Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Twisted Reality that is Saudi Arabia

I’ve written many times about the confusing contradictions about living here in Saudi Arabia.  Things really haven’t gotten any better - except that women are now employed in sales positions around the country and we women are no longer required to purchase bras and panties from strange perverted men! - and life continues to be as confusing as ever. 

For example, right now, at least one young Saudi man, Bandar Al Swaid, has just spent his 4th night sitting in a jail cell.  His crime?  Following the worldwide feel-good peace and love craze of offering “Free Hugs” to total strangers.  Twenty-one year old Abdulrahman al-Khayyal was also arrested in the conspiracy.  The young men had the audacity to post a video of themselves holding a sign saying “Free Hug” and hugging three men in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh.  They were charged with “violating local laws and engaging in exotic practices.   In another incident, seven young men ranging in age from 16 to 20 were also arrested in Dhahran for carrying a sign that offered "Free Kisses."

While these cases might be considered by many to be the crimes of the century in Saudi Arabia, another Saudi man who posted a video of himself threatening the lives of women who might dare to drive in Saudi Arabia still walks free as a bird here.  Apparently threatening the lives of women here is of no concern to the authorities while giving out free hugs is taken much more seriously. 

Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia have come under attack for “taking jobs away from Saudis” in recent months, and many illegal workers have been deported back to their homelands.  Some of these foreign workers have lived and worked in KSA for decades, doing lowly jobs that most Saudis would never do that are considered beneath them.  Many workers from poorer countries are treated inhumanely, tolerate horrid living conditions, are not paid fair wages, and are even considered slaves in the eyes of many Saudi employers.  Very few are ever granted Saudi citizenship.  Workers’ rights in this country are pretty much non-existent.  Most labor disputes and issues go largely unreported because the outcomes are almost always settled in favor of the Saudi employer. 

However, a Saudi writer, Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan, wrote a controversial opinion piece published in the Arab News a few days ago called “Say No to Expats Calling for Saudi Citizenship.”  The 225 comments garnered by the article overwhelmingly disagreed with Al-Zuhayyan’s racist and degrading position.  While Al-Zuhayyan criticizes expat workers for failing to assimilate into Saudi society, the truth is that there is a barrier put up by Saudis preventing assimilation. He also failed to mention that many Saudis have a superiority attitude toward foreign laborers. 

Meanwhile, the women’s driving campaign continues to gain momentum with many women posting videos of themselves behind the wheel.  The campaign has attracted worldwide attention.  Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive and must depend on male drivers to take them places - this in a country with all male drivers and ranking among the highest traffic fatality records in the world.  

So what are the available options for women's transportation here?  Many affluent families have been able to bring in and hire foreign men as drivers for their women.  But now that many drivers have been deported, there is a shortage of drivers.  Other families frequently rely on underaged and unlicensed males in the family to drive the women around.  Some women must rely on taking taxis driven by strangers, but gender mixing is also disallowed in this country, so this is something that is allowed that I just don't get.  Many of the "drivers" brought into the country do not know how to drive, yet women like myself, who have driven safely in other countries for many years, are not permitted to get behind the wheel.  Somehow it is considered safer for a woman to get into a car driven by a little boy or an unrelated man who doesn’t know how to drive than to allow a woman to drive herself.   

At least I don't have to buy my panties from perverted men any more here…

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Entertainer

I used The Entertainer when we lived in the states and I was so delighted to discover that it is now a worldwide product that is available here in the Middle East as well.  Editions available in Saudi Arabia include Jeddah and Riyadh and the Eastern Province.  The book quickly pays for itself and offers brilliant discounts at a wide variety of restaurants and activities.   

For sports, pleasure and leisure, you can go diving in the Red Sea, live it up by ice skating or paintball, or try your hand at ceramics.  Select from an assortment of informal dining restaurants, cafes, or family eateries, or relish a special night out at one of The Entertainer's featured fine dining restaurants.    You can save on haircuts, beauty services, and day spas, or appreciate savings on an immense array of other services and products in your area or even when you travel. Plan your next getaway and choose from dozens of superb hotels all over the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. 

Still have doubts?  Check out The Entertainer's FREE TRIAL OFFER!  You won’t be sorry.

The Entertainer is an easy to use discount coupon book - now available in an even more convenient mobile format - that offers buy-one-get-one-free opportunities at many restaurants, hotels, and other types of businesses.  It is now available at a pre-sale 20% discount for the 2014 edition IF YOU ORDER BEFORE DECEMBER 5th. 

Find out more and discover why so many people LOVE The Entertainer!  Hurry and get yours today!

"Like" The Entertainer on Facebook.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Queen, but..."

Photo by:  Areej Adel Albagshy

I can't tell you how many times I have heard from Saudi men how spoiled women in Saudi Arabia are or how Saudi women are treated like queens.  It perturbs me.  On the one hand, yes - most Saudi women do not work outside the home and most have maids to do the housework and raise their kids.  Yes, many Saudi women have drivers and many routinely shop until they drop.

But on the other side of the coin is a much darker truth.  Women have drivers because they are not allowed to drive in this country.  You might think having a driver is luxurious and desirable, but waiting around for three hours for a driver to come and pick you up (as often happens) to take you back home in the wee hours of the morning is not luxurious or desirable.  Many times I have seen little boys - whose ages aren't even in the double digits - driving here, often with a carload of Saudi women in the back seat. 
Photo by:  Areej Adel Albagshy
Domestic violence is rampant here and largely unreported.  Abused women are most often returned directly to their abuser, who is also the woman's legal guardian all of her life.  Under the guardianship system, Saudi women have the legal status of children, unable to travel, marry, attend school, or even to seek medical attention in some cases without the consent of their guardians. 

Women at malls and other public places are also regularly harassed by Saudi men and for the most part, Saudi men continue to get away with this bad behavior.  What’s really annoying is that the blame is always placed on women, even though women are the ones who are being harassed.  But no matter what, in this society, it always seems to be the women’s fault.  

Recently it was announced that taking photos and videos in public might be prohibited because of privacy issues.  Because of all the instantaneous viral videos exposing bad behavior on the internet, apparently the Saudi government seems to wish to protect the abusers in these situations and would be, in fact, encouraging such abuse to continue and go unpunished. If this ban is enforced, it would mean that anyone videotaping and posting unacceptable behavior might run the risk of being imprisoned.

Photo by:  Areej Adel Albagshy
One young Saudi female photographer is bringing the plight of Saudi women to light in her own personal way.  Areej Albagshy recently presented her work in her first photo exhibition in the U.S. called “A Queen, but…”  This project highlights issues Saudi women face such as the driving problem, women’s rights, and domestic abuse through photography, stressing the irony of how Saudi women are viewed as queens in this society when the reality is quite different.

CLICK HERE for the link to Areej Albagshy's "A Queen, but..." photos.