Friday, April 20, 2007

Saudi Arabia, heaven or hell?

It's been almost three months for me now in Saudi Arabia. And I can tell you it's not bad at all, Thank God. I have decided that I will be using this blog to tell people more about Saudi Arabia, and try as much as I can to prove the stereotypes, that we hear and come to unintentionally believe, wrong.

I will start by saying that no place is perfect. Just as no one is. So as we start weighing the good and bad of Saudi, we should not be comparing it to the perfect image we have in our minds about the place we would wish to live in, which might most resemble heaven.

Saudi Arabia is a place of a special culture that is initially derived from Islam, from the fact that Saudi Arabia was the land in which Islam was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), and from being, up till the very moment, the land the hosts Al Kabaa and the mosque of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) among many other holy places.

Saudi Arabia is mostly accused for being too conservative, where women are almost "jailed" in their houses. I don't deny that KSA is a conservative country, where they TRY to abide by Islam to the pieces. I agree as well that some of their "traditions" are not purely Islamic; an example of this is forbidding women from driving. This contradiction here is not a fault of Islam. It comes from the fact that there are 2 sources that dictates the traditions, habits and behaviors here. These two sources are the religion, and the inherited culture of the Saudis. What happens that while we TRY to abide by Islam we mix it up with what the culture dictates. And here comes the contradiction and the confusion.

Here in KSA, (and I am talking about the current time not any time in the past as things are dramatically changing here) they don’t claim that it is an Islamic decision to forbid women from driving. But they know that for the time being, this is the best to be done. Why? Because this law has been stated long time ago, so drivers are not at all used to the idea of a woman driving. Hence, in meantime, it would be a dangerous decision to allow women to drive as they will be attacked and pushed to accidents by other drivers (bear in mind what crazy drivers they are). Therefore, since great changes in culture and mindsets can not be achieved overnight, a transition period is needed, until minds are shifted and it becomes socially acceptable,. This is not to say that the as-is situation is perfect. I am just trying here to make things a bit clearer about the reasons why things happen the way they do.

I still have so many things I would like to discuss and much more positive aspects of the KSA. But it will become a very long post and might turn into a boring one. So I will cut it into multiple ones. Hopefully the next one will include some pictures.

In the upcoming posts, I intend to speak about the "Abaya", things you can do in KSA, faces of technology that is applied to make life easier, women's work and many more. To make this a comprehensive exercise, I will as well speak about the weak points that can make your life miserable.

The one point that I will try to remind you about in this series of posts is that no place is perfect. And wherever you come from, you were not in heaven. You were in another place which yet has its pros and cons. And since you left it and decided to live in KSA, then it's because you have seen that at least for the time being, and in one or more aspects, KSA is better for you than any other place you could be in.