Oh hello there!

AsSalam Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

It seems that I have neglected my blog for quite a long time. I was not  even able to finish my 30-day photo challenge here in my blog. But I’m still in this new hobby, photography. You can follow my Instagram if you are interested to see some updates of what’s happening inside and outside of MY SANDBOX.

A lot of changes has been happening recently here in SA. To begin with, the temperature now here is better. Winter had started but still there are some days that it goes up till 20+ degrees C. At least it is better than the past few months that we cannot tolerate to go out during day time and sweat a lot when the humidity is so high. Nowadays, I have to let the water flow from the faucet for a few minutes until it becomes warm (thanks to the water heater) before I use it to do wudhu during Fajr because the water is so cold.  My husband has increased workload because a lot of children now are coming to the clinic because of illnesses related to the weather. May Allah protect us all from illness.

Moreover, many breaking news were released these past couple of months. I know some of it were broadcasted around the world. One of them is the new law that will be implemented by mid next year allowing the women here in SA to drive cars. It was reported that SA is the last country to allow women to drive. For those who are not aware, yes, women are not allowed to drive here. Most of the families have drivers and some depends on taxi. But that doesn’t mean that some women here don’t know how to drive. As far as I know, they have driver’s license abroad.  Many people especially the women, celebrated this big news and believe that this is a big move for the empowerment of women.

As an expat here in SA, we enjoy the privilege of living in this country because it does not implement VAT or Value Added Tax on services and products unlike in most of the countries around the world. Unfortunately, the government recently announced that they will be implementing VAT by the start of next year. Although it’s not as high as the other countries, here they will be adding 5% VAT except on some services. I think it will be a tough year for us as an expat here next year because we are obliged to pay dependent’s fee monthly also which is increasing every year. May Allah give us always rizq Ya Rabb. Allah is the most generous.

The most recent news that surprised everybody is the plan of opening cinemas next year here in SA. I see a lot of discussions and exchanges of views about this topic in twitter and other social media. And another thing, I heard as well that they might be granting tourist visa soon.

I’ve been living here in Saudi for almost 7 years and I can say there are a lot of changes. I pray and ask Allah that these changes will be for the better and beneficial for all the people here especially to the Muslim Ummah.

May Allah keep our faith and be guided always to the straight path.

Let me share to you this beautiful photo of sunset I captured right from my window.

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First Week Done

Yey! I survived the first week of my 30-day photography challenge. I know my photography sucks but I was very happy doing it. It helped me economically and physically Haha.

Economically because this past week  I preferred to go to parks and beaches to take photo instead of my usual trip to malls which makes me spend a lot whenever I end up shopping. For sure, my husband is happier with it.

I am able to have long walks in the park as well because I keep on looking for a subject in my photography. The work is physically demanding but I am totally enjoying it although taking photos here in Saudi Arabia has a lot of limitations. I have to be very careful.

There are some days I cannot go outside because of the temperature. It’s still a little bit hot here, more or less 38 deg C, and the humidity is so annoying. I cannot walk outside or else I will end up soaking in my own sweat!

I hope you enjoy my photos and have an insight of my life in Sandbox, here in Saudi Arabia.  Six years ago before I came here, I thought I will be in a very isolated and old-fashioned way of living. And baaam! I was totally wrong. Well for me, because I am living on one of the major cities here in Saudi Arabia. (There are still some provinces though that people chose to live in isolated area like the bedouins).

The first two photos was taken from Outback Steakhouse, a known Australian-themed American casual dining restaurant chain (according to Mr. Wikipedia). So yes, we are not eating kabsa or Arabic food everyday. One of the best thing of living here is I can eat anything that I chose from the menu! Yes to Halal foods!

The Day 2 photo is one of my abaya. Here in Saudi Arabia,, it’s so easy to buy abaya. Or not. It’s so difficult for me because abayas are everywhere and it’s so difficult to choose among the designs. Lol. I noticed that more ladies are  wearing colored abayas nowadays like navy blue or brown compared to when I first came here. I’m not seeing anymore “religious police” or mutawa in the mall or in the street asking you to cover your hijab.

Well, let me tell you a funny story about that. I was not a Muslim yet when I first came to Saudi Arabia. So here I am, walking inside the mall with a friend, with my long, blow-dried hair swaying left and right while walking when one Mutawa came to me and said “Sister, cover your hair”. I got scared so I immediately went inside to the nearest shop and literally covered my head with a scarf. (I always had a scarf in my bag in case of emergency Lol) And believe me, he didn’t go away until he saw I covered my hair!

Alhamdulillah Allah guided me and gave me strength to keep my hijab on since I became a Muslim.

Day 3,4,5 and 7 photos are some of the public places here in SA. I’m living in the city next to the sea. There is a park along the coast where people are spending time during good weather especially during winter. We do barbecue and fishing as well. Children are running everywhere. Families  and friends are sitting on their mats while having coffee and  tea. Cats are everywhere also but most of them are not tame. Winter, please come fast.

The Day 6 photo is a henna art in my hand. As we all know, tattoos are forbidden in Islam so this temporary body art is used by many ladies during special occasions. It stays for a couple of days but make sure to dry it first after application to avoid staining your clothes and bed sheets!

More photos soon In Shaa Allah. Check my homepage and click each thumbnail to view the whole photo. I have to go and finish reading my camera’s user’s manual now so I can take better images.

Change

Change is the only constant thing in life.

Hello everybody! AsSalam Alaikum! I hope everybody is in their best of health In shaa Allah. Yes, I’m still alive and kicking Alhamdulillah! I miss blogging about my sandbox journey, and most of all I miss reading your blogs. I was kinda lazy to write and read blogs but I am active in my Instagram account.

As you can see, for the nth time, I changed my blog’s theme again. I must admit I am a fickle-minded person or should I say, I recently found a new hobby -photography- and I think this theme is better to use for my blog. I am doing a 30-day photography challenge which I officially started today and you can see my snaps in my homepage. (The first photo is uploaded for the purpose of testing my blog HAHA)

The first challenge today is supposed to be a portrait but I don’t want to take a photo of anybody and put it up online so I changed my subject to lunch. I ate outside today with my husband to avail of the lunch offer from Outback Steakhouse. This is one of the reason why I love living here in Saudi Arabia. Aside from the privilege of going to Makkah and Madinah whenever we want, I am so comfortable to eat outside and just pick anything from the menu without worrying if some foods have haram ingredients in it. Alhamdulillah!

About this challenge, I’m gonna be taking pictures daily according to the list I have now. I am far from being a professional photographer, and I am still learning the basics so bear with my photos. If there is anybody reading this post with knowledge in photography, I need some tips! HAHA

Yet another unorganized post

One more day and the month of August is finished. Also, Eid Ul-Adha is coming. Really! How time flies so quickly! It seems like Ramadan has just finished yesterday. Let’s take the advantage of doing good deeds and increasing our worshipping during the first ten days of the month of Dhul Hijjah. May Allah accept our deeds and May Allah accept the service of the pilgrims that are going for Umrah and Hajj. May Allah make it easy for them to finish their Hajj and keep them safe at all times. May Allah facilitate all Muslims to perform Hajj.  Ameen! Ya Rabb!

I know I have been neglecting my blog lately but I think I have acceptable reasons for that. After I came back from my vacation, I had a lot of things to do at home. I resumed my online classes in Islamic Online University again, for the Free Courses only. I want to finish all the lectures to evaluate myself and see if I will be enrolling myself for the paid courses. Another thing, writing is a little bit difficult for me. I have to exert extra effort to make an article with a sense. HAHA. I don’t even know if I made one. You see, English is not my native language, yes it is my second language but I feel I am still weak with it. I was not even born to be a writer so most of my articles have flight of ideas and so disorganized and I apologize for that. I am not a typical blogger with scheduled posts and everything. I write whenever I feel I want to. I am just me expressing myself, sharing my life experiences and random thoughts and trying to communicate with other people in the world.

But being in this blogging community makes me happy and inspired. I am always skimming through the blogs I follow and read them especially the ones that I can relate to. The time I was feeling bad for myself because I felt my Iman is becoming weak and I was not having the same enthusiasm of learning new things similar to what I have during the first 2 years when I entered Islam, I came across with articles that boosted myself. I love reading comments as well because I can see advices and encouraging words from other Muslims.

By the way, couple of weeks ago, I was invited for a chit-chat with my two friends. They are also reverts like me and our husbands are with the same nationality. I enjoyed their company a lot. It was nice seeing them again and sitting with them. It was a fun evening.

Okay, I lied.

It was not that fun. I almost cried.

Both of them have two children, almost same age. I know that it is natural for mommies to talk and brag about their children and I don’t have any right at all to ruin their happiness and stop them from doing so. But I just felt out of place. They were talking about each of their children’s achievement, I kept quiet. I don’t have any stories to tell. While they were narrating the experiences they had during pregnancy and delivery, all I can narrate is how I am suffering from monthly dysmenorrhea. My tears wanted to get out of  my lacrimal duct and I couldn’t count how many times I pretended to yawn just to let go of some tears. I felt my feet wanted to run away and go home. I had been struggling with this issue before and you can read it here. To finish the story, Yes, I managed to stay with them but when I arrived home,I talked to one of them and told her what I felt and she was feeling sorry for being so insensitive. It’s okay. I have to be strong. I have to learn how to deal with this kind of situation because it is happening most of the time. I just have to keep my faith and believe that I will be a mother eventually in His perfect timing. In shaa Allah.



Oh by the way, is anybody familiar with the novel Anne of Green Gables. My sister recently introduced to me this series “Anne with an E” on Netflix. I watched the first season with 7 episodes. I remember seeing this show in cartoons when I was child. I am such a cry baby. I was crying when I watched it because people are judging her harshly because she’s an orphan and she looks different from them. She has red hair, she’s skinny and pale and they are calling her ugly. Just like in the real world, a lot of people are so racist and a lot of people are judging people according to their skin color. Now I am thankful I don’t have a child yet because Allah doesn’t want him to be hurt and grow up in this cruel world. Anyway, I’m going to get this novel in the bookshop as soon as possible to read it. In shaa Allah.

Thanks for passing by and Eid Mubarak everyone! 💞

 

Worth-it Travel with Fam

AsSalam Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

So last month, I traveled to the East with my parents for a 3-week vacation. It was a wonderful experience although we were trapped in a typhoon during the tour in the last week. Basically I’m blogging these to share ideas in case you want to go for a vacation and explore new places.

First week: Philippines

According to our dear friend Wikipedia, “The Philippines is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.” (See more here in Wikipedia)

I stayed in Manila, which is the capital city of the country. Phlippines by the way is a non-Islamic country. Christianity or Roman Catholic is the most practiced religion there. People practicing Islam are less than 10% and they are living mainly in the southern part of the country. This explains why it was so rare to see hijabis around me. Nevertheless, it didn’t make me feel awkward at all. It made me feel protected even. My heart is jumping for joy whenever I see people wearing hijabs around me. My family, who are not Muslims by the way, are so supportive of me wearing my hijab and regarding food preferences Alhamdulillah.

Searching for halal foods was a challenge but there are halal restaurants nearby and some supermarkets in the mall are selling halal chicken or beef. I preferred to eat at home because the dishes cooked by my mother is the best. I spent almost everyday eating seafoods.

There are no prayer rooms in the mall so I used the breastfeeding stations/rooms for praying. It’s a perfect spot because they are making sure each cubicles are clean, the space is big enough for me to do my prayers and most of the time it’s quiet because all babies are feeding. Haha. I just had to talk nicely to the person in charge to allow me. I tried using fitting rooms before but some are a little bit small and doesn’t give me enough space to do Rukoo.

Second week: Singapore

It’s not my first time to go to Singapore, I think 3rd or 4th, and I will keep on coming back there if I have the chance. In Shaa Allah. Singapore is a very small country but it has so many nice places to visit. On top of that, I always love to be in Singapore because there are many Muslims, hijabis everywhere! Masjids and halal restaurants are easy to find. The malls have food section that offers halal foods and best thing is they are separating the utensils used for halal and non-halal foods. Alhamdulillah!

Cutlery is STRICTLY for HALAL food consumption ONLY.  I am so happy!

This photo was taken in  Changi Airport. This airport always amazes me because it is so beautiful, clean, organized and always have new things to look forward to.

Ma Shaa Allah!

Most of the time, I was staying at my brother’s home. I was making the most of my time playing with my so adorable nieces. We went for a weekend staycation in a hotel though near the airport. In case you will be coming here, Capri by Fraser hotel residences is a good place to stay for a weekend private bonding with your family. This hotel is near the airport but a little bit far from the famous tourist spots. Within the area is a mall which has halal foods and outlet shops for brands like Nike, Clarks and so on.

Third Week: Back to Philippines for a tour

The last week of my vacation was spent back in Philippines but out of the city. We travelled by land for 8 hours going to the North. It was almost ruined because of the typhoon but Alhamdulillah we were able to visit some places and the beach!

Notice the clouds, they are about to cry! Haha. I’m out of the sandbox! Yey! Unfortunately this photo doesn’t give justice to the real beauty of the beach. SubhanAllah!

They have this sand dunes experience but I was so scared to do it. (My 62-year old aunt did!) I just jumped in this truck to have this photo taken. Lol

A week ago, I came back here in the sandbox and I was welcomed with a 42 deg C temperature! Let me go back to the beeeeaaaccchh!! Lol.

Alhamdulillah for the safe travels and fun adventures with the family.

I am looking forward to another travel and top of my list now are Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Jordan. In shaa Allah ❤️

 

 

My Ramadan-Eid Update

AsSalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

Yey! I finally got time to lay my hands on my laptop and write something here in my blog after being M-I-A for quite sometime. Well, I intended not to write anything during Ramadan as I mentioned in my previous post and I got so busy fixing things after the Eid. Unfortunately, couple of days ago, I was having high grade fever due to viral illness, I think. I’m self-diagnosing here. HAHA. Well, because I didn’t have any significant clinical symptoms to worry of except that I think my body didn’t tolerate the 45-50 degrees Celcius temperature nowadays here in Saudi. It is way too hot to go outside during daytime! And when we opt to go out at night, there is humidity that makes us sweaty and sticky! Yikes! But don’t worry, I am feeling better now,  Alhamdulillah.

By the way, Eid Mubarak everyone!

I hope that everybody achieved their Ramadan goals and enjoyed Eid Al-Fitr celebrations!

May Allah accept our good deeds, forgive our transgressions and answer our prayers. Amin Ya Rabb!

May Allah make us reach and experience more Ramadan ahead. Amin Ya Rabb!

Late last year, my husband and I moved to a new apartment and we chose to live near a masjid because we love hearing the Adhan and the prayers. The masjid is a 3-minute walk from our building. So during the Ramadan this year, it was so easy for us to go for Taraweeh and Tahajjud. Alhamdulillah.

There is a hadith regarding women’s praying at home than going in the masjid that goes:

It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “A woman’s prayer in her room is better than her prayer in her courtyard, and her prayer in her cabinet is better than her prayer in her room.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 570; al-Tirmidhi, 1173. This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/136). 

But why did I go to the masjid for Taraweeh and Tahajjud? Definitely not to show off people that I am praying, instead because I felt it is more beneficial for me. I searched and read different fatwas about it and here are some I came across with.

There is nothing wrong with a woman praying Taraweeh or other prayers in the mosque, with the congregation of men, especially if that will be more effective in encouraging her to offer a lengthy prayer, and will help her to do that regularly, even if offering prayers – both obligatory and supererogatory – at home is better for her – in principle – than her offering prayers in the mosque. 

Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: 

What is the Islamic ruling on a woman praying Taraweeh in the mosque? 

He replied: The basic principle with regard to a woman’s prayer is that her home is preferable and better for her, but if she thinks that there is an interest to be served by praying in the mosque, so long as she covers herself properly, because that is more motivating for her, or because she can benefit from listening to lessons, then there is nothing wrong with that, praise be to Allah. It is also good because of what it involves of great benefits and encouraging people to do righteous deeds.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: 

It is better for her to pray Taraweeh at home, but if praying in the mosque is more motivating for her and helps her to focus better, and if she prays at home she fears that she may neglect her prayer, then in this case the mosque may be better. 

I had a permission from my husband as well to pray in the masjid. There was no issue regarding the mixing of men and women because the masjid has totally separate areas  and entrances for both. In fact, I was so happy during those times because I found a new friend, an old woman, who admires the reverts a lot and taught me of some things regarding prayer which I didn’t know from before. And Allah سبحانه و تعالى knows best.

So during the last few days of Ramadan, we went to Makkah for Umrah and visited Masjid An-Nabawi in Madinah. Alhamdulillah, Allah facilitated our travel. As expected, it was so crowded but Alhamdulillah it is indeed a great opportunity to be able to come back there. Our travel went smoothly except for the journey in the plane from Jeddah to Madinah where we experienced air turbulence, (just like the last time we travelled that we ended up in the airport’s clinic, Fasting + Air Turbulence + Motion Sickness). I was holding the vomit bag in my hand the whole time! It reminded me of the roller coaster ride I had when I was a kid which ended my love for rollercoasters. I hope this will not end my love for airplanes HAHA.

We stayed for 3 days in Makkah. We were there when the news about the foiled terrorist attack happened. I didn’t hear any blast because the hotel we stayed is away from the area but I noticed a lot of police cars and fire fighters’ siren more than the usual. It got me scared a little bit but my faith to my Creator Allah is greater. I know that He will not let any harm happen especially in the Al Masjid Al Haram.

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May Allah facilitate for every Muslim to come here and do Umrah and Hajj. Amin Ya Rabb!

We headed to Madinah one day before the Eid and stayed there for 4 days. Ahhh. the peace and tranquility of the city of Madinah, at last away from the noisy and busy life.  Hearing the Adhan and prayers from there give me a feeling of calmness. How I wish I can live there. The beauty of the Masjid An-Nabawi is really making me feel so delighted, overwhelming happiness it is.

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During the Eid, the people are already praying in the street and the lobby of the hotel where we stayed. The masjid was packed with worshippers. Children are all dressed up and they all looked adorable! As a revert, I only have my husband as my Muslim family so I was so happy when we celebrated it in Madinah. We celebrated with the Muslim Umma. Alhamdulillah!

Forgive me for my flight of ideas and so unorganized post. I really don’t have enough time to sit because I’m still busy taking care of the things left at home when we went for vacation and I am still trying to have enough rest and recuperate from my illness for I will be traveling again next week, somewhere in the far east and my much loved place  In Shaa Allah. 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Post before signing off

Two days before the month of Ramadan starts In shaa Allah. 

Allahuma Balighna Ramadan!

I have read a lot of beautiful reminders from the blogs I follow and I’m sure they will be helpful for me this coming Ramadan, Jazakum Allahu Khairan to all of you. May Allah reward you for your good deeds. Ya Rabb!

So let me have this last post before I take hiatus from blogging for a month.


I still have one pending Blue Sky Tag from Ashley of Muslimah According to Me (One of the blogs I always follow because she writes beautifully and her blog is so informative!) Thanks for nominating me! And because I know everybody is busy preparing for Ramadan, I will break the rule once again by not nominating anyone. lol

So here are my answers to Ashley’s questions:

1.Favorite breakfast food?

-Pancakes with overflowing pancake syrup! lol

2.Which ayah/surah of the Qur’an really goes to your heart?

-A lot! but I remember when I was new to Islam, I cried a lot when I read Surah Al-Qariah. 

3.Most interesting place you’ve ever visited?

The only places I would like to go back again and again and again, Makkah and Madinah In shaa Allah

4.What are your hobbies?

-reading books, baking, eating and sleeping haha

5.What word/phrase drives you bananas when people use it?

-not a word but this hand gesture the Arabs are using which means wait hehe

Wait

6.When do you do your best writing for your blog?

-whenever something comes into my mind

7.Which of the five daily prayers is your favorite?

-Fajr prayer

8.Where would you rather live, city or small, rural town?

City (City of Makkah and Madina) 

9.Your favorite summer fruit?

-Watermelon, although I get annoyed with the seeds hehe

10.What are you currently reading?

-I’m finishing now the Biography of Abu Bakr RA

11.What was you “dream job” as a kid?

-Doctor


I have decorated our house a little bit for the Ramadan. I bought these lanterns in a cheap shop while the candle holders are from before. Don’t worry, I am not forgetting that Ramadan is not for feasting but more of doing ‘Ibadaah.

Two years ago, I went to a symposium about preparation for Ramadan and I remember one of the things they talked about Ramadan divided into three parts – the first ten days, the middle and the last ten days. I will leave you with this:

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Image from QuranReading.com

Let’s spend this Ramadan as if it’s the last. Let’s give our best shot and aim to collect a lot of hasanats (credit for good deeds) In Shaa Allah!

May Allah accepts our fasting, good deeds and ‘Ibadaah. Ya Rabb!


P.S. I might go to Makkah for Umrah and visit Madina, In shaa Allah. If you have any specific dua you want me to ask, just email me through my contact.

Ramadan Mubarak! ❤️