Sunday, April 13, 2008

more about life in riyadh

I just talked with J. When he called he'd just returned to the hotel from eating dinner with the top manager of the rep company he works with in Saudi. This top manager is Saudi and the conversation was pleasant, but cool. The Egyptian managers and sales reps he'd been hanging out with were more fun. They were more interested in getting to know J personally, whereas the Saudi manager was concerned with creating a good impression.

Here are a few more things the Egyptians told him about life in Riyadh (here is the first post on this topic):

J asked where all the women were as he never saw any on the street. "At the mall, of course," was the reply. J got to go to the mall today. It was very high end and yes, there were a lot of women. Many of them were not wearing the face veil, and some didn't even have their hair covered. The Egyptians told him it is more common in poorer areas that the women veil their faces. They emphasized that many of the customs associated with women in Saudi are customs, not rules, and they have nothing to do with Islam.

J asked how their wives liked living there. Seems they don't. One man, a Tunisian, replied, "The first six months were hell." His wife was very, very unhappy with her lack of freedom. Then she found a job at a school near their home and now she is fine. The other men said that their wives do not like it much either.

When J asked the Egyptians what they dislike about living in Riyadh, they said there are two things. First, the lack of freedom, and it seems by this they meant the lack of cultural offerings like going to the movies, for example. There are no movie theaters in Riyadh. The second thing they dislike is that they "feel like slaves." This has more to do with their job situation. Compensation is based on what nationality you are. An entry-level Saudi engineer makes three times what an Egyptian would be paid for the same job. An Indian is paid less. Once you enter the country, you are not allowed to change jobs and there is no way to progress in your job. They are staying there to save money. Everyone J talked with is building a home back in their own country, and they do plan to return as soon as finances permit.

When J was in Turkey, he found that the Muslims were not very observant. On finding out that he was from Mexico, everyone said, "Tequila!" They are big Tequila fans. I asked J if these Egyptians living in Saudi also resented not being able to drink alcohol. It seems that they don't, in fact they see the liquor ban as very positive. They said that drinking alcohol makes you behave like an animal.

J found that he had a lot in common with them when they talked about religion. He couldn't find many areas in which they disagree. Did you know that Muslims believe in the Millenium and that Jesus Christ will usher it in when he returns to the earth? J just finished reading the Koran and he found it very similar to our Doctrine and Covenants.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Saudi Arabia is one of the most interesting places that J has been so far. The city looks really smoggy in the pics, is it? How stange to have a city with a liquor ban. I'll be interested to hear more, especially about the religion. I find it unsettling yet fascinating about the parallels between the world religions.
ave

Mama Ava said...

Cairo was not nearly so limiting with their faith--it was quite modern. My dad worked in Riyadh in the 70s and they were very limited in being able to go off the compound.

I know that they have very strong laws on censorship as well. And I think I read that they also don't allow tourism--the only way to go is to be on business (or I suppose visiting family). A number of people at our school have worked in Qatar, Kuwait, etc. and have very interesting stories about managing life in a culture that is so heavily influenced by their theology.

Auntie Lee said...

I have lots of Iranian friends here. They are here because after the revolution their lives were impossible. Women could no longer walk down the streets without a chaperon.
I think some of the reasons Muslims are so disliked here is first, their numbers have risen so fast that people feel strange seeing so many veiled women walking around. Secondly, they very much stick to themselves, even the 2nd and 3rd generation. As a half foreigner Paris can easily hang with the 'Allochtone' kids - even though he's white. He says they are much more easy going and open and friendly than 'whites' but he doesn't like the super macho behavior the men have and the girls never hang with the boys. Even the 2nd and 3rd generations (Egyptian, Turks and Moroccans) have a huge space between girls and boys. Thirdly, generally speaking they are from lower class families and have come here for economic reasons so you get the more conservative families who fill the more manual jobs. The back side of this is that they don't make sure their kids get into higher schools but vocational schools. In north African countries trades are still respected jobs but here if you have a trade it is not respected at all so the next generations get in trouble a lot because they feel they have a lower place in society (and in work they do). The North Africans tend to let their boys and teens hang outside until late at night on the streets which is a culture clash, especially in the cities. And of course there are the regular stories on the news of female genital mutilation, honor killings and yet another radical Muslim cleric that really gets the white population wound up. In a country of only 17 million people and little or no crime, those stories are often the only 'crime' story on the news.
The story on TV this past week is evidently many 2nd generation boys are being married off to girls from the 'home' countries because the 2nd generation girls are too western and modern. Parents want a 'good' girl and not Muslim girls that have been 'ruined' by the western culture. Story was first brought to light because these girls are new immigrants with little or no education. They don't know the language and the government pays the bills to get them integrated. Being isolated in a new country with only in-laws as family they are all set for physical and emotional abuse with no place to turn. When they do get help it is again the government that pays the bill.
Its my experience that the Turks are the most modern and metropolitan of the various groups. The Turks have the businesses and women work beside the men. They are very friendly to me but only to a point. They have also been the easiest for me to get along with (not to mention the great food...yum yum).
Most Muslims have never heard of Jesus Christ and those who have only mention him to get brownie points with a Christian. In my experience the Egyptians do that the most. They seem to want to impress 'westerners' and impress those in the east as well. Sort of a two faced thing going on.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything wrong with banning alchoholic products, it makes sense too. Alchohol affects mind and body in unpleasent ways and there's a chance that you're liver might explode from drinking it.


That's so cool that you get to live there.


i'd really love too, i could visit Makkah and Madinah and go on Hajj!



there isn't anything wrong with covering your face for ladies (why do people think that ladies who wear Hijab need to be 'freed')


I mean if ladies cover their body with loose, modest, islamic clothing then men don't look at them. In new york and chicago, ladies carry cans of pepperspray so that they don't get harassed by others (mainly men). lots of problems could be solved just b covering up properly.


i guess i said this because i'm a muslim girl, and that's what i believe.

once someone asked me whether i was a terrorist just because i look differant (i'm not Arab, if that's what your thinking, but i'm not 'white' either). and people ask weird questions just because i wear a hijab (no way am i quitting!)

Anonymous said...

The story on TV this past week is evidently many 2nd generation boys are being married off to girls from the 'home' countries because the 2nd generation girls are too western and modern. Parents want a 'good' girl and not Muslim girls that have been 'ruined' by the western culture. Story was first brought to light because these girls are new immigrants with little or no education. They don't know the language and the government pays the bills to get them integrated. Being isolated in a new country with only in-laws as family they are all set for physical and emotional abuse with no place to turn. When they do get help it is again the government that pays the bill."



by 'ruined', they mean like they wear revealing clothes, drink, smoke, or have boyfreinds. that also means they just don't follow islamic rules