First of all, by “Southern”, I mean those who are either from the Southern states of the USA, or they have relatives there. I found this quote to explain…
“More than any other part of America, the South stands apart. Thousands of Northerners and foreigners have migrated to it … but Southerners they will not become. For this is still a place where you must have either been born or have ‘people’ there, to feel it is your native ground. “Natives will tell you this. They are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Virginians, South Carolinians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians and Texans. But they are conscious of another loyalty too, one that transcends the usual ties of national patriotism and state pride. It is a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long. If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations.”— Tim Jacobson, Heritage of the South
Being raised in the South gave me the coping methods I needed to get through it all.
Written by Dedra L. Stevenson, author of Desert Magnolia, http://www.bluejinnimedia.com
For the last 27 years, I’ve lived in the United Arab Emirates. I dress, speak and live as the people here, and I consider the UAE to be my country. I love this place, and I’m very happy to be a part of making it a better place by raising good kids, writing books, and hopefully, making life a little easier for my Autistic son.
There are other American women here who have opted to marry into this culture, embrace the religion, and help to contribute to the country in many amazing ways, but I am one of the few that are from the South, and the ONLY one from Alabama.
I was raised by a Steel Magnolia, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a prim and proper Southern lady that is tough as nails despite her dainty and elegant appearance. For those of you who’ve seen Gone with the Wind, you already know the prototype for the Steel Magnolia, Scarlett O’Hara.
Despite the odds against her, Scarlett managed to take care of her family, survive the war, and even manage to thrive under conditions that would have broken the average woman, and she did it all with a smile and a corset! She always looked “just so”, no matter what was going on, even an attack by the Yankees.
I was fortunate enough to be raised like this, and I’m proud to say that I too, have been through traumatic experiences that would have destroyed the average person, but managed to survive and “thrive” under the most dire of circumstances. I am very proud to be a Steel Magnolia, and now that I’m a part of a Middle Eastern culture, I’m proud to be the world’s first Desert Magnolia.
My son Ibrahim suffers from Autism, and in spite of having a limited offering of services available to us at the time, we have managed to raise a very sweet and loving young man, and now he’s all set to be the “poster child” for home schooling adults with Autism in the UAE. When my short documentary, LEMONADE, releases, Ibrahim will be the subject of a great deal of discussion, and hopefully, he will provide hope for others who are in his situation.
It’s been a rough go, and that’s a fact. I remember times that I was ready to give up, especially when his attacks first started. Getting him on the right medication was undoubtedly the biggest part of the puzzle that we had to piece together, and thanks to God Almighty, we have found assistance when we’ve needed it the most.
But getting Ibrahim to where he is now has been more than just adjusting his medication and his diet. We are emotional beings at the end of the day as well, and I truly believe that the compassion and family closeness that I was raised with helped me to make sure that Ibrahim received the devotion that he needed to thrive as well.
We have found amazing carers for him, and designed a wonderful home school program with a variety of activities that keep him engaged and fulfilled each and every day, and seeing this makes me incredibly proud. Just like Scarlett, when I see the family that I’ve built, it makes me so proud and happy. Finally, I have grown into the Matriarch that I was born to be.
The difference is only in the temperature and the presentation. In both the Arab world and the South, the use is the same.
Southern families serve sweet tea with just about every meal. It’s the house wine of the Southern states, and no meal would ever be complete without it. It’s not just for mealtime either, it’s for sitting around with the family or with friends, when people are just “shooting the breeze” as we say.
Arabs serve tea with every meal as well, and it’s also something to drink while socializing. People drink many cups of it every day, as the Southerners are drinking iced tea by the gallons.
English and American cookbooks report that tea has been served cold at least since the early nineteenth century, when cold green tea punches, heavily spiked with liquor, were popular. These punches went by names such as Regent’s Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent between 1811 until 1820, and king from 1820 to 1830.
Iced tea’s popularity comes along at about the same time as refrigeration. The “icebox” as it was known was in place by the middle of the 19th century, and the term refrigerator was used for the first patented ice box in 1803. After that, the term “refrigerator” was common.
In the Middle East, coffee was the drink of choice until Indian traders began to sell tea in the Middle Eastern region, which was also in the late 1700’s. Since then, tea has been largely known for it’s heart healthy benefits and it’s pleasant taste as something you can drink loads of, as Arabic conversations tend to last for hours sometimes. (Just like Southerners)
So, whether it’s cold or hot, the two cultures are both tea cultures, and it’s become a large part of how we sit together and spend time as a family.
If you want to read a great book that centers around the idea of the two cultures being connected, have a look at DESERT MAGNOLIA by Dedra L. Stevenson on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com and sign up for our mailing list while you’re online for special offers, new products and contests. https://bluejinnimedia.com/community-signup/
As I proceed with this blog, I’d love to know what your questions are. What would you like to know about a blonde Southern woman who successfully (at least most of the time) lives in the Middle East? I know you’ve got lots of questions, so feel free to comment and let me hear from you, or write me an email if you want to ask privately. It will help me tailor my blog posts to answer what you’d like to know.
Here’s a little video for you, a personal message from me. 🙂
Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The internet made the world become smaller in many ways, but lately, it seems that the world has separated again. Rather than becoming one human species, we seem to be holding even tighter to the “US vs. THEM” mentality. Does that mean that we are in fact “devolving” rather than “evolving”?
I moved to the Middle East more than 25 years ago. You may find this hard to believe, but I hadn’t even traveled internationally before. Americans may not be surprised to read that, as it’s not uncommon for many in the USA to never even apply for a passport. In many cases, people feel that they just don’t need one.
I got one, however, and I used it. I came to the United Arab Emirates when I was 24 years old, and I did it solely for love.
I knew my husband could never be away from his family for years at a time, as he was much closer to his family than I was to mine, so I agreed to come and live here. I really felt that it was such an adventure I was going on…a new land…a new language….new customs. I had butterflies, as somehow I always knew that I’d never live my entire life in Alabama.
The trip went well, especially considering that my husband and I were coming over with our 7 month old son. I had been “briefed” by the Saudi Arabian women that I knew in Alabama on Arabic customs, and felt completely ready to meet his family.
When I actually reached the home of my mother-in-law, however, something happened that set the fear in motion. I heard that big Arabic gate slam behind us. At that moment, my heart fell into my stomach. My immediate thought at that point was, “Oh God, I’ve ruined my life! How could I have done that?”
Thankfully, once I got past the initial shock, and I got a job, my own car, and a few friends, I felt much better! It didn’t take long to figure out that people are basically the same wherever you go, and Arabs and Southern people have more in common than either group would ever imagine. We sit in the kitchen drinking our iced tea, and they sit in the kitchen drinking their hot tea. They want to be known for being the most generous people to all their friends and neighbors, and so do we. They like big homes, big cars, and luxurious surroundings, and so do we.
Once I eased into seeing our similarities more than our differences, life got a whole lot sweeter!!! Just like a big glass of sweet tea? 🙂
If you’d like to read more on this, why not give Desert Magnolia a try? Find it and all of my works on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com