Why I fell in love with Saudi Arabia

Published: September 15, 2012
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Sadly, positive stories rarely get through to the West. Every time I return to England, people just seem to hate Saudis, Arabs and Muslims more and more. PHOTO: REUTERS

Moving to Saudi Arabia was such an incredible culture shock. Having been accustomed to a really open way of life in Barcelona, I just did not know what to think. I kept telling myself not to panic and that in time, I would adjust… Eventually I did.

Aside from the restrictions I had many wonderful experiences.

Saudis are such friendly, hospitable and generous people. I was constantly being thanked for coming to their country and educating their people. I remember one man in particular saying,

“I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need it.”

I have lived in lots of different countries and have never been told that.

Furthermore, I was routinely stopped by strangers on the streets, who insisted on inviting me over for lunch. To begin with, I found it rather disconcerting. However, I soon realised that they were just interested in welcoming me to their country and wanted to find out a bit about mine.

I really admire how close their families are. They are typically much larger than ours and they often choose their friends from within. Friendships, too, are very strong. Also, I found it amazing that if someone cannot afford to get married; their friends often come together and pay for the wedding. I am English and I have never heard of that in my country.

I also enjoyed their sense of humour. I laughed so much with them and I never expected that. They are very sarcastic and there are plenty of double meanings to look out for.

Ramazan is fantastic there. You really see the best of Saudi Arabia during this month. The people are kind to the less fortunate. It is impossible to walk down the street at dusk without being invited to break-fast with someone. I kept telling them that I was not Muslim, but this did not seem to matter.

In the West, Christmas is a lonely time for those without a family, but the same cannot be said of Ramazan, especially in Saudi Arabia.

Sadly, positive stories rarely get through to the West. Every time I return to England, people just seem to hate Saudis, Arabs and Muslims more and more. My friends just refuse to accept that the reality might be any different. It is not their fault. The trouble is that the events reported in the media often fail to provide the all important context.

Naturally, people make judgments based on their own society, but Saudi Arabia is a different world and therefore must be evaluated as such. For example, most Western women I meet are enraged that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. However, none of them seem to know why.

It is not that the authorities perceive women as being incapable of doing so; it simply is not safe. Saudi Arabia needs time to adjust. At present it would be extremely irresponsible to allow a woman to drive alone in a society that has prevented interaction between the sexes for so long. Saudi men are just not ready for that and sexual crimes would soar.

Journalism on the country really needs to improve. I recall meeting two reporters from a major news agency at the British embassy and I was shocked to discover how little they knew about the kingdom. I was saddened to think that these people were responsible for informing the West, yet it was quite apparent that they rarely left the diplomatic quarter.

Yes, dreadful things happen in Saudi Arabia as they do in many countries, but there are also many things to be admired and learnt. One day, when I have a family of my own, I hope it will be as closely bound as those in Saudi Arabia. I would like to teach my children to be as hospitable and generous as they are. Although, I expect I might have a bit of trouble persuading my wife to have quite as many children as they do.

Read more by Sebastian here.  

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Sebastian.Farmborough

Sebastian Farmborough

An English photographer with a passion for travel and cross-cultural communication. He uses pictures to express what words cannot.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MonsieurCritique

    You are white, Saudis love whites. Try having brown skin.Recommend

  • Fed Up Indian

    Dude, you’re a white guy. If you were black or a (darker) South Asian they would have treated you very differently.
    In fact, the Gulf Arabs have such a long history of keeping slaves from Africa (outlawed only in the 1960s) that they have the same word for Africans and slaves- ‘abd’.Recommend

  • Awans

    Well what i concluded so far in my life is that if you have a fair skin then Arab nations are the best place to be as I have a great respect for Arabs but I have not been able to found a single Arab who did not brought Race in their discussion. The best place for Brownies like most of the Pakistanis in my experience where people will give you immense respect only because you are a Pakistani is Malayasia, Turkey, Mauritius, Indonesia, Somalia and Bangladesh as whoever visit those countries told me the same story that those people have immense respect for Pakistanis whatever may be. Recommend

  • Zeeshan Khan

    Keep it up man,nice to see guilt ridden White apologists repeatedly blog about how wonderful religious theocracies are.The Western Far Left are no less damaging to society than religious fundamentalists.Appeasement never works and White guilt is the biggest ally of religious fanatics. Recommend

  • waila

    ^ How many of you have actually visited KSA ??Recommend

  • Arindom

    Writer has been taken for a ride by the Arabs’ love of the white skin!! I spent just 5 hours in an Arab country – just transiting through Dubai – I was sickened and outraged by the way the Arab security and immigrated talked to people with brown skin ( like mine) and how the tone changed the moment the passenger being procesed had white skin!

    Mr Sebastian, you want to see what hospitality means? go to the poor villages of South Asia – they’ll feed the last roti to you even when their own children will miss a meal. That is hospitality – not the one seen at the rich petro-dollar laden Arab’s house served by brown servants!!Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    I being a Pakistani have visited Saudi Arabia, I lived there for a month but I never felt that I was discriminated, although a month is a pretty short time to make a judgment about a certain place but the people are generally nice. Once i was walking down a street and a police car stopped so I assumed there was something wrong. But that police man opened his trunk and started distributing water bottles for no reason.
    The reason I feel why there may be resentment among the Saudi’s against Pakistani’s is that the people that mostly travel to the kingdom are from a lower economic class and many of them tend to continue to stay there illegally or get involved in crimes such as drugs smuggling or opt for low level jobs such as sweepers or cleaners. So the interaction the Saudis get from Pakistani’s is not very good.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    I’m not sure if it’s the Stockholm syndrome talking, or if you truly believe the things you say.

    They’ll treat you hospitably as long as you stick to your role of a naive “gora” who has come from afar to explore their exotic land and help out the locals. As long as you don’t try too hard to find faults in the system, for which you may easily be tried for anything from sedition to blasphemy.

    You don’t validate oppressive laws by saying, “Oh, it’s just a different country! The sweet air of freedom would probably cause an allergic reaction, so it’s better to let them remain shackled. They’re used to it anyway”.

    The rights of Saudi women are not for the men to magnanimously bestow upon them. It doesn’t matter if they’re “ready” or not. In most civilized places, it’s the intolerant, misogynistic perpetrators that are restrained, not the victims.

    Oh, but I forgot. Saudi Arabis is different..right?Recommend

  • asad

    Apologists are the enablers and the moderate faces of the fanatics.If apologists weren’t making excuses for and indulging in lame justifications the world would have been a much more peaceful place.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/SamiSaayer Sami Saayer

    i lived there for a year. i can quote a hundred stories why they are probably the biggest racists in the world with an appalling attitude. yes, some of them are good too but majority of the population is racist and arrogant. this incident can be one of them when on my face i was told “YOU BAKISTANI… YOU NO GOOD” http://gypsy-therebirth.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-bakistani-you-no-good.htmlRecommend

  • Arsalan bilwany

    Great to see White people going to great lengths in their appeasement campaign.Whitewashing theocratic societies just to alleviate their guilt is nothing new.Iran and Saudi arabia are religious theocracies,nothing else.Glorifying them is a great disservice to anyone with a rational mind.Recommend

  • Zeeshan124

    Not to be a fun-spoiler here but there’s a key point you are missing.. I am a Pakistani and have been living in Saudi Arabia for quite some time now, yet the experience is totally different. Obviously, exceptions are always there but almost all Saudis behave differently to us than they do to white people(not being a racist here). They have huge admiration for Europeans and Americans but when it comes to Asians, there isn’t much to look for except hatred. They treat people of brown skin with such discrimination, it’s hard to digest. You obviously haven’t seen the true picture of one of the most racist nations around!!!Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    And now the trolls will begin commenting how everybody is living in chains in Saudi Arabia, an impression they have formed not by visiting the place but by watching a documentary on CNN or FOX by those reporters who never got out of their diplomatic enclaves and what ever they filmed was to a result of their confirmation bias. LMFAO.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Somethings just not right here……………………but I’m not able to put my finger on it. It’s been written like a school boy’s attempt to convey something, without having a full grasp on the subject.Recommend

  • Mj

    Having lived in Saudi Arabia for quite some time, let me tell you that your experience would have been polar opposite if you had brown or black skin. I am talking from first-hand experience, instead of basing my views on some hearsay.Recommend

  • nonee

    I agree with some of the comments regarding Arab’s love for white skin. I live in Saudi Arabia myself and know first hand about the discrimination.It’s either white skin or their own when applying for a senior post here.Some of the vacancies appearing in gulf websites even ask for your photograph. Why???Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Shadytr33: “I being a Pakistani have visited Saudi Arabia, I lived there for a month but I never felt that I was discriminated”

    It’s a total blast, if you’re a sunni male just living there temporarily.Recommend

  • alicia

    You are a white male. Probably with lots of money or a good job.

    Arabs especially in Saudi worship white skinned westerners. Try living as a brown-skinned worker there for one day and tell us your experience.Recommend

  • Salman

    Damn you @loneliberal for beating me to writing sense all the time.
    @Sebastian – i was born and spent a number of early years in Saudi. It is a hellhole and I was always discriminated against. Recommend

  • Cacha Cricket

    I live in Saudi Arabia since last three years now. I haven’t faced any discrimination in my work at all during this time. You know the problem resides with us Pakistanis.. 80% of Pakistani in Saudi comes as a labor without any skill. We can earn respect in every country if we have some skillful workforce which can benefit that country , things will change not only in Saudi but in every corner of the world..Recommend

  • a saudi resident

    u r talking abt a country where discrimination starts right from the color of ur passport, if u r a european or an american ur pay scale will increase many times n so does the benifits, on the same designation where they will pay many times less with hardly any benifits if u r an asian, esp from sub continent, where saudis refuse to touch a bread at a food court, only becasue u have touched it ( n u r a brown south asian) , where they look down upon u as worms.saudi n hospitable n friendly is a big joke, they r as proud of themselves being arab, unless the meet someone with a white skin, n this is my first hand experience. as for the journalism, they will put anyone in jail, who tries to show the problems of the country, did they ever thank bangalis for keeping their country clean? their homes, their offices, their resturants , their swerage? the number of asians far outnumber the europens or americans, did they ever thank them for doing their work? for them we r the slaves, who can not even switch a job within the country without facing literally thousands of problems (another first hand experience), the labour class is left to suffer alone, because they cannot bring their families, that makes them indulged in many unethical n illegal activities….. talk abt a brown asian n the list goes on…. Recommend

  • Gulabo

    @waila:
    None of them; but all of them are atheist or secular extremists. Whenever they see something related to Islam then they feel it their utmost responsibility to criticize it. Recommend

  • kamal

    There is no doubt that Saudis are most racist people i ever came across in my life.Recommend

  • Jalal

    Try introducing yourself as a Pakistani Pathan Sebastian!Recommend

  • curious

    At present it would be extremely irresponsible to allow a woman to drive alone in a society that has prevented interaction between the sexes for so long. Saudi men are just not ready for that and sexual crimes would soar.

    Translation-

    Women are likely to be raped if they drive. Lovely society indeed.Recommend

  • sohaib

    loved the last line..Recommend

  • Usman

    The way the airport staff looks at Pakistanis is insulting. They see us as if we are untouchables and we shouldn’t be talked to in a proper manner.
    And it is my first hand experience.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    I see ET is working overtime to convince us that it’s not exclusively a liberal site, and is willing to accommodate right-wing voices.

    Not that I’m complaining. It’s nice to see such diversity.Recommend

  • Raw is War

    @ MonsieurCritique

    EXACTLY. My point too. Try being a brown guy. They would not even respect a nobel prize winner.Recommend

  • IceSoul

    Seriously, haven’t you Europeans and Americans learned from your WWII experience that appeasement isn’t a good policy? Recommend

  • Raw is War

    @ Shadytr33

    The reason I feel why there may be resentment among the Saudi’s against Pakistani’s is that the people that mostly travel to the kingdom are from a lower economic class and many of them tend to continue to stay there illegally or get involved in crimes such as drugs smuggling or opt for low level jobs such as sweepers or cleaners.

    You mean sweepers and cleaners do not deserve respect? If the white people leave Arabia in toto, there wont be any harmful effect on S.Arabia. Let Pakistanis and Indians leave. They will get mixed up in mud. You are either a normal Pakistani Saudi worshiper or a Arab yourself. Your views look bigoted.Recommend

  • 4567

    I also used to think the same but when i went there i found them very different.
    No matter you are white,brown,black or anything else they treat people with kindness :)Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    @ Sebastian Farmborough

    Arabs are one of the worst racists in the world. Also the only place in the world where slavery exists to this day. Some how they love white guys. Good for you. You need to hear the words they use to refer to Pakistanis , Bangladeshis and Indians. Its utter shame.Recommend

  • 4567

    Some people think the same about the PATHANS that they are bad or something but in real they are very kind and helpfulRecommend

  • san

    Back in 2006 I had short stay in Doha for two hours. I was going to waiting launch when an immigration officer stopped me and asked me rudely “where are you going”. I handed my passport with same manner to look it by himself. When he saw UK visa on my passport he did not say a single word. That two hour stay was like a hell of two centuries. Thanks God that we are not Arabs.Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    At present it would be extremely irresponsible to allow a woman to drive alone in a society that has prevented interaction between the sexes for so long. Saudi men are just not ready for that and sexual crimes would soar.
    wow what a lousy justification….so better let them remain shackled,why to ruffle the feathers? after-all onus lies with women for all the crimes related to them.would you prescribe same medicine for your home country too?no exposure no crime like rape,molestation etc.i should have understood your line of thinking when you were showering rose petals on virtues of veil.Mr Sebestian your posts seem more like a PR exercise commissioned by royalty of KSA.try N.Korea and Sudan next time.Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    and amid prevailing circumstances in Muslim countries now a days vis a vis the movie,I advise you to avoid visiting such Places.you can easily become a soft target like the US ambassador,notwithstanding your enthusiasm and goodwill for all thing Arabic. .Recommend

  • sid

    I m Waiting for the day when these Arab countries run out of oil…………….Then we will make them labourers in our farms………….Recommend

  • saleem

    Sebastian

    you are massively mistaken my friend, they are only good with you because of your nationality+race. Saudi are extremely racist people. i am living in KSA from past 3 years and i know them from inside out. Come with me sometime and i will take you to any of their govt office and see how they behave Asians.

    “I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need it”

    i don’t know how to respond to this hypocritical statement, to me it only reviles that these Saudis are like doggy to westerners.Recommend

  • Hmmm

    I’ve been living there for a year now. All i read in the comments are gross generalizations. Saudi are no more or less racist than any other people in the world, including Pakistanis who are racist towards goras, kalas, bengalis, pathans, sindis, Punjabis, depending on where they themselves are from. There are 8 million expats here and it is unlikely that everyone has a good or bad experience but the system works. Poor people are abused and tortured in our country as a routine but that doesnt bother anyone but if a Saudi or UAE immigration officer isnt really polite, we get sooooo offended. Shameful. Recommend

  • Sheraz

    Are you serious ? Having being lived in Saudi for 14 years neither me nor any of my friends have witnessed even the slightest of courtesy by a Saudi. Are you sure you are a Pakistani? If you are, you must have close resemblance to a Caucasian or European.Recommend

  • Awans

    @Jalal: Unfortunately Your comment has a race factor in it and In Middle east I know how Pukhtoons tell Arabs that what is the Difference in a Pakistani and a Pukhtoon and In my view Pukhtoons are as Racists as Arabs as throughout the world i met them and have a discussion within minutes they will comment and will say Filthy Jokes about Skin color for many Pakistanis especially for Karachites and for people of Central Punjab so my rule of thumb is to avoid them as I dont have a time for their Filthy Discussion. Let me tell you one thing “Brown Is Beautiful” as stop giving suggestions about Introducing ethnicity like you are suggesting. Recommend

  • Vikram

    Author “Saudis are such friendly, hospitable and generous people. I was constantly being thanked for coming to their country and educating their people. I remember one man in particular saying,
    “I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need it.”

    Same Saudis treat Pakistanis as a servant class? Do you have a White skin?Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    For those Pakistanis who believe that Saudis are just awesome peeps I would suggest taking a trip. You’d start getting the feel right at Riyadh airport. The difference in attitude of the airport security while dealing with us lowly Browns and the majestic whites is appalling.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Cacha Cricket:
    A good person is some one who respecst rich and poor, black and white the same. In Pakistan also White people are treated with respect. You are racist like Saudis.Recommend

  • Saima

    Pakistanis worship white skin too. Seriously. And if y’all saw how Pakistanis tend to act in Saudi you’d hate them too. The end!Recommend

  • lamer

    If ET had scoring system for a blog, I would give this ignorant raving -1.Recommend

  • Taimoor

    I’ve lived there for 18 years, don’t have a single saudi friend, they’re not friendly towards south asians, they treat you like crap – you just have to pass through their airport immigration to see that.the author has white skin, which they worship.Recommend

  • Cacha Cricket

    @Vikram …. Developing an educated human resource has nothing to do with racism. You are just getting hyper and have stared cross criticism. Although I accept that the some saudi’s (i.e. uneducated Saudis) attitude may not be good towards south Asian people but the saudi youth is quickly getting education and that’s why I haven’t faced any discrimination in my office although we have more sauids than any other company.. Recommend

  • Faulitics

    “I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need it.”. I have lived in lots of different countries and have never been told that.

    Thats because Saudis do have the urgent need to learn a lot of things from people of other cultures like you. They really really need it if they want to evolve. The other countries may not need your knowledge that much since their societies are relatively more evolved than the saudis and you may actually learn a thing or two from them. Cant be a teacher all the time. Got to learn too.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    The author says “It is not that the authorities perceive women as being incapable of doing so; IT SIMPLY IS NOT SAFE. Saudi Arabia needs time to adjust.”

    I repeat it again if people have missed it. The author is saying that woman driving SIMPLY IS NOT SAFE. Thats exactly the line of the saudi government. Looks like they found a white guy to mouth their words for them. I hope it pays well.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    @Sami Saayer: Great blog. Keep up the good work. There should be someone around to remind people not to be fooled by probably paid media consultants.Recommend

  • Abdulrahman

    I am surprised at such amazingly offensive comments about Saudi Arabian people.

    Saudi is a very close country with limited international outreach specially Riyadh. Jeddah and Dammam people are more tolerant because of lots of people from Hajj and others go through.

    Some saudis are not nice to some labour because some of them are seen as stealing Saudi jobs and don’t blame them. Cheap labour has taken opportunities from Saudis. Business owners do not hire them as well because of the south asian cheap labour.

    We do like Europeans and Americans because they have better education and better experience and are willing to learn our culture and will spend money in Saudi. Unlike some south asians who lies on their cv and get paid crazy and do not want to mingle with Saudis and gather as much money and run home!

    But it is not about color we have original saudis who are black and colored oirginally from south asia as well and we live happily. My best friend is black.

    Plus, we have been ripped off enough from Bengalies and south asian labour and our money and homes were stolen and we did not even brother sue them and we have given them enough chance.

    Not saying that there are nice and professional south asian but they are not the majority. I am proudly saying also that not the best of Saudis as well represent us abroad or in Passport control. Recommend

  • John B

    Hospitality is the same all over the East, but mentality is different.

    Hilton hotel will treat you as a king as long as you have money and S. Arabia will be hospitable as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t think for yourself. Recommend

  • http://sebfarmborough.carbonmade.com/ Sebastian Farmborough

    Actually I did mention racism in the article, but the editor chose not to include it.

    Here’s what I had to say about it a few years ago:

    “I am rather less impressed by the racist nature of many people here. It seems so important for them to find out your nationality so they will know how to treat you. I have dark hair and now that I speak some Arabic, many are unsure as to whether I am Lebanese. Why should it even matter?”

    http://arabnews.com/node/265479

    I know dark skinned people are treated like slaves there, but in time perhaps this can change.

    However, racism is everywhere. Unfortunately, It is a part of life. When I lived in America, the most intelligent people I met there were black and unemployed. At the same time I recall meeting moronic white stock brokers earning ridiculous amounts of money. Is this fair? No.

    What I am trying to do is generate a better understanding of Saudi Arabia from a Western perspective. Do you really want to continue hating each other forever?

    Instead, why not try to communicate and educate those that afflict you. If you are offensive about their country, they will only hate you back and where is the sense in that?Recommend

  • Pakistani Agnostic (Riyadh)

    Funny how Pakistanis who actually live in Saudi complain all day about racism yet will not move back to Pakistan.
    My livelihood and all my wealth is because of Saudi and i respect this country. Never been discriminated against.Recommend

  • nomi

    @ Sami Sayer

    Awan

    True, but the thing is that majority of Pakistanis consider Saudis their patrons and pure people.

    Pakistanis have never really tried to assert themselves and have maintained their image of poor hungry beings.

    We can be the kitchen of the world, but our people are so lost in the love of saudi sponsored mullahs that it is very difficult to wake them up. Recommend

  • Nobody

    The comments I’ve read under this blog (many of them, not all of them) so far suggest the average desi reader is not mature enough to read something, and either constructively criticize it or share their own experience without the nastiness laced in too many comments on here. What’s with the negativity people? I’ve never been to KSA therefore I can’t comment on how brownies are treated vs. whites, but I will say it’s always nice to read about experiences different from your own, or something positive someone has to say about a place the rest of the world views as a seemingly terrible place(which it very well might be, I don’t really know). My point isn’t whether I agree with the author or not, simply that it was interesting to see his perspective. Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    @lamer
    -2 , if we consider his previous blog too.Recommend

  • محمد

    i think pakistanies are in love with white skin they keep repeating it over and over,the fact is saudies love every body,but every body hate em,and they know it 100%.Recommend

  • Daisy Ch

    Everyone, I’m not defending or condemning anyone here, but this is just one man’s experience: it happened to be a good one, and it happened that he’s “white”.

    All of you seem to have good command in English, write about your own experiences if they’re horrible and blog about it as Mr. S did, and see if it will not go viral, instead of complaining that a person of different race was treated better.

    And a word on racial discrimination, all societies exercise it at some level, but blame slavery on the government of the discriminated people first for allowing it to happen to their people. It’s really simple and really basic, respect, equality and “pride” comes from within, not from outside. If you don’t change that from within, it will only be worse outside. Recommend

  • Usama

    I think you didn’t try any BADDU.. :P
    try once with any Baddu then write another article on that experience.. Recommend

  • Zeta

    I live in Saudi Arabia. You have white skin sir, and western passport. You automatically get respect. Case is very different for brown people. I give an example, A white manager would easily get 20,000 Riyals and above per month salary whereas a brown manager of equal credential hardly get 10,000 Riyals. Government offices are no doubt very racist towards South Asians.

    People are generally ok, some are very good with all while some are really really racist. There are traditional arabs if you go outside big cities who are typical racists. Recommend

  • jerry

    i am pakistani christian living in saudi arabia for about 20 yrs. i would not disagree that saudi are very friendly! infact they dont even cares about one’s religion! come to this white guy, i would like to point out that western expats have really BEAUTIFULL compounds to live in! their lives here is not much different! as the experience of saudi arabia from any asian expat! Recommend

  • umer

    @MonsieurCritique
    You are white, Saudis love whites. Try having brown skin.

    So true…Recommend

  • Maria

    There is a reason why the Saudis are the most despised society in the West – it’s a closed society where women have no rights and the Saudi men are the biggest hypocrites since they treat their women like chattel but run off to Western countries to engage in everything they can’t do at home including oggling Western women.Recommend

  • Tamarindos

    An interesting read, but certainly bears no relation to the experiences of my fellow male colleagues. I notice that almost all of the comments here are about how Asians are treated in Saudi, and yes, I agree the Saudis are horribly racist and the Asians are undoubtedly at the bottom of the pile.

    I am a woman and have lived in both Barcelona (5 years) and Saudi (4 years) and my experience in Saudi is very different to the writer. Yes, the people I’ve met are generally warm and friendly although I have never been asked home to anyone’s house and I very seriously doubt the author’s words on this. Men do not invite men back to their homes, homes are the preserve of the women, and men meet at coffee shops or sports ‘bars’.

    His comments about the driving are beyond belief, and incredibly insulting to the men here, I do not think for one minute that any Saudi with an iota of religious nous would consider sexually abusing or assaulting a lone female in a car. Personally, as a woman who loves driving I would not drive in the cities here, they are far too dangerous, my husband refuses to drive here either. A lot of women drive in the country however.

    When I lived in Barcelona, I could walk to the markets, buy my food and walk back. Here, no one walks anywhere, like America the cities are built for and dominated by the car, a trip to the supermarket needs to be planned with my driver. In Barcelona I could play tennis, here there are no courts. In Barcelona I could cycle, here women are not allowed to cycle, and it would be impossible anyway as we HAVE to wear an abaya at all times outside our compound. In Bacelona I was free to go out with friends, sit outside on a terrace, here women are not allowed to sit outside on terraces, here I have to sit inside with my friends. In Barcelona I had a life, here I stay at home, work and study. Like everyone else here, including Sebastian, we are here for the money, and for the Saudis, even if we do have white faces, even if we are professionals, we are still nothing more to them than the ‘hired help’.

    It is surprising that Sebastian has not yet met the student, or the students’ parents who complain and complain and complain until they ‘pass the course’. The attitude here is ‘I pay, I get’ and the idea that they may have to work to learn English is a somewhat alien concept.Recommend

  • http://www.shakoorslounge.weebly.com A.S

    Such an incredible piece.!!Recommend

  • Sara

    LOL i find it funny even to read saudi’s are hospitable. I have lived in Ksa for 2 years and it seems that i had been living in Jail . They treat brown ppl like dirt ever been to Dammam airport and they make south asian stand there like worms.

    Nudging ,pushing ,touching girls is common in malls. They expel girls out of the malls even if they wear nail color ?? such a nice society man. And even if the scarves falls out of the head by mistake every saudi guy feel their responsibility to point that out to women.

    And about children, they have plenty of money so they have nothing else to do instead of impregnating their women.Recommend

  • Mirror mirror on the wall

    Saudis maybe treat Pakistanis badly…but Pakistanis are much worse to each other. I am yet to meet a Pakistani who doesn’t make mock his own countrymen based on their ethnicity. An inconvenient truth people. You get only as much respect as you deserve/earn. A better thing to do would be to understand why you get treated this badly? And why ‘white’ people get treated better :D Therein lie all your answers. Start respecting yourself first!Recommend

  • http://myspace.com/taravadu Kulamarva Balakrishna

    Vienna,September 16,2012
    Sebastian mia, relax relax for your infatuation with Saudi Arabia.
    For once go to the hated land of Iran.Women with Chadors men
    with long beards heading Sufi shrines to greet guests personally
    I feel at home. If I had married a Persian, would not have loved
    to share me with another woman of whatever bondage yaar-dost.
    Not only dusk break fast.In Persia,say Tehran you can have
    daily dawn break fast as a welcome guest.Every day break also
    is a Ramadan there.People are more kindly than in the United
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,Sir.As for literature, they can beat the
    best in this world.Have you ever read a positive story on Iran
    my friend?
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva BalakrishnaRecommend

  • Parvez

    @Sebastian Farmborough: You should have said this more clearly in the original blog and it would have come across better.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma

    Sebastian – have they invited you to Islam yet ? The invitation can not be far away. Recommend

  • aussie

    @Vikram:
    . in india dalit and untouchable are treated with the most organised and state sponsored racist policy to date, it is being practiced for last 4000 years by the bhramin racist people of hindutva. women up untill 1775 were burned at the funral of their husband alive still in some parts of india women are burned in the name of sati daho.Recommend

  • Ulja Pakistani

    Why crib? Pakistani miskeens adore the Saudis the very same way; in fact they love to emphasize that one of their ancestors is a Saudi. Isn’t it being shameless? Recommend

  • http://Yahoo Umar ima

    May Allah bless Saudi people and upon mercy on them, honoring a guest is your culture even we African witnessed that, no one should acussed or hate Saudi except hypocracy or enemy or who know not anything about Saudi arebia, my Allah continue to protect Saudi arebia amen.Recommend

  • Girl

    My dad lives in the gulf…..so i’m a VERY frequent visitor. I have chocolate brown skin, pakistani passport and they’ve never misbehaved with me or anyone i knowRecommend

  • Zeta

    @Raw is War:
    Of all the years i have lived and living in Saudi Arabia, I have never found a single Pakistan sweeper or cleaner. They are either indians or bangladeshis
    Get you facts right if you want a say something Recommend

  • Shridhar

    Not just Saudi’s even we South Asians could become same if we get rich overnight through some natural resources. Easy money could be very good in the beginning but it is a big disaster in the longer run. Let them enjoy their petrodollars till it last. Recommend

  • LionOfPunjab

    is this blog written by an 8th grader Laurence of Arabia?
    Saudis are bigots and racists. They treat their brown muslim brothers like slaves and kiss the white.s behind. How about you try to take on of your “dear” saudis friend’s sister out to just a coffee? See what happens.Recommend

  • Anwar

    I worked as in a hotel in the 70s in London. The Saudis would come to the hotel with big bucks and they think they can buy every thing. The men want to buy women for sex and would ask us where we can procure women for them. The Saudi women were bitches and get 100% work from you. I preferred Indian or Pakistani guest who at least talked to you about movies and back home and treated you like a human. We tried to keep the Saudis in a different part of the hotel so they did not touch the female guests .Recommend

  • stenson

    @Mirror mirror on the wall: All Muslims teach each other badly in thier own countries – not just Pakistanis but you could say the same about Afghanis, Iranians, Arabs etc. The is a good reason shy Suadia Arabia is not respected in the world and it has to do with rightrsRecommend

  • Vikram

    @Sara: “Nudging ,pushing ,touching girls is common in malls. They expel girls out of the malls even if they wear nail color ?? such a nice society man. And even if the scarves falls out of the head by mistake every saudi guy feel their responsibility to point that out to women. ”

    Finally some one exposed the true Saudi culture. Even women in burqa/hijab get nudged, pushed and touched in crowded places. Every guy feels responsibility to point out if scarves falls out is because every guy is leering at girls.Recommend

  • nomi

    The thing is that brown people are discriminated all over the world, but when brown people discriminate against other brown people it hurts.

    Saudis are racists as are many Pakistanis, but the thing is that many Saudis are not racist towards each other as much from different tribes. Pakistanis are racists towards each other.

    Why do we have to travel to other countries? Why can’t Pakistan be a developed nation?

    When Pakistanis do not respect themselves, how can others respect them?Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Girl: “My dad lives in the gulf…..so i’m a VERY frequent visitor. I have chocolate brown skin, pakistani passport and they’ve never misbehaved with me or anyone i know”

    A girl just need to smile and Arabs may even pick up your luggage and take it to your car and Pakistanis may even drive you home……Recommend

  • sattam aldugaither

    I Agree every body hate saudies,and i dont know why,may be because most think that they are rich.further more you cant compare saudi women to pakistany or indian women for example, they burn their wifes its much cheaper than divorcing her,and millions of abortions are being done in every street corner to unborn (females only),but you don’t talk about it.Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    @ Zeta

    what about you?Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Saudis only consider women who are wearing niqab as proper women. Any woman who just covers her head has a loose character.

    They are harsh, racist and hard hard people. I remember someone telling me how their saudi colleagues would be searching marriage proposals in office. That is what makes their clocks tick sex, money and lots of food. Us brownies with our families and kids don’t fit their culture.Recommend

  • zehra

    saudi is pretty sufforcating for someone whohas been living in a normal country!! howeveresp at GULABO i dnt understand how can criticising a country lead to criticising islam? saying against saudi dsnt mean i am against islam!! stop beleiving everythnig they do!! they are most corrupt and unfaithful of the muslim ummah!! greed has cast a spell on them, if they wanted they could do so much for a strong muslim lobby but they are slaves in handsof uncle sam and we follw big bro to the TRecommend

  • http://uptonogood.tumblr.com/ Red

    “It is not that the authorities perceive women as being incapable of doing so; it simply is not safe. Saudi Arabia needs time to adjust. At present it would be extremely irresponsible to allow a woman to drive alone in a society that has prevented interaction between the sexes for so long. Saudi men are just not ready for that and sexual crimes would soar.”

    Did you really just say that? It reminds me of the colonial argument…where the colonies were always not ready for freedom. Your statement is detrimental to Saudi women’s human rights, that should go without saying, it is also exceedingly insulting towards Saudi men. Do you really think that they possess no self-control that the mere sight of a woman driving will drive them in to a frenzy of lust leading to rapes and sexual assaults? Seriously? Is that what happens when all these Saudis go abroad and see women driving?

    I hate this argument. It is used in Pakistan as well, where women are told to stay inside to protect themselves. If a man is committing a sexual crime, arrest him and take him off the streets. Isn’t THAT how it should be? Recommend

  • abdullah

    @chacha cricket..
    than ur company z going 2 show big lossssss.Recommend

  • abdullah

    All saudis are hypocrite….wana c it cme 2 dubai during hajj days and c what all they come for and what they do ….i dnt wana mention nythn more..every1 n dubai knws abut dem .they r just hypocrite ppl.Recommend

  • Yamna Hassan

    It feels great to read something that is appreciative of arab culture. Good one! :)Recommend

  • Vigilant

    @Author
    i have been living in KSA for nearly three year already planning to leave. An engineer & unique set of technical skills. There is no doubt i developed professionally and made more money than i could have made in my own native country but still….no love for KSA but i like this place because of my religion.

    I cannot point out issues on public forum……you know (i don’t want spend long time in prison :D) but a advice from your own blog
    “I was shocked to discover how little they (read you) knew about the kingdom”
    “Yes, dreadful things happen in Saudi Arabia as they do in many countries” (There is difference between happening & part of system or culture)Recommend

  • http://www.theonlinedatingexperts.com TM Green

    Indeed KSA is a very peaceful place to stay, esp during ramadan. Very thoughtful article.Recommend

  • Girl

    @Vikram I really don’t move about frowning all the time. Sach me :) and Pakistanis are always very helpful (when it comes to dragging heavy suitcases off the belt)Recommend

  • Socko`

    @Awans:
    You for got to include INDIA to your list. Recommend

  • Tryna to do a good thing

    WOW come on pakistan! This guy is trying to say a good thing here and so typical of our people we can’t stand it! I totally agree with most of the comments and even tho I was born and raised in the states and don’t look Pakistani (not saying it’s a good thing, I just don’t) and most arabs when they see me, think I’m arab until they get to know I’m pakistani and MAN does the rasicm begin! However these are all things that if we claim to be Muslim we should work through. And if an “outsider” is saying something good about the middle east FOR ONCE, I am not gonna knock him. I’ve actually become quite a fan of Sebastian Farmborough’s work and I think keep up the good work. Being forever torn in between “the east and the west”, I always love to see some good synergy between the two :)Recommend

  • Ruby

    @sid:
    rofl mao. Full of spite but really funny.Recommend

  • Jat

    What I admire most about Saudi Arabia is how they treat Pakistanis.Recommend