A Kingdom of contradictions

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Saudi Arabia

Some of you are asking me what it is like living in Saudi Arabia, people, accommodation, transport, social life… so,

it’s a Kingdom of contradictions?

Observation 1,

Society is fundamentally based around men not woman. Single woman <read post pubescent girls and above> must be chaperoned by family or groups of other woman virtually at all times; single woman walking around alone is generally not something you are likely to see. Married woman are limited by what their husbands allow, meaning some rarely leave the house other than weekly shopping or for medical appointments, others are granted more freedom to study and work (although again it is heavily legislated.) Education for boy and girls is totally separate from the start, men teaching boys and woman teaching girls.

One key problem for woman is that they are not allowed to drive, which means they rely on their husband/family -Saudi men get a severe telling off if they let their wives drive!

There is no official law that bans women from driving but deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, with Saudi clerics arguing that female drivers “undermine social values”.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/middle-east/60339/eleven-things-women-in-saudi-arabia-cant-do#ixzz3SAuCIXf5

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/04/19/Saudi-man-fined-for-allowing-his-wife-to-drive.html

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia

Observation 2.

Men and woman who are unrelated are not allowed to speak unless absolutely necessary, e.g.a female employee in a pharmacy serving a male customer with a prescription. Hotels, hospitals and large international organisations are the most ‘relaxed’ about these cultural norms/rules – although woman will still need to be veiled, unless in the REALLY large international hotel e.g. Hilton, where a head scarf will suffice.

Smaller retail outlets often adopt one of three policies; let’s consider a coffee shop. Option 1 – men only, meaning woman are not permitted to enter/buy/remain on the premises. Option 2 – a woman only, which means all window have to be blocked out <normally with colourful pictures/advertisements, similar to those you might see on a bus window in England. Option 3 – a family coffee shop that do allow single men – the windows do not need to be blanked out. They often provide ‘shielded off’ areas large enough for individual families.

In shops which cater for both genders there will be two queues with a glass divider/rope or wall down the middle of the shop with separate cash register/cashier. Clear posters and signage are displayed. I made the mistake of walking through the wrong door before being whistled at, corrected and guided to the correct door by the panicked looking salesman!!

I visited a hospital recently to have a follow up medical examination for my Iqama ‘residency permit.’ There was a door for woman and a general entrance, so I assumed the hospital would be segregated in the main – WRONG. Once you entered the entire building and staff were pretty much mixed, although woman on reception were fully veiled. What was the point of the separate entrance you may ask… I have no idea

Observation 3.

There is an extreme phobia of single men in Saudi Arabia, husbands are EXTREMELY jealous/irrational and families wary of potential suitors for their daughters. In the UK I am sure many woman would say married men are just <if not more> of a threat than single men, all that frustration from monogamy, routine and overwhelming need for new intimate conquests?

Observation 4.

Living under Sharia law means night clubs, loud music in public places and ‘partying’ are STRICTLY prohibited.. However the same authorities charged with maintaining these conservative ideals allow young men to race around city streets and motorways with music blaring out their car windows – the latest R&B, hip hop, bangra and dance music. Parking in a car park at the beach, near a petrol station, outside McDonalds often resembles/sounds like a ‘rave’ or ‘free party’ – minus class A drugs and glow sticks

The same young Saudi’s can also simply drive across the border to enjoy all the trappings of a liberal/open culture and drive back after they have had their fill of indulgence and hedonism!

Observation 5:

If girls are out shopping in a large mall/shopping centre looking to purchase lingerie, they more than likely will need to discuss their underwear requirements with a male salesperson. Woman currently are generally not allowed to sell knickers and bras, although some stores have recently begun hiring female employees but the majority are still staffed by men.

If I you were a young Saudi unmarried man that would be a pretty amazing/difficult/problematic/overwhelming job wouldn’t you say?

“I would recommend the french knickers that sit comfortable over your pert little bottom or thong if you want to have the lace right up inside between your cheeks Madam…”

Observation 6:

Alcohol is Saudi Arabia is STRICTLY prohibited but that does not stop Saudi men from getting drunk on ARAQ the locally made moonshine. It gets you drunk and also – I’ve been told – makes a good substitute for petrol. Although fuel prices here are so cheap you would probably just buy fuel!

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Sandy says:

    You truly have a big challenge. Praying for your safety. I hope I can get a job at one of the schools near by. I don’t get to go to Guatemala this April. I missed the sign up date because I was in Clearwater, FL helping a 97 year old lady for 10 days. It must not have been God’s will for me to go this time. I hope Benny and I can go on the NY mission trip in June. Praying for you daily.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s