Ma Salama is the Arabic phrase for goodbye. Living in Saudi Arabia one is very accustomed to meeting many new people, and then eventually saying goodbye to them, or them to you. It’s a very transient place for ex-pats. You bond very quickly, and even though you will likely live far apart after you leave Saudi, you will always be bonded by this shared experience of living here. When I left Saudi the first time I had a hard time talking about my time here. I wasn’t the same person I was prior to coming to Saudi, and my world view had vastly changed. I very much wanted to talk about it, but it’s hard for people who have never experienced the Middle East to understand what it’s like. Especially as a woman. I have a handful of friends from the first time I was here who I will be in touch with for life. Saudi bonded us to one another. They are the people I can say “hey, remember that completely ridiculous thing that could only happen in Saudi?” And they totally get it.
Ma Salama is probably the second most used Arabic phrase after Inshallah. Saudis and ex-pats say it all the time. I say it when I leave work, prior to vacation, when I leave the grocery store, when I have a bad day at work I say it but I usually add on a few not so lovely words after it. You get the picture. Almost every weekend there is a Ma Salama sale, or a Ma Salama party to send someone off.
Yesterday I said Ma Salama to one of my most favourite people here. She is my Muslim Saudi sister, and it has been such a lovely blessing getting to know her. We bonded while looking after a couple difficult patients and still laugh over the drama that ensued. For obvious patient confidentiality reasons I can’t get into the specifics, but rest assured our shared love of jackassery jump started our friendship. We are thick as thieves and I will miss her dearly, but I know that our paths will cross soon on Canadian soil. Inshallah. So to my girl R this post is for you. I wish you all the best in your new life as a married lady. Saudi won’t be the same without you. I will miss not being able to binge watch trashy American reality TV with you. And lastly, be sure to get some serious winter gear because Calgary Alberta doesn’t mess around about winter. I mean it sister!! Ma Salama.