VISTA - The former Pamela Rossard remembers two particular things about her
first date with future husband Hasan Saddiq Faseh Al-ddin: His English was
so poor, she understood only half of what he said, and, it didn't matter.
She was smitten nonetheless.
Here was a blond, green-eyed Lutheran from Wisconsin, sitting across the
table from a brown-eyed, Arabic-speaking Muslim from the sacred city of
Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
"What attracted us was how different we were," said Pamela, who became Mrs.
Al-ddin within months of that date at a Chinese restaurant in Horton Plaza.
"Different cultures, religions, languages, physical appearance, foods,
music. I think we were fascinated with each other."
Ten years later, Pamela Al-ddin sits in her Vista home, looking wistfully
at a photo of her husband. The couple who were initially united by cultural
differences are now separated by them.
Hasan Al-ddin is 8,400 miles away in Mecca, forced out of the United States
by the government July 8 because he was a friend of a friend of two 9/11
hijackers. And his wife is left with an agonizing decision.
Pamela Al-ddin admitted to trepidation about the possibility of moving to
Saudi Arabia, a male-dominated society where women are not allowed to drive
and where they must be covered from head to toe in public. "It's kind of
scary because the culture is so different there," she said.
Should she stay in San Diego with her two young children for a lifetime
without her husband and their father? Or move to Saudi Arabia, leaving
behind the country that millions of people risk their lives to reach, the
same country her husband embraced for its freedom and opportunity?
For Pamela Al-ddin, 42, and for her 6-year-old daughter, Saudi Arabia would
be a drastic switch to a male-dominated society where women are not allowed
to drive or go out in public without a male relative, and where women who
do venture outside must be covered from head to toe or risk arrest. It's
also a place where an American was recently kidnapped and beheaded by
"I'm in an impossible situation. It's a huge decision, a huge
responsibility," Pamela Al-ddin said. "I really do feel like our family has
been a victim of friendly fire. Hasan didn't do anything that was bad
enough to have to leave."
The couple met in 1994 through a mutual friend.
Despite the glaring differences, they found common ground: a dry sense of
humor, a love for the beach. "He's a real generous, loving person with a
kind heart," she said