Art has no place in Saudi Arabia. It seems that we as Saudis have missed the chance to indicate our struggles, emotions and endeavours in a manner that is unique to us. “We do have a culture. It is Islam” is the answer I mostly get when I asked about that situation, however, reality cannot be farther. Saudi culture seemed to have taken a break and never recovered at the Bedwen days, while Islamic culture had been distorted, destroyed and left to rot in an alleyway occupied by cats. Throughout my stay in multiple metropolitan cities, I’ve realized that the voice of the unheard maintained its presence on the walls of their homes, and the homes of those who they might even hate. Graffiti and street art is an integral part of the rebellious youth’s culture in most parts of the civilized world. However, in Saudi Arabia, graffiti lacks a voice, it is simply names written in a kindergarten student’s handwriting, and blackberry pins, in the hopes of getting a ninja to present herself and show her ankles. This lack of inspiration, even in violent acts against society, is partially blamed on the canvas; a bleak rectangular wall, accompanied by more hopeless rectangular walls with no character. Architecture is lacking to say the least. Buildings are simply tall boxes with windows, and homes are more boxes with no character. True Saudi architecture seems to have halted at tents. It is important for one to revere their heritage, however, it is even more important to expand upon it. It seems like Saudi’s are more willing to imitate than innovate, as if all cultures have a certain charm to them that they lack. Some say Islamic culture is the one and only culture that Saudi’s can accept, however, it seems that they say that out of conviction rather than experience, and the experience is not one that they will be living through any time soon.
Renting out an apartment is a complex mixture of social dynamics, barter, charisma and language. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries where selling, buying and renting is written in the genetic code of the culture. Today, a future prospect of a tenant was provided to us by the man that washes our car, along with many others to make a living; a Bengali middle aged man trying to make a living. The man wishing to rent was a Pakistani family man. As per normal, I extended my hand to shake theirs, only to be returned with a limp hand and a surprised look on their face. I felt as if I had made a mistake shaking hands with them, as if the culture calls for something other than a hand shake in these situations. While showing them around the apartment I realized that I hadn’t made a mistake, rather an act of kindness in their eyes. After finishing, I shook hands with them once again, this time however, the future tenant had a firm handshake, while the broker was still surprised by the act. After a talk with my father about what I had seen, it was made apparent to me, that Saudi’s in general do not shake hands with expats, seeing them as lesser men. This came as no shock to me, but it made it no less disgusting. I’m happy knowing I showed a man that he is no lesser than I am because of my country of birth, or my birth parents. It makes sense knowing that people who do not touch, are bound to have a gap in their understanding of each other. I must add that this is not racism, maybe not even culturalism, rather classism at it’s best. It’s a truly sad thought, knowing that in 2014 we still maintain the mentality someone can be better than another person simply because of their heritage and amounts of money they are capable of making due to their racial and geographical background.
Tl;dr Saudi’s don’t shake hands with expats, they’re better than that.
Eid is around the corner, and there’s no time like now to understand just why the festivities taylor the needs of young, preppy, snot-nosed, cunt teenagers. While shopping could very well be the number one hobby for women in Saudi Arabia (Not from the lack of originality, rather from the lack of freedom to do anything), men are also involved in the shopping sprees to come this festive season. Along with the Eid prayer, good food, money in the hands of children, fireworks and family get togethers, dressing up is a tradition during Eid. No matter how much clothes may be laying in your closet, you haven’t fulfilled your religious and consumerist duty unless you go out and shop shop shop for new clothes, shoes, hats, socks and the occasional pearl necklace. I hypothesize the reason people need new clothes on Eid is because of the sedentary lifestyle and immense amounts of food they scarfed during the month before. While going around the outlet mall I realized that people use shopping carts to fulfill their shopping needs. Yes, shopping carts. School’s out, Eid is coming and the shops are open, which really means one thing and one thing only; on the force expenditure side of those carts are teenagers. Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against teenagers, not more than your average 20-something year old at least, however, I do have something against wool hats in the 40 degree heat. I understand completely how a rastafarian hat symbolizes oneness with mother earth and nature, especially while it’s inside a hummer, but what is beyond me is how they handle it in that heat, and I really do wonder; is it part of his Eid costume this year?
Tl;dr: Eid is still a hallmark holiday, and Saudi teenagers are just the same as any other teenagers… With wool hats.
Day 3: The final exam
The exam was very straight forward, all the applicants raced to the testing field in a generic Saudi manner, slippers kissing the ground as they propel their wearers into a 0.5 second head start over their peers. Starting off in a crowded room (Number 7) with a broken air conditioning system, everyone was called by name and told of their designated testing room. I was sent to room 2, where the air conditioning worked and the test takers just hit puberty. After making my way through the crowd to enter one of the testing cars, I was very nervous. Seatbelt, check, mirrors, check, glasses, check. I was ready to go. I was told to make one sharp left turn, and a backwards right sharp turn. During everyone of those turns, my instructor took the liberty of taking them for me, practically taking the exam for me; I only had my hands on the steering wheel, he did most of the turning. He signed my papers and I was ready to go take my theoretical exam. The theoretical exam was the most respectable part of this whole charade, it was straight forward and computerized. 15/20 correct answers were enough to pass, after the day before’s lesson I remembered the location of the answers, rather than the answers themselves and why. I proceeded to pick up my license 2 days after passing my exams.
An average of 17 Saudi Arabian residents die on the country’s roads each day, a report by the Kingdom’s General Directorate of Traffic has revealed. The news comes after the World Health Organization found Saudi Arabia to have the world’s highest number of deaths from road accidents, which now make up the country’s principal cause of death in adult males aged 16 to 36. First reported by the Saudi daily Arab News, the study found that 6,485 people had died and more than 36,000 were injured in over 485,000 traffic accidents during 2008 and 2009. (See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/03/saudi-arabia-death-toll-driving/#sthash.DbRz7C2V.dpuf) . After finding out what it took to get a driver’s license, it was no longer shocking, rather expected.
Tl;Dr: Get your shit together driving schools.
Day 2: Intensive course
Much like an excited child I went to my class, only to wait in line. Have no fear, segregation is here! Saudi citizens of course, got preferential treatment and entered first(Any non-Saudi’s in the class were applying to a public license, allowing them to drive Taxi’s etc..) . The class had a relatively excited and fun instructor, that did nothing other than control the crowd. Instead of teaching us anything, he simply put on a video of all the questions that might come on the exam in all the languages that were available. Don’t speak Arabic? Tough luck, you’ll have to sit through it in silence and waste your time. Even if your language had passed, you weren’t even allowed to leave the class for a breath of fresh air, we all had to sit in a small room, breathing each other’s breath for 2 hours before the instructor asked us to go out with him to the field. Standing in the field, exposed to the 12pm sun in the 45° C heat, the instructor entered his cooled car and showed us what the exam procedure was. Parallel parking, sharp turns, 2 roundabouts connected to each other and a cross terrain, it all seemed so unnerving and I felt like I would finally have the exam that is required to let me know that it’s not as simple as I thought it would be. We all returned to the class, people literally running to get the good seats, hell to get seats in general, seeing that the class was so full some people had to stand. A few minutes later, the instructor entered with stacks of papers that had the names and which days the exams were to be taken at. The first names were pretty much all expats, with dates as far as a month later. When it came to the Saudi applicants, the instructor simply asked “Would you like to do it tomorrow?”, naturally everyone wants to finish as fast as possible and everyone nodded in agreeance, myself included.
Driving a 3 ton machine at speeds over 120KM/h is a great responsibility, kind of like Spiderman and his wrist jizz. However, it seems that in Saudi Arabia this responsibility is taken lightly. Nothing illustrates how bad the driving is in Saudi Arabia more than the fact that it has the highest road accident death toll in the world. While, many blame drifting and x-sport like antics by testosterone infused and sexually frustrated Saudi youth, there’s an unspoken rule about driving rules and regulation being a preference rather than a necessity when it comes to the roads. Police men are spotted breaking more road laws than the citizens, and if they’re not driving around with their sirens on for no reason, they’re probably wasting time sitting in their car parked under a bridge, or on rare occasions exercising and running around said bridge. If lazy policemen that do not enforce the law wasn’t enough, obtaining a driver’s license is as simple as turning left and reversing to the right; literally. As a 21 year old Saudi, not having a driver’s license is the same as missing a testicle, in general driving your own car is integral to a man’s image in society. Through my teenage years; the time I started thinking about driving a car, I was growing up in Europe. A European driver’s license requires a decent amount of studying, training and a substantial financial set back. In Saudi Arabia, however, it took me 3 days, and no training.
Day 1: Registration and assessment
Registration is paying 250 Riyals ($67), filling a few forms and then going into the assessment room. Assessment may seem like a detailed examination of your very being, at least that’s what it seemed like to me at the time. Assessment turned out to be a man asking me what my blood type was; honestly, I had no idea what it was, but telling him “A negative” was enough. After guessing my own blood type it was time for the sight test. While waiting in line, I realized that the test wasn’t much more than the retard offspring of “W” and an “M” going in all 4 directions, and you simply have to tell the tester where it’s pointing. A future expat driver made a mistake, the tester corrected him, signed his paper and allowed him to continue, I feel safer already. With a newfound sense of safety and knowledge of my bloodtype, I proceeded to the driving assessment. My nerves hadn’t settled by then, I still had a bit of hope (Or fear) that the driving assessment may just be the hardest part. Needless to say, at this point I shouldn’t have expected anything other than disappointment. A car was waiting for me, after a crude comment about my jeans was made by the obese security guard sitting by the gates. The instructor tells me to sit in the back seat, a Syrian teenager was sitting in the front. I spark a conversation with him, and ask him what the assessment is like, he laughed and asked me if I was a Saudi citizen, I said yes and what he said highlighted the true privilege I had by just having a plastic card that said I was a Saudi. “If you’re a Saudi, you automatically get an A, and any other nationality, you get a B”. Now the way the system is set, if you get an “A” you have to go to 1 class and then you can do your driving and theory exams. If you get a “B” you have to attend 3 classes (We’ll get to what they are on day 2) . I wasn’t surprised when the poor fellah got a “B” on his assessment, while I can assure you he can drive better than me. My turn! I get in the driver’s seat, the instructor see’s I’m Saudi and doesn’t even let me finish putting on my seat belt before telling me to just turn left and get out of the car after writing a crude “A” on my paper. After waiting, I finally got the opportunity to pay 100 Riyals ($27) for my intensive course on road signs.
Tomorrow is another day.