Susan Akyurt has lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband for the last 31 years. She has four daughters, one living near her in Jeddah and three living in the DC metropolitan area. She loves reading, writing and corresponding with her family.
Umm Hamza has been my friend for several years. We see each other once a week, every Thursday morning.
Umm Hamza is divorced with three young sons. She works hard to make ends meet. She lives with her parents and sons, and, among other living expenses, she pays for her boys’ education, her mother’s and father’s medicines, and her grandmother’s, too, when the grandmother is staying with them here. These take up a great deal of her income.
Umm Hamza’s sons go to a private Qur’an memorization school and not a government school. The boys weren’t accepted into government schools because the family is originally from Chad and their residence permits often expire and are not renewed for months. It all depends on when Umm Hamza can scrape together enough money to pay for the permits.
Umm Hamza and her brothers and sisters and sons were all born here, in Saudi Arabia, but it is not possible for them to get Saudi citizenship. The requirements for citizenship are too strict and are way beyond what most foreigners can strive for. Umm Hamza supports two of her brothers, also, because they haven’t been able to find jobs.
Umm Hamza and I talk about everything you can imagine: our children, my grandchildren, foods and drinks and the weather. I learned from her that Hibiscus tea is good for high blood pressure. After she had told me, I looked it up on the internet, and sure enough, there were scientific publications supporting this.
A number of times, I mentioned to Umm Hamza that I was worried about this or that. She told me that there was no use in worrying and that I should always pray if anything was bothering me. How right she is!
Umm Hamza is always careful to speak proper Arabic with me, because she knows that I have trouble with slang and local dialects. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Wait a minute, you had better slow down because maybe I don’t understand everything you’re saying.” But then I realize that she speaks very carefully to me and makes sure that I do understand, Alhamdulillah.
I really admire this friend of mine who works so hard and who has so much wisdom, masha Allah. She told me once that she would have liked to be a doctor, but it was not her fate. She loves learning new information. I recently showed her an atlas book and the map of the United States and how far it was from Virginia to California. She sighed then and said, “Oh, knowledge, how wonderful it is.”
When Umm Hamza comes to see me every week, we don’t actually sit and talk very much, maybe just for fifteen minutes, because she’s too busy doing her job. She’s the best cleaning lady I have ever seen.