Why Saudi Youth Take On Extreme Sports and the Government Remains Complacent?

There’s something I just do not quite understand here.  I’ve done recent posts on some of the Extreme Sports (drifting and sandal racing).  In these posts, I identified what these sports are but did not go beyond to discuss further ramifications.  I think that was an oversight on my part which needs to be corrected now.


Specifically what I find distressing is the venue in which these sports are carried out and “seemingly” allowed.  The youth participate in these sports on the open streets without any kind of proper safety measures.  I think that youth will be youth wherever they are and they will try extreme sports.  So why can the Kingdom not do what other countries have done by allowing extreme sports but in controlled environments where they are monitored properly?  For example, drifting is also popular among Japanese youth.  Therefore licensed companies are allowed to encourage the sport where drifting is done in proper places and with the right safety measures.  Japan also benefited economically as “drifting with oversight” also highlighted how durable and flexible Japanese cars are.


Regretably in Saudi, there seem to be only two reactions:  extreme sports do not exist and if participation is discovered in extreme sports, then the mindset is to punish everyone.  This is where the government has had its shortfalls of too many individuals in positions where they did not have either the competence or expertise for the position held.  So what happens?  They are not working in order to help the society improve and deal with issues.  Then when you add Ultra conservatives and their influence into the equation, it becomes an even bigger headache.


Accidents do happen in the sport. I am including 2 videos to show the comparison of the sport done right vs. Saudi style. The Japanese version is done on proper tracks design to minimize injuries, the spectators are out of harm’s way, cars with cages to protect the driver, and most importantly the drivers wear their seat belt and helmet. The Saudi version none of these safety precaution are taken. There result is fatality accidents in Saudi while the Japanese emphasis on safety produce minimal injuries in the case of accidents. Please, do not click on the second video if you do not like watching horrific accidents.


When will we start to see changes to this practice?  I wish I knew the answer to that.


38 Responses

  1. ” So why can the Kingdom not do what other countries have done by allowing extreme sports but in controlled environments where they are monitored properly?”

    …and while their at it, why don’t they pass out condoms in school and bing in a huge black replica of a male organ to demonstrate how to use it properly. I mean other countries do it. Why does Saudi have to do what other countries do in everything?

  2. I’d hardly compare a horrific accident in an unprepared vehicle on public roads affecting innocent bystanders to an intelligent education on anatomy and health.

    Actually, I take that back. Given the shock young women naturally endure by NOT knowing what to expect… and the well known (from everything I’ve researched) inappropriate actions of young men who aren’t educated to know better.. I’d say the DANGERS of a lack of protection and education in each of these cases are somewhat comparable.

    And Carol has a point that has nothing to do with trying to force something on another culture.. concern for the safety of the participants. Kids do incredibly stupid things because they think they’re invincible…it’s the job of the parents all the way up to the government to look out for their safety.

  3. It’s a sad fact that Saudi Arabia is top in the world for traffic fatalities which is not helped by the extreme sports they tend to practice out on public roads. Therefore finding alternative solutions should be brought out; particularly as it is highly unlikely that the youth will stop this antics.

    Andrea/Umm Adam – both of you might like to read an earlier post I did about Sex Education in Saudi Arabia which addresses the comments not related to the post here.

  4. to make it easier to find, here’s the link to the old post:


  5. umadam,

    “…and while their at it, why don’t they pass out condoms in school and bing in a huge black replica of a male organ to demonstrate how to use it properly. I mean other countries do it. Why does Saudi have to do what other countries do in everything?”

    Surely you know the difference, I hope! We do copy other countries in many things, since we do not invent much. The fact that you typed your message means we copied other countries in developing networks connected to the web. Same concept with sports, we built soccer stadiums and the like. Racing cars is not prohibited by Islam and the idea of finding positive ways for kids to compete while keeping them safe is a noble cause.

    In comparison the condom and male organ example has not passed the first hurdle of whether using such methods of education are religiously and culturally acceptable. That is what should be debated first.

    Copying solutions from other countries or cultures is not a bad thing. It produces efficiencies as you do not have to reinvent the wheel per say. What can be problematic is blind copying without examining morality and fit to the culture.

  6. it takes one courageous saudi with the necessary courage, influence, will power and ability to allow such extreme sports to flourish in a controlled environment where the youths are able to take part in such sports.

    on sex education, its time that mindsets start changing. why not infuse elements of religion and common sense in sex education? it pleases the conservatives and that it teaches everyone on the pitfalls of unprotected sex, sexually transmitted diseases and the unintended consequences. certain suras and historical anecdotes can be included as part of the lesson.

    the downside is that some youths will engage in protected sex with their partners based on the reasoning that it prevents unwanted pregnancy and STDs. that could rile the conservatives even more by demanding such knowledge be removed from the curriculum. some teachers might even be embarrassed to teach such stuffs and that the youths are more reliant on the internet instead.

    also there should be a more open interaction between teachers and students on such sensitive topics. mindset should change and that knowledge is obtained through reliable sources.

  7. PLEASE — I would appreciate keeping the comments on track with the subject of the post and not have the post hijacked. I provided a link where it is more appropriate to share views on the topic of sex education.

  8. The Bahrain authorities opened up the BIC to the general public for the purpose of racing etc…to try and get that practice off the streets. They have helped to cut it down quite alot…but most people who speed and just drive dangerously arent in the mood to go race somewhere safe…they just want to get to where they are going as quickly as possible and to hell with anyone else and safety.

    As far as “youths” as you say…(Ive seen some fairly older men do this too)…doing this on the street…its one of many ways men have concluded that their masculinity can be adequately displayed for all to see and admire. Take away the strutting peacock syndrome inherent in all male life forms…and youve got the problem half solved…lol.

  9. I agree CoolRed that the “Male Showing Off his Testosterone Syndrome” will continue but at the same time at least making the effort with controlled facilities is necessary. Glad to hear that Bahrain has made that effort.

  10. I can associate the number of vehicle fatalities to lack of appropriate transportation infrastructure.. In Saudi, you almost def either travel by Cars or Airplanes, but the Trains/metro services are almost non existent apart from the train route in the Eastern coast. For a long while now, I expressed to some friends how I wish I can just take a train from the East coast to Taif or Aseer on a weekend..a bullet train that would take the trip in like 4 hours.. check into a resort with some mates who relocated to the west coast.. and enjoy our time for a couple of days.

    Now, extreme sports.. I personally wish that sports in general (other than soccer) gets more attention.. the obesity rate is going up like all other parts of the world.. but we lag behind by epochs in sports and recreation. Now Extreme sports have been regulated in a lot of different places, remember though that Saudi social policy is usually influenced by conservatives from Najd area. I would personally get the guy who handled graffiti controversy in Jeddah a say in regulating extreme sports… instead of taking a group of three accused youngsters into the slammer, he actually picked up the phone and talked to them before pursuing them. Both parties found out that the landmark vandalism wasn’t their doing. As those kids expressed that they once was tempted but they did not cause they respected the city landmarks. I was amazed later on to see those kids on TV, talking about the whole situation, thanking the official who called them up and negotiated with them, who was even called by the show and explained the City’s approval of creating park area with walls erricted for graffiti.

  11. Great comments and food for thought, DW.

  12. @ Umm adam
    Get a grip. How is finding a secure way for guys to compete in a sport the same as providing sex education?!

    I know that part of the problem is that these guys have no creative outlets and nothing better to do, but I also agree with Coolred – that generally guys who speed don’t really care about safety and might not be in the mood to go race somewhere safe. So the solution may not be as simple as to either provide them with better things to do or making racing tracks. But how do you change a reckless mindset? :-S

  13. I want to take another approach to this discussion.

    Today the kids that race these cars really do not do much as far as modifying them. However, if you turn this into a competitive sport with rules and a scoring system, it will require efficiencies in design and engineering of the cars. This also presents an educational opportunity and even developing new fields of work.

  14. It is interesting Saudi in US, I really hope that such opportunities develop, I work in Recruitment in Eastern region.. However in my recruitment scope there isn’t anything suitable for people with vehicle high school diplomas or associate diplomas from the Technical college. I do often see them applying and they really need better job opportunities. Such fields would open a new field for them.

    American Bedu, thank you for your support, even though some Saudis don’t realize it when you raise a controversial subject. But fact is, we lack discussion about them. We just can’t keep ignoring the stuffed elephants in our rooms.

  15. Very good point and alternative approach to the discussion, Saudi in US.

  16. Thank you DW and happy to have your comments here.

  17. My point was that I felt Carol was grabbing at straws, by suggesting that the Government establish places for ‘extreme sports’. Why put the responsibility on the Government? In most countries this is taken up by the private sector. Be that as it may, this is Saudi and I do not see it as a Government responsibility to endorse ‘extreme sports’. It’s a waste of time and money.

    By the way the two examples make my point fine. Which is that just because people are doing something does not mean that it need be endorsed and at the governments expense. Where do we draw the line? American cities are full of gang violence. Innocent by standers get shot and killed on a daily basis, perhaps the American Government should open a shooting range where the american youth can find a place to safely practice their shooting skills. Why stop there? This facility might also want to give them a special war zone to ensure the safety of regular civilians. but hey, I’m American…let a Saudi suggest that they open Quran schools all throughout America to solve this problem and see how silly that sounds. Would not the American people scream about Saudis trying to impose their values on the American people?

    Saudi is not perfect no place is but this is getting ridiclous searching for every fault to discuss all in the name of so called constructive critism.

    The real problem as I see it can be found in the following hadeeth:
    The Messenger of Allah said: “The Satan has been disappointed that he would not be worshipped in the Arabian Peninsula, but he has not been disappointed from kindling the fire of fighting among the people.” (Muslim)

    Saudi Arabian is a land based on Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism), so instead of wasting time trying to get the people to worship other than Allah, he tries to get the people riled up over lesser matters…anything to have enimity.

  18. There are shooting ranges all over the country. And we’re not “full” of gang violence, I for one have never seen it, or drugs being sold (in school, at clubs or anywhere), and I’ve only seen 1 prostitute. Ever. And no, it wasn’t me.

    This discussion is about protecting Saudi youth, not forcing them to become Americanized. What a nightmare that would be. Aren’t people happier in Denmark or something.

    Carol, what does Denmark say about drifting? lol ;->

    whee.. i’m going to go read about s_x now! (sorry for hijacking Carol…)

  19. Another very relevant post on the wide range of topics that is the life of the Kingdom. Thanks for raising the issue – it needs to be acknowledged first, and then thoughtful people can propose corrective action.

    Ironically I became dramatically aware of this issue about two weeks ago, when I was sent a video clip entitled “saudi”. It was sent to 50 or so people, in general expats who had worked in the Kingdom. The motivation behind it was to ridicule – as in, how bizarre these people are. I did respond to one of the 50 on the list, reminding him that similar, but less dramatic problems exist in American society. Specifically, about once a year some kid from my son’s former high school dies in a traffic accident, often the result of very high speed driving in the city, sometimes hitting a wall at 100 mph. There is also a “cat and mouse” game with the police, whereby youth try to drag race on a nearby street. And people of a certain age, like mine, remember movies involving the American icon, James Dean. In one, there was the game of “chicken”, two cars racing at each other at high speed, and who veered off first was “chicken.” In a variation, James Dean went over a cliff, and died because he could not get the strap of his leather jacket off the door handle. I will e-mail you the “saudi” clip, for consideration for posting. More so than even the one you have posted, it shows the dramatic death of two Saudi youths – for me, it is something that SHOULD be viewed, to disturb, AND to serve as a catalyst for corrective action.

    I don’t care for the false dichotomy of “government” vs. “private action.” I believe it should be society as a whole, which is government officials as well as concerned citizens that should realize there is a problem, and take constructive action to resolve it. Clearly this problem IS worse in the Kingdom – hundreds gather on public streets to witness this, yet no authorities intervene to stop it.

    As an example of actions that DO change societal behavior, I recall the campaign to get drivers to wear their seat belts. The period, roughly, was 2001-02. In general, expats- at least western ones – did wear their seat belts – it was a campaign by Saudi authorities to have the Saudis wear one. The campaign seemed slow at the time – policeman standing at traffic lights, reminding people to wear the belts – maybe three months of this, before tickets were issued. But it was quite effective. In my impressionistic sample, I felt that only 10% of Saudis wore the belt prior to the campaign, at the end, 90%.

    Effective campaigns involve the “carrot and the stick” – encouragement and disciplinary action. There could be “testimonials” from the family members who lost a son in one of these incidents; testimonials from the participants themselves who survived, but are permanently maimed. (There was an excellent documentary produced on the dangers of para-sailing – 10 or so youths, all in wheelchairs – for the rest of their lives – because they broke their spines on impact). Driver education in the USA usually involves a film of horrific wrecks, and mangled bodies – the film is designed to DISTURB. Trips to the morgue work also. (Going slightly off topic, the absolute lack of pictures of war casualties – by the Western media – is an effective technique to NOT disturb, and therefore maintain support for a war effort)

    That (predominately) male macho, “bullet proof” youth outlook needs to be given other outlets – you showed one, that is done in Japan, but there are numerous others – different sports for example, and alas, even para-sailing would be safer.

    And quite clearly the authorities KNOW this is occurring, and could stop it overnight if they so desired. Need we bring up the subject of “our friends” the mutawaa, prowling the malls checking for too much ankle – how much worse is the reckless disregard for human life, which should be offensive to any moral code, and any religion?

    – John Paul Jones

  20. […] The Saudi version none of these safety precaution are taken. The result is fatality accidents in Saudi.” Posted by Ayesha Saldanha  Print Version Share […]

  21. John Paul Jones et al, these are not novel ideas. What makes you all think that this is hush hush or swept under the rug? On MAJD TV (an Islamic satellite channel) I have seen documentaries like those you suggest and talk shows all discussing this dangerous pass time. Many of the things people have questioned on this blog and in other forums concerning societal ills are discussed in great lengths.

  22. I have always thought it a good idea if the stinking rich saudies would build a state-of-the-art racetrack, so all these bozo’s can crash their cars in a responsible manner.

    Considering the reputed exploits of the Saudis-Abroad, and the rise of STD’s in the kingdom, I’d think it would be an excellent idea to also explain to them the use of condoms, and explain why they are a good idea.

    If Saudies wouldn’t do what other countries do, that might not be nessecary of course, but saudi being as it is…

    oops, I’m unrelated to the post.. I’m commenting as I read. I’m not going to delete it all. But I will read everything first.

    I do not consider drifting an ”extreme”sport, as it doesn’t require anything very physical, like climbing difficult mountains without gear, just hanging on one finger, that is really extreme.
    Saudi style drifting is extreme in its stupidity and disregard for human life.

    I really liked the two videos, you could see how the Japanese track was made safe using simple means. Drifting ìs a sport, but quite a rare one, the only other country I know of where it is anything important is Japan.

    I don’t see why a circuit for drifting and racing couldn’t be succesfull? If you present it in an exciting ambiance? You might even have a segregated women’s part, so the men aren’t strutting their testosterone for nothing.
    And I have mentioned before; the kingdom could really get some international attention, and win some international prizes. I sometimes think there is so much negative media, but on the other hand, there isn’t much to report anyway, I think if they got their cars tuned up well, (and using all-saudi teams, not import specialists) they would get positive media about the country as well.

    there could be a whole new saudi industry growing up around car-sports.
    Tuning cars, videos and music, international competitions…
    I know cars is only one thing, and there are many other ways to profile your country, but some of these drifters are really good, why not direct it into a positive direction?

  23. Given that this is Saudi Arabia, nothing new or innovative is not going to happen without being sanctioned by the Family so in that context “government” will always be involved.

    Many of you have made so many valid points on why this extreme sport should be taken off the streets and how it can be transformed in a safer and economically viable event…make it into the “Nascar of Arabia” or something!

    Thanks for the all the comments thus far and I hope to see more.

  24. ummadam,

    “Saudi is not perfect no place is but this is getting ridiclous searching for every fault to discuss all in the name of so called constructive critism.”
    “On MAJD TV (an Islamic satellite channel) I have seen documentaries like those you suggest and talk shows all discussing this dangerous pass time.”

    These statements are contradictory. You seem to think any discussion has to be taken from a religious prospective, hence it is ok for MAJD TV to discuss it but not blogs. My opinion Carol has every right and I am grateful for her to open the topics for discussion.

    I do appreciate your comments ummadam, but I totally disagree that every issue has a solution for it in the religion. The religion provides us with a moral code, spiritual guidance, ect. But Allah also asked us to work on becoming better. Solutions that goes like “if we can only be more religious” just do not work. Saudi is the most religious place in the world, yet the problems keep increasing.

    Having an approach that outlines our moral guidance using Islam as a framework then applying modern methods for solving problems will definitely yield better solutions. We will not be violating our religious teaching, we will actually act like good Muslims that improve our societies.

  25. @Saudi In US
    the majd doc was similar to what john paul suggested…meaning threy had some of saudis best drifters on sharing their stories. some were in serious accidents and quit, some watched friends die, etc. there is nothing contradictory about my two statements.

  26. @Saudi In US
    “Having an approach that outlines our moral guidance using Islam as a framework then applying modern methods for solving problems will definitely yield better solutions. We will not be violating our religious teaching, we will actually act like good Muslims that improve our societies.

    I understand this, but I’m not sure if this is always the intent behind these discussions and Allah Knows Best.

  27. Oh.. geez.

    A discussion about public safety and education for children turns into an all out bitch fest demeaning the gravity of the situation?

    Sorry Ummadam, perhaps you should stay out of this if you can’t keep your mind on track. Your religious diatribe is well suited to mindless banter, but this discussion needs to occur, and the safety of the participants needs to be addressed.

    “Saudi Arabian is a land based on Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism), so instead of wasting time trying to get the people to worship other than Allah, he tries to get the people riled up over lesser matters…anything to have enimity”

    Thing is, you’re the only one here causing a ruckus.
    Are YOU the agent of Shaytaan?

  28. “I understand this, but I’m not sure if this is always the intent behind these discussions and Allah Knows Best.”

    Yes there is an intent and that is to improve our self. I hope you do not sit there and assume the worst in people. If you do then you lose any respect I have for you.

  29. Drifting wouldn’t be my favorite car sport, but the first video does show it can be done without having to cost lives. (or too many lives) A racing track should be opened, and it should coincide with street racing and drifting to be seriously banned on public roads, and with really hefty consequenses, impounding should be the lowest punishment.
    I think drifting is there to stay. I think it’s better to move it into a controlled, relatively safe environment instead of hoping it will just ”go away”

    And of course it is so popular because: There is Nothing To Do! There should be other outlets for having fun, and showing off, and get challenged, and compete, and be cool. But that’s more wishful thinking…

    I dó wonder about these excesses, as the ”authoroties are happy enough to round up anybody who speaks his mind and putting them into jail for months…

    Apparently speaking your own mind weighs a lot more than occasionally kill a few bystanders.
    Does anybody know what actually happens if your out-of-control-drifting car is responsible for killing a few people? I mean, does anything happen? Like arrests or what?

  30. In ummadam’s defense, her point originally was that “us” telling “them” what they should do shouldn’t always be the solution. And she gave a good (sorta) analogy about it being compared to sex ed (which I disagreed with) and THAT’S when sex came into the picture.

    She does have a point about letting the Saudi’s do what they want to do. State’s rights and all that. Although.. in that vein, I seem to remember it took a war to get the last “states rights” proponents to give up slavery, and none of us wants a war w/KSA..especially over stupid kids.

    No, “we” don’t have a right to TELL “them” what they have to/should do…but that doesn’t make the advice bad. Safety is the issue..religion never was.

    Contrary to the safety issue, although it’s sad kids die, I’m all for ANY form of population control. Mother nature tends to know what’s best..regardless of the country or the method.

  31. Aafke,

    “Does anybody know what actually happens if your out-of-control-drifting car is responsible for killing a few people? I mean, does anything happen? Like arrests or what?”

    Yes there are cases. The famous one is the case of Abu Kab, which John Burgess followed with a few articles on his blog.

    I think this was the latest

    You can find the rest doing a search of the blog. The man that was responsible for the death was given the death sentence, which was reduced later. It is a classic example of punishment alone does not produce the right results. Even the threat of the death plenty did not stop more kids from drifting and endangering others. Saudi needs to look at these problems with comprehensive solutions which includes punishment along with preventative measures like more policing and yes more outlets for young people to act young in a safe way.

    I was one of those who raced cars in the streets when I was young and stupid. And no amount of threat would have stopped me then, including having a couple of friends that died in car accidents. We all thought we were invincible. It is 30 years later and the problem just keep getting worse. Only education to guide kids to proper safe activities and having the right outlets can improve this. It is time to try something different.

  32. Fortunately I haven’t seen any drifting myself, but I have seen lots of crazy drivers here in Jeddah. There seems to be no traffic rules or enforcement at all. When we see a driver do something really dangerous or stupid, my husband looks at me and simply says “Now THIS is freedom!” And I am still shocked when every single day here I see babies bouncing around on their mom’s laps in the front seat and not buckled into a car seat!!! Saudi Arabia is WAY behind on keeping its citizens safe, in many aspects.

  33. I agree for the most part when “we” are visitors in a foreign country we should let the natives do their thing without trying to interfere in the Great Scheme of Things…but I disagree with that concept when the natives are intent on taking my life or those I love or completely innocent bystanders that I might know and love one day…all for the sake of excitement or out of boredom….you want excitement take up skydiving…ur bored…read a book…

    if you live in a particular spot…even if only temporarily…u should be able to have a say about what goes on…even if its just so much smoke in he wind…even if you are just labeled a “westerner” that wants to westernize everything…

    Even God tells us in the Quran…if you cant affect change by your hand…the do it with your mouth…and even thats impossible…do it with your heart (paraphrasing).

  34. I viewed the video from Abu Taza which shows 2 Saudi youths drifting and their car goes out of control. As the car goes out of control and flips the 2 youths are thrown from the car. One lands on the highway and the other to the side of the road. You hear the thuds. You see and hear their bodies break. It is intense and does have an impact. It is very graphic.

  35. I really want to understand something about middle eastern attitude towards safety and death. In the UAE, I have read statements from the police saying that most fatal accidents are caused by or involve young male Emirati’s. On the streets I notice more often than no that they are the ones speeding at the fastest speeds (excess of 200km/hr) and they are the ones flashing their lights at you and forcing you out of their way, dangerous weaving, jumping queues, etc.

    Do Emirati’s and, from the stories I’ve read about the roads in KSA, Saudi’s not care about death? Do they just say “Inshallah I will not die” and be done with safety side? Or is just the fact that they don’t realise how easy it is to die?

  36. I wish there were an easy understandable answer to your question Ryan. I do call the way many drive on the roadways here as “Inshallah (God willing) in action.”

    And now during Ramadan, be sure and avoid the roadways if at all possible just before iftar….the driving is even more crazy then if you can imagine.

  37. Americanbedu

    Crazy before iftar is hardly describing it…on the way home from work there are 4 traffic lights that i have to pass through…3 of them had car accidents …all within a mile of each other…all at roughly the same time. In one case a sedan type car hit a bus sufficiently hard enough to knock the bus over…how fast was he going to accomplish that?

    I dont know about the purpose or benefit of their Inshallahs….but I know mine is with heartfelt sincerity and utmost devotion when I utter it in hopes that I get home in one piece…I have kids waiting and depending on me…

    The amount of carnage on the roads on an absolutely daily basis seems to indicate only one thing…lack of concern for personal safety or the safety of others. Now how can an entire region of the world be afflicted with this horrible mindset…and I say entire because diatribes against the middle eastern standard of driving is a daily basis kind of thing too…for all middle eastern countries…so I just dont get it…why the complete and utter lack of concern for your safety when driving a vehicle? Who teaches this to “belief” to the future drivers of the middle east? Whose fault is it and how can we change it?

  38. Today I had some copious free time and on a lark went to youtube and search Saudi Arabia. There was one video which filmed an 80 car pile up on one of Saudis highways due to an unexpected sandstorm… and we were not talking about mere fender benders either. And of course there were dozens upon dozens of videos showing more Saudi drifting antics. One had kids in new luxury cars and there were drifting on Tahlia and King Abdulaziz Road. It’s weird to watch a dangerous video like that and know the area it is filmed in so well.

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