frequently asked questions

Why is the blog called The Same Rainbow’s End?

The name comes from a lyric in one of my husband’s and my favorite songs, “Moon River.” The music was composed by Henry Mancini and the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer. It was first sung by Audrey Hepburn in one of my favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and it won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1961.

The lyric that the blog takes its title from goes, “Two drifters, off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end.”

Do you really live in Saudi Arabia?

Um, yes. My husband and I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is the largest city in the Kingdom, as well as its capital. I’ll always consider southern Missouri home as well, though.

Why don’t you write more about the problems, politics, attractions, etc. of Saudi Arabia? 

There are lots of blogs out there that are just about Saudi Arabia–its politics, its cultural issues, etc. But this blog isn’t one of them. I write about my thoughts and my feelings, which often center around life in Saudi Arabia…since, you know, I live here. I write and share photos about my everyday life, which happens to often take place in Saudi Arabia with my Saudi husband and my half-Saudi daughter. If you read my blog, you may learn a few things about Saudi Arabia, and from time to time, I do write about cool places or events that take place here, or about social, political, and/or religious issues in the country (as I sometimes share about the same things in the United States). But I don’t write solely about Saudi Arabia.

Everyone knows life in Saudi Arabia is terrible. Why do you make it sound nice?

Again, I don’t write solely about Saudi Arabia. And even if I did, I wouldn’t write with the intention of demonstrating how awful/backward/primitive/barbaric it is. (I tend to believe that Western media, often including other bloggers, already have that niche filled.) I write about my life. And my life, thank God, isn’t terrible…although there are frustrations, of course, and I write about those, too. In many ways, Saudi Arabia obviously has a whole lot of growing up to do, but it’s just like any other place in the world–there is good and bad. And there’s a whole lot more normal here than many people would have you believe. Really.

Are you Muslim?

Yes. I began studying Islam in 2008, and on July 14, 2010, I said shahadah.

If you’re Muslim, why don’t you write more about Islamic topics?

See the inquiry about Saudi Arabia, three questions up. Replace “Saudi Arabia” with “Islam” and “country” with “religion,” and you’ve pretty much got your answer. :)

How did your husband get permission from the Saudi government to marry a foreigner?

We got the permission through sheer perseverance and luck. If you’re looking for information about obtaining the marriage permission, here is a good place to start. If you scroll down to the “Personal Stories” section, you will find a collection of anecdotes from women whose husbands have successfully gone through the process–our permission process went almost exactly like Umm Riyam’s, except that my husband submitted everything directly to the Ministry of the Interior in Riyadh and we never got denied at any point, much to our great surprise. I have written a bit about Saudi marriage permissions and such; that post is here.

How could you possibly move to Saudi Arabia? Haven’t you seen Not Without My Daughter?

Let me just state this clearly: my life is is nothing like Not Without My Daughter. And now, let’s clear up a few additional things. Yes, it’s true–and utterly insane–that Saudi women require the permission of their mahram to obtain a passport and travel out the country. This also applies to many non-Saudi women who are married to Saudis (although marriage to a Saudi does not require a foreign wife to renounce her original citizenship, nor does the foreign wife automatically receive Saudi citizenship). However, as of 2008, all Saudi marriage permissions between a Saudi man and an American woman require that the Saudi man sign a binding legal agreement which states that the American woman and her children are not subject to the man’s permission in order to travel out of the country. My marriage permission was processed in 2011, and Mr. Mostafa was indeed required to sign this agreement. Unfortunately, this law is not retroactive–meaning that it does not apply to any Saudi-American marriage permissions processed prior to 2008, and it doesn’t apply to wives of any other nationality (although other countries may have similar arrangements that I’m not aware of). Also, if the man and woman divorce, the woman may leave any time she wants, but the children resulting from the union once again require the father’s permission to leave the country. (If I’m being totally honest, I can’t say I entirely disagree with this. I too would not want an ex-spouse to be able to leave the country with my children without my permission, and I wish the United States would implement legislation to this effect. While we Americans–understandably–wring our hands at horror stories of bicultural parenting gone devastatingly wrong, Saudis actually do also love their children and also worry about foreign spouses taking the children to another country forever. It was one of the first concerns my mother-in-law brought up when my husband approached her about marrying an American.) In addition, thanks to recently implemented regulations, mothers of Saudi children, regardless of nationality, are now able to obtain an iqama that allows them to stay in the Kingdom indefinitely, without the sponsorship of a spouse or employer. (In previous years, a divorced non-Saudi woman who wanted to stay in the Kingdom had to scramble to find a job with an employer who would agree to sponsor a residence permit for her, or else leave the country–and her children, if the father wouldn’t consent to them going with her.)  Oh, and Not Without My Daughter takes place in Iran, not Saudi Arabia, and the events depicted in the movie took place 30 years ago, in the middle of the Iranian Revolution. While there were and are cultural similarities between the two places, it’s kind of like saying, “How could you possibly live in Canada? Haven’t you seen Sleeping With the Devil?”

Some of your posts go on forever. Don’t you know that writing long posts is bad blog etiquette?

Yeah, I’ve been blogging in various virtual locales since 2002, so I’ve stumbled upon this maxim several times. But I find my blog suffers when I try to follow “blogging rules” that other people have come up with. I write for myself. Always have. In the words of Sylvia Plath, “I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.” If other people take time out of their lives to read my blog, that’s amazing to me, and I’m so honored, and I do try to share things that I think my readers might find interesting and/or helpful. But sometimes I feel like writing a lot. And when I do, I write a lot. And since I don’t hate reading long blog posts by others (in fact, I get really excited when a blogger I love posts a good, long piece that I can settle into with a cup of tea), I don’t feel bad about writing them.

Are you required to call your husband “Mr. Mostafa”? Is it some sort of Saudi/Arabic/Middle Eastern/Muslim rule?

No. I am not, nor have I ever been, “required” by my husband or anyone else to refer him as “Mr. Mostafa” or anything else. I just call him that on the blog and social media because, you know, it has a nice ring to it (with the alliteration and all), and even though I’m almost always on board with anything cutesy, I despise husband-substitute words like “hubby,” “hubs,” etc. But for the record, when I speak to my husband, I call him Saleh (which is his first name). Or Baba (which is what Lavender calls him). Or habebe. Or sweetie. Or honey. Or goober. Or weirdo. Or sugar pie honey bunch. He generally answers to them all. Or at least, he does when I say them. If you call him sugar pie honey bunch, he might be a little bit startled.

Is your husband a member of the Saudi royal family?

No, Mr. Mostafa is not a Saudi prince. Although he is my Saudi prince. (Come on, you knew that was coming, right? It was too easy.)

I want to write my own blog. Do you have any advice?

I’m certainly not an expert, but for me, blogging is easy because I love to write. That’s really the only thing you have to do in the beginning; sign up for a free account on Blogger or WordPress.com and just get to it. As long as you love to write and have something to say, everything else can be figured out as you go along. I’ve been blogging since I was a freshman in college, even during the years when the total number of people who read what I wrote, including myself, was about four. Once you’ve established a blog that you know you want to stick with because you have something to say on it (on at least a semi-regular basis), you can migrate to a self-hosted blog where you have complete control of every single thing about your website. Nowadays I use the WordPress.org platform, with hosting by Bluehost; their prices are awesome and their customer service is even better (they’re friendly, helpful, and available 24 hours a day–which comes in handy when I have a question here in Riyadh during what is the middle of the night in the States–and they’ll walk you through everything you need to know).

Do you have a question that I haven’t answered here? Send it to me!