I have finally reentered the world as the proud tenant of my very own apartment! An apartment in my name. An apartment paid for in full via my own hard earned salary. I still have a room full of boxes to sort through and I am probably going to be broke until at least March, but I am on cloud nine about having a place to call home again.

To add to the excitement, I am also currently enjoying one of the perks of working in a school: Winter Break. Two and a half weeks of paid lazy bliss. I’m not even traveling or taking a proper vacation this year, but I’m thrilled. It’s a staycation!

I sincerely enjoy my  job more than any other I’ve ever had in the kingdom and I’m grateful to have it. I mean, I get to work in a place where free hugs from tiny humans are a regular part of the day. How could anyone hate it? Having said that, five days of vacation have helped me to remember a few things I love more than working and wish I could get paid to do instead. Here’s a list!

1. Sleep. Beautiful, uninterrupted, take a two hour nap in the afternoon because you feel like it, don’t have to be anywhere sleep. It’s one of my favorite parts of being alive, I swear.

2. Breakfast. In particular, breakfast in bed. It’s my favorite meal of the day. I usually do make time for a proper breakfast on the weekend, but on a typical work day breakfast consists of a hastily shoveled bowl of cereal at home followed by a cup of tea at work. But vacation breakfast is all out.

3. Cooking. I cook regularly during the workweek anyway, but I’m usually exhausted while doing so. So now I have energy to cook more than one meal each day, and I get to try new recipes and bake bread and make desserts. Vacation is basically about getting fatter as quickly as possible.

4. Time. I have so much of it! There’s extra time for my girl, for friends, for charity, and for getting stuff done. Except for unpacking. I’ve gotten zero unpacking done.

On top of all of that, vacation means that I don’t have to wear pants. I don’t have to wash my hair. I don’t have a bedtime. I have time to go to Ikea. I don’t have to deal with taxis and traffic jams and the general public. I’m loving it.

Happy holidays, ya’ll.


Mothers of Saudi Children: How to Obtain Permanent Residency

Nearly a year ago I finally obtained permanent residency in the Kingdom without the need for a sponsor. This residency status has been the catalyst for so many incredible changes in my life and has been key to my independence and happiness here.

A reader recently requested that I share the article I wrote about the process to obtain this residency for the benefit of other women in my situation, so here it is!

If you are the mother of Saudi children, whether married, divorced, or widowed, you also have the right to obtain this residency status and to live in Saudi without the need of a sponsor. If you haven’t yet applied, do it!! My detailed experience is listed below.

*Originally posted January 15, 2015*

I’m almost (relatively) free, you guys.

Recently it was announced in the newspaper that the government was officially ready to accept applications for a whole new kind of residency status for the mothers of Saudi children. With this new residency, any woman who is or was married to a Saudi man legally (with government permission) and was the mother of his child(ren) would be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia without the need of a sponsor. Meaning women like myself, or those whose husbands have died, is able to stay in the country without having to jump through any hoops. Additionally, we are allowed to legally work, we will be granted free government healthcare, and we will have access to free government education.

I can’t even explain how groundbreaking this is. When I came back here 3 1/2 years ago, I never dreamed of something like this. Once the possibility of obtaining the citizenship was made nearly unobtainable, I thought I only had two option: to stay married to The Mr. or to marry someone else. But this…this new option…is a miracle.

So in comes my fantastic employer and the friendliest HR girl this side of the world to help me get myself situated. HRG called to get the rundown on what I needed to apply for the new residency and the first requirement was that the current residency permit has to expire, or…my status had to change. Meaning married needed to become “divorced” or “widowed” and since divorce was the quickest option, and since I’ve been waiting to be divorced like a little kid waits to hear Santa’s reindeer go click click click on Christmas Eve, I started the tried and true method of getting shit done with The Mr: I nagged him to death. Within a few days of near constant prodding, I was riding high in single city.

Next it was off to the court to collect my copy of the divorce certificate. Apparently, a guy cannot just insist that he will give his new ex-wife a copy of the certificate and be trusted. Because apparently divorcing your wife and just forgetting to tell her about it is a thing here. So the court will call you and let you know you’ve been given the boot and you will go and collect your own transfer of ownership.

I had to cover my face to enter the court. This is an act I am adamantly opposed to performing, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I flipped the end of my scarf over my head and cautiously navigated the crowded hallways of the courthouse. My eldest sister in law came along (against her will) for moral support and, although equally irritated with having to cover her face, came through on the support deal. I was so grateful…because we were the ONLY two women in the joint. I have to say that it was a surreal experience being able to see men looking at me…looking through me…without them being able to see who I was. It also struck me as odd that in the one place that confirming your identity would be necessary, a place where you’ve come to collect legal documents of vital importance, is the one place where your identity must be concealed. I signed where the man pointed and collected my certificate and it was over in less than 5 minutes.

Later that day I took myself, by myself, to a branch office of the infamous Jawazat, the office that handles passports, ID cards, and the like. I took all the documents that HRG said I’d need and was determined that my crappy Arabic skills would be juuuust fine. I waited, confused as could be, in a room full of people getting their fingerprints taken where one lonesome woman was working. It became clear to me that perhaps I’d gotten myself in over my head when no one could understand what the hell I was talking about when I repeatedly told them I was there to apply for a new iqama, or residency card. A frustrated call to my ex husband for translation assistance revealed to me that my time at the branch office had been wasted. Only the main branch was taking applications. I walked out of the office and down the hall toward the food court of the mall the office was located in and tears started streaming down my cheeks. I called B in an effort to make them stop, but they became worse when I tried to tell her what was wrong. I bought myself a cinnamon roll, grabbed some extra napkins, and thanked God that Saudi Arabia is a place that has curtained public seating. I closed the red velvet curtain and quietly sobbed into my cinnamon roll for an hour.

The next day at work, HRG, in the voice of an angel, was like  “I told you I’d go with you!” and insisted that we take some time during the following work day to get it sorted out at the main Jawazat branch. I agreed enthusiastically and brought my papers along the next day.

I was totally intimidated when we pulled up outside the building. I expected to fight through huge crowds of pushy women and to be lazily greeted by women who could really care less about being helpful or polite. Hey, don’t blame me, the Saudi government doesn’t have the greatest reputation behind it. HRG and I were both surprised by the helpfulness and efficiency of the women working in Jawazat that morning.

We were directed to a window where a  lady gave us a handwritten list of required paperwork to be submitted. There was only one list, so we were asked to take a picture of it for our reference, then we went to the seating area to organize ourselves and my paperwork. Once we had everything filled out and ready to go, we went back up to the window to turn it in. The woman working asked for each item one at a time, taking time to look it over and compare it with the original copies I’d brought along. I was given a small slip of paper and told to follow up at the same office if I hadn’t heard anything in a month and we were sent on our way.

I can’t explain the sense of relief that I felt that day. One step closer to independence in Saudi Arabia. And an enormous step forward for the rights of a select category of women in this country. HRG asked me on the way back to work if I thought that the rights for Saudi women like her would also improve someday. I can only hope they will. I hope that this step in granting rights to the mothers of Saudi children is the first in many for improving the rights of women across the country.

For those of you who are also mothers of Saudi children and are here to read about how to apply for this iqama for yourselves, please see the detailed step-by-step process below. Do not waste time! Apply as soon as you can. You know how quickly rules can change here, so take this chance while it is available to you.

Please remember that you cannot apply for the new iqama until your current iqama is due to expire unless your status has changed. It will be a waste of your time and energy to try to apply before you’re eligible.

Documents needed (originals and copies of everything):
Marriage certificate with ministry approval for your marriage
Translation of marriage certificate if it is not in Arabic
Divorce certificate (Death certificate if you are a widow)
Current iqama
Family card
Birth certificates for all of your children
National ID for your husband
Your passport(s) (current and, if available, the passport you entered KSA with)
Passport style picture for the new iqama
Blank white paper to be used for writing a letter to the Minister of Interior
Plenty of working pens…we had 4, all of which quit on us! Be prepared.
A letter from your husband stating his approval for you to receive the new iqama*

If you do not have the documents listed above…even one of them…you will be asked to return when you have it. *The exception goes to the letter from the husband. This item was waived for me, presumably because I’d been divorced. It’s better if you come with it anyhow, even if it is a letter from your ex husband, just to be safe.
I didn’t have a copy of my passport with me, and it took a LOT of convincing from HRG for the woman to have mercy on us and make us a copy. BE PREAPARED.

Unless you are a native level speaker/reader/writer of the Arabic language, you will 100% for sure need a helpful translator to go along with you. There are two applications to be filled out in Arabic. You will also need to write a formal letter to the Minister detailing the paperwork you are turning in and formally requesting the new residency. Seriously, do not try to go it alone. You’ll need help.

I will update this post once I actually receive the new iqama. Please feel free to ask any questions that I may not have already answered above. And please, PLEASE share this with any wife of a Saudi or mother of Saudi children that you know, even if she is not still married. This information is priceless!

A Night at The Ritz

Last week I was invited once again to the Ritz Carlton, this time to experience their new Flavours of Sardinia promotion at Azzuro Restaurant. Having experienced the amazing service and beautiful atmosphere of the Ritz several times before, it was an offer I couldn’t turn down.

From the moment my friend and I pulled up to the front gate of the Ritz we both felt like royalty. The valet parked our car, saving us from walking through the brutally cold wind, and after a quick security check, we entered the breathtaking lobby.


We were escorted to Azzuro and were greeted warmly by the restaurant staff. We chose a seat near the pool for a romantic, luxurious view that simply cannot be beat.


Within seconds of being seated, we were served Italian spring water as well as a selection of fresh Italian breads along with olive tapenade and olive oil.


While enjoying the breads (The sundried tomato was amazing! We even asked for seconds.), the chef came to our table to greet us and describe the evening’s menu offerings. I was admittedly nervous because my brain had not made the obvious connection between Sardinia and seafood–and I am firmly anti-seafood. But I decided that since this was a special experience that I’d be a grownup and try the Chef’s creations.

We settled in with our Passion cocktails and waited for our five course meal to begin.

Our first course was a salmon mousse with raw salmon and fig chutney. I’ve already admitted that I’m not a seafood fan, but considering that I don’t like salmon, I found the mousse to be surprisingly tasty when coupled with the fig chutney. My guest absolutely raved about it, however, so if you’re a fan of salmon, the mousse comes highly recommended.

Next we were served a mixed seafood soup. The soup itself was a rich tomato sauce which was incredibly warming and comforting considering the chilly turn of Riyadh’s weather. The portion seafood, a mix of fish, shrimp, muscles, and more, was generous, and again…although I claim to not like seafood, I loved the soup. I was so into eating it that I forgot to take a picture, of course.

After the soup course we were presented with a generous helping of linguine with artichokes and a special kind of caviar. I absolutely loved this dish! I’d always imagined caviar to be briny or salty or disturbingly crunchy, but this was delicious. I ate nearly the entire plate, even though we had two courses left to go.


The main course was a slow-cooked rack of lamb with vegetables. This was hands down our favorite dish of the evening. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the vegetables were perfectly crunchy and delicious. Again, I nearly cleaned my plate! The only thing that kept me from doing so was the knowledge that dessert was on the way.


Lastly for dessert we were served canolis (complete with gold, folks, because this is the Ritz) with orange marmalade and chocolate ice cream. Needless to say the dessert was incredibly decadent and another favorite of the night.


My evening spent tasting my way through Sardinia was overall amazing and it will undoubtedly remain the most luxurious dining experience I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a place in Riyadh to celebrate a special occasion, for a romantic night out, or of you’re just in the mood to splurge and treat yourself, Azzuro at The Ritz  is the place to be.

Small moments


I’m sitting in what to me is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in Riyadh, Acoustic Tea Lounge and Art Gallery. There’s soft acoustic music playing. There are fresh flowers on the tables. There is incredible local artwork covering the walls. It’s freezing outside–in the low 50s–and I’m so happy.

Little moments and comfortable places like this make me forget that this place I’m living in is so different than the one I come from. So I’m thinking a lot about little moments and how much they make life here not only bearable, but marvelous. And so I thought I should share that with all of you.

I’m off to enjoy a hot beverage and the company of my old friend, followed by dinner with my special someone and picking up the keys to my new place.

Remember to  soak up and appreciate the little things. Notice the small moments that make you remember how wonderful life can be.