Saudi Arabia: The Arab Woman; The Muslim Country

Saudi Arabia:  The Arab Woman


American Bedu is choosing to reprint the following article which appeared on the website.  Saudi author, journalist and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider is well known for her support of women issues.  While the poem is referred to as a satirical poem, it is also brutally honest.


In a Satirical Poem, Saudi Author Laments Conditions in the Arab World

In a satirical poem titled “When,” posted on Arabic reformist websites including , reformist Saudi author and journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider lamented what she regards as the conditions in the Arab world. In the introduction to this poem, she wrote: “‘When’ is an ode to the troubles of the Arab citizen. Both men and women participated in its [writing], and it is still open to additions. This ode will be hung on the walls of the palaces of the Arab rulers, [1] so feel free to add you contributions.”

The following are excerpts from the poem:

“When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there is a mosque on every corner – you know that you are in an Arab country…

“When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

“When religion has control over science – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

“When clerics are referred to as ‘scholars’ – don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.

“When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and whom nobody is permitted to criticize – do not be too upset, you are in an Arab country.

“When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery – do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.

“When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but [see them] seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab high positions [in the government] – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When monarchies turn into theocracies, and republics into hybrids of monarchy and republic – do not be taken aback, you are in an Arab country.

“When you find that the members of parliament are nominated [by the ruler], or else that half of them are nominated and the other half have bought their seats through bribery… – you are in an Arab country…

“When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth, or less – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When you see that the authorities chop off a man’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread or a penny, but praise and glorify those who steal billions – do not be too surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When you are forced to worship the Creator in school and your teachers grade you for it – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country…

“When young women students are publicly flogged merely for exposing their eyes – you are in an Arab country…

“When a boy learns about menstruation and childbirth but not about his own [body] and [the changes] it undergoes in puberty – roll out your prayer mat and beseech Allah to help you deal with your crisis, for you are in an Arab country…

“When land is more important than human beings – you are in an Arab country…

“When covering the woman’s head is more important than financial and administrative corruption, embezzlement, and betrayal of the homeland – do not be astonished, you are in an Arab country…

“When minorities are persecuted and oppressed, and if they demand their rights, are accused of being a fifth column or a Trojan horse – be upset, you are in an Arab country…

“When women are [seen as] house ornaments which can be replaced at any time – bemoan your fate, you are in an Arab country.

“When birth control and family planning are perceived as a Western plot – place your trust in Allah, you are in an Arab country…

“When at any time, there can be a knock on your door and you will be dragged off and buried in a dark prison – you are in an Arab country…

“When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people – you can be certain that you are in an Arab country.”


[1] This is an allusion to the Seven Mu’allaqat, famous sixth century odes which, according to Arab legend, were hung in pre-Islamic times on the walls of the Qa’ba in Mecca.



Syria/World – Outrage and Injustice…

The following youtube video is footage from Syria which features family members of a dear friend of mine who have been captured for anti-government sentiments.  Please help spread the news of the plight of these individuals and pray for their safety and lives.


“This is a version with some English. They are stating that they have arrested these people because they want to overthrow the government. The family believes they are the Shabiha which are a pro-government militia. These people are not activists- they are not political in any way. A family member was allowed to see them and they reported being questioned about Majid’s activities speaking out against torture and violence against civilians.
  These people have done nothing wrong other than to be relatives of Majid.
  It is our hope that this will be recognized and they will be released.”

Names : Jawad Saadi, 17, cousin
Moyassar Saadi, 63, uncle




American Bedu Back in the Rabbit Hole

Dear Readers,


I apologize that there have not been daily posts for the past few days.  I hope to have them resume soon.  I had an unexpected hospital admission a few days ago.  I was discharged this past Sunday but am still slowly recovering.  I know if I attempted to write any posts right now they would be predominantly gibberish and I don’t want to put anyone through that!


While I am convalescing, I would appreciate feedback and suggestions for future topics on which I’d be happy to write about.



Saudi Arabia: Aura Distinct Furnishings and Style

Just like there can be an emphasis in America to ‘buy American,’ there are also places in Saudi Arabia where one can acquire goods made specifically for the Saudi market. Aura Furnishings, located in Riyadh’s Panoroma Mall, offers distinguished home furnishings and accessories for the home where one wants a distinctive Saudi feel.  

Aura is an independent home fashion retailer based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia  which was developed by the owners (who are Saudi) to create an independent, free-standing Saudi brand for Saudi customers. As I’m sure you know – the majority of furniture and accessory brands in KSA are franchises and brands – which leaves little opportunity for individual items or creativity.

Aura sells affordable aura-branded furniture and home accessories to individuals looking for a distinct style that blends the best of the West and the Middle East which are sourced by the small, passionate local team.   


Aura offers a 3 seasonal style collections are displayed as inspirational rooms that offer complete design solutions whilst simultaneously showcasing the flexibility of aura’s mix and match philosophy, all while being the ultimate in inexpensive home fashion. One of their 4 ranges is the iconic range – a collection of traditional Middle Eastern items such as dellahs and medkhanas, recreated in new colours and textures, bringing modernity to traditional items.














Saudi Arabia: Distinctions of Flying Saudi Airlines

I was asked whether there were any significant differences between flying Saudi Airlines as compared to any other international airline.  The question was asked in the context of using Saudi Airlines to fly internationally and not domestically within the Kingdom.

In a nutshell, the answer is yes, there are significant differences in flying Saudi Airlines.  First of all, prior to take off, in addition to the routine boarding announcements, there will also be a prayer or reading from the Qoran.  Secondly, on the long international flights, there are usually areas which have been reserved and used as men’s prayer area.  Last but certainly not least, Saudi Airlines will not provide any beverages or dishes which contain alcohol or pork products.  The entertainment choices will also be “G” or maybe “PG” rated but certainly not any selections which would have an “R” rating.   

In my opinion, the quality of the service was very good.  I never had any complaints while flying Saudi Airlines.  I liked how the food was served “trolley/family” style with all of the selections in large dishes and bowls.  The flight attendants would come down the aisle with the appetizing trolley and passengers could select whatever they wished.  Throughout the meal the flight attendants would continue up and down the aisles offering passengers the chance to replenish their plates if they wished.

Traveling in either business or first class, passengers received a comfortable sweat suit of pants and loose top along with regular sized products in an amenities bag.  Both socks and slippers were provided too.

The domestic flights were equally nice but sometimes more “hectic” than an international flight.  Due to the segregation which remains in practice within most of Saudi Arabia, it was typical for passengers to be “reshuffled” to avoid having an unrelated male and female sitting next to one another.  However, knowing that this was simply part of the culture of living in the Kingdom, I found it an easy adaptation.  My one critique would be how easily a passenger’s “confirmed” reservation could get cancelled on busy flights because someone with WASTA (influence and/or contacts) wanted to be on that flight and a passenger would get unceremoniously dumped in order to accommodate the “VIP.”

     I found Saudi flight attendants, and especially when flying domestic, to be very accommodating and patient to passengers flying with young children.  Saudi Airlines also gave out expansive entertainment bags for its young passengers.

Most of the times when I flew from Jeddah to Riyadh I would get feelings of homesickness.  The aircraft was typically a 747 which had arrived from Washington’s Dulles airport and after its first stop in Jeddah would continue on to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia: Not Belgium Truffles but Still Pretty Good!


I remember when traveling throughout the Kingdom, no matter what city or town I would find myself in, I continued to be amazed by the number of specialty chocolate shops there were.  I’m just speculating but I’d venture to say there are at least 8 chocolate shops in Saudi to one shop in the United States.  Additionally, the displays of the chocolates in Saudi Arabia are a piece of art work unto themselves.  

Not surprisingly, chocolates are among the most popular gifts when visiting others within the Kingdom.

As this Arab News article illustrates, chocolate buyers and chocolate connoisseurs in Saudi are fortunate to have a very wide selection of delectable’s from which to choose.  In addition to the widely known Swiss and Belgium chocolates, there are also chocolates from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany (milka), Turkey, Egypt and even from places within the Far East.  Saudi chocolate production has also become a popular and lucrative business.

The variety of chocolates may be pre-packaged in attractive boxes or a customer might also have the option to pick and choose from individual bins of chocolates.  In my own home, I enjoyed offering my guests  baskets of chocolates which contained a variety of types of the differing chocolates available.

I can attest that with such a wide variety available for sampling, the differing types of chocolate are clearly distinguishable.  The chocolates from Switzerland and Belgium are much creamier and richer than the chocolates from Turkey or Egypt for example.  I also believed that the chocolates from the United States and United Kingdom had more of a sugary taste as compared to some of the others.  Chocolates from the Far East seemed to have a coarser feel and less sweetness.  Yet to most of the children, chocolate was simply chocolate.

Saudi Arabia: Women Traveling Alone in Saudi


The Middle East Experience blog contained a useful article with travel tips for women are traveling in the Middle East.  I think the article gave good advice so I’ve chosen to share it with American Bedu readers.  The majority of the tips would apply for female travelers in Saudi Arabia but with some refinements based on the unique customs and traditions.

Before discussing the various tips cited in the article, it is important to point out that Saudi Arabia is not the typical Middle Eastern country where a foreign woman is going to travel to alone.  Anyone who enters in to the Kingdom must have a sponsor whether the purpose is work, business or family.  As a result, there are fewer single women who travel to Saudi Arabia by themselves and for a short duration.  However, exceptions to these rules can be business women who have been invited to the Kingdom for business consultations or to participate in an international conference or symposium.  Therefore, in this post of discussing travel tips for women in Saudi Arabia, the answers are oriented more for the woman who is traveling by herself to Saudi Arabia for a short duration rather than one is who traveling to relocate to the Kingdom for employment.

Tip number one of the article focuses on the recommendation to dress modestly.  This certainly applies to Saudi Arabia but with a slight twist.  Any women traveling in the Kingdom would be expected to wear an abaya when she is out in public places.  While a woman can wear virtually whatever she pleases underneath the abaya, I think the recommendations of loose and modest clothing as suggested in the article is good advice for a woman traveling alone in Saudi Arabia.

Tip number two to ignore harassment from men definitely applies to Saudi Arabia.  Since segregation of sexes is publicly enforced some men can become overly aggressive in attempts to make contact with a female.  A woman should ignore and not pick up any pieces of paper which may get thrown at her as she passes by.  These will likely contain name and phone number of men seeking encounters with women.  A woman should be careful if by herself in a crowded and traditional market place (souk) as these can be places where a man may attempt an opportunity to “cop a feel.”  While there are religious police (muttawa) whose job is to help prevent unpleasant encounters, if a woman does not speak good Arabic, it may not be to her advantage to seek out a muttawa for help against an aggressive man.  The best advice is to ignore him and leave the area.

Tip number three would not apply to Saudi Arabia.  Due to the segregation one will rarely see any attempts at public displays of affection (PDA).  However, this tip should serve as a reminder that it is prohibited for an unrelated male and female to be out together in a public venue.  An exception for the single woman is that some conferences and symposiums will organize private events which are not segregated.  While such an event allows for mixing of the sexes, PDA’s remain prohibited.

Tip number four to steer clear of men only hubs is absolutely correct.  A woman venturing into a men only domain is unlikely to receive a warm or positive welcome.  Men only domain include men only sections of restaurants, fast food joints, banks, medical centers and barber shops (advertised as salons or saloons).

Tip number five suggests check out women only venues.  This is a good suggestion for Saudi Arabia.  There are always multiple women only activities taking place each and every day in the Kingdom which offer shopping, entertaining and networking opportunities.  Some of the women only venues allow a woman to remove her abaya after arrival inside of the venue.

Tip number six pertains to shopping.  It is a general rule of thumb across the entire Middle East that bargaining is expected and especially if from a small or outdoor souk (market).  One can find a multitude of unique items perfect for gifts and souvenirs in Saudi Arabia.  With bargaining,it may be possible to get the asking price reduced by 50 per cent!

Don’t be afraid or hesitant to travel alone to Saudi Arabia if given the opportunity.  Just ensure to read up on the culture, customs and traditions prior to travel and to register your presence with the local embassy.



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