The following is a transcript (meaning word for word record) of an interview I had with Raghad. She’s a very bright engineering student at Queen Mary, and she sheds light on what it’s like to live in London as a female Muslim Saudi.
I’m Raghad Adnan Alturkistani, or in Arabic: رغد عدنان التركستاني
I currently live in East Acton, London, United Kingdom. I live in a fair sized (in UK standards) five-bedroom house that has a lovely backyard with beautiful flowers planted in it. I have got another house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where I actually live. Of course, that house is much bigger compared to the one in London. I have got my own room and bathroom there, while I share my bedroom with my sister here and the bathroom with my three siblings. Instead of the flowery backyard, we have got a swimming pool where I can practice one of my favorite hobbies.
I’ve got three siblings: two younger brothers and an older sister. We are so attached to each other, and that is the reason my family decided to move to London with me when I decided to come here and study.
My parents are well-educated and are both working parents, which is why they have invested really well in our education. We enjoy doing everything together as a family, especially traveling and going on holidays.
I usually use the public transportation (Tube, buses) for everyday outings. For family outings, my father usually drives us places (until I get my driving license, which I am working on).
Since I wear hijab (a veil that covers my head and chest), my clothes have to fully cover me and be modest when I am around men. Therefore, I like wearing loose long shirts with trousers underneath, a floral/printed scarf to add a stylish touch and a matching hijab. I really enjoy matching my hijab and scarf to my clothes. However, in Saudi, we have lots of female-only gatherings, and my style changes from hijab clothes to any type of clothes that I wear under my Abaya ‘gown’, which I only wear during the journey from one place to another. I like wearing dresses and midi skirts to big gatherings, and skinny jeans with pretty shirts to my friends’ houses.
In my free time, I like to go on bike rides with my brother, and explore the nearby parks as I love nature so much. I also enjoy reading books, writing, and listening to Arabic poetry.
I speak Arabic and English. In Arabic we say: Marhaba/ مرحبًا which means ‘hello’. What we mainly use, however, is Assalamu ‘Alaykum ‘السلام عليكم’, which is the Islamic greeting that means “Peace be upon you”.
I used to have a really cute cat back home, but I could not get it to the UK with me, so now I have none.
Yes, my family and I have travelled a lot. I have been to the United States, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt.
I currently work as a Student Organizer for the School of Engineering and Materials Science Peer Assisted Study Support program at my university. It is a student-based mentoring program that allows second and third year students to provide academic help to the first year students working towards the same degree. Although I study engineering, and I enjoy it so much, I like education and believe it is the key to making great change in the world. Therefore, I plan to go into the education sector after I graduate and use the skills I learned from engineering to revolutionize the education system in the world (or my country, Saudi Arabia) and find more engaging and fun ways to teach children in schools.
Being a female Muslim Saudi, I have heard lots of false stereotypes about me, and this has taught me one very important thing: I never believe what the media says without investigating the issue by myself, and asking the people whom the news may be talking about! I try my best to get to know as many people as I can from all different backgrounds, so I never fall into the stereotypes trap.