About Me

Welcome to Under the Abaya!

I am many things.  I’m a mother, an artist, a lover of life, a hopeless dreamer, and a recovering know-it-all. I’m your average American girl living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, trying to make sense out of life and love. This blog is my diary, left carelessly open for the world to see.  It has documented my move to Saudi Arabia and the adjustment to a new world, as well as the dramatic ups and downs of my marriage to my Saudi husband.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you enjoy being a fly on the wall during my journey.


78 thoughts on “About Me

  1. As I read this I relate to it in so many ways. More than I’d let on to anyone else. I wish I had the answers you and I are both praying for. Thinking of you friend!

  2. How did you go about getting your job in KSA? I’m also an American Muslim girl, and I want so badly to go to KSA. I am single, and still doing my undergrad, though.

    • Hi Jamie,
      I am a local hire since I came to Saudi Arabia sponsored by my husband, so I just inquired in person. There are alot of companies, however, that recruit people to work in KSA. I’d suggest doing a quick Google search or checking the Yahoo Expatriates group for suggestions. What are you studying if I may ask?

  3. Asalam alaikum,
    Happy new year! Just found your blog and wanted to drop a note, inshaAllah your situation will become easier for you soon.
    It’s never easy relocating but your situation is even more complicated than most.
    I moved about 2yrs ago to your neighboring country and it had been rough, lots of culture shock and adjusting is never ending! InshaAllah 2012 will bring all the best your way and mine ;))

  4. Hi. I am so glad that I found your blog. My name is Diana, I am from Romania leaving in Riyadh with my Egyptian husband. I came here almost 6 months ago and still I am trying to get used with the life here. I like so many things here except this hot hot weather. Thanks for your posts, I will read all of them, I am sure will help me a lot. I wish to you all the best.

  5. Hi there, great blog, I started my blog around teh same time as you last year when I was based in Afghanistan, but now I’m here in Riyadh, well one on the honesty, its always good to see, and keep up the great work, BTW,- I can relate a lot to some of your post- Noel

  6. I absolutely love your blog ! I am really interested in these matters such as travelling, living and coping with another culture. I am a Saudi female from KSA (resident in Riyadh) . However , lived in countries such as the USA, Ireland and now I’m currently in the UK .
    I would love to follow your blog , your thoughts , your experience .
    have a wonderful new year,


    • Hi there Maha 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and I do hope to see you around again!
      Take care, and a happy new year you to as well!

  7. Hello!

    I just found your blog, and I truly enjoy reading it.
    I hope you will like your new home soon, maybe we can be friends online!
    A late happy new 2013

  8. Salaam alaykum sister.

    I stumbled upon your blog searching the news about Lama. I live in Riyadh but not a Saudis. I actually quite enjoy it…lol. It does has some good sides. Also having some best friends here helps.

    Thanks for informative blog. Although I’m not entirely agree with your view, but I can’t help sympathise with you being attacked by people… Some might be our brothers and sisters in Islam nonetheless.

    As for Lama’s case, well, I do like KSA a lot, in term of ibaadah etc. But Alhamdulillah I am sometimes critical too with the way Saudis act, or about their dealings in some matters. I am no Sheikh or Preacher but sometimes I wondered… Hey that’s not Prophet would have done… According to my interpretation… Like when I saw parents slapped their children in public place… I was thinking… Hey Prophet was kind to children, even if they made mistake. Or when they abused their maid…. Hey that’s not Islam at all!!
    On Lama, if the court find the father guilty and still released him free.. Well, also that’s not what I learn about Islam. What I learn about Islam are Justice, compassion, kind…
    Kind of makes me sad and in state of despair because I’m a mother too.. Also I’m a proud moslemah, I hate it when people bend Islam or hide behind it. I hope that’s not the case, but I’m pessimistic about it. I can only offer a prayer for Lama and the mother. Also Pray to God for Justice. It makes me want to plead to Allah..makes you think that human you face right now will disappoint you somehow, Judges, Sheikhs, Kings, Preachers. Only Allah will be there for us when you seek help from him…

    Sorry for my rant. Like I said I’m a proud moslemah, but if someone criticise me about my religion, first I would say to myself, hey maybe I’m the one who make mistake, not my religion, maybe it’s my act or my word that makes people blame Islam. I don’t want to held accountable for people running away from Islam. How you face your Creator one day.

    Oops my comment becomes long…lol… Sorry about that. Also English isn’t my first language nor Arabic. So if you’re confused reading this, the blame is on me 🙂

    Again, thank you for the informative blog. Also I hope Allah give you a better solution for your situation. ‘Verily with every difficulty there’s a relief’.


    Ps I don’t mean to be condescending… Oh God, it’s not condescending, right? I don’t mean it…I just want to ‘rant’ to express it. Sorry if it offend some of you who read.

    Fii amanillah

  9. Your blog has compelled me to sit in front of my computer, reading from post to post with my jaw agape. It is like a book that I must will myself to put aside long enough to even refresh my (now tepid) coffee.

    I cannot fathom the incredible amount of courage and fortitude that must exist within you in order to survive in a culture that is so very archaic. For all the self pity that I have basted myself with for the past few months- I feel slightly silly and unworthy of the right to whine- when I am reminded that there are many women in this world that are not permitted to speak without censor, or to even have their basic human rights ( so deemed in the western world) protected.

    In your situation, I fear that I would’ve gone insane. In fact, the content of some of your pieces ( especially those surrounding women’s rights, or lack thereof in Saudi Arabia ) gave me the feeling of being locked in a small space, without the ability to escape..

    You are doing very important work here. Thank- you for reminding this Western brat, that her problems are so very small and manageable in comparison; as the freedom to choose has rarely been in question.

  10. Hi u husband didn’t make you cover your face? Did ur husband had to get permission to marry u and how long did it take until u went over there?

    • No, I do not cover my face. Yes, we had to get permission from the government as all Saudis do to marry non Saudis. It didn’t take that long at all, maybe several months. What took the most time was the mr getting up the nerve to start the process and tell his family about me.

      • hi my boyfriend and i we are trying to get the saudi marriage permission, but looks that it takes too long to get it, do u know someone who works in MOA that can help us to get it as soon as possible?.

      • No, I do not know anyone who can get you the permission, whether fast or slow. You’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll possibly be approved.

    • Yes, I think all parents all over the world want their kids to marry someone they approve of in some way. Even in my own family.
      This place would not be my first choice to live because of the restrictions on women, but it’s not a bad place. All things considered, I have a good life here.

  11. Hello,
    Interesting blog, I am a Saudi female married to an expat, facing a whirlwind of issues, but would do it all over again for the beautiful family we have created. I currently reside in Doha, but we frequently visit Riyadh, so I know exactly where you’re coming from, also because my childhood was in the States, so I do know you’re feelings, believe me.
    I like your blog.
    I am an amateur photographer, traveler, life lover, fighter for the underdog, and
    scuba diver — admittedly in the pre – mommy days 🙂 —
    Maybe we could meet in one of my Riyadh visits if you’re interested?
    Esra x

    • Hi Esra, welcome to the blog! I’m glad you like it and can relate to my experiences. We share a lot of interests as well, so I’d love to meet up anytime you’re in Riyadh. It would be a mega bonus if you could then stuff me into your luggage and smuggle me off to Doha when you leave 😉 Just drop me an email when you’re in town 🙂

  12. Hi I am capitavated by your posts, I live in texas and cant imagine not living the way I do. I see your allowed to visit your family, can you move out of saudia? I am happy you have a good life with all the things that you are up against, hopefully you get to see your daughter plenty.

    • Hi Kim! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I can move out of Saudi any time I want, but I do no have permission to take my daughter with me permanently. Life here isn’t perfect, but I’m just working on making the best out of it.

      • Life is not perfect anywhere its what you make of it, you sound like you do that. I was reading your latest post, I can totally understand hating the heat. It has been hot here too. Do you have air conditioning? I have lived in south texas almost my whole life I really don’t like it but my mr’s job in engineering/drilling keeps us here. Try to stay cool and keep writing. Thank you, Kim.

  13. Just found your blog this evening, and was enthralled and moved by your posts. You write wonderfully and with great humour. Best wishes from Belgium

  14. You got me hooked on your blog. I have to check it up everyday.
    I used to live in the states for several years. I can imagine the huge gap between the two cultures. I am so glad that you survive the Saudi society and no need to mention the weather !
    Keep it up !!

  15. Mandi, just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing your real life with us the world! I think you are absolutely beautiful! As I saw the new blog pic w blue shirt and you are beautiful it takes the mystery out of it I wondered what you looked like uncovered but beautiful covered as well…I have got the time to read almost every single blog entry and I love your honesty I think its great for Non-Saudi people to now what life is like living in KSA.PLEASE EXCUSE my not so good grammar and English as Spanish is my 1st language I’m learning !Just want to thank you for an awesome blog and thanks for y0ur personal time to handle the blogs say blogS w an “S” because of the second one with Nichole I love that yu made time for that one as well that’s what I been looking for!Im with a Saudi Man and im getting ready to move to Saudi,have a baby and just live life! I am Little worried I wont have friends but maybe we can meet and become friends!HUGS AND THANKS!

  16. I like your blog a lot Mandi!
    I am Saudi girl and I don’t like how mostly everything based on gender, It’s entirely discrimination which I really hate. Few years ago I realized how we Saudi women or women are restricted in many things here, making me desperate and frustrated. I met a European Muslim guy 6 months ago, who works and lives in Riyadh. He’s very nice and make my situation better as I forget about the restrictions I have as Saudi woman. We see each other in his compound where there’s no restrictions, I feel better with him.

  17. Dear Mandi,

    My name is Joyce and I work for ExpatFinder.com.
    ExpatFinder.com is a free one stop website for people preparing to move or working and living overseas. We provide a myriad of services for expatriates and we have over 2,000 articles to help and support the people moving around the world and we are now creating an interview section to help the expats with real life experiences!
    We quite enjoy your blog about living in Saudi Arabia, it is very interesting and informative. Would it be possible to interview you to further share some of your tips and feature some of your first hand experience as an Expat and your interview will be published on our Expat Interview section as a guide for our expat readers. The questions are mainly about the day to day lifestyle of an expat. If it would be possible, could you also send some photographs that we can use?
    Of course, if you accept, we can add a link to your blog or some of your website.
    The questions are enclosed, feel free to respond freely. You can return the doc with your answers if you accept this invitation.
    Thanks in advance and do let me know if you prefer other means to conduct this interview and we would be happy to accommodate your terms.

    Best regards,

  18. I am so happy to have found your blog! I am an American, moved to Riyadh with my Saudi husband and our 5 children. It’s been so refreshing to read my mind’s words coming from this screen, knowing they came from another person’s mind. I am not alone! I am not crazy! I needed this so badly. I wish there was some way we could meet up and have coffee or something. I will be making my way back to your blog daily until I’m all caught up on the backstory. I’ve been here since 2 am and I have to say I think I’ll be kicking myself tomorrow (today!) when the kids wake up and I don’t want to!

  19. im an 20 year old saudi girl, born and raised.
    im a free spirt at heart and as you can imagine, living in riyadh might as well be living in a grave because i feel like my life and freedom has been taken away.
    im scrolling through your blog and admiring you for handling all this, i obviously never had freedom yet i crave it so much that it led me to be utterly depressed but you as an american woman to live as a free woman then have to deal with the all the nonsense KSA has to offer is truly amazing.

  20. Hi Mandi,

    This is absolutely impressive, utterly mesmerising, these are incredible writings. I am an expat working in Saudi Arabia, I clearly sympathise with you, but remember the saying “what does not kill you, only makes you stronger”.

    Although, I am a male, as you can tell, I read every word that you wrote.

    Lastly, I take my hat off for you.
    This what you have: Bravery, courage, determination, endurance and clearly patience.

    Till next time

    So long

  21. Aww your honesty is striking 🙂
    I hope you continue writing the way you do! And I’m quite sure if you’re positive about your life even the tiniest bit, you can make it worthwhile. The amazing blog’s a good step. I hope you’re never too miserable 😦
    But I shall follow your blog now too 🙂
    Stay well! 🙂

  22. Asalam Alakum,
    We have a lot in common, I am also from the Midwest, Indiana. I am married to a Saudi this year 18 years, moved to Jeddah almost 7 years ago. At the time we thought it was better to raise our girls, but little did I realize raising “our ” children meant that his family would try to control what we do or don’t do. I am struggling day to day fighting for what I believe in and have made myself the enemy of his brothers! Hamdillah my husband and I agree on most things but living in the same building is a struggle I’m not sure I can continue, though I love my husband and Saudi. So I feel and can relate to your struggles. Inshallah you and your children are good now.
    please I would really like to talk sometime!

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