Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pajama Party

The other night, my sister-in-law “H” invited me to go with her to her sister’s home for her niece’s 15th birthday. The theme was a pajama party - not a sleep over party - where all the guests were asked to wear their favorite PJs. We were the first to arrive, so we could help out with last minute details. Outside the lovely villa, I saw multicolored balloons wafting in the gentle wind above the gate of the soaring stone wall. The inside was decorated with vibrant multihued banners, metallic garlands, oodles of balloons, and several large multicolored disco lights and other types of party lighting with colored shooting laser lights. Furniture was cleared to the walls of the large living room so there was a big dance floor in the middle. One wall was lined with tables offering various beverages and snacks which were presented in attractive colossal shell shaped serving bowls. All the special lighting, music, smoke machine, and decorations were rented from a party place, which is a common thing to do.

Here in Arabia, when you invite someone over, you don’t usually say a particular time, like 8pm. Instead you would tell them to come after a certain prayer time. For example, “Come after Isha” means the party will start after the evening prayer, the last prayer of the day. As the guests began arriving, I was amused at the variety of cute sleepwear – cartoon characters like Betty Boop, Snoopy, Garfield, and Pink Panther, hearts and flowers, stripes and polka dots. The guests were comprised of Birthday Girl’s friends from school, cousins ranging in age from 2 to 25, plus the mothers of those attending and other relatives including many aunts and such. All told, there must have been approximately 75 guests. Except for about five young boys under the age of 8, all the guests were female. Many of the attendees also brought along their maids, of which there had to be at least a dozen or more.

A variety of dance music played – Middle Eastern, rap, Spanish, and Rock ‘n Roll. It was a nice modern mix chosen by Birthday Girl herself. So as the loud music played, the girls and women danced, the lights flashed, and my SIL “H” turned out to be the Life of the Party! “H” wore Elsie the Cow PJs in white with black spots all over, a pink bandana, and a single pink curler in her hair atop her forehead. She looked adorable. During the course of the evening, “H” entertained everyone with her wild and exaggerated dance moves, while stuffing balloons into her PJS in her chest area and her behind. She was totally hilarious and had people literally rolling on the floor with her. Some of the youngest guests were wide-eyed and probably a little shocked at her outrageous behavior, but entertained none the less.

While the younger girls danced the night away, the grown up ladies moved their own party into another living room of the home. Servants brought around trays of salty snacks, chocolates, and cookies, and the most beautiful brightly colored juice drinks in crystal glasses with gold rims. Some women preferred to smoke plain old cigarettes over the four hookahs (which is called “Hubbly Bubbly”) placed around the room as the jovial bunch of ladies sat back enjoying themselves, chatting, laughing, puffing away, and smiling. “H” told me that the Hubbly Bubbly makes them feel happy, and evidently, this was certainly true! I never saw a happier bunch!

They made me feel very welcome as ladies in each corner of the room invited me over to try to get to know me and ask me questions. One woman sucking on the Hubbly Bubbly called me over, wrapped her arm around me and loudly announced to everyone else that I was HER friend now and she wasn’t going to share me. Another lady made me feel especially good when she told me, “Halas (that’s it) – you are one of us!” I don’t think she realized how good her words made me feel. Some of us switched back and forth between dancing on the dance floor and smoking in the Hookah Lounge. And when I told a woman about my age how beautiful her 20 year old daughter was, she immediately called her daughter over to dance with me, like she was giving me a gift. It was a sweet gesture, awkward, and wonderful, and heartwarming, all at the same time.

About midnight, the food was served buffet style in the large dining room. There was enough food to feed a small army. It was, like every other function I have attended since I have been here, an amazingly delicious and delectable feast. Food for the event had been specially prepared by the maids, plus some special platters had been ordered from Chili’s Restaurant. After the guests were done eating, the maids were allowed in to serve themselves, and there was still plenty of food leftover even after they were done! The dancing and smoking and laughing continued until it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” and cut the cake at about 1am. By 1:30am the guests began to leave, as the little ones were getting pretty worn out at this point. When I got home, I told my husband that “H’s” family really knows how to party! It was indeed a riotous and memorable evening, one for the books.

UPDATE: Feb. 2009 - I have removed three photos that I originally published with this post. Even though my husband saw the photos back when I had posted this story months ago and told me that there was nothing wrong with them, it seems that someone in his family has told him today that they were inappropriate, so I have removed the photos.


    That's a fabulous party idea! To wear Pjs. I'm going to tell my sister in law so she'll throw one. Heh. It's really nice they all made you feel so welcome! I loved when they faught over me and I felt really involved. I'm glad you have time to kick back with family and enjoy each other's company. I hope you didn't hit the sheesha (hubbly bubbly) too much cause it can give you a headache from too much air. Heh I've been away from sheesha (hooka) for years what with preg and breastfeeding but i'll love to make it smoke when I'm done with this latest kiddo hehehe. ON a serious side I really hope you thought to ask the people in those pictures if you can put them public becaue even though you scrambled the faces it is still haram to show revealing clothes (snug), bare ankles, and their hair...if you already asked then great I'm glad you already were sensitive to their issues :)
    Man I'm ready to step into the Pc and dance with ya'll it looks so fun! Isn't the Arabic music a blast to dance to? Did you dance western or did you flip your hip a few times?
    Just curious! Take care!

  2. Sounds like it was a wonderful party, Susie. Love the pixs! Glad to hear that "girls just want to have fun" no matter where they are from.

    Can you please tell us what is in the hubbly bubbly pipes? I saw plenty of them in the stores when I was in Saudi but am not familiar with what one smokes in them.

    Kristie Leigh Maguire

  3. Hi Kristie -
    The Hubbly Bubbly or hookahs are water pipes. These recreational pipes use very moist tobaccos or sheesha that come in a multitude of flavors, like mint, apple, strawberry, bubble gum, cola, etc. A pipe can have one hose or multiple hoses so that more than one person can partake at one time. Each hose has a mouthpiece and many hoses are outfitted with loose fitting colorful fabric covers. Special wood or charcoal is also required. The wood must be pre-lit much like the coals for a barbeque. You can experience a sensation of lightheadedness or even nausea if you're not accustomed to smoking!

  4. Isn't it wonderful to go to a party in Saudi Arabia? I mean a real party, with decorations, lavish food, a dress code, colored lights and dance music?

    I'll bet you learned a bit of Arabic that night!

  5. I hope no offense is taken by this.. but my one question is did you get permission to put those pics online? I know you blurred out the faces, but... everything else that is supposed to be covered in public does show.

  6. I brought a few hookahs home with me from Saudi. They are small ones and I've never used them for anything other than decoration. I have lots of items that I brought home from Saudi, including a couple of camel saddles that I use for foot stools. Of course I have several of the sand pictures and numerous camels. I have a little silver camel that I use for a paperweight. I have a crystal and gold one with a little woman figure on it that was given to me at one of my going away parties. (Yeah, I've lived in Saudi more than once.) I have 1 made out of camel hide that is really beautiful.

    Susie, have you had the opportunity to ride a camel yet? I did and it terrified me. The thing was so tall!

    Kristie Leigh Maguire

  7. Hey, girl,
    I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. I look forward to it and check my mail often. Love it!

  8. Wauw! Another great and enjoyable post! And the warmth of it is eminating from my screen!
    I've smoked hookah with apple-tobacco last summer, It was nice because it was so companiable.
    No bad after-results by the way.

    I have been told though that a good hookah should be fairly large.

  9. You might want to revisit some of those photos... If you enlarge them you can see faces... Then again everything else is showing anyway. Not your most tasteful post.

  10. I have received some comments from some concerned people regarding the photos in this post. I would like to address this issue. First of all, thanks for expressing your concerns about the photos. I do appreciate your input.

    I write this blog mainly for my family and friends back home, the vast majority of which are women, to show them a peek into life here, to reassure them that I am well and happy, to educate them about their incorrect preconceived ideas and misinformation they may have heard, and to illustrate the warmth of the people and its culture here in Arabia.

    The reason for this post in particular was to show that women here like to have fun just like women in America or elsewhere, and that they are not as repressed as so many people around the world seem to think. I think it is important to show this side of women here. If this is wrong on my part, then I sincerely apologize.

    I am still fairly new here (6 months) and I admit I can be naive as I am still learning so much about their ways, beliefs, religion and culture. I am happy to have cyber friends who can tug on my reins to alert me to any possible offenses on my part.

    That being said, I have asked my husband, my brother in law and his wife about these photos. (They are all Muslims and all native Saudis.) They all feel comfortable with my posting of the photos and do not feel it is inappropriate for me to post them on my little blog. Maybe my husband's family as a whole is a little more liberal than most. He was in the US for 30 years so maybe he saw so much there that these photos, to him, appear perfectly innocent and acceptable. No one in the photos is recognizable and the photos are not indecent or immoral. Since people in the photos are not identified by name and are not recognizable, the idea of having to have permission to post these photos doesn't make sense to me. I try my best to be sensitive to others' feelings and I would never wish to cause any undue stress or for anyone to be upset, uncomfortable, offended or harmed in any way. I try my best to conduct myself responsibly. I have asked my husband now three times to look at the photos I have posted and he insists that they are perfectly acceptable.

    So my choices are to leave everything the way it is (and invite a storm of controversy over photos that some obviously take issue with) or to remove the photos, which show an innocent and lighter side of life here. I choose to leave them in.

    If anyone finds these photos objectionable, I'm sorry. All one needs to do is turn on the TV and you can see much more skin, hair, ankles and women's figures than what you can see in my fuzzy photos.

  11. Although I can't claim to know anything about the religious laws of Saudi, I must comment on the recent posts to the "PJ Party" blog.
    I have been reading Susie's posts since I first received an invite and find them very educational and interesting. I too had my own ideas of how life goes on in the east and with the help of these subject matters, I have a more informed idea of what life is like over there on the civilian side.
    I am positive that Susie meant no disrespect or harm when she posted the photos of her friends having fun. She took all 'known precautions' to hide the identity of the partiers and I feel she did so in a very responsible manner.
    In my opinion, she is doing the country a greater service by posting the customs and social adventures as she perceives them rather than to keep everything hidden.
    In my humble opinion, no harm, no foul! Keep 'em coming.

  12. Now that's what I call a girls night out! I love it! I love seeing that we are all the same. We all want to, once in a while, kick up ours heels and have some fun. It's nice to know that, even with the restrictions, the ladies can do that. I wished I could have been there to party with you, Susie.

  13. Susie,

    Since I started my blog and have so enjoyed the comments, I am making sure I comment on the other blogs I visit.

    This is a great story!! I am so glad that you are able to share your life with us.

    As you know, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the Muslim way of life. It is so great to know that so much fun can be had.

    I am so glad that you are happy. I know that this is such a drastic change after living in the U.S. for all of your life.

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Susie, please leave the pictures on the blog. They're cute and fun and totally harmless. It does give us a glimpse into your world and it is comforting for us to know that you can have a girls night and enjoy. The pictures are innocent and fun and I feel your explanation is heartfelt, sincere and more than reasonable. I can't even begin to understand why someone would find them not appropriate. Especially because the faces are blurred.

  15. What an amazing idea for a blog- an American woman living in a Muslim community! Not many people get experiences like this one. That is why i am very excited to read about all of Susie's adventures. All, including the ones that some may deem "inappropriate". I think that the blurred photos and anonymous names were very helpful in hiding the identities of the women. Who knows if these women even objected to showing their ankles, arms, etc.? Fortunately, this blog shows us what life is really like for these women. Not just the censored news we receive from unreliable sources. Great job Susie! I love your stories.

  16. I think you did a great thing by posting what it is REALLY like over there and helping to break misconceptions and stereotypes. I personally will not be clicking on the pictures to see "how much" I can see, but I am sure some people will - just to be able to find fault in what you did. It's easier, at times, to find fault, than to accept that this is how things are and to embrace everything and enjoy it. In the Western world we have misconceptions about Islam - and it's nice to see them broken. I thought that the pictures were not only tasteful, but they shared that teenagers around the world, and women for that matter, celebrate themselves in similar fashions. Good for you!!!

    Kerri - (Sheila's Daughter)

  17. Susie, I can't understand their thinking!!! It looked like a perfectly GREAT and FUN evening! Guess I don't understand their concerns.

    I didn't know that women are not suppose to EVER be seen without their abayas! These were young girls and women having a wonderful time!

    Susie, as far as I'm concerned you did not do anything wrong! You have my support....keep enjoying the future PJ parties! I enjoy the fact the girls and women any where "want to have fun".... You ROCK Susie! Thanks. I always enjoy reading your blog.

  18. Suzz

    You are in Saudi Arabia as a show of pure,complete and unconditional love and support for your husband. And, likewise, I have gleaned from other posts that he is your mentor, guide, and support regarding his country, his people, their customs, etc., etc., etc. You both knew this would be one incredible experience/adventure for you, and that it would be an experience/adventure that you would not want to keep hidden. He is the patriarch of your family and I trust his judgment of your posting of the PJ Party. That same judgment from your brother-in-law only adds more weight to the fact that it's ok. You are educating me (and I'm sure many like me)in a way that we would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience. I have loved the honesty, candidness, candor and INTEGRITY in all your posts. Don't you think that no matter what, no matter where,any one of us would find that some live certain decrees more rigorously than others? I appreciate and salute you for your humble and sincere expression of understanding to those who have shown concern about this post. But, honestly, I, too, loved seeing that "girls just love to have fun" no matter where they are. Thank you for allowing me(us) to see this side and to feel a kinship with those whom you are now sharing your life. I somehow see it as your helping us to join hands in acceptance and reception of our differences yet our likenesses. Maybe I'm being cheesy... but... that's how I see it.

  19. Hi, Susie,
    I really do not know enough about the beliefs of the Islam religion, so I do not know if you want this included as a comment. I do not want to cause a furor or offend anyone. I have always found your blogs to be interesting and very well-written. (I can say that in all sincerity as an English teacher). I believe you did the correct thing in including the pictures, and if your husband and his family do not find them wrong or offensive, that is all that should matter.
    Keep up the wonderful blogs about your interesting life. I find them especially intersting having a grandson living in Dubai.
    Linda K

  20. I'm not one for blogging so wanted to keep this personal. Your (or my) background is in promoting openness and an ability to get over things by saying "no big deal" I am guessing that you are opening yourself up to the reality of a less forgiving religious culture. Given who your readership might be, the risk was there for criticism. Your post isn't offensive to me (a dirty old man, after all) but from what I read about Muslim intolerance, you did open the door. Now the question is whether you can point out to critics a need to increase tolerance and accept your writings for the educational value intended. Best wishes.

  21. Hi SusieQ,
    with all due respect to the Muslim community, your capture of real life occasions and happenings in Arabia let's us have a peek into the Muslim world. I for one had the impression that Muslim women were suppressed and rather stoic. Thru your Blog it shows a side of their culture that is refreshing, gosh, the women have fun and party just like the rest of society. It all appears very harmless you have taken appropriate precautions (it seems) so as to not offend the Muslim culture and beliefs. What possible bad can come of this?

    Perhaps not all Muslims see it this way but they should know that most of the world does not see this as inappropriate.

    Anyway, I hope you are able to continue with your Blog and share some snipits of the Muslim culture with us Westerners... and along the way, keep enjoying your new found community and friends there. Life is too short.

  22. I did not think you meant any disrespect...

    I just wondered how the women felt..I talked to some muslimah's that I know & they were appalled by this. That is them, the women you posted pics of may feel differently.

    I just asked because it is out on the web where men can see it..

    & btw.. I am not Muslim

  23. To Mama Kalila -
    I really do appreciate your taking the time to let me know your feelings about this.
    Honestly, I just don't understand what is so appalling about it. I wish I did.
    To me, there are much more appalling things that we see every day on TV, in ads, in magazines, on billboards, etc.
    My SIL is born & raised here as a Muslim, and she doesn't mind the photos, and she is in half of them. If she had minded, I certainly would have respected her wishes if she preferred I removed them. And if my husband felt in the slightest that I was wrong in posting them, I would not have.
    I really think that people tend to take things way too seriously and overreact and blow innocent things way out of proportion.
    Thanks again for your input. I do value it and take it to heart.

  24. Wowowow, looks like you had a fab time Susie!

    Btw... how do you blur the faces like that?? Do you need some special software like Photoshop??

    Umm Ibrahim :)

  25. Umm Ibrahim -
    Yes, I use PhotoShop. If you have it, I can tell you how to do it. You can do all sorts of special effects - it's really fun and, in this post, also serves a purpose.

  26. I hope no one takes offense at this, but since the blog is intended to be informative, I just thought I'd point out that strict Muslims consider smoking to be something that's either prohibited altogether, or at least something hated, in Islam. In the Gulf, it's popular among many men, but much less so among women... (And from what I understand, smoking sheesha is even worse for the health than smoking cigarettes.)

    Music is also prohibited by many scholars, especially Saudi scholars. This family is obviously on the "liberal" end of the scale. (Religious women still have parties and weddings where they're dressed to the teeth and heavily made up, and they still have fun, in case anyone is wondering.)

  27. Ann -
    Thank you so much for your input. I guess within every society and even within families we have behaviors that vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. I know that within my husband's family, there are some who don't listen to music, much less dance, or smoke. I appreciate you taking the time to point these things out.

  28. Some people also object to having birthday parties too. Actually, some people object to anybody having any fun at all. Same as some fundamental christians do.

    I'd say go and have fun.
    I got this insight from reading a sufi-orientated blog, very succinctly put: We are recieving gifts from God all the time, as long as we are not enslaved to these gifts we can enjoy them in the praise of God.

    I really can't stand it when people are denied a bit of innocent fun, because some misogynist likes to put a puritan interpretation on a holy scripture.(probably because they never get invited to parties themselves)

    I seem to remeber that Susie's lovely family is very much aware of her posting photo's on her blog, and have no problems with it as she blurrs the faces.

  29. Hey Susie!!! I love reading your blogs! For those of us who have known you for so long, we want to know that you are happy, healthy, and enjoying life so far from home. Posts like this allow us to hear about your life and what you are doing, photos included. I'm thrilled that you shared photos with us, without them we wouldn't get the full picture. And I agree with so many others that it's an education to us, a much more real life glimpse into a culture that I know little about. Thank you for taking the chance on the photos and sharing them with us.

  30. Hi Susie,
    I check on your blog every day. Thank you so much for being so descriptive and giving me an inside to the Muslim way of life. Having known you for 40 years I still can't believe that you are able to be open to a culture so different from ours. It seems they are living like women did in the U.S.A. and/or Europe in the 19th century. Seems a little too constrictive for my taste, but that's because I was brought up differently. I admire you for keeping an open mind and also for all the wonderful pictures. I also agree that if your family doesn't mind being photographed in their pj's (with faces blurred out) that should be ok. When we lived in Africa (Zaire) in the 1970s the Natives didn't want their pictures taken either because they thought their spirit would be taken away.
    Love you, Sabine

  31. I'm curious now on the sheesha thing.. .about them being worse than cigarettes - will have to look that up. A bunch of people I know use them (I have smoked one a couple times, but not reg) & I've heard that they are the healthier version.. because no tar & chemicals.. We'll see lol.

  32. Oh & to the family being aware... I did not know that, was why I asked...

  33. Susie,
    I enjoyed the Pajama Party totally. In my opinion it was very tastefully done and it showed us quite a lot about the customs and habits of the area. Susie you continue to write about your experiences because you are bringing to us a way of life that I find fascinating and mysterious.
    Thank you
    Tucson, AZ

  34. aafke, the opinions on smoking, music and birthday parties apply to men and women equally. Why do you use the term "misogynist"?

  35. Susie, I love what you are doing!! I am getting an education on some much needed topics. If we all knew a little more about each other we all benefit.
    I understand that some are concerned about the photos but rather then take the negative, how about, may I say from the educational point, I was thrilled to see the women and girls "cutting up", and having fun. That is not the impression those of us in the states have. GOOD JOB!!!

  36. How different we all are in our thinking. I was so delighted to read and see the young girls and moms just having fun and being funny. That is where I'm so tormented by a lot of religions that are so strict that every moment of the day is taken up with whether your covered from head to toe or not. I don't mean any disrespect, but honestly isn't this too petty of the women that have criticized this post? I really am not the right person to comment on this because life is hard enough without having to worry about not just being able to be yourself.
    I hope you are well. I love your blog and have great admiration for you and what you are doing to just reach out and have people see that really we're all the same just with different experiences in our lives.

  37. I happen to think those photos are some of your best, just for the reasons some people mentioned. We'd never imagine that Saudi women could be just as goofy as we are.

  38. You did great job here Susie. I have heard that Saudi women inside their houses have their fun. There are many stereotyped ideas about Iranian women either. And i would like to have a similar post, to show just a party in tehran. Which is completely mixed of men and women. Like all iranians' weddings..
    Thank you for your informative post..

  39. I couldn't help but pick up on some quotes from your comments, they hurt me for your sake.
    These extreme comments are not representative.. "Normal" people wouldn't be so obsessed.
    I have seen shocked dissaproval because a niqabi wasn't also wearing extra sleeves, and as she held her hand up you could see 10cm of her arm!!!!! Imagine!!!!! Shocking!!!!! Everybody seriously upset!!!!!! (I saw it too, but didn't realise I should be upset)

    "Not your most tasteful post..."
    Agree: Where are the photos of the lovely food in shell-shaped bowls?

    "They were appalled by this..."
    And I'll bet they all loved to cheer up their dreary lives by being able to have a look at your shocking post and feel pleasurable dismay and righteous at the "haram-ness" of it all. Ah, well, one must get one's enjoyment where one can. And these poor ladies have so little.

    "Because it is out on the web where men can see it..."
    Ye Gods! KSA has the largest count of google searches for 'sex' on the planet, I read somewhere, and all these lecherous sex-starved demented goats are now flocking to your blog! Yeah, Duuuhhhh.

  40. Wow - just got on for the first time in awhile & I'm a tad confused. People keep talking about these "women" who are criticizing the post... I see one. Were there others that were bad enough to delete or???

    Anyways, looks like your having fun!

  41. I'm going to apologize (for the last time)... I did not mean to start anything here. Like I said in one of my comments I didn't mean offense by mine (can't speak for anyone else who voiced concerns on here).

    The women I mentioned who were appalled were thinking about if it were a pic of them. They did not get on here. Their lives are not dreary. Neither is mine... Personally I don't care if these women want to show their bodies online... just was wondering if they knew.

    It may have been petty for someone to say it wasn't a tasteful post... I don't know how anyone knows it was a woman that said it though lol. Who ever it was didn't say much else.

    Susie - I normally enjoy reading your blog (including this post)... but I'm seriously thinking about stopping after being blasted so horribly for asking a question on here. & I'm not saying that's your fault... I have better things to do than defend myself over something as trivial as this. Almost makes me glad that I don't get so many comments on my blog... I'd hate to have people treat others like this.

  42. The beauty of your post, Susie, is that it so sweetly illustrates the commonality that is shared among women and young-spirited girls in different cultures. We, in America, have pajama parties. To see that a fun celebration in our country has a 'cousin' in another country does not divide the bridges it. To suggest that there is harmful intent or disrespect towards the attendees or their beliefs is simply trying to find something heinous in an innocent gathering. One must weigh the 'purpose' of your post against the 'intent'. Neither of which was meant to disrespect a person, a culture, a belief. Your blog serves as informal window into a part of the world I will never have the privilege to visit. How wonderful for me to be able to 'visit' this rich area of the learn and educate myself. We, the world, should not be afraid of education of matter what type of pajamas are being worn. Kuddos to your sharing your lives with us, Susie. Please continue to do so.

  43. SUSIE,

  44. I am very appreciative of ALL your wonderful pictures that you have shared, in turn, I have shared ALL the beautiful pictures with my three teenagers who's paternal side currently live in KSA and other family members who have also lived in KSA. I have been married to my Arabic husband for twenty one years and have known him for twenty three years. Until now, I have never traveled to the Middle East. Your blog is informative, impressive and not to mention very interesting!!!
    My SIL was born and raised in KSA, now lives here, in Texas (in the US for a total of four years.) She does not find the "Pajama Party" pictures appalling or distasteful. She only wishes that she had been invited to such a fabulous party. Thanks Susie

  45. To Mama Kalila -
    I had no idea when I published this post that it would create such responses and controversy. I take great care in reviewing what I have written before I publish it so I try my best to avoid making any faux pas or possibly offending anyone, and I always consult my husband beforehand about any photos if I think they might cause problems.

    The few comments that were trying to bring my attention to their concerns about the photos said so in a sincere, uninflammatory and civil way. I am truly sorry that you have been put in the position where you feel you have been attacked and that you have to defend yourself for your genuine concern that I might have unintentionally offended someone. I don't know how to edit comments, if I am allowed. It's either publish or don't publish. I generally do not get many anonymous comments, but I did get a lot this time. I did not take offense to anything you said, and in fact, I appreciate your speaking up and the manner in which you did it. Please accept my sincere apologies.

  46. Thanks to everyone for your comments. The photos are definitely a gray area: considered "No big deal" to most in the Western world, and cause for concern to those who understand how fiercely private the part of the world I now reside in is. I think this all just goes to show that there is work to be done and a real need for more understanding, tolerance, awareness and respect for each others' cultures and beliefs. Thanks again to all who have taken the time to voice your opinions.

  47. I think the question was just whether these women had agreed to have the pictures shown; if so, fine.

    Some of the readers might not understand that while we (meaning Muslim women who wear hijab) wear what we want in the house with our own family - or in front of other women - we cover when we go out, and we wouldn't want photos posted publicly of us when we're not covered - because that's private. I hope that make sense...

    I can't speak for Saudi, but in Kuwait, at least, for women's parties - especially weddings - there are women photographers and there are women who work in the photo studios, to take pictures and to develop the pictures that are only for women to see. Wedding photos are a BIG deal, and the bride carries her photo albums and videos around for weeks after the wedding, showing them to all her relatives and friends - but female only! The women who attend are wearing revealing clothes, lots of makeup, get their hair done... and if they're women who wear hijab, then they expect that men aren't going to see these pictures. (And some women either leave their hijabs on or make sure that no pictures are taken of them, because they can't be sure that no men will see them.)

    At many weddings, they don't allow cameras, and they hold your mobile phone until you leave, because women aren't comfortable knowing that anyone can be taking pictures and showing them to anyone... There are professional photographers (women) who take the pictures and video.

    So given this environment, mama kalila's question seems reasonable. I assumed that she was just concerned about the women's privacy; some of the reaction is a bit dramatic...

  48. Ann -
    Thanks again for your clarification and further explanation of parts of this culture that many do not know about or understand.

  49. Susie, I just wanted to say that your blog is doing a great service. (I wrote something like this a while ago, but I guess there was a problem when I posted it.)

    It's amazing the idea that people have about Saudi - and especially Saudi women. Not that I blame them, because I know what they read in most of the media, but still... Even journalists - even women journalists - rarely actually blend into the culture enough to understand how things work, and often it's obvious that they come with their own stereotypes and don't even try to understand.

    So through your blog, maybe readers can see that Saudi is just another country... maybe it's very different from their cultures, but it's still a place where people study and work and have fun and visit each other, where families are close and women do have fun (and most wouldn't trade places with Western women), and people do even get a variety of colorful, healthful fruits and vegetables!

    It's just sad that these things actually come as a surprise...

  50. Hi Susie,
    Thank you for all of the time you spend informing us of your adventure! I love every minute of it! I enjoyed the pictures on your last post, "pajama party." The culture there is quite a bit different than I imagined. I do not understand why people would be so offended with the content, this is used for informational purposes only and that is exactly what you are doing. So thank you for the insight! Love you!!!!!

  51. Wow, I cannot believe how worked up some people get. First of all such parties are VERY common in Saudi Arabia.

    As a matter of fact, what these women were wearing is rather tame compared to what is often worn in such parties.

    If the original person who complained was offended, why did they enlarge the picture in the first place? Some people LOOK for a reason to be offended. If you do not like it, do not look, but it is really too much to expect that others must conform to what is a personal preference!

    To a certain extent Saudi society (Khaliji society) is a bit hypocritical in this aspect. Many will demand segregated parties, women only photographers, but then have no issue having an unrelated man driving them, yes ALONE!

    When they head to the West as soon as they are out of Saudi airspace the abayas come off and they head to the nearest mall when they get to their destination to shop to their hearts content, surrounded, yes, by MEN.

    Women who are genuinely concerned about their images and photographs will ask ahead of time that you not print them or what you intend to do with them. If they do not, then chances are they do not care. This would be especially true if the person taking the picture is a white American and would maybe use them in a way some Saudis would not.

    Example in point, my wife's cousin in Jeddah declined to send a photo of h is wife and kids to us because his wife is not wearing hijab and they wouldnt have wanted me, a non mehram male, to see the picture. Instead they sent a picture taken later of just the children.

    It is too much.........people just look to be upset. I imagine life cannot be to fun when you are like that.

  52. PS, if it is so trivial, why ask the question in the first place; unless one is in the habit of questioning trivial things?

    I believe if religion is the issue here then there are multiple hadith about spending one's time doing trivial things.

    If this is the case I suggest people rethink their choice to blog or even look at blogs.

  53. Wow! That looked like an amazingly good time.Last time I went to a p.j. party I was 12 and it wasn't anywhere close to that much fun!

  54. Apart of muslim sensitivities, one always should be careful about posting portraits on the internet anyway.

    To recap, this is the blog of Susie of Arabia, and her family. If Susie decides to place photo's, and her family is fine with it, and her husband approves, then the visitors to this blog who have problems with the views of Susie and her family have no reason to find fault with them on this blog.

    Of course they are free to have their own point of view, but I think nobody's free to make detrimental remarks about this particular blog to the writer. Or to try make her conform to their views. It is hèr blog, not anybody else's.

    Susie wants to show us her life, including blurred photo's with the consent of the subjects. That much is clear now. Anybody who can't deal with that should, indeed, stay away.

    I for one have thoroughly enjoyed every post; if anything, they keep getting better! :D
    I really love this post!
    I would be sorry if Susie now decides to keep from posting photos because of these arguments.

  55. Wow-lots of chat on this one! I must admit that I wondered if the women knew you were posting their photos publicly. When I started my blog I put a lot of private photos up there. At some point I saw someone from a college I used to teach at in Dubai was visiting and reading the blog. I wondered what I had said about the UAE (negatively or otherwise), and if that someone reading my blog was my former boss. My point is that you think that the primary readers of your blog are family and friends. It just never stays that way (not on good blogs, anyway). Several months ago a male nurse took a job in Saudi. He never posted his photo, nor did he name himself or others. His blog was humourous, and not what I would call offensive to Saudi culture. He made a few sarcastic remarks on occasion, though. He wasn't in Saudi for more than 6 months before he was exposed and deported. He was rather shocked, since his posts were quite benign. My point here is that you never know when simple commentary will be used against you. Your photo is on this blog, as are your husband and son's photos. Your names are posted here. Anyone who knows your husband has now seen photos of his female family members. You can see why so many people are asking questions. :) Since your husband has weighed in on this then I guess it's a non-issue (good on you for being so sensitive as to run the posts by him).

  56. Another great one, Susie!! I have to admit that I have been one of those that believed the media's representation of repressed women in Saudi. You have opened my mind and have given me knowledge that I don't think I ever would have gotten on my own. The pictures are great and DON'T take them off. I thought that it was okay when women were among women to dress like that. I have always felt that your blog was indeed to help family and friends understand the life you are living right now. Some people who have commented negatively are being so "picky" and contributing to that erroneous conception of Saudi people. If Adnan and his family, and especially your SIL say they are okay, what's the problem? Keep it up, girl!! I love every chapter!!!

  57. mamma kalila: please don't be upset at comments on a blog. A great disadvantage about communicating on the internet is that it is quite impossible to give some nuances like facial expression, or tone. Therefore one can so easily misunderstand, or mis-interpret. so please, don't get upset or feel that you have to defend yourself.

    Cairo-gal: that is a chilling story you told us.

    In KSA internet is also monitored by some official creeps. If you don't have a private, (and illegal) sateliteconnection, then it is always possible that some muttawa-weirdo stumbles on your blog.

    The good news is, that, as the wife of a saudi bloke, it probably is all his fault for not training you better and not keeping you better in line!
    So if anybody gets thrown in jail for this haram and subversive blog, it will be Adnan. }:)

  58. I've debated w/ myself over responding to this at all. I don't want to argue with anyone. I've already apologized to Susie & to everyone else. However..

    To أبو سنان: I wasn't saying that the question was trivial. I meant this arguing about it. And as for hadith about trivial things, I wouldn't know honestly.

    I'm personally fine w/ the pictures as long as those in them are... and it seems they are so that is the end of that. End of subject

    I enjoy reading this blog... and will continue to do so, even if the responses I got to a simple question made me question if I would. However that had nothing to do w/ Susie & after thinking about it is not a reason to stop reading such a great blog. It's a very interesting blog all the way around, I have thought so since I found it.

  59. I think that if these women were conservative enough to be concerned about photos like these, they would not have allowed them to be taken. I've noticed that some women who dress conservatively just don't seem to worry about photographs for some reason. Back in the not-so-distant past, any photograph that was taken had to be handled by whoever developed it, who would almost certainly have been male, and they didn't let that stop them. I'm not saying that it is correct religiously, but you needn't be more concerned about their modesty than they themselves are. I'm glad that you've concealed their identities though, because even if they themselves aren't concerned about it, you never know what kind of flak they might catch from other people who might happen across them.

  60. Oh, but since you seemed to wonder why anyone might feel this is inappropriate despite the fact that the women's identities are hidden, I would compare it to the way a western woman might feel if nude photos of herself were posted with her face blurred out. Yes, no one knows it is her, but many (not all) would still feel violated. But again, if that were true, it would be unwise to allow such photos to be taken.

  61. Hi, Susie
    What a party!!I loved your blog, quite nice and interesting.
    Wish you all the best!
    regards from Portugal,

  62. I'm so glad you're getting the chance to have a good time with your female relatives and friends. You have shown nothing offensive--you're just letting people see that you are all human and deserve to enjoy yourselves!


  63. Hello Everybody,
    The single reason that made me comment on this post is the rude comment made by Abu Sinan (Arabic:أبوسنان). If someone thinks something is trivial, then it is trivial to them, not you. Besides, I did not find anything offending in Mama Kalila’s post. In my opinion, she was just asking. You have to respect other people’s opinion.

    I really find your comment so retarded.

  64. Hi Suzie, It's your long time friend from Florida, Patty. I would like your readers to know that in all the years I have known you, I have always found you to be a very respectable person and I don't think that you would ever intentionally do anything improper of hurtful to others. Otherwise I would not call you a FRIEND ! I am thankful for all of the information you have posted because it has educated and enlightened me about a lifestyle that I did not understand and previously had some negative thoughts about. It is a wonderful thing when we understand each other and I feel if more people opened there minds to the ways of others, there would be peace in the world. As for the pajama party pics, I did not find anything inappropriate about them. Thank you for showing me that people around the world are more alike than I thought. I hope you contiue to post, enlighten and educate.

  65. Ahmed,

    I hope you know the word "irony"? Your post was a great example of it.

    You posted that you thought I was rude, then you called my comments "retarded". Aside from being insensitive to people who are mentally challenged, you accused me of being being rude. kettle.

  66. Patty, I don't think anyone is saying Susie was trying to be disrespectful. It really has more to do w/ what's considered respectable in Saudi Arabia or even what's respectable among Muslims. It's hard work navigating the social norms of a culture so very different from our own, and every one of us who have lived in the region have unintentionally done something that was perceived as disrespectful. All of that said, Susie has been very careful to observe local customs-even asking DH for some input.

  67. Wow Susie, the blog was tame compared to the comments. I thought it was very interesting and well written. It is reassuring for those of us who know you to see that you are able to still have fun in your new life. You are such a special person, I can't imagine you not being able to relax and enjoy yourself. I wonder if those who take time to enlarge the picture (and then get offended) are those people who listen to music backwards to see if there is a hidden message. Unfortunately, you can't please everyone. I know you check with your family before posting. They are really the only ones you should worry about. I know you would never post if they objected. Keep the blogs comming. We love them!!

  68. Abu Sinan,
    Man you know English! I am happy you got the picture I wanted to deliver.

  69. Ahmed,

    The picture I got was that your words conveyed hypocrisy. That is what you intended?

    You must like me. You followed me all the way from Organic Muslimah's site just to take offense and try to insult me here?

    Some people just LOOK to be offended. I suggest you settle down a bit bro and look to the brighter side of life. It must be awful being so upset all of the time.

  70. Hi Susie, Im a follower of your blog,happy to read all your postings. Iam married to a Saudi too for almost 10 years now,keep up the good work.

  71. Wow what a great post! Looks like you had a ball!

    And such controversy, lol. Me myself if you asked me if you could post a pic of me in pyjamas with my face blurred out I would have said 'No way!' It's not the form so much as being in pyjamas, lol. :P But if your sister-in-law gave the go ahead, then so what?

    Keep up the good work - I love this blog!!

  72. Hello Abu Sinan,
    Actually I did not follow you anywhere, and this is the first time I know you. Never before did I see you in any other blog post. Don't tell me that I was following you just to insult you. Please don't assume things that did not happen. I don't want to turn this blog post into a place for debate

  73. Some people do not expect others to pictures of themselves posted on the internet.

    i had a christian friend who was upset that her friend posted pictures of her on the internet (the pictures simply showed her wearing her wedding dress).

    It was more of an issue of privacy.

    Some muslim women who normally cover themselves probably would not want any of their body parts on public display -- even if their faces were blurred. Perhaps because their belief is that the personal should be kept personal. The private whould remain private. It may be felt that showing their body, even anonymously, is partaking in a haram (forbidden) action.

    I think, however, muslim women who are particularly careful about their modesty would refrain from having their picture taken (even privately).

    The responsibility is on the shoulders of the conservative, modest women. Not on the photographer. It is not the photographer's responsibility to determine whether or not the subject would be agreeable to display the images publically.

    My two cents.

  74. And also...

    There is an implied consent, especialy if the subject sits and smiles for the camera, that the photographer can do whatever he or she wants with the picture, (as long as it isn't something illegal).

    A photographer doesn't need to encumber herself with whether or not posting the pictures on the internet would offend her subjects. It absolutely does not matter -- if the photographer wants to take some pictures of people at a party does that mean she is morally obligated to inform each and every one of her intent to publish the pictures publically? That wouold be ridiculous.

    If the photographer breaks social norms or religious taboos, it may become a concern depending on whether it attracts the attendion of authorities who are in a position of power (e.g. morality police).

    So knowing the laws of the land would prove useful prior to any photo-taking excursion.