…I had to be like everyone else in Riyadh, so Al Hilal became my favorite team. I remember even my bedroom carpet was blue, everything was blue, I wanted everything blue. I still love blue. But the Saudi league really sucks now. After 1998, probably up to 2002, maybe the last time we won the Asian Cup…after that, I stopped caring a lot about soccer, especially in Saudi Arabia.

What is your favorite American sport, and why?

Again, I’m not really much of a sport guy, but if there is any sport that I would like to learn, it’s American football.


Because, you know, it makes sense. I remember when we went to the Springfield Cardinals baseball game, I was totally confused. It didn’t seem like a sport to me. But in American football, there’s a lot of energy, a lot of strength, it goes fast. And you know, in soccer, it takes a lot of special skills. It’s really amazing to watch a player like Ronaldinho or Messi or David Beckham. I believe that’s a special talent that you don’t really see in baseball.

That’s all for the basics. And now, on to the reader questions!

Are there times when you thought it would have been better if Nicole was born a Saudi? If so, when and why?

Yes, sometimes, just because of the language. Sometimes I really want to speak in Arabic. Sometimes it’s kind of difficult to express your feelings in another language. Sometimes I really wish…not that she was born Saudi, but at least that she grew up speaking Arabic. Even before I met Nikki, I used to write a lot of poems in Arabic, and I wanted to share them with her. But it was difficult to share those poems with her, because she wouldn’t understand them. But I’ve always loved writing poems. Whenever I feel mad or sad, or when certain events happen, that was my way of expressing myself. So yeah, I don’t have a blog or anything, but I love poetry. I’m a poetry geek, not a blogging geek. So sometimes, yes, I do wish she spoke Arabic…sometimes when I’m mad, you know, when we are in an argument, or when I try to make a joke…that’s a part of me that I don’t think she knows about me. The other part is…you know, I’m really talented when it comes to imitating accents in Arabic. I used to make my friends laugh. I went to international school, so I had friends from all over the Middle East, and I would be very curious about learning specific words and specific accents. So she doesn’t really understand when I make a joke that uses different words or different accents. I believe this is a part of my personality that she doesn’t know, and she can’t know because one, she’s not Arabic, two, she’s not Saudi, and three, she was not born and raised here.

Are there times when you thought it would have been better if you were born an American? If so, when and why?

Well, I’m really grateful that I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, for several reasons. One, I had access to excellent higher education, and it was extremely affordable. I didn’t have to pay for college here in Saudi Arabia or grad school in the States. I’ve never had to worry about that. And I’ve never had to worry about anything medical…I have insurance from my employer, but if I didn’t, I could still go to the doctor. My government is supporting the employment of Saudis, so that’s an advantage for me. I don’t have to pay taxes. The cost of living here is extremely cheap compared to the States…well, most places in the States. I don’t feel like, you know, being a different race or having a different color is a very big advantage here, which it absolutely is when you apply for a job in the States. I feel like there is a lot of racism in the States…modern racism, as they say. I’m really glad I was born Saudi. I mean, absolutely, there is racism in Saudi Arabia. Very much racism. But I feel like it is slowly getting better here, where in the States, it’s getting worse. The thing that has really gotten worse here is the Shia/Sunni conflict…it was not so much of an issue before. Lots of my friends in school and college, they were Shia, and we never felt like we were different or anything. But then, you know, things got worse, with the Iraq War, and other things.

Do you read all of Nicole’s blog posts?

Absolutely. I read them all, and I click like…and I don’t click like on a thing unless I really like it. If I read something I don’t like on the blog, I’ll discuss it with my wife…but I almost always press like. So yes, I do read, and when I press like, that means I really do like it. Sometimes I wish Facebook had a dislike button, so I could click it on some things…but like, not her stuff. Wait…what I’m trying to say is that, you know, I’m not being biased when I click like. Being my wife, and being a part of her experience, that doesn’t mean I automatically like everything. I’m just interacting with the blog as a reader. I try not to let my relationship with the blogger influence my opinion.

Do people in your office read the blog? Do they make any comments when they read about you?

Um…I don’t know. I don’t think so. I do share and retweet her posts, especially the ones that I really like, but I don’t really talk about it with my friends. I think that might be a little bit awkward, like if I stood up at my desk and yelled, “Heeeeyyy, follow my wife! She writes awesome!” They would laugh at me. But I follow her on Instagram, and on Twitter, and on Facebook. Everyone knows that she is my wife, that I’m married to an American. So my friends and colleagues probably know about the blog, but no, I’ve never discussed it with my friends or colleagues. But if the asker is trying to say, “Are you ashamed of your wife?”, the answer is I am not ashamed of my wife. I’m extremely proud of my wife, which is why I am always retweeting her and liking and commenting on her stuff on social media.

How do you contribute to or help with the blog?

Well, sometimes I have to take my wife to places, or I have to stop the car at a certain place at a certain moment so she can take a picture. If I don’t stop the car when she tells me to, then I will be in trouble! Sometimes I drive my wife crazy, I forget to understand that she cannot drive here, and she cannot go to places on her own. Aside from that, she doesn’t need my support or my help when it comes to blogging, except sometimes she will ask me, “Can you translate this for me?” “Can you tell me what does this mean?” “Can you give me the spelling of this Arabic word?” But you know, the only way I’m really contributing is by being a male in Saudi Arabia who can drive, and has to have his wife, you know, rely on him to take her to places.

What would you like the blog to be ten years from now?

Well, for me, one of my wishes…I’m not going to say it’s my dream, because it’s not my dream, it’s her dream, but in ten years, I want to be going to book signing parties for her. I want to see her signing her books. So maybe, you know, this blog can be a way to get to that dream for her, to publish books, because I know what writing means to my wife and I know she always wished to become a writer or a photographer. But even though she didn’t go to college for those things, I think she is extremely talented in them.

What do you wish for your wife and your daughter to be ten years from now?

Well, I think I just answered that question for my wife. As for my daughter…you know, I just want her to be happy. Healthy and happy.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Me, ten years from now? Probably just…building my career, pursuing my dreams.

Do you see Lavender turning out to be more like you or her mom?

I hope both. I hope she will benefit from this unique relationship, that she will get the best out of both cultures, and dump the negativity and the trash in both cultures. And I hope that also she will take the best out of both of us.

How do you remain so sweet to your wife?

I’m not so sweet. She knows I’m not so sweet all the time. Sometimes I’m a pain in the butt. Sometimes she is a pain in my butt. But before we were married, we were very close friends. My wife is not only my wife, she is also my best friend, and I believe that is mandatory in the equation of a successful marriage. And you know, every relationship has its ups and downs.

What was one thing that you noticed in Nicole that made you realize she was The One?

This is just one of several things, but I’m just going to mention the funny one: I’ve always had a thing for country music, and I’ve always been insulted here in Saudi Arabia for loving that particular music style. And she was the only person who shared that interest with me. So that was one of the reasons that I felt, you know, the click. But you know, it was also the way she always added positivity to my life. I might be negative sometimes. But she always had that secret of comforting me. And actually, probably also even the disagreements were part of it. Before I got married, I never saw my future wife as someone that would just nod her head whenever I say something. I like discussion and debate. So that’s something I share with my wife.

Have you ever been caught in a situation between your mom and your wife? If so, whose side did you take? (Please take it as a funny question!)

I don’t recall one thing right now, but there were several times, especially, you know, after Lavender was born. But who hasn’t gone through these sort of conflicts, especially after a newborn baby comes into the family? I really don’t take sides. I try to understand my wife’s feelings and discuss that with my mom. Now, I realize that I’m a dumbass who does not understand women, because I thought when you just deliver the message, right away, they will understand and be fine with it. But they will pretend they are fine with it, but a couple of minutes later, or a couple of hours later, they get pissed. So I don’t take sides, but I try to understand and concur with my wife. I try to understand her side, and then go and discuss it with my mom. It has worked so far. Thank goodness, I’ve never been in, like, a really messy situation.

Hypothetically, if you were the king of Saudi Arabia, what would be the first order you pass? What other reforms would you undertake?

That is a tough question. I know what most people would answer, and I know they would want me to answer, “Letting women drive.” But I hope that will happen before I hypothetically become a king. And there is one other very big thing that concerns me: finding a way to diversify our economy, our sources of income. Right now, we are 90% reliant on oil, which is absolutely scary. It means that that we don’t have a really stable economy, in my opinion, because oil is not a renewable resource. So if I were king, I would be investing in other sources of energy, and two…well, I know this is not going to interest your readers, but Saudi Arabia does have a lot of surplus in cash, so why not invest it? Why don’t we have a sovereign wealth fund where, like, we can have investments in several countries and several industries to generate a source of funds to support the day-to-day operations and expenditures, you know? I’m talking like a king who is an accountant. But I guess that makes sense. Probably we need to also look into…like, we are the second highest country when it comes to outgoing international wire transfers, right after the States. Many expats working here are sending so much money out of the country. I think we need to reform the tax laws here in Saudi Arabia. It’s about time to apply income taxes on foreigners…like, you know, in America, foreigners have to pay income taxes. But not all foreigners should get the tax, just specific professions. We need doctors, we need engineers. But there are other professions where I believe we have the human resources and the capability to fill these professions, and again, I’m not talking about foreigners who are poor, like drivers and construction workers. But we need to start applying an income tax because our money is going out of Saudi Arabia. I mean, I don’t blame them, because that’s the only reason many are in Saudi Arabia, you know…they are working for the money. But a part of this money could be invested in supporting our economy, and creating more jobs and opportunities for everyone, and making a better country for the new generations of Saudis, and supporting and building infrastructure. I may sound Republican, but that’s how I feel. But I’m not 100% Republican, because I don’t want poor people to pay the taxes. That’s why there needs to be a threshold. I guess that’s all. But as I mentioned, I hope women will drive by then.

What do you like best about living in Saudi Arabia?

I mentioned that before, in the question about why I am glad and grateful I am Saudi. It’s a very family-oriented place. Probably the only thing I don’t like about Saudi Arabia is that people are nosy here. Sometimes I can’t even have a nice dinner with my wife or going out with my family without people staring at us.

Have you ever been to Hajj or Umrah, or both?

Absolutely, I’ve been to make Umrah several times. Never been to Hajj, but inshallah, I’m planning to perform Hajj with my wife.

Was it difficult for you to convince your parents to let you marry a Western woman? As you know, most Muslims are biased on this topic.

Yes, yes, absolutely. I’m not going to say most Muslims, but let’s say, it’s not going to be about Muslims, it’s about Saudis. Saudi Arabia is not an open culture. It’s not a country where almost everyone is an immigrant, like the States. That’s what makes it difficult. It’s probably one of the only countries where you have to apply for permission to marry a foreigner, which means, you can see that our government, our society, is not giving us the opportunity to get mixed with other cultures. It took me, like, two, three years to slowly convince my parents. And it’s really funny, I just had a disagreement with my wife about raising our kids and how we should help them make the right decisions, but if there’s anything I learned from the experience of marrying a foreigner, it’s that your parents might think that you are going in the wrong path, or you are making the wrong decision, but I’m glad that I proved to them that I did the right thing, it was the right decision. I’m glad that my family really likes my wife now, and they kind of clicked.

Would you prefer for your daughter to marry a Saudi or an American?

As of today, I absolutely prefer for her to marry a Saudi. I can’t handle the idea of not being able to see my grandkids and having to apply for a visa for them to come and visit, because a Saudi woman cannot grant citizenship to her kids, so I absolutely prefer for her to marry a Saudi. That was not a concern for Nikki’s parents, because that’s not the situation in the States; they know that, you know, they would be able to see their grandkids, because Lavender has an American passport, all our kids will have American passports. That’s my only concern. I would like my grandkids to be Saudis. I want them to share my citizenship, my language, my culture, and yes, my religion. But I hope the citizenship thing will change, and at the end, it’s not my decision. I believe it’s my daughter’s…because, you know, this what our religion encourages, it should be the woman’s decision.

Who do you think has it better in Saudi Arabia—men or women? And why?

Men, absolutely. It’s a men-oriented society. It is changing, because you know, Saudi women are showing that they have the ability to do great stuff; a lot of female Saudi scientists and scholars have done great accomplishments and are being acknowledged, both locally and internationally. But yes, most decision-makers are males. But even when you look to the States, which is the most liberal country, the decision-makers are mostly still males, not females. So yeah, it’s slowly changing, but it’s still kinda difficult to be a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Have you ever experienced culture shock? Tell us about it.

Culture shock? Yes, when I first arrived to the States. The driving, the waiting in lines…it was not so much a culture shock, I think, because I really enjoyed the experience. I had always heard about culture shock before I went to the States, but I did not feel it much. I absolutely enjoyed each and every experience. But I almost cried right after I arrived…I was sent to this old building on the campus, it was freaking Memorial Day weekend, everything was closed, I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have internet, I didn’t have a phone yet. I was one of the first people that the scholarship program sent to that university, so there were only a few Saudis there…literally, all the Saudis who were in Springfield, we all fit in one small living room in a duplex. So I felt extremely lonely…I didn’t know where the heck to go. It was hard at first. But I made it.

I assume that since you married a Western woman, you have no problem with Saudi men doing that, but what do you think of Saudi women who marry/have relationships with Western men? And what are the differences in which your society perceives those women vs. men who do the same?

Of course, she has the right. Again, it’s her choice. I don’t really have an opinion about that. But I think, like I said, before making the decision, they really need to consider whether they are okay with her kids not carrying the citizenship, with them being treated differently than their cousins just because their dad is not Saudi. So, you know, again, it’s not my decision, and I don’t have any objection, but Saudi women have more to think about with that than Saudi men do. But you’re asking if the majority of Saudi families would be okay with their daughter marrying someone outside of Saudi Arabia…the answer is absolutely not. Many don’t even want their daughters or their sons to marry outside of the tribe. And there is a cultural double standard…all over the world, there is this idea that “boys will be boys.” Even in America, especially in the Southern states, like…I think your brother got away with many more things than you did. Girls are the ones parents worry about and want to protect. We don’t worry as much about boys. It’s not really fair, but it’s just how it is. And quite frankly, it’s always the boys who get into trouble, not the girls. From what I’ve heard, it’s much easier to raise a girl.

We all know that marrying someone from another culture can be a challenge, and we know it sometimes is for Nicole, but I wonder what the challenges that you have faced are, and what things you see differently than Nicole.

Probably I will have more challenges when my daughter gets older. I don’t know what these challenges will be yet. I don’t know, I hope my wife and I are making it easier for each other to be open-minded and understanding about cultures. I don’t know what life is hiding for us when it comes to raising our children. But I think couples, even if they don’t speak the same language, if they have that click, and if they are open-minded about each other’s culture, origins, background, I think they will not face so much difficulty. My wife has been open-minded, I think I have been open-minded, too. We try.

What do you really think about your mother-in-law?

I really like…wait, she is the one who asked this question, isn’t she? No, I mean, she always comes to our house when we are in Missouri, we always go to her house when we are there. We go out to dinner with her, we hang out together. I think she is a funny, caring person. Sometimes I feel like she takes sides when Nikki and I disagree; I don’t blame her, though. I would take my daughter’s side, too. But I really love my mother-in-law. I think she’s awesome. She’s a tough woman.

Whew, you made it to the end! If you want to, you can follow Mr. Mostafa on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for reading!


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  • Kristina ElSayed

    Awww. I love that you introduced your husband to us. Its nice to meet him.

    • nicole

      thanks, kristina! :)

  • Manal

    Funny thing is that he focusing so much on begin Saudi when in fact by his looks you can tell that he is not originally Saudi. Not that it matters but him being from Jeddah means he has a mixed ancestry as his face shows. People in Riyadh majority of them are hard core Arabs and they consider majority of people from Jeddah not to be pure Arabs. Often, they will ask what tribe you are from just so they can pin you down and say you are not really Saudi – you are from such and such place. So I am interested to know what ancestry lies behind Mr. Mustafa, I would guess South Asia but it would be an interesting story to read.

    • nicole

      ^aaaaand there it is, saudi racism. :)
      not that it matters, but no, he doesn’t have any south asian ancestors.

  • rinah

    What the hell is a big deal with her question? That’s the life in Saudi, I am mixed too (my maternal side id Iranian) and clearly people from Riyadh do not even consider people from Jeddah true Saudis that is Arab who can recite their tribal ancestry in a second. She asked the question because the face of your husband is clearly of South Asian or Mongolian ancestry which is common here. The fact that your husband is in denial speaks of his inferiority complex not of Saudi racism. Hell I am proud of my Iranian side!

    • nicole

      i can assure you that mr. mostafa is very proud of all elements of his ancestry, but south asian/mongolian is not one of them.

      • Pixie

        I would first like to say that I am an American and that I am fully aware of the racism that is rampant in the United States. To say that I don’t see it would mean that I never ventured out of my house or watched television. I am saying this because I want to deflect any comments people may hurl my way about how my country is not perfect. I would like everyone to know that I am fully aware that a huge portion of people that live in the US, if pushed, would probably say that they dislike someone based only on ethnic background. I am not one of those people, but I do know that they are out there.
        Why did this post become about a man’s ancestry? Why does the color of a person’s skin, their style of dress, their body size or any other external characteristic matter so much to so many people around the world? We are all people. We are supposed to be the most intelligent of all animals created and all we can do is pick apart our fellow man based solely on what we see or think we see.
        While I am on my soapbox, I would also like to reply to the comment someone made about this woman, her husband and premarital sex. Who cares? What this couple has or has not done before or after marriage is none of our business. It is between them, their families and their God. Why anyone would care so much about another’s sex life or lack thereof is downright freaky if you ask me.
        The fact that so many people will find any reason to tear another down is why I am slowly losing my faith in mankind. We are appalling.

        • nicole

          i know exactly how you feel, pixie. thanks for reading and commenting. <3

      • Najwa aka Umm Gamar

        You’re dealing with some very strange commenters here, Nicole. And I salute you for staying so composed whilst answering these weirdos. Great interview :-)
        Mrs B

        • nicole

          thanks so much, mrs. b. <3

  • nicole

    according to what he tells me, risi, he hasn’t had much experience with people questioning his saudi-ness here. his friends (many of whom are “pure arab”) know his family and their history in saudi arabia, so it’s never been an issue. right now, he’s quite amused by all of the speculation on my blog about his “true” ethnicity! he expected some interesting comments about some of his words, but being told it’s funny that he mentioned being saudi because he’s not really saudi wasn’t among them. until i started blogging, he was unaware that there were ladies who could read ancestry just by looking at faces. (i wonder what they’d tell me about my own family history, lol…)

  • rinah

    Apologies for what you deem an insult. I can also assure you that many of my friends who are born and raised in USA but are of different ethnicity get asked this same question very often. While studying in LA, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have heard friends of Chinese ancestry get asked this question where are you from (from San Fran, no no but where are you really from?). As for you since you are white you do not get that question, although, surely you cannot claim your own ancestry to the soil of what is today USA unless you are Native Indian but to the shores of UK. Give me a freaking break, ancient ties to this land… funny! If I detest anything more than hypocrisy is inferiority complex!

    • nicole

      there’s no inferiority complex here. like i said, mr. mostafa would be more than willing to admit if he were of south asian or mongolian ancestry. there’s nothing to be ashamed of by that. he simply isn’t, and the idea that you think you can look at a person and tell me who their ancestors are is really…well, racist. as a matter of fact (i guess you’re new to the blog), my mom’s ancestors were in the states long before white folks were. they’re latino-american, native americans who were originally colonized by the spanish. but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by looking at me, as you obviously couldn’t. i’m not ashamed of my ancestry, but the fact is, you don’t know it, and to pretend that you do because you saw a picture is insane.

      here’s another picture. my husband was thinner here, and not smiling. can you read his ancestry for me, please?

  • Fahad Albarrak

    I am a huge fan of your blog. This is my first time writing a comment!

    Thank you for sharing this! Getting to know Mr. Mostafa absolutely helps us as readers gain better understanding of your experience in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I am proud of him as a Saudi. I think that being open-minded about different cultures is a hard thing to do, especially for Saudis. We unfortunately grew-up in a society that does not give much, or any, consideration and respect to other cultures. You can see this in the comments. So to see him being able to be open-minded and mindful of your culture while maintaining ‘the good’ traditional values he grew up as a Saudi makes me happy. I also bet that confronting his parents about your relationship was not easy. For him just to manage all of these things is quite an accomplishment. Great job Saleh!

    I think Lavender is very lucky to have you two as parents. In addition to having loving and caring parents, she will have a very unique cross-cultural experience that I’m sure will make her stand out among her peers as she grow up.

    LOVE your blog. Please keep writing!


    • nicole

      thank you so much, fahad, from both me and mr. mostafa! :)

  • allyschild

    Hi Nikki! Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I always learn something new, discover something interesting and find something I agree with and disagree with – and it’s hard to ask for more from a blog! I hope your husband’s dreams for you to publish a book come true someday! Have you heard of the New York Times’s ’36 Questions to Fall in Love’? They’re designed to create emotional intimacy and trust between strangers, but since they went viral, lots of long-term couples have written in to say that they used them to re-ignite a spark :) I’ve been working through them with my boyfriend, and it’s so fun to ‘interview’ each other:

    P.S. I always think that our belief that we can tell someone’s race just by looking at them a) only reinforces the fact that ‘race’ is a socially constructed phenomenon, with certain ‘features’ being attributed to particular categories of people (and both the features and the categories used vary from culture to culture) and b) how quick we are to judge as humans – there’s so much subconscious assessment going on even before we ever get a chance to speak to the other person.

    • nicole

      thank you very much! :) these questions are absolutely fantastic. we’re definitely going to give them a go!

  • djd

    I can’t find a like button, but I did enjoy reading this. I like seeing the love you all share.
    As a matter of fact, it looks like I can’t comment as a wordpress user but have to log into something else.

    • nicole

      thanks so much. yes, i installed the disqus commenting system on the blog, so that switches up things a bit…i’m no longer using the wordpress commenting system. i’m sorry! i hope that’s not too much trouble! <3

  • Mandy

    That was an informative and enjoyable interview. I love your blog more everyday. As an Iranian I would like to apologize for some comments above me (who clearly isn’t Iranian) tsk,tsk,tsk….

    • nicole

      thank you, mandy! <3

  • Bella

    Nice to meet you, Mr. Mostafa! You make so many valid points about Saudi Arabia´s imperative need to diversify its economy and that more Saudis must be prepared to take over more responsibility for their country instead of leaving a lot of jobs to be done by foreigners. But I dont get your take on taxation. Foreigners will pay taxes in countries where they get public services. In Saudi, a foreigner is not allowed to send their kids to public schools or universities, there is virtually no public transport and there is no pension for foreign workers. If health care is provided, many foreigners will still opt to pay for private care of fear that the contract will be terminated if the employer finds out about an illness. Almost nobody will ever get a Saudi citizenship (unless their father is Saudi, not even the mother) and once a contract i terminated the foreigner is immediately sent home, even if they had spent their whole life in Saudi Arabia. How can one levy taxes on someone who is permanently excluded from the nation? And I dont understand the logic of not wanting foreigners to send their hard-earned money home to their countries. Once I employ someone and they fulfill their obligation towards me, I will pay them and the money becomes theirs to do whatever they want with. It is not my money anymore.
    This might not be the right forum for political or economic discussions and please take my comment as an expression of a different opinion and NOT a personal attack on Mr. Mostafa, who seems to be a very tolerant and open-minded man with a big heart. It is weird that the only controversy stirred by this post is about his ethnicity! Unfortunately, many people do not consider his virtues as a typical of Saudi Arabia or Saudi men. He might just consider the questioning of his ethinicity, however proposterous, as a compliment! Stay well and all the best to your lovely family!

    • nicole

      hi, bella! thank you for your kind, thoughtful comment. if all people, including myself, could express disagreement in such a graceful way, the world would be a much better place! :) i ran your comment by mr. mostafa, and here’s what he had to say:

      1. he says that expat kids actually are allowed to attend saudi public schools; few do, of course, because they teach almost entirely in arabic and the curriculum may teach things that expat parents don’t necessarily want their kids to learn. but public schools are available to expats.

      2. he also says that if an expat worker’s contract is terminated due to reporting an illness, or if they suspect this is so, they should file a report with the ministry of labor, because this violates labor law.

      3. it’s not that he doesn’t want money to be sent out of the country at all; rather, it’s just that almost none of it is being cycled back into the saudi economy, as happens in other countries. granted, this is not entirely the expats’ fault; saudi arabia isn’t exactly a hotbed of tourism. :) although there are things to see and places to go, even though it can be harder to find them. but expat workers tend to live on compounds paid for by their employer, send their kids to schools paid for by their employer, etc., and otherwise tend to generally stay on compounds. this is not necessarily a bad thing; in many ways, it’s a pretty sweet deal! but the tax idea is meant to facilitate the continued circulation of saudi money in the saudi economy, at least to some degree, regardless of who it’s being paid to, as would be the case in other countries, rather than having nearly all of that money exiting the country. that’s just how mr. mostafa sees it. :)

      again, thanks so much for your response! mr. mostafa appreciates it, too! :)