Back in the day I was an ordinary Liverpool girl brought up by strict parents but always trying to push the boundaries. I worked hard and tried to play hard when I could get around my parents. This night, was a night that was to change the course of my life forever. It started off like any other night for 18 year old girls, going out on the town, except we had all decided it was a girl’s night only and no fellas!!!! Off we all trotted off to the local nightclub ‘The Grand’ based in a town called New Brighton; which was an old Seaside resort that had seen better days, the glorified buildings being turned into night clubs based right on the seafront with views over to the magnificent sight of Liverpool and the Liver buildings. The night progressed like any other night; laughing and joking, dancing on the dance floor bright lights flashing to the beat of Madonna and La Isle La Bonita; nicking an odd drink here and there that had been left unattended when we could. Standing at the table with the girls I looked up and saw him, he stood out in the crowd on the dance floor over 6ft in height and as dark as chocolate. In this small town it was mainly white folks, so how could I not notice him? Something about him; the way he moved the way he smiled and chatting with his friends, caught my attention. The girls began to tease how I could look but not touch, as it was a girl’s night only! Throughout the night I would look his way curious at where he was from, what brought him to our little town? His friends noticed and pointed me out to him; he looked and smiled my way, wow my heart did a summersault, butterflies hit the pit of my stomach and a warm flush spread to my cheeks. Later in the night his party began to leave I couldn’t let him go without letting him know my interest, so I walked to the ladies toilets, so I could pass him, and as I did he reached for my arm and pulled me close aside and asked for my number. His smell enveloped me; deep and musky, his accent left me weak at the knees; it was deep and sultry like none I’d ever heard before. Shyness mixed with my attraction I stumbled over my words saying I had no pen and only a lipstick which he took and wrote down my number , kissed my cheek and disappeared as quickly as he had pulled me close.
I didn’t think I’d ever hear from him again but then the next day he called me. Wow surprise!! We agreed to meet up at McDonalds but in all the excitement we mixed up which McDonalds so I turned up at the one in his city and he turned up at the one in my city, after 20 minutes I gave up waiting thinking he’d stood me up, not wanting to feel stupid, I was thankful I hadn’t told my mum where I was going so I managed to get home with no questions ……phew!! Marking it down as not meaning to be I got on with things at home until I received a call. It was him!! He’d waited an hour and was calling to find out why I stood HIM up. Once we laughed over the misunderstanding, we agreed to meet up the following day, and from there on we were inseparable for the next two weeks. I had learned he was from Saudi Arabia; in the UK to study English and was due to go back home in two weeks. I met his closest friend Essam who was from Libya; Essam had been sent to the UK to study by the Libyan army and he was dating a lovely woman Denise, they made a great couple. It was funny how Essam and Abdul where from totally different worlds yet Denise and I felt so at ease with them, it was fun showing the things that were different in the UK. Time soon came for him to return back home and as my tears fell I thought this was the end of our short romance.
Back then we didn’t have the internet or mobile phones, lord we had airmail which took 2 weeks to reach you; calls to Saudi Arabia were 20 pounds for a few minutes, but we agreed to write. I had mentioned to him I would have loved it if he could come for Christmas and was sad I wouldn’t share the holiday with him.
Little was I to know Christmas morning there would be a knock on the door and there he was on my door step. I was so happy and couldn’t believe it. He only had Christmas day in the UK and had to get back to Saudi the next day. He’d told his parents he was staying at friends back in Saudi but had sneaked to the UK to see me. We spent the day lazing in bed chatting of our dreams and trying to catch up so much from the time we were apart in a few short hours. We had so much to share and such little time, he ended up missing his coach back to London and had to get a taxi on Boxing Day all the way to London from Liverpool. This man was crazy for sure, but in such a good way. Christmas day he proposed to me and I was so surprised when I blurted yes……. What the hell was happening…… he gave me some gorgeous jewelry little did I know back then it was just costume jewelry, but to this girl from a little city, the pearls seemed so big and the beautiful, cut fake sapphires sparkled like the sun . I felt like a queen!!!
We discussed he would study in Egypt so he could learn to buy and sell currencies; what a stupid idea I thought, to my little 18 year old mind, I had no idea what he was on about. But it was his dream to become a Forex Dealer, trading in currencies.
It’s very true, when love hits you, it ‘really’ does hit you. My life was suddenly changing so quickly, by January, Abdul turned up again on my door, confessing he didn’t want to wait two and a half years, he wanted to marry me now and regardless of our circumstances we were going be together now!
We had no idea what would be involved all we knew was we loved each other and we were going be together.
We got engaged on 1st of March and I was so scared to tell my parents, I was in tears thinking how my dad would kill me for being engaged to a black man, unbelievably he was happy and agreed we could marry. All my friends were sceptical saying he was only marrying me for an English passport, but I ignored them and followed my gut instinct. It’s true a woman’s gut instinct is always right, sadly most of us chose not to use it, thankfully that time I did chose it. All the years we were married, Abdul never did get the British passport, he said why would he need it he was a Saudi, not British!!
Before we could marry Abdul needed permission to stay in the UK and we had to arrange an interview with the Home Office in London, we had no idea what it would involve and we had no idea it would be them that held the fate of our future in their hands. Waiting for our appointment on the day we got speaking to a lovely family – the woman Senait was British born African descent she was there with her five children and African husband – they were fighting against England wanting to send her husband back to Africa – sometimes it’s hard to fathom the thinking of the Home Office they were willing to split up this family and make her a single mom of five children. We never found out their fate as they were not there when we returned from our interview.
We were both interviewed separately having to answer questions on our relationship, our family back ground, our income – I’m unsure how we got through it but we did thank fully and Abdul was put on a type of parole for a few years. He wouldn’t be able to claim benefits from the state and would have to support us on his own funds or find work to support us.
Our wedding plans were rushed in a haze of excitement being of mixed cultures there was a maze of things to organize. Abdul wanted to be married Islamically and I wanted a big white wedding in a church – how could we do this I was legally a Christian and he was a Muslim………
First we agreed I would change my faith as I wasn’t a practising Christian. I hadn’t been brought up religiously and at 18 years old, religion meant nothing to me, so we arranged for me to go to the Mosque in Liverpool and change my faith it was a short ceremony. Then we were married; to me it wasn’t a marriage in the sense of marriages I had heard about; it was short and quick and only I and Abdul attended with the Imam. The main thing was in the eyes of Islam we were married and that was all we were bothered with. Whilst we were there we decided it would be best if I also adopted an Arab name as well as my own name – I was confused why would I do this, I was Tracey, why would I want to become someone else? Abdul informed me – I could still be Tracey to friends and family it was just best so anything legal that had to be done between us I would be looked upon as a Muslim in the full sense. I didn’t know any Arab names so I asked Abdul to pick one for me; whereas he chose ‘Asima’. I asked why he chose that name and he informed me it meant “Protector, guardian, defender”
I rarely used that name except for my time in the Kingdom on legal issues, I am thankful he had the foresight to change it, as it was instrumental in keeping my children in those deep dark days of my future, that we hadn’t foreseen back then.
Our main wedding day came and went; it was such a blur of happiness. I’d always dreamt of being married in a church; every girls dream, a white wedding in a beautiful church. I wasn’t religious and had never set foot in a church in my whole life but still…. Sadly the church has closed now but it brings back lovely memories seeing it still there.
We originally set 1st April 1987 for our wedding day; 1 month after our engagement, but everyone said it was bad luck so we moved to 2nd April.
The church wouldn’t allow a Muslim to be married in it and our only option was the register office but I was determined I wanted a church wedding. So we hatched up a plan, we had contacted the head cathedral in Chester and informed them of our situation and that Abdul was eager to become a Christian, we had many sessions with the local vicar teaching Abdul about Christianity , this alone was enough for us to be able to arrange our marriage in church.
My parents didn’t do the traditional thing and pay for the wedding, I shouldn’t have been surprised. We didn’t have two pennies to rub together and Abdul’s family didn’t know we were getting married, but hey, I had the most amazing friends. One of my friends Joanne, her mom and family all arranged the catering for us, my other friend Lynn’s mum baked our wedding cake and my friends in McDonald’s all clubbed together for a one night honeymoon stay in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. The proud and majestic hotel I’d always dreamt of staying at.
We couldn’t afford a wedding dress or bridesmaid dresses, but my friend Lynn who I chose to be a bride’s maid rented her own, and I rented my wedding dress and bouquet for the day. It was a dream dress of white lace tight fitting till the very bottom which sprayed out in satin waves, like a mermaid tail. I wore a large white hat and veil; I felt like I was in ‘Gone with the wind’ and wore my beautiful fake sapphire necklace and earrings. (My dress was something borrowed and the necklace something blue)
The big day came faster than a blink of an eye, walking down the aisle with my dad, seeing all my family and friends gathered together for this wonderful day. I remember my hands sweating so much all my false nails came off and my dad ended up with a pocket of false nails. I looked up and there was this man, who had so captivated my heart. I should have been scared, but I truly felt I was going home. Here was a man who had given up everything for me, his family, his country, his life. I looked up into Abdul’s face and saw genuine happiness and eyes so full of love; I knew I was doing the right thing.
We said our vows I smiled inwardly as Abdul omitted to say ‘In the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Ghost’ (smile) I knew deep down he wouldn’t change his religion, but he would do as much as he could to give me my dream. The vicars look of surprise, but he continued, and our vows said, we were now man and wife!!!
We celebrated at the Grand hotel, where we had first saw each other, wearing my leather dynasty suit I felt so sophisticated, then it was time to whizz off to the Adelphi Hotel. Wow, when we arrived it was such a dump, what had happened to the majestic hotel it once was? All the furniture and beautiful architectural features were dulled and worn down, but we were so happy we could have stayed at the YMCA and not cared. The next day we drove to Wales on our honeymoon and spent a week enjoying being alone.
Life went back to normal I went back to working as a Floor Manager at McDonalds and Abdul was given a job in McDonalds in Liverpool, we were on our way, until I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Abdul was adamant that I should now rest and he would provide for us. It was time to look after myself, and the months passed by we bought our first home; a 3 bedroomed old council house to us it was a palace huge gardens front and back, it didn’t matter to us it was on a council estate , that the owners had left flea infested carpets, it was our home. We had managed with nothing to raise the deposit on a mortgage and we settled in till I gave birth to our lovely son Faris. Here was this gorgeous little being; a person born from our love he had the most gorgeous blue grey eyes and chubbiest cheeks ever. I couldn’t believe we had created him, and he was a mix of our two races.
This was the time we decided to inform Abdul’s family that he had married, he knew if there was a child his family would be more willing to accept the marriage, so a few months later we informed them I was pregnant (even though Faris was already born they always thought he was a year younger than his true age) His mother was shocked but he informed them I was a Muslim girl, so they accepted me grudgingly.
Life settled down; Abdul working, me bringing up Faris and trying to make a home, but things changed financially and mortgage prices went up; we were struggling, was this going to be the end to our life we had tried so hard to build? Was my little family in trouble? One day Abdul came to me and discussed maybe we should move to Saudi Arabia.
The time spent preparing to move across the world was a blur, mostly arranged and sorted out by Abdul’s dad over in Makkah al Mukkaramah, (Islam’s Holy City) in Saudi Arabia. Unknown to me at the time, this man would become my mortal enemy, and man my son hated with a passion, and we would be happy to see his demise in the future.