Important Notice

It is not my intention to denigrate Saudi Arabia or its people. It’s like everywhere else, there is good and there is bad. I would rather focus on the unusual and the humourous. Offence is not intended.

“The country is not perfect. The media cannot be trusted, mistreatment of religious minorities is common and there are some that live in fear.” You can decide for yourself whether that statement is about Saudi Arabia, the UK, or any country for that matter.

To quote the Joker, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

That is all I will say about either subject.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Margrave In Dubai

Did I say wow?
Just… well, wow.
What an amazing place. What a great melting pot of people and cultures. It's like Singapore on steroids.
The amount of construction is astonishing. It's amazing what you can get done with slave labour these days.
Slave labour? Well there's plenty of anecdotal evidence (and not just in Dubai). During my stay I heard about construction guys trying to strike because they weren't being paid. Some were so desperate they walked out into the crazy traffic so that their suicide would look like an accident. Families only receive money from accidental deaths.
We were withdrawing money from an ATM in one of Dubai's many fabulous malls and two foreign national guys came up and stood right next to me. Their close proximity was breaking an unwritten ATM rule so as I was completing my transaction I turned to give them the patented Margrave scowl.
When I'd finished one of them made a gesture with his card so I nodded my head and waved him towards the ATM. But he then shook his head and handed his ATM card to me. I realised this wasn't a gift, he didn’t understand English or Arabic (the only two languages the ATM offered) and so he needed my help.
So I ended up entering his pin number, showing him his balance and then helping him withdraw all of his money. After an embarrassed thank you he went immediately to the shop next door to (presumably) wire his money back home.
This is one of the many subtle ways in which people can end up feeling trapped and alienated.
Here is another example. Imagine you speak neither English nor Arabic, you're in the mall and you need the toilet. You live in Saudi Arabia, a country where almost all men wear ghutras (the "tea towel", if you're western and you need a hint) and women cover their faces. You look at this picture on the toilet door and wonder "is this for men or for women?"

Dubious Toilet Sign

Did you get it right or would you have been running for your life from the muttawa?

Ladies Toilet

The only uncovered woman in Saudi Arabia and she's on the door of a toilet. It's a funny old world. Is it just me, or does she look like she's in excruciating pain? Is she suffering from constipation or from the muttawa, I wonder?

Wouldn't it be less confusing to just use the following sign?



Aaron said...

Nice post Margrave. I am glad you are having a nice trip to Dubai. I often think that expats living in Dubai should spend some time in KSA before they write their grumbles into 7 Days.

Қhawlằh said...

The rule is, before moving to a new country one should learn about its culture and try to learn the language as well. Living in an Arabic country means you have to learn Arabic[period].

and not all women in Saudi are covered, you should visit Jeddah, culture can vary from region to region within the same country, u know.

and BTW, I liked the idea behind your blog,it's good to know what other think about your country. :)

Anonymous said...

I think Saudi women should undress. And men and women should become very close to each other.

Dubai is successful because they have the things that I said before.

Thank you very much.

p.s. Sorry I have bad english Grammer.

Plastique said...

RE: the slave labor.

Its just as bad (if not worse) in Saudi Arabia and pretty much all the Gulf region. Many contractors deliberately withhold the workers' salaries to better control them. After all, if a worker knows that he still has three months worth of salaries (paltry as they are) held hostage he's not going to leave. The same reason why contractors hold the workers' passports. Perhaps slavery is too harsh a word but "indentured servitude" isn't too far off mark.

And I add my invitation to Қhawlằh's. Come visit us in Jeddah, its a whole different side of Saudi Arabia :)

sa3sa3 said...

I have a question for you.

Why do you bother your self living in such area, region that is full of such stupid and un-logic things .

Why don't you go back home and enjoy your syrupy live their. !!

Just a question

Margrave said...

Қhawlằh, you're right and I should apologise for my writing getting lazy! Not all women in KSA are covered, not even in Riyadh.
Plastique is also right, slave labour is perhaps a tad OTT :-)
I haven't had the opportunity to go to Jeddah yet but its the first place we want to see before we leave Saudi Arabia.
sa3sa3, I've yet to regret living in KSA and whilst I've lived in a few countries, I have never lived in one without stupid aspects to it. If you find one, please let us all know!

Alwan said...

How deep and shocking they you noticed the woman's face in the toilet sign! She was really un-happy! Was it only a coincidence? I don't know. I lived my entire life in Saudi and I've seen this sign thousands of times and never noticed that. Thank you

random said...

Please keep it up, I'm getting a kick out of your blog!


Anonymous said...

lol, our women aren't hurt by being covered with Aba'ah and they really know why Allah has made that rule :) ..

The woman in the toilet sign maybe hurt because of the colors of that sign, I hate these colos :D !!

Plus, if you really looking for bad things in anything, then you won't see the pretty things :) ..

Hope you enjoy your staying

Margrave said...

You shouldn't close your eyes to what you consider bad, but I agree with your anonymous post, if bad is all you look for then that is all you will see!