Saudi Arabia: Fueling Riyadh Road Rage

One could easily fill many pages of a book about driving in Riyadh.  I’ll start with sharing an experience my spouse and I had the other night during a vehicular encounter with some Riyadh youth.  We were driving on a quiet residential street trying to avoid pulling out on the busy streets with congested traffic.  The street we were on was a two way street with large villas on either side of the road.  As we were driving, we had to come to a stop for two cars were idling facing opposite directions.  The drivers were casually chatting with one another.  Both were late model cars with darkened windows yet we could hear the rap music emanating from both vehicles.  My spouse gently tapped on the horn to let them know we wished to get by.  Instead of one moving so we could get around both cars revved their engines and the car facing us put on his bright lights.  Immediately thereafter another car came from behind and created a three-way impasse with three cars of over-testeroned Saudi youth blocking the entire street.  And still, no other cars in sight on this quiet residential street.

My spouse tapped again on the horn plus made a gesture for (one of them) to move.  Instead they chose to rev up their engines and make their music louder.  I was beginning to feel like we were in the midst of a ‘Tash ma Tash’ episode.  My spouse turned to me and remarked “make sure you keep your hair covered.  I don’t want these youth to notice you’re a westerner.”

My spouse chose to remain in the car and wait them out.  They continued chatting, revving their engines and playing their music for nearly five minutes before making way so we could go through.

As we passed by, my spouse remarked that one thing which has stood out to him in regards to changes during the ten years he spent outside of the Kingdom was coming back in to the new (and disrespectful) attitude of Saudi youth.  We attributed this behavior to the lack of outlets for Saudi youths to engage and use of their restless energy


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36 Responses

  1. Carol,

    Your husband is a wise man in how he managed that situation. I think I would have busted their boom box along with their ear drums. Or at least I would have attempted to 🙂. I guess that is a good reason why I should continue living in the US.

    I do not think the issue is lack of outlets. Saudi youth have many more options today than your husband and I experienced when we grew up. We did not have TV that you can watch (only the Saudi Channel), no video games, athletic clubs were a joke, cafe’s and restaurants were few, etc. Yet our generation did not have these issues.

    I think there is a basic lack of the following:

    – An effective police force that can have a direct impact on violators. The Religious police is not capable of handling this problem and they take the wrong approach to it.
    – Focus on responsibility in the home. Many of the kids are basically spoiled.
    – Providing good role models. I think with people moving to large homes in suburban areas, there is no sense of community. We grew up in communities where there was always continuity between the older generations and the new ones.

  2. Saudi in US – very good points. I’m sorry to say this but overall I am saddened by what I see in the 16-25 year old generation here. Role models and responsibility seem to be the two areas where there are the widest gaps.

  3. AA- Carol,

    Why didn’t you guys honk until they moved? I would have kept the horn and high beams going until they moved? And if that didn’t work, I would have gotten out and started yelling at them in English. As disrespectful as these Saudi youth may be, they haven’t taken up street crime and thuggery, so personal safety is never a concern of mine. On the other hand, I would never challenge a group of American youth in a similar fashion…

    And why was your husband afraid they would recognize you as Western? Surely they weren’t the type who would target/harm Westerners, right?

  4. Salam Alaikum Naeem,

    My husband is conservative and wishes to avoid confrontations. Based on what he has seen of the youth here, he did not feel assured they would respect authority or become even more unruly.


  5. Are Saudi kids as spoiled as Emirati kids? Taxi drivers here loathe taking emirati teens anywhere as they have the worst attitudes… I blame poor discipline (as can be seen by parents slapping the faces of 3+ year old children in the middle of malls) and being spoilt.

  6. Recently come across your blog… really interested in exploring it further insha’Allah… seems to be of high-quality, rather than useless text. But back to the subject at hand… I’m discussed driving habits in the Kingdom and Saudi youth over at my blog several times… it’s really a sad thing.

    And for the youth to have behaved in such an immature (Gangster wannabe) way, truly is pathetic. I agree with “Saudi In the US” on the lack of enforcement, however I do believe that the Religious Police could potentially play a really supportive role in dealing with the problem through education and advice (if done properly like he said).

    But in the end… whether it’s through schools, at home, in the work environment… education education education is key…

    Naeem, you here too bro? hehe… about why her husband made a point of concealing her “Western” identity was wise… like Carol said regarding her husband’s judgment of the circumstances… it was the right thing to do…

    Again I’m really excited about stumbling across this blog… will be looking forward to reading more from you insha’Allah…


  7. Yes, Ryan. I believe Saudi kids are spoiled like Emariti kids.

    Ali – welcome! I will have to check out your blog! I appreciate your comments and I do try to provide useful information without going on a tangent about something (inshallah)!

    Best Regards,

  8. Carol,

    Your hubby has a great amount of self control. What I would have done would have depended who was in the car with me and what mood I was in.

    If the boys or my wife were in the car I would have acted as your hubby did. If it was just me……..well I cannot say I would have been so restrained.

    It probably would have been me with a tire iron in hand heading off to sort things out.

    I am not so old that a bit of my younger years doesnt roar from time to time! };>)

  9. My Latina temper would have had me out of that car boxing their ears. Your husband showed gentlemanly restraint….Ahhh boys!!!!!!!!!! Hope you guys don’t encounter that again! :^)

  10. Typical adolescent mindlessness! One wonders what goes on in their minds. Oops, apparently nada!

  11. Carol,

    Welcome to my neighborhood!!! I hate to put people in categories but we have these Bosnian boys that live in our area and what a bunch of immature, disrespectful snots they are!!! I would guess them to be 17-20 in age. There are about 10 of them plus the useless “friends” they have tagging around with them. Just a bunch of kids with too much time on their hands and nothing better to do. They have those low riding sports cars with the big loud mufflers on them and they don’t hesitate to let you know they’re coming or going and it doesn’t matter to them what time of the day or night it is!! At the end of our very short street is a park and they like to meet at it and hang out on the steps. We have a lot of very young, unsupervised kids running around in this neighborhood and I really worry for their safety as these “boys” like to race their cars down our street in forward and reverse at the highest speed they can go. I’ve called the security guard on a daily and nightly basis. He comes down and gives his little speech and leaves and then they just keep doing what they were doing. It’s sooo annoying!!! I’ve tried asking them nicely myself to slow down and watch for the little kids and I’ve even tried yelling but nothing works with them. Fortunately our yard has a fence around it with a lock and my children are not allowed out of it and I try to get them in and out of the car as quickly as I can when we need come or go. I’ve kindly tried to explain the situation to our board of directors and management but nothing is done. I’ve even suggested a few speed bumps to keep down the car speed but unfortunately I think it will take something bad to happen before anything is done. Anyway, to sum it up, I just think no matter where you live nowadays there just seems to be a terrible disrespect with the youth. I hate the thought of them being the generation I may have to depend on as I get older!!!

  12. Replace the country Saudi with Bahrain and you got the same problems…some of the worst driving I have ever seen…and no respect whatsoever when it comes to common road courtesy. The moment you have any kind of confrontation with a Bahraini(who seem to be oblivious of road safety) they immediately remind you that you are the guest and they are a native…and thus have no rights in their country…so you either take their harrassment and slurs and go on your way…or stick to your guns and call the traffic police…who might not see it your way in the end because many of them feel the same way too…your a guest so what gives you the right to complain?

    Your husband was wise to stay in the car…all it takes is for one of those boys to decide to show off to the others…for something possibly dangerous to happen.

  13. They may have made you wait, but you got your way through in the end.

    Commendable response by your spouse and although it is disrespectful behaviour by those youths, one can only feel sorry for them, to be so lost in an angry identity crisis and a desire to rebel against the “system” by such futile acts.

    I can say that the way you and your spouse reacted gave them a lesson in respect.

  14. BTW Carol, fantastic pictures on your Flickr page.

  15. Gud calm response by ur husband. but wudnt it have been better if he had called the police.. coz in jedda i faced something like this and called the police…their response was immediate and to good effect ;)….altho my preferred way in jedda wud hav been to call a few of my own friends to annoy them but i was wid my family at dat time so i didnt dare risk a fight

  16. btw i cant open ur flickr page :'( ….its blocked here in dubai

  17. thanks for all the comments. We discussed calling the police but actually given experiences so many others have had with the police we agreed it would not be worth it. For example, last week a friend was hit from behind and his car was damaged that he could not drive it. Of course the police were called. This accident involved all Saudis. The policeman came, stayed in his car, looked at the vehicles and without ever getting out of his car, wrote an accident report. He then mentioned for the two Saudi drivers (one of which was our friend) to come and collect them from him. Ironically he cited our friend and his vehicle as 100 per cent responsible for the accident even though he was the one who was hit from behind while idling at a red light!!! So much for the police…if a call for them to come does not seem terrorism related, they are not interested and do not care!

    With the youth these days, it is hard to judge what kind of reaction will happen…particularly when they are in a larger group and feeling rebellious.

    Thanks for the compliments about the flickr photos and sorry Samir that you cannot open it. Who would have thought it would get blocked in Dubai but not Saudi…is it your ISP?

  18. I think your husband showed great strength of character, and I think it was the right way to go. (Not that I wouldn’t have loved a video of Saudi in US bashing the brats and their boomboxes around a bit)
    Nice to have an effective policeforce about…
    Overhere it would take them 2 hours to arrive if they would bother anyway, and I’m sure by that time you could have moved on.

    I’ve looked at all your Flickr-photos! Excellent!

  19. Thanks, Aafke.

    Yeah…looks like we’re going to have to keep a close eye on Saudi in US when he comes for his KSA visit! (LOL)

    Glad you enjoyed the Flickr-photos. I’ll try to get some more added soon.

  20. Just keep your camera on you and place the pics on Flickr. 😀

  21. You know, I have a mobile with a camera but have no clue what one does with the pics once they are taken in regards to transferring them to a computer. Is there an easy way to do that?

  22. the easiest way is to buy a portable bluetooth connection and connect it thru the usb port. then u just have to transfer the pictures like a normal bluetooth connection.
    btw DONT buy the ones called “tijari”. they just work for a few weeks.

  23. Kids in America seem to be on a similar path, though I don’t know that there is a correlation between wealthier American kids and the lack of respect.

  24. Aafke/Carol,

    You bring up a good point. Every time I go to Saudi I am always escorted by 1 of my 2 younger brothers. There are multiple reasons including they do not trust my driving in the traffic jungle over there and the second is to keep me out of trouble 🙂.

    I have been known to walk to a rude person and give him a piece of my mind. I do think everybody should do that, when they can of course, as accepting bad behavior just serves to make it more common. Like Samir said the kids are still relatively harmless, but rather rude. Decent people should take the country back before the youth turn into true thugs.

  25. Saudi in US,
    i DONT thnk they r harmless; im sorry if i sounded like that…..things can get really rough wid them… one of my friends had a car accident in damman(hes pakistani) wid a few saudis…. he was arguing wid one of them and one of the other guys hit him in the back of his head with an iron rod….2 days in the hospital… the best way is to avoid a confrontation unless like carols hubby unless u kno dat if things get nasty sumbody will back u up (like wasta etc)

  26. Samir,

    I agree, I am not advocating violence. That is why I said when you can. In the situation Carol stated, it was 2 kids in an isolated neighborhood and I think they handled it wisely.

    However, I see a lot of people ignoring youth bad behavior even when they can address it. It takes a society to reject bad behavior to make things better. There are risks, but results only come when you take action. In any situation you should make full assessment of the risk factors of course, but that is never a guarantee.

    Last note: I do think the great majority of kids in Saudi are relatively harmless. When compared to what you can run into in the US. We are talking armed gangs here, but you rarely run into issues in the US unless you live in the wrong neighborhoods.

  27. good points Saudi in US. The gangs that I am aware of here seem to be like Bangladeshi gangs and more in the Batha area of Riyadh.

  28. The scene you describe is not that unfamiliar. It reminds me of the young people here in Australia. Young people from all walks of life and all backgrounds who behave so obnoxioulsy and think that their ‘thuggish” behaviour is cool.

    The issues at play are so numerous and is a worldwide affliction I believe. It’s the respect and the discipline and moral decay that is taking over and propogated by the TV, movies, internet, media, advertising. In this respect the world has become so small that young people all over the world are fed it to a certain degree.

    Saudi in US- I cannot agree more that the minute we see rudeness and such arrogance and bad behaviour that we should point it out and let the perpetrator know it is unacceptable. If everyone did that, I think we would see real change.

    Im very new to your blog Carol and Im truly fascinated by like in the Kingdom and how different it is to living in Australia but also the similarities. It highlights for me that people no matter where they from are still the same.

  29. Hi Shameema and welcome! I appreciate your comments and hope to hear more from you.

    Yes; I find that when I have shared certain aspects of Saudi life, they turn out to be pretty universal.

  30. Here in LA you get shot at on the freeway.
    Are shootings common the road over there?

  31. Thankfully shootings are not common with road rage as one hears about in the States and elsewhere. It seems here we just have over-aggressive youth with too many energy and not enough outlets to expend it on.

  32. It’s the same in Kuwait, and I cannot get used to it. I’ve analzyed with a couple friends.

    1. The system here tends to frustrate people, added with tempatures that sky rocket. That can lead to road rage.

    2. Where are the police? Definitely not enough, and if you’re a ”somebody” then you get off with a slight warning.

    3. A simple high school required drving program would help. Show the kids gory films of babies who die from these accidents, while implementing the correct driving rules. A mandatory program for one year.

    I had a Kuwaiti man get out of his car, and literally scream in my face for beeping at him for blocking the street. He cussed at me so badly (and told me to go home) I got scared. I don’t like confrontations, so I ignore a lot of bad driving.

    I’ve learned to pray a lot while driving. 🙂

  33. Excuse typos, I ran out of my favorite Starbucks coffee last night, and the orange/lemon herb tea did not give me my requisite caffeine rush.

    Oh, noted the flicker photos, very nice!

  34. You remind me VK of a project I did while working in Pakistan. It was to produce a documentary on the impact of teens and joy-riding where we started out with a scene of young teens driving recklessly in a car enjoying themselves. The scene fades to blackness but the audio continues with the sounds of a crash, crying, chaos and sirens. It then reopens to a funeral which segues to interviews with victims who have been in crashes and survived but now handicapped, the mothers, fathers and family members of those who lost loved ones in senseless crashes are interviewed, as are the peers of these youth. The police and medical staff are interviewed as well and statistics on the number of incidents are reported. I’ll stop here but I believe you get the gist. Now my question is, would such a documentary work at all in KSA?

  35. Dear All,

    Why in every street robbery and other street crimes only Saudi guys are involved?

    Why do the Saudi guys have to do all these acts?

    What is the new generation of Saudi youth lacking… for sure they are lacking attention, education and guidance from their parents..

  36. Sheikh,


    To begin with, I believe that it is guys involved in robberies and street crime as the women are prohibited from more freedom of movement. And on a deeper level, I also think that there are not enough outlets and opportunities for the youth; hence the desire/trend or whatever you wish to call it, to do such things as drifting, drag racing, etc. I agree that many are lacking attention, guidance and discipline from their parents.

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