All Photos Copyright Umm Latifa /2010-2011
No photos may be copied nor reproduced in any form without a written consent.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


Last Thursday, we went to Janadriya festival. It was a great, quite exeptional experience. First of all - not so long ago a complete mixing was allowed at the festival. Still there are few days only for men, but most of the time, festival is open to families. I've not noticed any mutawwas there, a lot of Saudis - mostly women! - were taking pictures with mobiles and professional cameras - a new trend; and there was a REAL concert - with drums, guitar and male singers. The new pavilon was opened - sharqiya, where my kids digged into seaside sand immediately. I have taken some images, which I will post later on, at the moment - few films I shot with my camera!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saudi Man about himself and Saudi Arabia

photo credit: L. Kofiah

Bismillahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim 

I came across a blog of Lou Kofiah not so long ago. What captured me first- was a wonderful design - no wonder - he IS a graphic designer, what impressed me more - was the way Lou writes and expresses his opinions. I decided to contact him through the contact form on his blog and boldly asked for an interview! He agreed and - believe me - he is professional and sticks to his word - I got the answers to my questions within a few days! He also sent me his photo - taken while he was skiing in Dubai! So, first time on the blog - interview with a SAUDI MAN!  

Umm Latifa: Lou Kofiah – a Saudi, a man, an artist, an architect, a graphic designer, a professional… Perfect English. A very good writer. This, let us call it - basic – information everyone can retrieve from your Haphazard blog… Can you tell us more about yourself, your upbringing, background, education? 
Lou Kofiah: I can honestly say that I came from a fairly average background. I lived in a half-Saudi home, like many others from Jeddah, and ‘am a byproduct of the Saudi public schooling system (from grade 4 all the way to college). I had my fair share of childhood drama, but none to the extent of labeling me a special case. I was very fortunate to have a very influential strong mother who was backing me up in every single experiment I went through (successful and failure alike), and it was a major contributor in the way I came to be. I can say that if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
Socially, I was seen with a different eye, being a half-Saudi, and was stereotyped for being different. I didn’t feel different, nor was it a factor that affected my view of the country or others with me. It didn’t even have an effect on the type of friends I had growing up. I had the chance to meet a fairly wide spectrum of people and cultures, and it gave me insight to how diverse this country is (despite the general monochromatic view many, including Saudis, have).

Umm Latifa: What for blogging? Why do you blog and who do you want to reach? Do you write for yourself, for a change? Why in English?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Umm Wanayyan - American Bedouin, a mom of 14!

Umm Wanayyan is an American woman married to a Saudi. She calls herself an "American Bedouin" as she literally lives with her husband and 14 children in the desert! This is what she says about her life, marriage and motherhood in the Kingdom!

Umm Latifa: How long have you been living in Saudi Arabia? When, where and how did you meet your Saudi husband? 
Umm Wanayyan: Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. I have been living here in K.S.A for 26 years. I came in February of 1985 with my infant son, Wanayyan. He was 10 months old and had just learned to walk. It was quite an adventure (I hate flying)!
I met my husband when I was 13. We had a BBQ on the 4th of July and invited a family friend to join us. He asked if he could bring along a cousin of his who was visiting from California. My mom said, "Sure! The more the merrier"! I was a kid and didn't pay any attention to them but my man insists that's the day he knew he'd met his wife :-D. He came around whenever he was in town and when I was 15, he asked if maybe I'd marry him. I agreed so he asked my mom. She agreed so he asked my stepdad, who got drunk.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lulu and Krakus!

all copy rights Umm Latifa (in Saudi Kingdom)
Photos  taken with my mobile....

A new mall - Riyadh Avenue opened in Riyadh few days ago, hosting a Lulu Hypermarket.
I hate new malls  - you have an impression all Riyadh is there, the crowds are crazy and driving me (actually us - my husbands shares my aversion even more) crazy. 
But I had to go!  
I remembered what K, who lives in al-Khobar, were Lulu was opened more then 1 year ago told me: 
they have KRAKUS pickles there and 'kiszona kapusta' (a kind of Polish tradittional, very sour cabbage, you can call it pickled in a way)
My husbands agreed to this adventure.
First of all, location of the mall, I found in the newspaper was wrong.
It directed us to the first Lulu Branch - selling clothes, cosmetics and electronics.
We had to ask there for address of a newest Lulu branch in Riyadh.
When we got there, it was well after 10 pm (my husband was working that day, he could not collect us from home earlier).
Kids were half asleep.
So what! My Polish pickles! 
It was a disaster.
Crowds, crowds, crowds. 
I also had impression I was in India or Pakistan ;) - seems like all Indian and Pakistani community gathered there - they must love LULU very much ;). 
On the edge of a brakedown
(despite people pushing me with their trolleys, I could not locate my pickles!!) 
 I FOUND them!

all copy rights Umm Latifa (in Saudi Kingdom)

Small jar. 
Almost 17 riyals. 
Made in Poland.

I was so happy!
But where was my cabbage?
I carefully inspected shelves in the pickled, canned vegetables section.
No kiszona kapusta ;(.

I gave up.
At least cucumbers!
I headed to my husband who had been already waiting in the queue to the cash register
to speed up the whole process.

We came home.
Kids fallen asleep.
I prepared myself a sandwitch.
I opened my jar.
And - I realized -
I DO NOT MISS KRAKUS pickles any more!
Widely available dill pickles of American Garden are far more better (and bigger and cheaper)!

I have adjusted completely!

all copy rights Umm Latifa (in Saudi Kingdom)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

car maintenance

A Saudi man fixing his car with his worker - probably driver...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talking 2 Saudis: Hala al-Dosari

Umm Latifa: Let me start with: who is Hala Al-Dosari?
Hala al-Dosari: I’m a woman from Saudi Arabia with interests in health science, writing, and social reform. 

Do you consider yourself an „ordinary” or a „typical” Saudi woman?
Depends on the definition of typical Saudi woman, I lived in Saudi Arabia most of my life with exception of some childhood years and some years abroad for study.  Personally, I belong to a liberal and a progressive school of thoughts, yet I appreciate many of the traditional views particularly with regards to family support and relationships.  I’m not traditional because I call for autonomy on movement and decision making in personal life as well as career, flexibility in expressing publicly my opinions and beliefs, I can see a growing trend of similar calls among Saudi women,  so I maybe typical among such women.

Saudi women are such a mystery for many people in the world (including Saudi men ;) – can you tell us who is hiding behind the veil?
The concept of protecting women from being subjected to abuse or mistreatment has been carried too far as to the actual seclusion and physical separation of women from engagement in the society of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi women – like other women- don’t have one stereotype, even though behind the veil most of them adhere to the expected formal code of conduct, they do have different private life styles and variable interests.  The exercise of independence/ autonomy depends on their respective families. 
Saudi women are mostly family oriented; they give priority to their families’ best interests.  The educated ones are ambitious and driven; they look for careers for financial security and for expressing their potentials.  Just like all women around the world, women here are busy with their schooling, match-making, kids, shopping and everyday issues.  There is a growing number of Saudi women who have reached a position in society to make their voices heard, journalists, business women, media professionals, doctors, university professors, they all push for reforms and creating more room for women in public life, they also work to promote women and children rights in various institutions.

You studied abroad, you travel a lot - how do you think it influenced your perception of the West? Do Saudis really „hate” the West starting from the cradle? Saudis don’t hate the West, at least those that I have dealt with.  Before I travel abroad, I have worked with Westerners on personal level for years, I have friends among them, and I don’t classify people according to their country of origin.  I search for humane values, consideration, and integrity in others. Finding shared values instead of divisions has been a good practice. 
Travelling abroad has shown me that people are similar; some of them manage their affairs better than others.  I appreciate many aspects of the West, the democracy, the rule of the law, the personal freedom, and the civil society institutions. 
Mostly, I appreciate the ease of being on your own as a woman, you don’t get stopped or obstructed because of a guardian permission or because you need to be chaperoned.   I like to practice my adulthood abroad. 

What about your perception of the situation of women in Saudi Arabia? What are the changes you experienced and what are the changes you would like to see implemented?
Women situation is Saudi Arabia is determined largely by their guardians.  The government do provide education and work opportunities for women, though limited ones than those offered for men, but then they condition every right of women with the permission of their male-guardians.  
A woman usually lead a decent and honourable life if she has a responsible, decent guardian, he can support her education, independence, career, and respect her will in marriage, raising children, and decision-making, or the opposite can happen, a guardian can marry a women by coercion, can deny her education or work opportunities, can determine the number of her children.  He can abuse his authority with the consent of the court, in absence of real legal identity of adult women and in the absence of sound laws to prevent power abuse Saudi women lives can be seriously affected in many ways.  The whole problem is linked to treating women as perpetual minors as have been reported well by human rights watch report. 
I would say that changes must come from the institutions first, the government must establish laws that respect women legal rights, they should eliminate the system of guardianship, reduce the gap between men and women in employment, educational opportunities, family laws, among many other issues.
Several international reports have discussed the women rights violations in KSA.  Many influential women have tried pushing for more rights without significant results.  Women rights are the most difficult areas for reforms, because you need to work on changing perceptions and beliefs before tackling behaviour change.  I have set-up two blogs in Arabic on women rights and violence against girls and women.  They are aimed to present data, research and official reports in Arabic to readers in Saudi Arabia (
I’m hoping that readers would better appreciate the impact of discrimination on society physical and mental health, children health, economic prosperity and the country development as a whole.

A driving issue… Some time ago, a group of Saudi women in the act of desperation drove cars in the streets of Riyadh… Do you think an average Saudi men of XXI century is ready to see a Saudi woman on the street – behind the wheel? What do you think is the obstacle in letting women to drive here – Bedouin women have been driving and everyone seems to be fine…
There are no problems in this regard, most Saudis travel abroad and have seen women drivers everywhere.  Saudi men are not beasts waiting for women to appear on the streets to abuse them, this is not my concern. 
My concern is the road safety, drivers here in KSA are not following safe driving on dangerously chaotic roads, the streets are the playground for all kinds of violations.  In the presence of a real political will for women driving, driving laws and ensuring good quality road services would pave the way for women drivers.

Let me jump into one of the most controversial topics – mahram system.  Can you explain what is this system about? What do you think about it, and what do your friends think about it? Do you think Saudi society is ready to abolish this „rule” – taking into account the recent campaigns „my mahram does not know what is the Best for me” and „my mahram does know what is the Best for me”?
The laws in KSA are based on Islamic interpretation of Sunnah and Qur’an according to Ahmad Ibn Hanbal School.  This is another way of saying; a group of official male religious scholars called the supreme council of religious scholars dictate the laws in Saudi Arabia, particularly those affecting women, Islamic spirit may be a misnomer here.
The muhram system treats every woman as the word of her father, then husband, then her son if she’s a widow or the closest male relative from the side of the father.  This means a widow can be under a guardian who’s different from the guardian of her children, usually the husband brother or father, creating administrative obstacles in issues like travelling for example.
This system means that no woman can be getting a personal ID, enrol in school, commute, get a job, travel, get married, open a bank account for her kids, get anything done at a government office without muhram consent or a presence.
Good muhrams suffer in tending to the various needs of the females in their custody; bad muhrams either ignore the needs, or serving them only if they were given money or so.
I have elaborated on the Muhram system before in my answers, but in Islam, a Muhram is needed for a woman to marry and to travel a long distance only, and some scholars have questioned and removed this need for muhram for adult women in both situations, since travel is not a safety concern as it was before and adult woman can judge the adequacy and suitability of her suitor these days better than the women in ancient times.
A group of Saudi women activists sought to write a petition and organized campaigns to abolish the muhram law, but a counter campaign was suddenly announced by a lady whom I have never heard of, Ms. Rawda Yusuf, she appears to be a liberal from her published picture, she’s a divorced woman and her brother is her muhram, she came up with a campaign to support the muhram system and keep it in place claiming that the muhram is more adequate and fit to look after a woman’s best interests than the woman herself.  Her campaign has caught a lot of media attention but didn’t gain a lot of popularity among Saudi women; most were deeply offended by her stand. 

Recently we encounter more and more Saudi women, especially those educated, becoming very verbal on the net about the situation of women in the Kingdom.  You yourself started a blog a while ago. Do you think it is a new era for the „women movement” in Saudi Arabia? Women behind the veil are not silent any more…
Education paves the way for awareness, critical thinking and better assessment of the world around us.  It is only natural that educated women would be questioning their situations.  It is then expected that they want to reform those situations.
Women are not silent majority in Arabic and Islamic history, history shows notable women poets, scholars, nurses, writers.  Whoever portrayed women in recent history showed women as obedient, reclusive and housebound species, with ultimate goal of not inciting temptations.  The view of women as objects of pleasure have lead to their segregation from men in public, have placed chains and locks on their ability to express their needs and potentials and have created a male-dominated society
In this environment, virtual reality has replaced the physical world for women, they show themselves now better not because they were not aware before or they weren’t able to express themselves, but because they were prevented the platforms to show their potentials.
Public places like literary clubs, media, and official government positions were and still are largely closed venues for women, the virtual reality has expanded their world by several folds, and allowed them to be introduced and exposed

A lot of people have the impression that Saudi women are too passive and do not press or “fight” enough for the change to happen. Do you think West has a wrong impression? And what do Saudi women think about the pressure or critic of Saudi customs, traditions and the system, coming from the West – should Westerners be involved or concerned with the situation of women in KSA?
There are a lot at risk for a Saudi activist to advocate any social/ political change.  In my country, we have a strict authoritarian government, no public venues or political parties exist, and demonstration or public display of opinions is also not allowed. 
Men and women of KSA don’t really have a real representation at the level of governmental policies or laws.  The Saudi society is a patriarchal society, where power is given to the male over every aspect of women and children lives.  Women rebellion against the family means not only shame and dishonour of her family reputation, but also a poor alternative of ever finding a better place to shelter her and her children.  Shelters, founded recently by social affairs, treat women residents as prisoners until they can be handed to another guardian, if there were any.  
Many women activists have been personally affected because of their public stand, Wajiha Al-Huwaider said that her divorce was a result of her frequent confrontation with the authorities. 
Because the system has institutionalized and legalized the oppression of women and dominance of men in laws and courts, there are in effect so little that women can do by themselves; capacity building through alliance with influential people/ organizations and pressuring the government for more reforms in women rights are the only available means for real change.  Therefore, I do support the international society to take all possible actions to support the case for women everywhere especially in places like KSA where the real fieldwork for reforms is highly restricted.

The grandmother of my husband used to say: „I wish I was a Man”…  and one of the stereotypes about Saudi Men I encountered was:  „Saudi men do not consider Saudi women as human beings”.  Could you comment on this one?
This is largely the case because women are being treated as minors and hence as a burden by men, the lack of women independence has a result of male dominance in society where the opinions of men about every aspect of life –due to the absence of women representation- were adopted. 
We have created over the years in KSA a man-world, where every woman is being discriminated against largely because men have the only say in every aspect.  Things are better for women who have financial independence and autonomy as many of the new generation women, but I can understand and sympathises with the statements mentioned in your question.  
The last statement, however, is not exactly true, it depends on the man really, I have encountered many Saudi men who are exemplary in the way they treated women and the way they view women rights, they were more progressive than our government and some of them do work with women activists to promote their rights.  I can cite my own father as a tribal simple man who respects women and consider them valuable beings.

Maybe you would like to add something?
Thank you for the probing questions, I appreciate the chance to present my take on Saudi women in general, however, the views and perceptions presented here are based on my own assessment.  I strive to make my dreams of a modern and just KSA a reality, a place where we can call women-friendly, a place where the people that I love deserve to live within.

Thank you once again Hala! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Musalla Nisa' - Prayer Room for Women

Mosque in Riaydh.
There is always a sign on prayer room for women. Here it was quite nice calligraphy :).
You will find there AC, copies of Quran, water dispensers, chairs for women who cannot pray standing.
Sometimes there will be a sign on the wall of the room showing qibla (direction of Kaba in Mecca) towards which Muslims direct their faces during prayers. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Late at night at Riyadh's souq

You can buy everything at local souqs. I love them. I love the atmosfere. 
I love just to sit on a bench and observe life there. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Riyadh is still bursting with posters of the King and Royal Family Members. 
Plenty of the Saudi companies show loyalty to their leaders. 
Psychological support in hard times. 
Good time for printing companies. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Prayer at the mosque in Souq Owais in Riyadh

Some men already finished their prayers and are leaving mosque, those who came late - during prayer - are making up for the missed part of the prayer. 

Photo taken in Owais Souq in Riyadh.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


When I came here to Riyadh, there was only one walking street. Riyadh had pavements only in the center, and even though they were narrow, high - almost impossible to move with a baby in a trolley. Since 1 year there has been construction works undergoing in capital, pavements are expanding, more green plants and date trees have been planted. Approximately 2 years ago, a developer started developing a land near us. Marvellous walking street was built - and we could see Saudis and foreigners taking walks on cooler days during the sunlight, on hot - at night.

Most of the people you would see there - have been women. Lack of gyms for women, lack of physical education at schools for girls. Women walk, but it is still considered inappropriate for a them to run or ride a bicycle.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Photo taken while we were driving down the highway in Riyadh...

Friday, February 25, 2011

King Abdullah is back!

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

King Abdullah came home after spine surgery in USA and rehabilitation and rest period in al-Magrib - Marocco. Riyadh has been decorated with his images, Saudi flags and posters expressing love for the monarch.
Nobody can say, he is not aware that King Abdullah is home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Traditional Tent on Saudi Date Farm

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

As you see, even in tents Saudis have AC and fireplaces. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Old Woman

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is known as one of the richest countries in the world, 
but the poverty has not been eliminated. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saudi Man, a Horse and a Mobile in Thumama

One day, we went to Thumama Desert, a popular picnic spot during colder days, 30 km from Riyadh.  
There were crowds on the highway (!) and police to regulate traffic. 
We managed to find a place where the nearest family was approx. 100 meters from us ;) and suddenly - a Saudi Man on a Horse talking through the Mobile appeared - among the sand dunes.

Why do I get an impression that Saudis can spend hours... talking through their phones?  

Friday, February 18, 2011


© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom, published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom, published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom, published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom,   published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom, published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hospital al-Yamamah in Riyadh

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom, 
photo  published initially on my blog ARABIA SAUDYJSKA

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Women on the side of the road in Riyadh

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Women - probably foreigners from Africa - sit on the side of the road in Wadi Hanifa with their children. 
It is not common for Saudi women to gather in such public places.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fort Masmak in Riyadh

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom
All photos published originally on my blog Arabia Saudyjska

Mountains and Saudi Desert

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom
Truck crossing the desert. Old building in the middle of the desert. And Beduin tents. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Children's performance

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Children's performance during celebrations on the occasion of end of ramadan (Muslim month of fasting) in Riyadh.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jewellery and a bronze figurine

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Exposition Unity within Cultural Diversity at National Museum in Riyadh.  

published originally on my blog Arabia Saudyjska

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Memorial Hall

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

in King Abdul-Aziz Historical Center

One of the historical museums of the Kingdom, affiliated by King Abdulaziz Darat. The contents of this museum constitute a major component of King Abdulaziz Darat. Specialized in King Abdulaziz's history, remainings, personal effects, and features of his personal and public life. Composed of three groups:
1 - bibliography of King Abdulaziz including written texts, some portraits and photographs reflecting his bibliography, growth and efforts to unify the country.
2 - the private library of King Abdul Aziz that includes collection of rare files, periodicals and volumes that had collected during his life, reaching to around (1,551) volumes.
3 - composed of historic acquired pieces, photos, maps, pertinent to King Abdulaziz and the history of the state during his reign. In addition to various riffles, swords, daggers, bayonets, and Saudi coins.

Khazzan Street
Tel. No. : 01-401 1999

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Center of Riyadh. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

lake in Wadi Hanifa

Saudi Women at artificial lake in Wadi Hanifa. It was a lovely day - almost no people around - quite unusual for such a site... Exams helped us to avoid crowds and spent nice evening there. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Saudi Family on the Edge

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Saudi Families on weekends tend to shop or visit their family members. Picnics are popular, sight seeing not necessarily. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Men holding hands

© Umm Latifa in Saudi Kingdom

Nothing strange in Saudi Arabia. 
Although Saudi men rarely hold their hands in public, you may spot a few "couples" walking in this way from time to time. It is still considered more "normal", then holding a hand of your wife. But this approach to husband and wife expressing their feeling of closeness by holding hands in the street or mall, seems to change. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lost shoe

A foreign woman looking for her child's shoe around popular picnic spot in ad-Diraiya. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Burjar Kinj - fast food is everywhere...

- single section and family section. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tea time

Tea in Saudi Arabia is served in cute little glasses. 
Most of the time very sweet, very often with infusion of fresh mint. 
You can get different kinds of tea in supermarkets, 
but shops selling herbs at local markets (souqs) offer wider variety. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Window in Fort Musmak. 

Inside the mosque

Entrance to the mosque (masjid) in Fort Musmak. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

After the prayer

Courtyard of the mosque in Riyadh. 
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