March 31, 2011

Moving to Tunisia?

Very traditional Tunisian building with blue doors
A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. A applied for his citizenship in 2007. Alhamdulillah he finally received notice it had been denied. Yes, denied. After waiting over THREE years. Subhanallah. He was admitted as a refugee in 2002 and apparently a translator mis-interpreted (literally!) one of his responses. Which had no material benefit to him, btw. Now he is considering, seriously, moving back to Tunisia. Where does that leave me, the southern muslimah?

That leaves me moving to Tunisia with my husband, that's where. It's a difficult decision in some ways; missing my sons, my country, my language. As most of ya'll know, Arabic and French are the two main languages there. My husband's family also speaks Arabic and French but hardly any of them speak English, especially not fluently. Hmmmm. I like to talk. I can see an issue. :-)

OK I think I'll resort my to listing the pros and cons. Which isn't really that helpful because of course, wherever my husband goes, I will follow insha'Allah.

Let's list the good points first. I like to be positive. These are in no particular order, btw.

1. Aaminah will insha'Allah become fluent in Arabiy. Big plus!

2. I have always had this restlessness in me, this drive to travel, see more, do more. I think living in North Africa will be exciting in many ways.

3. I will no longer be solely responsible for my stepchildren. This is a big relief to me in many ways, may Allah forgive me. It's been trying for me and I would be happy to have more of an aunt-like role with them.

4. I will insha'Allah be able to forge true relationships with my new family overseas.

5. Insha'allah I'll be able to learn Arabiy myself and also take many different classes.

6. I can be involved in dawah efforts as this is a huge interest of my husband's.

7. I'll have more free time to pursue things which I enjoy and also just to spend with Aaminah.

8. We'll have a true home with room to grow and have some privacy.

9. Easy to find Islamic clothing. OK sounds flimsy but it IS nice to not search high and low for modest clothes. :-)

10. Being in a Muslim-majority country where you don't have to explain what Eid is or why you fast Ramadhan. Oh so many reasons!

11. My husband would be so happy to be home again.

12. Paring down and living more simply. See #7 below for the con of this. lol

So here are the less-than-idea points:

1. Lack of privacy. Not sure if our house is connected to the "big" house or not. I think there would be communal meals, etc. Which would mean my husband sitting with the men and me with the women. I wouldn't like that.

2. Missing my family and my country. Also my freedom. It just won't be the same overseas as it is here (duh) and I would miss a lot of what I take for granted.

3. Language barrier. Yeah. India was difficult as I only had Abu Aaminah to communicate with for 6 weeks. And he was with me 24/7 for those 6 weeks. Not looking forward to it.

4. Healthcare. As ya'll know I have health issues that require hospitalizations and lots of medications.

5. Food. I am weird about milk, cheese, and meat. I can forsee a vegetarian future for me. Waaaaah!

6. Not sure if I would be driving and if it's similar to here.

7. Going through all our stuff and getting rid of sooo much. It will be hard and a little difficult for me to part with sentimental things; an antique wooden trunk, a favorite platter, handmade momentos. Ya can't take it all!

8. Not living in the green hill/valley/lake/river/woods/stream landscape. THIS will be difficult.
I know many of these can be put to rest by more talking between me and A. We have only spoken about it in general terms so far and these are some of the things I've been thinking of that I need to clarify. It's definitely a life change and one I am, despite the possible issues, looking forward to. At least for a year or so, long term.... I just don't know how I will fit in.

Any of my sisters who have made hijrah/moved overseas, please share some of your most trying AND most rewarding experiences. Jazakum Allahu khair!!!


Aaliyah said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

Good luck with your move insha'Allah it will go well. You have more pros than cons so that's a good thing :)

In regards to all your possessions which have memories attached to them, could you possibly give them to family members or close friends? That way you'd still get to see the items and the items will give some joy as well to those whom you give them to.

janice said...

How exciting, traveling abroad and all the new experiences of living in a new culture. Wish you the best on whatever you decide.

Isn't A eligible for US citizenship since you are married?

Kaighla said...

SubhanAllah, sister. I swear I just had this same conversation with my husband on the things I am afriad of versus the things I am looking forward to, and listed most of your same things! We truly are sisters. :-) Since I am not blogging for now, it was hard to not read this and write the same post, only on how we are moving to Egypt, but I wanted you to know you are not alone.

I love you fi sabilillah

Texan, after UAE said...

Salam Alykom sister.. <3

Well, I moved to UAE in 2007 and I had the shock of my life. But, after I settled in and got over the culture shock, I was fine. Alhamdulilah. Inshallah I'll be returning back to UAE in the near future. Just not now. I'm taking care of my dad here.

Pros of being in a Muslim country...

1. Hearing Athan
2. being in a Muslim country during Ramadan is amazing.. No words to describe.
3. Learning Arabic

cons are...

1. being away from family

Yep, that's the only 'con' I have.. I loved living in the middle east and have so many fond memories about it. I love my family there and life was good.. :)

Go there with a positive attitude and you'll be fine! I promise..

Muslim Convert said...

Umm Aaminah I'm really so sorry to hear your husband was denied, is there any way to appeal the decision? My husband application for citizenship is in process and if he was denied...ugh God forbid cause I don't know what I would do.

My experiences here have been up and down, as of now I don;t mind staying until the end of June (my husband wants to know why we are even staying that long erm), living here is not really a serious thought for us.

I could write all day about the good and the bad, Syria and Tunsia are two different countries, with many simularities. I don't know how well the political and economical situation has improved, I hope someone living in North Africa will comment on this post but for now I'll just talk about how it is here in Syria with the things you are concerned about.

Privacy- Arab families like to go see other family members and entertain as well, you will be expected to join in everything which will take away from any you time you may have.

Missing Family and Country- There is no way around this you will be homesick, the best thing to do is call a lot on skype, email a lot and if you go there to live permanently make sure you have the money to visit or have your sons visit, my dad moved to Australia when I was 7, I'm 26 now and I haven't seen him's not a nice feeling.

Language - There should be schools that teach Arabic as a second language, if you are unable to find one that you like, it should be easy to hire a private tutor.

Healthcare- ugh this is a hard one, I would not think for a second about moving to Syria if I had an health issue, this country is terrible with their health care, the doctors refuse to give you info, treat you like you are an idiot and if you need treatment, it will happen when it happens which could be later rather than sooner

Food- Here the food takes a bit for your stomach to get use to but for me I had issues with the fruit, the produce is organic (major +), it was a shock to the system

Driving here is crazy, I heard it's worse in Egypt, but the only rule here is that you drive on the right hand side, after that it's anything goes

missing the landscape- this is hard, here everything is beige, the trees looks sad depressed and droopy from all the pollution, the place where you find anything lush and green is in the cemetaries where people take care of the grass, flowers and trees....strange I know.

InshAllah in the next day or two I'll write a list of the pros and cons of living in Damascus, I was thinking about this earlier and you've inspired me to get my butt moving


Mona Z said...

Oh such a familiar feeling, I made lists like this in retrospect recently. May Allah will what is best inshaAllah. Pretty template!

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Sis Aaliya. That's a great idea; I had thought about saving some things for my boys as they are getting older. Things like pots, pans, dishes...

I did that when I became Muslim with all my Christmas decorations. All of them had so much sentimental meaning attached; I offered them to my sons and they took what they wanted. I gave the rest away to others who wanted them.

You are right, my pros are much bigger (and I think more meaningful) than my cons. :-)

Umm Aaminah said...

Janice, thanks for your well-wishes. Yes he is eligible but the reason they denied him was because there was a discrepancy in his original (translated) application and the subsequent ones he filed on his own, with understanding of English. Their decision can be applied to any future applications.

Kaighla, you know we are!!! lol I am sure these are common worries but insha'Allah we are both stronger than we realize and there are more blessings than we are aware of in our decision.

You could put yourself on a "no complaining" blog diet. :-D Honestly, just do what is best for you Islamically.

Texan, thanks for the words of encouragement! I know my biggest hurdle will be missing family but with Allah's help (and twice-yearly visits home!) I can survive.

MC, thanks for the perspective as a child whose parent left. Wallah this is the hardest thing for me, even just being here in MA. I miss my boys soooo much. Alhamdulillah I do my best to stay in touch and yes, A has promised me regular trips home and to pay for them to visit here insha'Allah.

Looking forward to your blog post!

Mona, it really helps, being able to read other sisters' experiences moving overseas from the US. I know you've had some challenges and a lot of positive too; I guess it's harder some days than others. I'll pray for more of the easier ones!

Xo Xo...Sweet Success! said...

Perhaps my experiences don't REALLY count...I moved from one first world country to another and back again.

Australia >> Singapore >> Australia

But I can understand the CULLING of all the sentimental items because shipping is NOT CHEAP! :(

It's great to cleanse the soul and start afresh. If you think your body, mind and soul are up for it...DO IT! I love an adventure and there's nothing more exciting than moving to a place you're not familiar with. :)

HijabiMommy said...

Insha'allah, I pray that everything works out for the best for you and your family. Although I must say my heart is breaking a little bit at the thought of you having to be so far away from your sons and other family.

I am going to be totally selfish and say that I hope you are able to continue blogging if you move!!!

Wishing you only the best!

Umm Aaminah said...

Sweet Success, it is still a big move!!! But you are right, I probably wouldn't be so worried if I were moving to the UK or Canada. :-)

HijabiMommy, I already asked A if they had high-speed internet. :-)) Some women add "no polygny" as a nullifier in the marriage contract; I have "internet connection a must" as a pre-requisite for moving overseas!!!! lol

Anonymous said...

Salaam alaikum :)

I moved to UAE from America 6 months ago. So far, I'm not sure how I feel. I have days where I am sure 100% I made the right decision and I love it here and everything is wonderful, but then I have days where I miss my family so much and I feel so guilty for leaving them. I feel selfish just for leaving my nephew behind who I was very close with... I can't imagine what it would be like leaving my sons :(
It gets a little bit easier every day tho. And some parts that make it really worth it for me is seeing a masjid everywhere, on every corner. I also love hearing the adhan all over the city :) It's so beautiful subhanallah!

As for missing America. I don't really. Just a few things here and there like being able to go anywhere I want when I want without people thinking I'm up to no good if I want to go to McDonalds at midnight lol...stuff like that. As for the scenery, I'm from the desert already so it's nothing new for me :p
I'm not sure if Tunisia is as hot as UAE tho...

Anyway, I'm rambling lol. Inshallah whatever happens will be ok :)

Umm Aaminah said...

Jazaki Allahu khair, Amal. And you are 100% right, whatever happens is as Allah wants for me. I have great comfort in that.

I pray your journey gets easier day by day, too. :-)

Anonymous said...

TIP #1: Healthcare is hard. Try to go to a respected university in Tunisia with a medical campus and ask the professors of medicine there WHO the good doctors are. Get their contact information. Then, if you are in a pinch, you don't get stuck with a bad doctor. I've had some bad doctors.

Internet sucks here, but at least we have it. Don't know about Tunis.

Tip #2: Make sure you have privacy from the husband's family. Even if you love them. Just believe me. And most other girls I know married to Arab families;D

I'd totally come visit you one day. I always wanted to go to North africa. Never have.

Driving will be better than Syria and Egypt, but because there are less cars, not cuz people are better drivers.

Tip#3 Find out if there are any expat clubs near where you live, or expat anything. That way you can make a friend to chat with and preserve your English and not go nuts.

That's all I've got. Never been to Tunis.


Anonymous said...

Asalaam alaikum!

MashaAllah sister you have a chance to make hijrah fisabilliah!! Purify your intention and GO FOR IT! Allah will replace anything you give up for His sake with what is better. Alhamdulilah I made hijrah from the UK to Algeria a year and a half ago. Best thing I ever did after my shahada. My kids go to arabic school and have memorised so much Qur'an. We hear the athan, I can wear niqaab, Jilbaab, etc no problem, there are halaqas, classes in the masjid, sisters picnics, gatherings etc. All akhira things and less dunya which is better for us, although it took me about a year to adjust. Put your trust in Allah and do it, so exciting! Love Umm Tareq

Ayah said...

Salaam alaikum!

Well, I could write volumes about moving to Morocco (check back a few posts on my blog...I believe it was sometime in January?...I wrote about some of the things that had stuck out the most to me so far)

I will start with the positives first: one of the most amazing things about living over here is being able to hear the adhan five times a day. Subhan'Allah the first time I heard it, I burst into tears. It's so much different hearing it resonating in the air from all of the different mosques than hearing a recording on my adhan software! Also, it's nice not having to explain why I dress the way I do, or why I fast during Ramadan...etc. Also, it's awesome when everyone around you is celebrating Eids as's like the "holiday season" in the U.S. I haven't been here for Ramadan yet, but I'm sure it will be a thousand times more amazing than my Ramadans in the U.S. Another great thing, you will find insh'Allah, will be your in-laws. They won't give you "space" as we Westerners like to say, but they will become your surrigate family, and it will make being away from your family in the U.S. a bit more bearable, insh'Allah. Arabs are some of the most hospitable people out there, and people in the Maghreb are no different. They will basically treat you as one of their own insh'Allah...and even though you don't know how to speak French or Arabic now...insh'Allah you WILL learn (when I came here, I couldn't speak a single word of Darija, which is the Moroccan dialect...but now, after almost five months I'm begining to be able to string together sentences, and I find that I am not able to understand about 40% of what is said, alhamdolillah) so insh'Allah the communication issue WILL resolve itself :)
I think, as a lot of other people have previously stated, the most difficult part about moving overseas is that you will miss people. A LOT. I am still having very vivid dreams where I am back in the U.S. visiting my family and vivid sometimes that I've been convinced that I actually did just fly over the Atlantic to visit everyone...and when I wake up I just feel this emptiness. When I left...I didn't leave on the best terms with my family. I have so many regrets about this...and often I have been plagued with thoughts of "would have, could have, should have"...but I've realized now that it's not healthy to think like that because I can't change the past. I guess what I'm trying to say is to make sure you tell everyone close to you that you love them, and give them a way to keep in contact with you easily. Also, as someone else mentioned, make sure you keep money saved up for visits!
If you want to talk any more/have any questions, feel free to email me at
May Allah(swt)bless your journey, ameen!

Angelle said...

Dear, dear Umm Aami! I am just catching up on my blog reading after several weeks of being crazy busy and what a surprise greeted me here!

I think you are wise to consider both the pros and cons of moving overseas, but to put my two cents in -- wow! I have several friends who married men from Tunisia and Algeria and have lived there onand off over the years.

They ALL love it there and their in-laws. Without exception.

They are adventurous translate and understand that they needed to adapt. Here's what they te me they love:

Very loving family, especially to the children.
Cooking together with mothers and sisters in law.
Shopping for fresh, fresh food and fashions you can't find here.
Learning Arabic and French with good-humored teachers (family)
Their children growing up trilingual. Did I mention the extremely loving extended family with built-in cousin companionship?
Since you are Muslim (they are all Christian) add to that sooooooo many religious reasons... I'm excited for you!

I know you and your family will have a good life. I can't wait to see the story unfold...

The negative note here is that your husband was denied citizenship. I don't understand. How can they legally export him when he is married to a citizen? That seems wrong to me.
Except that you will miss you wonderful sons. Could they spend summers?

Umm Aaminah said...

Angelle, thanks for your comment! All those beautiful things you listed make me eager to go to Tunisia!

As for the citizenship, he applied in 2007 well before we met. There was an issue with his paperwork, which he clarified at subsequent interviews. Alhamdulillah they have used that error (he spoke no English, it was translated) to deny his application. He isn't being deported but he's been living here, paying taxes, for 10 yrs. It was a bit of a slap in the face.

Thanks, sis!

Halima said...


I spent a good deal of time in my husband's country, Algeria, and I love it as a second home, but it disabused me of all the romantic notions about making hijra that reverts often have, hehe.
You are right about the lack of privacy- big families with lots of children who follow you everywhere and look at and in everything. My suitcase became a dress up trunk.People open doors at all hours without warning and walk in on you. The only time I was ever alone was in the bath or the toilet!
Although my Arabic is basic,communication isn't such a problem for me luckily, as I speak fluent French. However, my mother-in-law speaks neither!-only Berber- so that's hard!
My husband's family aren't that religious, either, and it was only me and my husband's two niece's wearing hijab and making salat. Everyone seemed to think it amusing that I, as a westerner, was covering and praying. They were frustrated that I wouldn't take off my scarf even around the brother-in-laws- they heard I'm blonde and wanted to see my hair! hehe
But it's a beautiful part of the world, and the people were so warm and generous. And I learned alot of great recipes as well. Yum!
My advice: try not to have too many preconceptions, be positive and flexible, and treat it as an adventure! I can't wait to go back myself, soon, inshallah.

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

salaam alaikum!

This post really hit home! I moved to Spain nearly 2 years ago and not a day goes by that I dont miss my family and friends back home. My husband is moroccan so his family is just a 1 hour flight away whereas its a good 13 plus hour flight for us to visit my family. Tunisia does look similar to morocco. In morocco arabic and french are the most common language as well as spanish. I can relate to having to learn a new language and the difficulty that comes with it. Its never easy getting up and leaving but I feel that over time it does get easier and as you have already done, making a list of pros and cons really does help!
For me, living in spain is harder than living in Morocco. At least in morocco Id be surrounded by muslims and have a sense of community with all the masjids that welcome both men and women. Here, most masjids are just for men (usually in villages and smaller cities where funds are low). There is also a lot of racisim towards muslims here and a lot of musilms who have migrated from morocco and algeria to spain are not very practicing. I think its very important to have a support system when you move overseas otherwise it can be very lonely. Do any of your inlaws speak english? Do you think it would be easier to learn french first? I too am learning arabic because my inlaws do not speak english.
Anyway, feel free to email me anytime. InshaAllah everything will fall into place. May Allah make it easy for you and your family, ameen!

Umm Aaminah said...

Ayah, insha'Allah I can learn Arabic quickly! I did read through your blog; beautiful pics of the wedding dress. You looked beautiful masha'Allah sis (even without a face lol).

About the feeding issue, I don't eat lamb so my MIL said, "Don't worry we will buy her a cow. But she has to milk it!" lol Masha'Allah, from the stories my husband has told me, his mother is soooo funny. I can't wait to meet her!

Halima, alhamdulillah you spoke French which eased the time for you! I only speak English (and rusty spanish from high school!)so I will have to learn Arabic quickly!

I too, hope to add many recipes to my repetoire. Insha'allah I'll post lots of pics on here for everyone to enjoy! Tunisia is pretty under-represented out of many of the N. African countries.

Rene, thanks so much for the comment! When I was in India it was much the same. I mean yeah there were relatively alot of Muslims but still the minority there and A LOT of tension between Hindus and Muslim (this was after the 2006 train explosion).

I wasn't admitted into masajid there; they simply weren't set up for women. Anyway it was all in Urdu which I did not know. So I can understand some of your frustrations.

Insha'Allah your little princess is doing wonderfully! I am sure she is "cute n chubby" which is Aaminah's only way to say pretty. lol We like chubby babies here! lol