Back in 1992, when I was 9 years old, my family and I moved to Saudi Arabia. This was after the first Gulf War and I did not know anything about the political upheaval or problems going on in the region. I had never traveled outside the United States before, and I did not remember our family trips to Disney or the Grand Canyon. I just knew that it was going to be an adventure! We arrived in Saudi Arabia during the night and I remember being so tired after the long flight from JFK Airport in New York. This is how my adventure began, but it would get better, and more interesting.
I was supposed to go to the International School with other children from many different places around the world, such as Europe, India, and the US. However, my parents decided that I should be home schooled. At first I did not like it, but being home schooled did offer me more time to go on vacations around the world. I was able to travel the world and learn about new cultures and histories that I did not learn in my textbooks. This was also true about Saudi Arabia.
Living in Saudi Arabia as a girl was interesting. I too had to follow the strict religious and cultural rules for women. We had to adapt from the way we lived in the US to a version of their traditional ways. We did not need to cover ourselves in the abaya, though, which is basically a long robe. In Saudi Arabia women must wear black, which is different than many other Muslim countries, where they can wear colors. They also had to cover their hair, which is a Muslim custom for women, but married women had to cover their faces as well. I had to make sure that I did not wear anything too short, and my mother could not drive anywhere. They did have buses for us to take into town so we could go shopping. Those buses were not just for the international community, but also for the local women to get around without a husband or male family member.
Living in Saudi Arabia when I was so young, until my teens, gave me a unique perspective about the people that live there. Yes, women cannot drive and they do not have the freedom that women in the US have, but that is their culture. I enjoyed my time there because the food was great and new to me and I found many friends from around the world who have many different backgrounds. I guess the lesson here is, try to incorporate the customs of the country you are living or visiting because it will help in enjoying the country you are in, even if you do not follow all the customs.