Posts by Miša Bitenc Hernčič

The F word

Some are embarrassed, they can’t even whisper the word that starts with the letter F. Others shout it at the top of their lungs. Many do not understand the f word and prefer to distance themselves from it. A good example of the latter in the recent times are no less than 3 well-known Slovenian women politicians.

Where does this embarrassment, this fear, this disgust with feminism come from? Who will like you better if you keep proclaiming: “I’m not a feminist!”

What are you afraid of if you make it clear that you stand for equal opportunities for everyone? Because that’s what feminism is. Not hairy armpits, not braless breasts, and not hatred of men.

Without feminism we haven’t got a chance, without feminism this world will go to hell.

Why are you afraid of feminism? No worries. You’re not the only one. In other parts of the world, feminism has a bad reputation as well. Somebody or something sure is benefiting from it.

In Sudan, young Sudanese women gather in the name of feminism by accepting only ladies without headscarves, and it is also mandatory to rebel against their families, especially the father. On the other hand, there are plenty of women within the Muslim community that keep on repeating the mantra: “We don’t need feminism, Islam has given us more rights than we ever had before.” No wonder, when the so-called white feminism insists on wanting to “liberate” them from the constituent elements of their Islamic faith.

When it became known who I chose to marry, I received the following message: “He’s a Muslim? I’ve always considered you a feminist.”

I am a feminist and always will be. In the true sense of the word. Without feminism we haven’t got a chance, without feminism this world will go to hell.


Carrying heavy shopping bags (tote, not plastic, we are no longer in Saudi Arabia), we made our way through the shopping district to the last spot on our agenda – lunch.

For some time I had it in mind, where could I take Tamer to finally try this traditional Slovenian dish. I was quite proud of myself for planning such a lovely day for us. slovene cuisine

We both open our menus and begin excitedly marking which “štrukelj” [shtrukel] we want to order. Since we were really hungry, I suggested to share another plate of chicken in sauce with a side of buckwheat porridge (no pork crackers on top), and so with a plan in place, we were ready to order.

“We’d like the cottage cheese-spinach one, and we had another buckwheat one in mind, wait…,” I rush through the pages to choose the right one.

“Oh my. Well, that will be quite a lot,” the waitress offers her judgement, her eyebrows raised and her lips severly pursed.

“Hmm? Really? So how big is one štrukelj anyway, we did plan on sharing everything…” It’s a good thing I didn’t mention we were also thinking about getting soup for an appetizer. Her face would probably never recover from all that grimacing.

We split one (admittedly large) štrukelj and bits of chicken with a side of buckwheat porridge. Without a single trace of guilt, we decided to order another one for dessert, the ultimate chocolate bomb.

When it was time for the bill, the waitress couldn’t help herself. She would probably suffer immensely if she didn’t hiss at me in an extremely meaningful tone: “Well now, all of THAT must have been enough, WASN’T IT?”

Sometimes I seriously wonder who benefits from being raised well and possessing good manners.

What do YOU care if we order FIVE štruklji? The whole point of this lunch was for my husband from Sudan to try Slovenian štruklji for the first time. Do they really have to be served with some salty Slovenian mockery? So what if people usually only come here for a snack, we were both HUNGRY at four in the afternoon and wanted a full lunch. Also, can’t we simply get a doggie bag of whatever we might not finish? Aren’t you interested in selling more and profiting???

I could have said all of this. But I didn’t. I’m a regretting it now a bit. On the other hand, I knew how the witch would act all surprised, as if she didn’t say anything wrong.

“Yes, it was wonderful, thank you,” I replied with a big smile without any shame. She’s the one who should be ashamed.

We will not go there for štruklji again. We are however, looking forward to recommendations of tasty (and non-judgmental) locations, and invitations to home kitchens as well. Tamer volunteers as an honorary taster.

Vienna. Again.

“I like Ljubljana better,” he says to me early in the morning as we’re speeding across Vienna in a taxi. The beginning of February is probably not the best time for it, gray skies and winter winds that cut like razors were not exactly welcoming.

When I shared with you all a letter about my solo trip to the Viennese embassies a few months ago, I did not think that I would be recounting another trip to Austria so soon, this time I went with Tamer.

First stop: the toughest nut to crack, the Saudi agency. Thank God this time I was only accompanying my native Arabic speaker. Once again, there was some haggling over the price of the attestation, and of course no invoice was issued either. Not surprising at this point. If my looks could kill… I had to restrain myself not to worsen the negotiations, especially after the moment I recognized those conceited eyes behind the glasses on the tip of the nose of the Arab who had scammed me those three years and a half ago. At that time, I had to come alone and arrange a visa for Saudi Arabia for myself. This time, I couldn’t be bothered to even say ‘goodbye’ to him.

“Now onto the bus and then the subway…” Before the day ended, we used all available means of public transportation, including the tram. I have to say, I was quite proud of myself, how I managed to navigate Vienna again. It’s not so easy to take over the wheel after such a long time in the passenger seat.

Sudanese embassy was also a well known location to me. It occupies only one floor in one of the tall neoclassical buildings. We were only greeted by a green, red, white and black flag. No security guards, just a climb up the stairs and a ring at the embassy door.

“The consul just stepped out of the office. Will you wait for him or come again some other time?”

And so we waited. We had no choice. Good thing they didn’t close the door in our face and say, “Bukra Inshallah.” (Tomorrow, God willing.)

A little over two hours later, we were able to rush to the Slovenian embassy, ​​where they kindly agreed to wait for us after office hours. Despite my preparations and phone calls a week before, it couldn’t work out differently. With all the attested signatures in hand, we could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

According to my naively optimistic plans, we should have been done around noon, so we could pop into one of the galleries before returning to Ljubljana. Wishful thinking…

We finished at three in the afternoon, so I was able to act as a tour guide for at least one quick visit to Stephansplatz. I was sure that St Stephen’s cathedral would not leave Tamer indifferent, and I was right.

However, he did not change his assessment of the city. “Ljubljana is more beautiful,” he made the announcement at the end of the day.

Quite old-fashioned!

“How did you two meet?”

A classic question. Perhaps in anticipation of some surprising detail. After all this time, the answer is no longer interesting: “We met online.”

At this point, people mostly settle for a summary of the not-so-unheard-of “modern romance” from the contemporary digital age.

Last week, however, we received a really interesting response, one that we have never heard before. An older lady truly surprised us, while we were visiting her. Sipping tea, black with milk, from a traditional Turkish cup, one of many from around the world that she has collected on her travels, she declared:

“Come to think of it…that’s quite old-fashioned!”

Tamer and I looked at each other. We immediately understood and nodded to her, and Mrs. Barbara continued:

“Yes, yes. Like in the olden days. Correspondence, courtship in letters. How romantic, indeed!”

Indeed. Before we even managed to meet in person, how many correspondences, video calls, packages in the mail… We didn’t have a chaperone, but our long-distance relationship blossomed. It was not easy, but it was worth it. We knew we wanted to be together and we made it happen.

A modern romance with an old-fashioned twist. Indeed.

A letter from Ljubljana

I could have written: “Here I am, Slovenia bound.” Departed from summer to winter, I am waiting for Tamer to join me. I’m a little cautious of how it will be, scared how I’ll be able to do everything by myself for a while… But I didn’t.

I could have shared: “I had to execute a giant spider all by myself, because at eleven PM there was no one else in our Ljubljana apartment, because I’m still waiting for my dearest, who is arranging business and visa and so many other things.” But I didn’t.

I could have posted: At my parents’ for the New Year. Famous Slovene song about the New Year’s Eve kiss was playing on TV, yet there was none for me, as my husband was still 2873 miles away. But didn’t.

How I miss my cats so much it hurts? I can’t even think about them without crying. We took care of them to the best of our ability. They are still fed from time to time, the water stations are marked.

How Tamer’s visa got rejected on the first try, and before that, how they managed to screw up everything that was possible to screw up?

Then I thought, should I write: “I go to sleep only two more times before Tamer comes over.” But I didn’t. Until he arrived at our new home, until he was in my arms, I couldn’t write anything. I was too afraid that something would go wrong.

Now I can. Now we are both in Ljubljana. We had to go to the Viennese embassies again for the final attestations of the necessary documents for our joint stay in Slovenia. And then another visit to the Slovene government office. Now we await further proceedings. We are waiting in slight uncertainty, wondering what challenges we still have to face, but the most important thing is that we are waiting together.

World hijab day

In honor of World hijab day: thank you for supporting the right to choose. Thank you, for also not being silent when witnessing discrimination of women, who wish to cover.

Wearing a hijab in Saudi Arabia can be so easy. It presents a much bigger challenge elsewhere around the globe.

image00004 2

Another Sudanese proverb

Here I go again, debating with myself which letter should be the next in line for posting. A Sudanese proverb here and there (the one in question is also known in other Arabic-speaking countries) always comes in handy.

When Tamer first shared it with me to reassure me about the dilemma I was facing at the time, I immediately pricked up my ears. “I love it!”

It was then when I put it away to a safe and cozy, draught-free treasury of wisdom, that I can reopen and share with you when the opportunity arises.

What I myself can extract from the proverb of the day: when something or someone causes you distress, puts you in a bad mood… you can put an end to it. Close the door, walk away, remove yourself from the situation that brings out the worst in you. It’s not about running away from a challenge, it’s about keeping a calm state of mind and giving your soul a rest.

Might we add anything else? How do you perceive the saying? Let me know in the comments.


“Land for sale.” Not the building, the actual plot of land! Whatever plans our former landlord had last summer, something must have gone terribly wrong.

Tamer says that our old apartment building will most likely be razed to the ground with the arrival of a new owner. Who knows if that is smarter and more profitable.

I don’t feel nothing knowing this. Of course, I already said goodbye to the apartment which was our home from November 2019 to October 2022. However, another kind of goodbye came to greet me. Farewell, bright windows and the balcony on the second floor to the right. Farewell to the tree that still persists in a small concrete pool of earth. Farewell, dear stairs and so long to the flower pot that provided bedding for nobody’s kitties to nap.


The art of haggling

Last summer we found a home for Maki, an abandoned house cat that we rescued from the street. Maki conquered a couch, a cat tree, a king sized bed and more from an expat teacher from England who, like many others, came to Saudi Arabia looking for new challenges and better earnings. It turned out we really clicked from the start, and we continued meeting up, not just for the occasional visits to Maki.

Janey mentioned to us that she wants to furnish a guest room, as she is expecting another family member or friends every now and then in addition to her husband’s visits. Her villa in a so called compound or a gated community for school employees, is fully furnished, except for one extra room next to the master bedroom. Although Ikea is also very popular in Jeddah, we proposed a better option: let’s all go to the well-known furniture district, where local carpenters make and sell beautiful pieces at two or three times cheaper (than Ikea and similar stores).

And so we went. We waited to pick up Janey first in front of her compound. “Oh no,” we muttered in unison when our new friend was walking to the car. No abaya, but a dress with a considerable neckline. No scarf. Before anyone gets upset, saying “yeah, SO WHAT,” take it easy. Saudi Arabia is changing, and Jeddah has been in the forefront for some time now, where the dress code is being “less restrictive.” But sometimes it’s still good to think twice about where you’re going.

Our mission was clear: to buy furniture at the best bargain price. With our female passenger in clothes that scream “I’m a foreigner,” the challenge was made a little more difficult. I don’t know why, it didn’t feel right to mention anything to her, not before or after. If we might have known each other for a longer time, I would have hinted to her in advance.

We attracted quite a bit of attention at the “Mahmoud Saeed” Market. A tall Sudanese man with long hair in a bun with a pale-faced woman under his arm and an Englishwoman with the widest smile next to them. An extravagant scene for all mustachioed and bearded furniture sellers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

“Don’t look so excited. You have to seem completely uninterested,” I kept reminding Janey at every other store. She couldn’t help it. This is Jeddah, the real deal when it comes to Arabian markets, uncontaminated by global trends of uniform minimalism. It dawned on me. Janey is me three years ago. Janey is Misha in the first months after arriving to Saudi Arabia. Misha, who wanted to see, hear, smell everything that such authentic places in Jeddah have to offer.

Bargaining in an Arab market is a form of art, and my husband is an artist. Despite all our challenges, with a tenacious negotiating spirit, he bargained his way to a bed, two nightstands and a dresser with a mirror, as well as a mattress and all the bedding for outrageously low prices. Janey was practically skipping after each successful deal. She especially had fun at the dealer from Azerbaijan, from whom Tamer and I also bought a mattress and pillows back in 2019. Tamer has known the man for quite a few years, and the gray bearded Azerbaijani has a special regard for him, as they can chitchat in Turkish, which my husband is also fluent in. So Janey got a damn good discount from him too.

All is well that the guest room is furnished well. As a thank you, Janey invited us for dinner again soon.

They plan, and Allah plans.

Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself, how you are currently at a completely different point in life, in a completely different environment than you imagined you would be, for example, 5 years ago?

Your life’s story goes it’s own way. Whether it’s by chance, some divine plan, or fate, whichever you want to call it.

I never wanted a big wedding and all the stress that comes with it. I got married in a golden red dress in Sudan. Who would have thought? Certainly not me.

Then I moved to Saudi Arabia to be with my beloved. Just for a year or so, I thought. I’ve now been here for three.

I grew up in a home where we always had dogs for pets, now I can’t imagine my life without cats. It’s funny, when I look through my childhood photos, I notice how at least one kitty always found me on some trip or vacation.

I was not raised to believe in any god. Now I let the Creator guide me, and every day I am grateful for everything I have and what I can give to others.

Plan as much as you like. Many things can come your way accordingly. Be sure to put any so called failures into a folder labeled “it wasn’t meant to be.” You can do the same with ex-friends and unrequited crushes. It is reassuring to know that something better and more beautiful is coming your way, and that there is someone who is meant for you.