Saudi Arabia: Expatriates Should Not Take Advantage of Sympathy or Generosity

public laundry

valleygirltalk.com

 

There was a recent incident which took place in Jeddah.  A Pakistani couple claim they were accosted by a Saudi couple in a public place of business.  However, all anyone has to go on is the expatriate’s account of the incident.  We all know there are always two sides to every story.

The incident, from what the expatriate couple are stating, seemed to stem from an initial altercation between the Pakistani woman and a Saudi woman.  The altercation intensified and the husband’s became involved.

There have been no accounts from any witnesses of the incident.  Yet the incident as it was relayed evoked shock, outrage and sympathy for the Pakistani couple.  Senior officials from the place of business were made aware of the incident and contacted the Pakistani couple.  A well known English language daily in the Kingdom even carried an article about the incident with an apology to the Pakistani couple.

Yet since the incident has taken place, instead of responding with grace and a positive outlook, the Pakistani woman seems more intent on raising ire with Saudi nationals, expatriates in the Kingdom and her own homeland.

As a result, support and sympathy for the couple is dwindling.  The Pakistani woman even created a specific Facebook Page for further discussions about the incident and demand for change to occur within the Kingdom on Saudis attitudes of expatriates.

American Bedu was part of the Facebook Group but found herself unceremoniously removed from the group when declaring that what the Pakistani woman was now doing and saying was not appropriate.

I can live with being declared persona non grata of a Facebook Group.  But I will restate what I believe was sound advice to the Pakistani woman.  If one is dissatisfied with action or lack thereof from an incident in Saudi Arabia, do not continue to talk badly about your host country.  Even –if- (which is now questionable) she has a valid complaint, she remains a guest in the country.  Both she and her husband are under the sponsorship of a Saudi employer.  Secondly, it is not appropriate to post private correspondence between her and her country’s Consulate in a public Facebook Group.  In addition, although she is not satisfied with the response from the Consulate, she should not mock her country’s role in Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the Kingdom.

Okay, enough of what should not have been done.  Instead she should have filed a report with the manager at the place of business where the incident occurred.  The police should have been called immediately.  Statements should have been collected from witnesses.  She did notify her Consulate.  She did speak with senior officials at the place of business.  However, rather than complain and make a mockery of the positive that took place, she should instead have delivered a comprehensive –and realistic- action plan of what she wanted to see in the way of restitution and resolution.  Details of which should remain between her and the officials involved, rather than share in a “dissing” manner on a public Facebook Page.

It is American Bedu’s assessment based on her own years of experience that the Pakistani woman, more so than her husband, is enjoying her “15 minutes of global fame” and trying to prolong the attention to herself.  Instead of reaching a positive resolution her husband may very well receive unwanted pressure due to his wife’s inappropriate actions.

Wrongs can be righted but it must be done within the parameters of an established procedure.

Saudi Arabia: So Many Niqabs to Choose From!

 

I must first preface this post by stating that I rarely covered my head let alone wore a niqab while I was in Saudi Arabia.  There were only a few occasions when it was appropriate for me to wear a niqab.  I wore one but have to confess I did not like the feeling or what to me felt like obscured vision due to the niqab.  The reason that I am writing this particular post is in response to several queries I have had lately about the differing type of niqabs women may choose to wear in Saudi Arabia.  I am not an expert on the subject but will address it to the best of my ability.  I am really counting on those American Bedu readers who do wear the niqab to provide their comments on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

The niqab is the accessory which some Muslim women and many women within Saudi Arabia will choose to wear so that their entire face is covered from view with the exception of the eyes.

saudi niqab

blog.sunnahstyle.com

 

The most common style of niqab in Saudi Arabia and the one I wore when necessary is the niqab which covers the face and has a slit in the center for the eyes to show through.  This style of niqab did not necessarily come in a wide variety of sizes and as a result, the one I had fit poorly.  My eyelids and eyelashes would brush or rub against the eye slit and in turn irritated my eyes.  The niqab would either tie in the back around the hijab or in some cases you could secure it with Velcro strips.

newer niqab style

beduionprincess.blogspot

 

Another niqab which was rising in popularity prior to my 2009 departure from Saudi Arabia was the niqab which was worn from the nose down.  This particular niqab left the eyes unimpeded.  Some Saudi women will not wear this type of niqab seeing it as too progressive.  However, younger Saudi women and more open-minded Saudi women who still choose to wear a niqab prefer this version as it is more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.

beudion niqab

examiner.com

Some women and particularly Saudi beudoin women may prefer the niqab that has a fabric line which separates the eyes.  Needless to say, this niqab would need to fit well for it could be quite annoying if the eye divider did not fall as it should centered between the eyes.

While the traditional niqabs are black, some women are starting to wear niqabs that are in a different color or have some type of decoration or appliqué on them.

But as I stated in the beginning of this post, I need to rely on the experiences of American Bedu readers to share with others on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why, as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

Saudi Arabia: Living in Saudi Arabia Requires a Tougher Skin

tough skin required

eloquentwoman.blogspot.com

 

Whether one is an expatriate in Saudi Arabia or a foreigner married to a Saudi, to Saudis you are viewed as a guest in their country.  The majority of Saudis will go out of their way to be hospitable, kind and helpful to the guests.

I had multiple experiences of both Saudi men and women approaching me in grocery stores or department stores wanting to be helpful or simply practice their English.  I had approaches by both men and women and none in an inappropriate manner.  Saudi women were especially kind if I were in an abaya store or in a women’s formal store searching for a gown to wear to a wedding.   They wanted to assist in helping me find the perfect abaya or gown!

However, I also had a few of my own experiences which were not as welcoming.  One experience featured two women who were determined to jump ahead of me in the queue at a shoe store.  These women though were not aware I was not in the shoe store alone.  I was with Mama Moudy, my Saudi mother-in-law.  She let them know in no uncertain terms there actions were rude and uncalled for.  Both the women were quickly apologizing to me!

The bottom line though is both the good and bad experiences between expatriates and Saudis can go both ways.  Rather than risk a public altercation, it’s better to have thick skin and pay no mind when someone does something less than socially acceptable.  Expatriates are each individual Ambassadors of their respective countries and Saudis are also representatives of their country too.  We each choose what kind of impression we want to leave with one another.

Of course, if either an expatriate or a Saudi has taken an action that goes beyond just mere rudeness or sarcasm, the wronged party should seek restitution through the proper channels.  While doing so, an expatriate should also remember that Saudis have WASTA, meaning the ability to use influence or contacts.  That does not mean an expatriate who has been wronged can’t seek restitution, but the manner in which it is done must be in conformity with the culture.

If an expatriate chooses to go public about an incident and sites places, names, and individuals where a Saudi was in the wrong, that Saudi and/or its institution will lose face.  A point will have been made but maybe at the jeopardy of the expatriate, especially if the Saudi has WASTA.

If an expatriate goes public and states facts without identifying specific individuals or organizations but at the same time letting it be known that more specifics are available, this does give an opportunity of face saving and also setting things right in a more amicable and satisfactory fashion.

All expatriates in the Kingdom are sponsored by either an individual Saudi or a Saudi organization.  As a result, there is much more pressure on the expatriates to abide by the customs and traditions of the Kingdom.  And don’t forget, the expatriate is also the guest…but guests can be asked to leave.

Saudi Arabia: Hippocratic Oath – Ethical or Compassionate

hippocratic oath

americanrtl.org

 

The decision of a Saudi judge to order the surgical paralysis of a 24 year old Saudi man as retribution for an incident that occurred ten years ago has made global headlines.  The majority of the World is outraged by the inhumane decision of this judge.

At the same time, there is another case pending in Saudi courts where an accident victim wants to see the guilty party surgically paralyzed rather than accept the six million SAR she had been offered as retribution.  However, the Jeddah judge who heard this case deferred on a ruling and instead urged the woman to accept the “blood money.”

Not only do these two incidents raise questions on the authority and boundaries of Saudi judges but the issue goes beyond what is viewed as just in the case of an “eye for an eye.”

While one judge made a ruling which basically sanctioned the surgical paralysis of a human being, doesn’t such a directive contradict the international Hippocratic Oath taken by all physicians?

“The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly.  It requires a new physician to swear upon a number of healing gods that he will uphold a number of professional ethical standards.”

How could a doctor who has taken the oath to preserve life willingly agree to surgical paralyze an individual?

This also brings up questions about other practices which continue to take place in Saudi Arabia.  A thief may have his right hand removed.  Other charges may result in amputation of both a hand and a foot.  In cases of murder, narcotics, heinous crimes and even proselytizing, the penalty can be death by beheading.  In all of these cases, a physician is involved.  When the accused is expected to survive the punishment, such as an amputation, a physician will administer anesthesia and drugs to prevent infection.  In the case of an execution, the accused is administered drugs to not only dull the pain or reality of what is happening but to make the accused more docile when the act of beheading is carried out.

In such cases, would the physicians role be categorized as ethical or compassionate?

Saudi Arabia: Home Stay and Message to the Saudi Student

Homestay Outdoors

aussie-stays.com

 

The largest numbers ever of Saudi students are studying outside of the Kingdom at Universities around the world.  The students (and their spouse when applicable) receive not only funds for their tuition and books but they also receive a generous stipend which covers accommodations, cost of living and transport.  Some students choose to have their own apartment or rent a house, especially if they are married.  Others may choose to have a room in a “Home Stay.”

Saudi students come initially to the host country for English language training and post-secondary education.  They usually understand the English language better than they speak it.  Homestay offers the students an excellent opportunity to develop and practice their conversational skills, as well as to experience the culture of the host country in a friendly family setting.

Host families are expected to provide the students with reasonable daily requirements.  Each student should have a private room with adequate furnishings.  He/she should be treated as a member of the family, sharing meals and participating in the family’s routine and social activities.  The student should have reasonable access to all the household facilities.

In other words, the Saudi student is taken into the HOME of a family in the country where they have chosen to study.  This family opens up not only the doors of their home to the student but allows the student to enter into their life as well.  This is an HONOR and PRIVELEDGE to the student and an enriching experience providing insights into the host country that a student would not otherwise receive.  Most host families will do everything in their capacity to make the Saudi student feel welcomed.  It’s not unusual for a host family to have a prayer rug and Quran in the student’s room.  The host family usually wants to and is strongly encouraged to also learn about the customs and traditions of Saudi Arabia from the student.  It is an excellent exchange opportunity.

However, it is also expected that the student will abide by any house rules that his or her host have set in place.  The student is also expected to be mannerly, clean and polite.  The Saudi student needs to view their home stay as if they are staying with family and always show the family proper respect and courtesy.

Due to the increased number of Saudi students abroad and those who are utilizing a home stay option, there have been increased complaints about the attitude and manners of some Saudi students.

It is expected that home stay students will be responsible for the cleanliness of their room and wash room.  They may be asked to help out with setting or clearing the table or even doing dishes.  If they do their own cooking outside of family meal times, they are expected to clean up after themselves and leave the kitchen as it was before they prepared their meal.  If meals are usually eaten with the family, the student is expected to let the family know when he or she will be absent or late.  If a curfew is set, the student is to abide it.  A student should not have friends over and especially late at night without clearing it first with the home stay host.

Thompson Rivers University in Canada, which has Saudi students among their international students, has an excellent manual for the home stay host and the home stay student.  Australia hosts many Saudi students in home stays and compiled extensive findings from both the hosts and students to further improve home stay experiences.

Saudi students who disrespect their home stay family and disregard the house rules are creating a bad reputation and jeopardizing opportunities for future Saudi students to have a home stay experience.

Saudi Arabia/USA: On Hugs and Kisses

universal greetings

waggeneredstrom.com

I never noticed until being immune-suppressed how “touchy” a culture we have in America!  While we do respect personal space, think about what happens when a typical American meets someone new or is just greeting someone they know.  They shake hands, they hug, they kiss …. And they pat each other’s back!  Because I am immune-suppressed due to my cancer (I have a very low immune system which makes me extra susceptible to catching a cold or a virus) I am prohibited from the traditional contact.  When I go out to a public place I have to wear a face mask and sometimes gloves.  Ironically this still does not keep Americans away from wanting to hug and pat the back!

Whereas in Saudi Arabia, even when one is not battling an illness, there can remain a reserve and a no-man’s land or red line that is not crossed.  Men will shake hands with other men but probably not with other women.  Women will air kiss and then sometimes shake hands with other women.  There is not as much hugging as a greeting among either friends or strangers.

Why exactly do Americans like to hug and pat the backs of strangers?  If you don’t want that to happen to you, you don’t have to resort to wearing a mask or gloves, simply cross your arms over your chest when greeting someone.  This is a universal sign of greeting but without touch!

Saudi Arabia: War Zone or a Celebration?

Although it is not 100 per cent clear in the video, it is not unusual during the men’s wedding part y for the men to celebrate by shooting their weapons up in the air.  But what is somewhat unusual in this specific video is how many of the Saudi men have automatic weapons and how at least one of the men is wearing a vest for easy access to his weapons.

This is also an illuminating video in that it depicts the ease, quantity and type of automatic weapons that are available to Saudis within the Kingdom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vezR2dNg9xQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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