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Life as an expat in a muslim county

A friend is returning from one of the most Muslim countries in the world. What she’s experienced might surprise you: When I am back on the other side of the world, what will I remember of this place?   Walking down the main shopping street and feeling like I have stepped into my…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
A friend is returning from one of the most Muslim countries in the world. What she’s experienced might surprise you:

When I am back on the other side of the world, what will I remember of this place?
 
Walking down the main shopping street
and feeling like I have stepped into my Barbie doll’s closet with it’s
stunning array of dresses that range from gorgeous to garish.
 
Going to the weddings
where the black-veiled women I see in the streets emerge in
these very dresses, some with dazzling elegance and others in tasteless gaudy glory, to dance and celebrate.
 
The heady sweet fragrance of “fool,”
a tiny, white jasmine-like flower that is strung into thick necklaces 

and worn around the neck or in the hair for any celebration. The heavy 
sweetness of burning “bahour,” frankincense and other natural 

incenses, that greets me when I enter a house.
 
The chai tea with milk 

that tastes like Christmas in a cup and the refreshing sweet tang of 
fresh lime juice on a hot day. The spiciness of fasoolia, a bean dish, 
eaten with bread for a simple breakfast or dinner. Cramming into a 
debab to travel through the city. The glow on a dark night from the 
half-moon shaped stained-glass windows that arch over nearly every 

window and every door in the city.
 
The moon itself,
which somehow seems bigger here. The brilliant blue and orange lizards that chase 

each other in the garden.

 
Affection expressed openly between men. 

Men in skirts-the traditional marwaz, something like a long kilt. 
Thousands of white lights strung over the street outside the house of 

a soon-to-be groom.
 
Hats made out of cardboard boxes.
The sometimes beautiful, sometimes abrasive, always haunting call
of the mosques that rings out five times a day. Large groups of men
bowing shoulder to shoulder in prayer.
 
The men who sleep on cardboard boxes in the streets.
And the little boy I saw sleeping there alone last week. He was so small. The 

children who pile inside the dumpsters to search for food while no one 
bats an eyelash. Seeing more physical deformities in one year than I 

have seen in my entire prior life combined.
 
A woman in distress 

because her husband is planning to take a second wife. Q – my best 
friend here and her dreams – I have gotten to live nearly every dream 
I’ve ever had, when I put my hand to a door, it usually opens – for 
her, nearly every door of opportunity appears locked. Her teasing 

laugh.
 
Mildly reckless adventures
in the mountains and up the coast and the splendid 
companions who’ve joined me.
 
Him. He’s been with me for every step.  

Comments (4)

  • These people are not our enemies; they are human beings struggling through life in their culture. I dare say there are some things we could learn. Thank you for the beautiful images and reminding us that we can see God all around us, if we only open our eyes.

  • thank you so much for sharing this. I’m leaving in 4 days to live/work/love in a muslim country. This post touched me deeply.

    thanks.

  • Some of the most diligent followers of Jesus I know are from Muslim nations. They always inspire me with their stories. They are real.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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