Posted by: yemenia68 | January 4, 2009

Seeking an identity

I am an Arab-American living in Michigan. I am pretty sure I am one of many of the AA’s that have experienced the cultural struggle between being raised in America and having to familiarize yourself with the Arab culture. Ever since I was a teenager, I wondered about my feelings of frustration towards the cultural struggle I experienced at the time. I was raised in America and at the age of 12, my father decided he needed to take us back to the Middle East. He was worried about us, (his children), “lacking the appropriate knowledge of our culture”, so he thought the only solution was to head back to the old country. I say “the old country” because that is exactly what it is. At the young age of 12, I actually thought we traveled back in time once we arrived in the Middle East. That was more than 2 decades ago. Can you imagine how difficult it is to deal with the hardships of adapting to a culture totally different from the one you become accustomed to?                           

When I was in elementary school, I didn’t see any differences between myself and my friends. We went to the same school, we wore the same clothes, we ate the same food, (except for the pork, of course), we watched the same shows, and we had similar dreams.  What I’m trying to say is that I related to the people that I grew up with more so than I did with those of my culture. When I was in Yemen, I was constantly judged, criticized, laughed at, and mocked, which made me feel alienated all the time. I resented everyone and everything that had to do with my culture. The only experience I don’t regret is learning about my religion, Islam. The more I read about it, the more I needed to know. While my stay in Yemen, I realized that most people there and I’m guessing in every Islamic country, confuse tradition with religion.

I guess I can say that the frustration that I’ve experienced throughout my life had a positive impact on me.  It has motivated me to search further into both cultures, seeking an identity of my own.



  1. “When I was in Yemen, I was constantly judged, criticized, laughed at, and mocked, which made me feel alienated all the time” .. i think this is an Arabic thing and not just in Yemen.. infortunately all we do in judge and critisize, I dont know why… I dont think our parents raised us this way, maybe its our schools and our friends.. I dont know..
    Living out side the Arab world and coming back is definately hard.. I have been living in it my whole yet and yet when I travel for vacation coming back kills me sometimes.. you see how other coutries live and how civilized they are and yet I think my country grew on my.. I cant think of my self living anywhere else.. as you said you relate to the people you grew up with even if the were disturbing 🙂

    I am guessing that you stayed in the states.. good for you..

  2. why to be continued? go on man (or woman) talk about this VERY crucial point that our people still mix, not in arab world but in the whole world, religion is not tradition, traditions are not religious, i see religion as the blueprint, tradition as the actual dress we where, if we follow the guidelines the options are endless, they are all correct, and none of the is sacred… people in the US for instance when they convert to Islam for some reason they believe they should wear what people in Yemen do! odd isnt it?! 🙂

  3. Mariam, and I am assuming you are a female because of your name, I am a female, of course, as yemenia means female from yemen.
    Anyways regarding your post….I just recently started this blogging thing, so you’ll have to bare with me.
    There are a lot of issues I’d like to address, inshallah soon.
    What you said about people in US that convert to Islam wear what people in Yemen wear, I had no idea, but what exactly did you mean. What do the Yemen people wear?
    Salam : )

  4. Something else I wanted to add……..umm, well I dont know exactly how to……..well ok, Mariam?
    Tell me…….are you a female or not? cuz, I kinda sensed……..I dont know,but a strange vibe after visiting your website. Forgive me if I have offended you but your website just lacks that feminine touch. Maybe I’m wrong but…….well forgive me if I am.
    Salam 🙂

  5. Sounds just like my wife. Her father was a Saudi diplomat, she was born in Pakistan but raised mostly in the USA. She was sent back to Saudi for 3-4 years in her late teens and then came back.

    • Abu Sinan,
      Thanks for passing by. 🙂
      It’s been a while since anyone commented; I was beginning to lose hope.
      To be honest, I’m not going to sit here and defend my parents, nor my Arab culture, how can I when I see that all of it is total corruption…..well, I might be blowing things out of proportion but I honestly believe that Arab customs and traditions are too ancient for these times. The sad part is that they confuse their customs and traditions for religion.

  6. Yemenia,
    Which cultures and traditions do you see them confusing as religious?

    When was the last time you were in Yemen? Have you seen their culture changing since you were a teen?

    • Hello Lynn,
      Thanks for dropping by.
      You see, Yemen is considered one of the most traditional Arab countries. Just until a few decades ago, people were living with no means of technology at all. All the credit goes to the Imam who kept his people in the dark ages for a sick and twisted convenience. Technology and education were a rare luxury back then. That is probably why only a minority of the Yemeni society are well educated. Unfortunately, even when it comes to religion, they lack the education to differentiate between culture and religion.
      The belief that women were created only to be housewives is a cultural belief which has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. There is nothing in our religion that says that women can’t work or have an education. The majority of Yemeni society deem educated, working women a disgrace to the social order. I know there is a more educated minority that believes otherwise, but trust me they still remain a minority. I also know that there has been a slight transformation since I was in Yemen, and hopefully this change indicates that more is to come, but until then all I can do is pray 🙂
      Does that help you out?

  7. Spot on Yemenia. You know, it is these cultural issues that are getting a lot of Arab women to marry converts like myself. We are Muslim, which is the important part, but we dont have the cultural baggage to deal with that is so negative to women.

  8. 🙂 no u didnt offend me at all.. but i didnt come back later to check, my bad
    u confused me now, lacks the feminine touch? keef ya3ni? what is a feminine touch on BLOGS? loool, no im a female already, yes i have been told i have more masculine brain tendencies, but im muslim and i love my God, Allah, i know the difference between normal and plain foolish
    as for how ppl in yemen wear, they wear traditional clothes to yemen, as a matter of fact i have great respect to the gulf people, they never dropped their identity gowns for the stupid hype of the western world, but that does not mean people in the usa should wear the same “identity gowns” just because they converted to islam… that was all i meant

  9. Thanks for passing by Miriam 🙂
    I appreciate your clarification on the part about the Yemeni attire. I do see the truth in that as you will find some converts wearing the traditional clothes. I guess they associate that with Islamic culture so by following the dress code that gives them a sense of assimilation.

  10. guy here we are discussing on thing which are very important.but we have to remember its not only arabs who luagh and scorn others or visitor its the whole world.when you are stranger everybody will automaticaly look at you or laugh at you when you do strange thing. so what z needed is Sabr and friendship and to be cool.
    you are all right
    lastly if you need friendship just visit my website or send me email.

  11. guys not guy

  12. Thanks for coming by, amedali 🙂

    Life is very complicated and the only way to persevere in my opinion is with God’s help and guidance. That’s why prayer and du3a is very important.
    I tried to visit your site but no luck 😦

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