Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Suck it up and Deal With it!



After more than five years here in Saudi Arabia, transportation continues to be a major frustration for me.  As you all should know by now, women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.  Many women here have drivers but I have not been so fortunate.  I must rely on my husband to take me places – shopping, the doctor, to visit friends, classes, etc.  

When I lived in the states before moving here in my mid-50s, I always had my own car and always drove myself wherever I needed to go.  Getting places was never the logistical nightmare for me that it is here in Saudi Arabia - and it also never really required advance planning on my part.  Here in KSA I need to arrange to go with another woman who has a driver or I need to make sure that my husband is available to take me places before I can confirm that I am going.  Plus I need to give him advance notice - because he hates spur-of-the-moment, last-minute plans.  And despite the fact that I tell him ahead of time and remind him several times, the night before I need to go somewhere he usually acts like it’s the first time he’s ever heard of it! 
Traffic congestion in Jeddah



Because getting around in Jeddah is difficult due to road construction everywhere and poor street planning, traffic in this city is usually quite congested - and the drivers are crazy, reckless, and inconsiderate.  For these reasons and many more – chief among them, that women must depend on men to drive them places - women are oftentimes delayed and late for appointments.  


My husband/my driver is a stickler when it comes to being on time and always has been.  Yesterday morning when he took me to the silk painting class, I was the first one to arrive – a good 15 minutes early.  I told him the class would be over at 11am.  One woman was late, so the class started late.  At 10:45am, I called my husband to tell him not to pick me up for at least another hour.  He wasn’t happy about it.  I hurried to finish my project but even at that, I didn’t get to the car until 12:15pm.  

More traffic congestion in Jeddah
Turns out he was extra grumpy because the car air conditioner had just stopped working, and he had some errands to run and instead he had to just sit there in the car waiting for me – plus my being so late from the class only added to his frustration.  He was fuming mad!   He told me that he just wasted a whole hour of his life sitting there waiting on me when he had so many other things he could have been doing.  It took him all afternoon before he cooled down enough to speak to me.  

Well, you know what?  Too bad.  HE’s the one who brought me to live in the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.  Transportation was NEVER a problem for me in my life until moving to Saudi Arabia.  It wasn’t MY fault he had to sit in the hot car waiting for me.  I see it as his choice.  We are living here because HE wants to, not me.  He knew what life would be like once we moved here.  My husband needs to just suck it up and deal with it.  

Rant over... 

P.S. - And if anyone wants to leave a comment saying why don't I just leave Saudi Arabia if I hate it so much here, save your breath.  I don't hate living here - but I DO hate having to depend on men to drive me around when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself.  

37 comments:

  1. I love your little rant and I think you are completely right! I live in Toronto and absolutely love having a car and the independence it brings (which is probably one of the reasons Saudi Arabia does not like the idea). I cannot imagine relying on my husband to drive me places - when one of our cars needs to go for service and we only have one for a few days, it is a logistical headache, even with the fact that I can drive it on my own! I realize that in North America we are a little spoiled like that, but it has major positive implications on the workforce, economy, family life and many others as you mentioned many times yourself.

    I love reading your blog and your insights are fantastic and so important!

    Dana

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    1. Thanks, Dana - The way I see it is if he's going to bring me to a country where I cannot drive, he's just going to have to take me places or get me a driver. He hates driving and he doesn't want to spring for a driver, so he's just going to have to stop complaining. He's gotten so tired of hearing me say, "If we lived somewhere else we wouldn't even be having this conversation!" that he's told me not to tell him that any more - hence my rant today.

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    2. I would tell him that he won't have to hear your complaints as soon as you don't have to hear HIS!

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  2. Got to rant once in a while. The no driving is such a stupid drag. Are you allowed to ride a bike?

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    1. Hi Gaelyn - Funny you should ask. It was in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago that females are now allowed to ride bikes in the kingdom - for pleasure/exercise only (meaning not as a regular means of transportation!), and as long as they have a male around to help them in case they need help. One religious cleric also said that it's always been fine for women to ride bikes here, but no one ever knew that and everyone always said it was against the law.

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  3. I fully agree with you, I have just started to live in this country 2 months ago, and the main thing I feel helpless is I don't have full control on my life and more dependant on my husband. I can not go out whenever I want, I have to plan carefully, and I can not give promises, because not sure if I can arrange the driver, etc. I am happy to live here, because I am with the person I love. I am trying to remember one saying, "roses have thorns" :)

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    1. Hi Anonymous - I know exactly what you are going through. You will get used to it in time, but it's still a pain. I know the helpless feeling of being dependent on your hubby for every little thing, especially when most of us western women were pretty darn independent and self-reliant. Hang in there.

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    2. I guess I am of the belief that if you accept it then you deserve what you accept. Freedom is not free. If women want more freedom they will have to face imprisonment, death, humilation, or torture otherwise it will not change.

      There are brave women who have done this in the past to get women to where they are today. Then there are those who just stand on the sidelines and wish. Wishing for something has never gained anyone anything; it has always been action that has created change.

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  4. Honestly you should be the one to be fuming with rage at this ridiculous situation..not your husband who put you in it! It is insane to be completely dependent like this, it would drive anyone crazy really. I bet that very very few women would accept all the sacrifices you made for your husband so he should really worship you for this instead of making you feel bad.

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    1. Thank you, Caroline - I totally agree and that's why I wrote this post.

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  5. Typical impatient man! I have never driven but I always am close to public transit. Of course this is non-existent in KSA. At least in Sudan women can get out on their own on a bus or a taxi or whatever AND they can go out by themselves.

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    1. Hi Wendy - Hubby doesn't want me taking taxis by myself and there really is no public transit here for women. It's a problem having a husband who hates driving and a wife who is forbidden from doing so.

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  6. There is always a balance between what one likes about a place and what one doesn't. It would be foolish to ignore it. Your husband is wrong to be angry at your for a situation he put you it. It would be one thing if you were a young woman with a household of young kids. I really doubt you would be taking painting classes.

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    1. Hi Jerry - It's not like I plan so many things to do all the time that I want him to drive me somewhere every day either. There are many days and weeks when I just stay home. I could understand it if I were abusing him by having him take me places all the time, but I don't do that.

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  7. Hello Susie, I'm French and I live in saudi two years. We came with family for my husband's work. Since my arrival I read your blog with great pleasure.
    I wanted to support you because I saw the same thing as you (I'm independent and my husband don't like to drive here and he have the same réaction of your).and sometimes I'm very angry too. Good luck Susie and quickly find your very beautiful smile.
    Sorry for m'y very bad english.

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    1. Hi Valerie - Thanks so much. It is a very frustrating situation for everyone involved. I wish you luck too!

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  8. Typical man, that's all. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and disregards the fact that the woman makes it possible for him to have it all. His misplaced irritation is his focus, not your daily humiliation (although I imagine you're used to to it by now. )

    But that is the whole point of the law; to induce a feeling of helplessness in women, which women willingly comply with. If this is what women want, fine. The law would change if women decided not to comply with it.

    Frankly I find dealing with my compliant saccharine minded sisters far more frustrating than with men who just go after what they want and take it.

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    1. Hi Helene - It's not as easy here in KSA as simply just not complying with the laws here. That form of civil disobedience doesn't really work here because it is not tolerated. There are such dire consequences that many women feel they cannot take a stand. Manal Al-Sharif was jailed for ten days for driving. Another woman was sentenced to lashes (commuted by the king). It might work if women turned out in numbers so large that to punish them wouldn't be feasible. But even then the gov't here will not be bullied by its women. So while it may work in other places around the world, I don't see it as an option here.

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    2. As a general aside, civil disobedience isn't tolerated anywhere! THAT is exactly why it works! If government officials didn't actually care whether or not someone was following the law, then why have it in the first place, yeah?

      Those who broke the laws against segregation in the United States were not treated well either. Imprisonment, police beatings, etc. If you are going to wait until it's safe to make a change, then nothing is ever going to happen. I don't know of a single instance of a great social change taking place without a strong backlash against those who were pushing for that change, even threats to their physical health and safety.

      Civil disobedience CAN work in the KSA... you just need to have people who are dedicated to the cause and brave enough to face whatever may come from their actions.

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  9. a great blog, i like your wonderful photos!

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  10. I would like to hear your husband's view on the situation you both found yourselves in.... Tell him to be brave and add his comments to here.
    Lisa UK

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  11. I agree with Lisa. Come on Mr. Susie, we want to hear your point of view, we don't bite, we listen.

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    1. Lisa and Helene - I will try to get his input, but I can't make any guarantees. He usually doesn't want anything to do with my blogging...

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  12. Thank you Susie. And honestly, I didn't mean to suggest that women are free to refuse to comply with the law, the consequences of non-compliance are terrible.

    All I mean is, that these conditions exist because women allow it. When women decide to stop allowing it, it will be the beginning. There will be no change until that decision is made. And my sense is that the relationship between the genders is too profound for change, and fear of losing that relationship obscures the possibility for any change.

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    1. Hi Helene - Your last sentence hit the nail on the head - well said.

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  13. I marvel at your strength. I have young children and am always driving to activities and to do this or that errand. It is sometimes a drag and tiring, but I never forget how fortunate I am to have the freedom and ease of mobility. Once I was blocked in my driveway, another time my husband accidentally took my car keys, and I have occasionally locked my keys in my own car when my husband drives the family car on weekends. Each time it has caused major inconveniences, forced to reschedule appointments, miss activities, or delay buying of groceries for that night's meal, for example. Thank goodness there were no emergencies with the children.

    I wish the women in the KSA would have the right to drive. If my day is turned upside down for any of the above preventable reasons, I can not imagine the regular hurdles women must overcome to plan an outing. Very frustrating!! God bless you.

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    1. Thanks, Anonymous - It is difficult to adjust to life now solely dependent on my husband for everything, especially as far as getting around goes. Other women around the world don't necessarily know how good they have it and I hope this post might make them stop and think about how fortunate they are.

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  14. Hi Susie,

    Are women allowed to use taxis unaccompanied by their husband or another lady?

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    1. Yes, there are women who use taxis without anyone else accompanying them. My husband prefers that I don't unless he knows the driver.

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  15. I don't understand this. Saudi women and men have to be segregated, but they can be alone in a taxi together? You and your husband have lived a modern American life for many years, but now he is reluctant for you to travel in a taxi with a driver he doesn't know? Are taxi drivers known to be dangerous? Or did your husband step into a different frame of mind when you moved to Saudi Arabia? Or is he afraid of public opinion?

    And if the answer is that taxi drivers are dangerous, then why would women, treated like helpless children as they are, suddenly it's OK to be alone in a taxi with these dangerous guys?

    Sorry, but I'm in the American midwest, and have never been to KSA.(And sorry again, but this reminds me of the 1st episode of Star Wars. First the Princess is 14 years old, and considered to be such fragile material that every where she goes, even among allies, she is represented by a decoy. And what is she doing the next scene? She's in the front lines of battle, leading the charge, running faster than all these middle age men, and telling them how to fight.)

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    1. Hi Helene - The gender segregation thing and women having to have a drive or go in a taxi with a strange man do not jive and are unexplainable. Although the rationale that I have heard is that private drivers and taxi drivers are generally not Saudi, so these men do not count in their eyes as "real men" therefore it's okay for women to be alone in a car with them. This is what I have been told many times. As far as I am concerned, a man is a man no matter what nationality he is. I have heard of isolated incidents involving taxi drivers kidnapping a female passenger, but whether they are true or not, I don't know. When we moved here, my husband became overzealous about my safety.
      Frankly this whole driver situation is bad for the economy here. And women not being allowed to drive makes no sense to me whatsoever. I have seen little boys under 10 driving big SUVs loaded with veiled females - and this is okay here. I have written many posts about the whole situation and the absurdity of it all. And in five years, nothing has changed.

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  16. Thanks Susie, very sweet of you to respond. We all certainly have habits that are not rational, and an outsider can see it. I know that I do things everyday that are probably quite dangerous, and I never give it a thought. Then in other situations I get all OCD about things that are more a function of my own mental preoccupation than a real probability.

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  17. Your post makes me both angry and sad.

    Honestly, I wouldn't want to spend a millisecond in KSA. It's simply a country-sized gulag for women.

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  18. I hope the situation will change, this is just impossible !

    The reason, clearly, it's to have a control on woman. By driving them from places to places, men know perfectly where women go, what they do and with who. No talking about that they can this way allow it or not.

    This is oppression and this is totally against Islam to my eyes, knowing how women used to having camels at the time of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him).

    I believe it's all about trust issues. The fear that women will be involve into adultery relationships if they have the possibility to do it. In my country, we said : "where there is no trust there is no love"

    An other reason, I have to admit with this macho mentality all around, can also be about safety as you said. Yes, surely your husband wants to protect you knowing how people (taxi drivers) will consider you by taking a taxi alone (ooh the BAD girl !)

    I am sure the situation cannot change to the best at least this mentality, this tabou, stop first.

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  19. Good morning Susie, why don't you have a driver ???

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