A recent article in the Saudi Gazette discusses the challenges and dismay felt by single Saudi men in the Kingdom. According to the article, single men encounter difficulty in finding a suitable apartment to rent. If an apartment building hosts families, realtors and landlords are reluctant to rent to a single Saudi male fearing there can be negative repercussions. The single Saudi men also speak out on the discrimination against them in that they are prohibited from entering the large and luxurious shopping malls which about in the Kingdom as these malls are for women and/or families.
So are the Saudi single men discriminated against in their own country? In my personal view they are in some ways. It is true that many apartment buildings will not rent to a single Saudi male yet will rent to a single expatriate male. Single Saudi men are prohibited from entering most shopping malls but many malls will make an exception and allow entry to single Western men.
Why are there these distinctions? Those from Saudi’s conservative and traditional families believe that single men can pose a threat to families and especially to the young women in a family.
The fears of the family remind me of a conversation I had several years ago with a single American male who was living in a residential apartment building in Riyadh. Like most apartments, the building was equipped with elevators. Few residents used the stairs. He told me how scared he was one day when he was in the elevator by himself going down to the lobby of the building when it stopped at another floor. A single Saudi woman got on the elevator with him. Without conscious thought, he pressed the open door button as the doors were starting to close and exited from the elevator. He had fears of being observed in the lobby coming out of the elevator with only himself and a single Saudi woman. He did not want anyone to have a wrong and very incorrect impression. In respect to the conservative nature and culture of Saudi Arabia, I think he made the right move. Would a single Saudi man have done the same thing in this particular situation? It’s good food for thought but certainly illustrates how an innocent encounter can have underlying ramifications for both the man and the women.
Interesting the article also sites that there are limited entertainment venues for single Saudi men. I beg to differ and think that this applies across the board to both men and women. I feel that there are more men-only restaurants and eateries than those which accommodate women and/or families. Men’s fitness centers and sports clubs also far outnumber those which cater to women. Men can also rent or own estrahas in the desert or city suburbs which allow them a place to gather where they can play cards, watch tv, listen to music, chat and be socially active. Women, on the other hand, tend to gather at one another’s homes or perhaps meet up at a mall or a family restaurant.
Personally I think that more entertainment venues would be a good investment in the Kingdom. There should be mini-golf courses, batting cages, go-karts, Saudi’s own version of NASCAR. I am optimistic that more activity options will open up in the Kingdom; it’s simply a matter of timing.
But coming back to the point of the article, what is your view? Are Saudi single men not trustworthy enough to have more privileges? If this is the case, how does this impression get changed? American Bedu would like to hear the views of Saudi men and expat men in the Kingdom.
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