What's Saudi Arabia like? - Xtratime Community
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post #1 of 90 (permalink) Old June 17th, 2008, 11:57 Thread Starter
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What's Saudi Arabia like?

I personally wouldn't. I love the Middle East and its culture, if you'd offer me a job in Beirut or Tel Aviv I'd be on the first flight. But Saudi Arabia is a bit different. The restrictions in daily life are very severe, I fear it'd feel suffocating. To just travel there is also very hard, both the actual adaption to the environment and to gain the necessary permits. This is also why Saudi Arabia will never host a world cup despite having excellent stadiums: no women allowed in stadiums, no regular freedom of movement for the tourists (nor for local people!), ...

It is a pity because it seems an incredibly beautiful country with some unique landscapes, unique cities like Meccah and some beautiful seaside ports like Jeddah, ... The country attracts me and at the same time I doubt I'd go there if I had the chance. It is a pity to face those restrictions because in the end it is a beautiful country with some historically unique places.

PS: despite thinking that I would not really adapt well to the local customs, I refuse to judge them or speak negatively about it. It is not up to us to dictate how other countries should rule their country. The only thing I do think deserves to be criticised, are the human rights violations. But those have nothing to do with the way of life of its citizens, the way people want to live their lives is none of our business and not up to any foreigner to criticise.

I would personally love to visit Oman, Yemen and Lebanon, they look all equally beautiful but more liberal despite still being very oriental. Lebanon's the sort of country I'd even want to live for a while, Beirut seems to be one of the best cities to live in in the entire Middle East. I lived in Turkey for a while and adored the oriental atmosphere ; Beirut always seems to be a bit similar to Istanbul despite looking differently, but both are very vibrant cities that combine a liberal atmosphere with typical Middle Eastern culture.

Short PS and going slightly off topic: check out Wasted Land and Sound of Ruby. Both are hardrock bands from Saudi Arabia, actually the first two of only a handful hardrock bands existing in the country. The government refuses to distribute their music because they criticise the government policies in their music, so the bands depend on distributing their music illegally through internet. Despite this, both bands have been existing for a while now and even have a small fanbase outside of Saudi Arabia. Sound Of Ruby are from Dammam, while Wasted Land come from Jeddah.
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post #2 of 90 (permalink) Old June 18th, 2008, 08:58
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Originally Posted by Crackedpleasures View Post
I personally wouldn't. I love the Middle East and its culture, if you'd offer me a job in Beirut or Tel Aviv I'd be on the first flight. But Saudi Arabia is a bit different. The restrictions in daily life are very severe, I fear it'd feel suffocating. To just travel there is also very hard, both the actual adaption to the environment and to gain the necessary permits. This is also why Saudi Arabia will never host a world cup despite having excellent stadiums: no women allowed in stadiums, no regular freedom of movement for the tourists (nor for local people!), ...
Exactly. I read once that an English expatriate living in Saudi Arabia wasn't even able to rent a basic sail boat because of all the red tape and restrictions. It does seem that every foreigner who undertakes an extended stay in Saudi Arabia is both fascinated and horribly frustrated by the "suffocation" that you describe. And it is a shame that more young Saudi's cannot play football given the popularity of the sport in the country.

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It is a pity because it seems an incredibly beautiful country with some unique landscapes, unique cities like Meccah and some beautiful seaside ports like Jeddah, ... The country attracts me and at the same time I doubt I'd go there if I had the chance. It is a pity to face those restrictions because in the end it is a beautiful country with some historically unique places.
Indeed, I agree with this. It seems like such an incredibly fascinating country, yet the door is all but closed to Westerners such as myself. Shame.


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PS: despite thinking that I would not really adapt well to the local customs, I refuse to judge them or speak negatively about it. It is not up to us to dictate how other countries should rule their country. The only thing I do think deserves to be criticised, are the human rights violations. But those have nothing to do with the way of life of its citizens, the way people want to live their lives is none of our business and not up to any foreigner to criticise.
It is definitely a culture that is dominated by Islam in every aspect of life. While I wish the country was more accessible, I'm not going to bash the country either.

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I would personally love to visit Oman, Yemen and Lebanon, they look all equally beautiful but more liberal despite still being very oriental. Lebanon's the sort of country I'd even want to live for a while, Beirut seems to be one of the best cities to live in in the entire Middle East. I lived in Turkey for a while and adored the oriental atmosphere ; Beirut always seems to be a bit similar to Istanbul despite looking differently, but both are very vibrant cities that combine a liberal atmosphere with typical Middle Eastern culture.
Unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to visit anywhere in the Middle East, but it remains incredibly attractive to me. A friend of mine who recently returned from a 2-3 year stay in Kuwait absolutely adored the atmosphere and culture of the Middle East. And my goodness, in terms of footballing atmospheres, I don't think it gets much better than Istanbul. I get chills just watching Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray play on TV; the atmosphere looks truly unbelievable, and almost every Western European club that plays a European match in Istanbul comments on how difficult it was to play there.

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Short PS and going slightly off topic: check out Wasted Land and Sound of Ruby. Both are hardrock bands from Saudi Arabia, actually the first two of only a handful hardrock bands existing in the country. The government refuses to distribute their music because they criticise the government policies in their music, so the bands depend on distributing their music illegally through internet. Despite this, both bands have been existing for a while now and even have a small fanbase outside of Saudi Arabia. Sound Of Ruby are from Dammam, while Wasted Land come from Jeddah.
Wow, that is a really neat story; I will definitely check out the bands. I read once that in 2002, after Saudi Arabia won a major Asian football tournament, a handful of teenagers in the country blasted music from the loudspeakers of their car and were promptly arrested by the religous police. So it is incredible that you have found those two hardrock bands, given that they must redistribute their music illegally. Thanks for the suggestion.
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post #3 of 90 (permalink) Old June 18th, 2008, 15:37
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lol come on guys. The country sucks and has it's problems but it isn't THAT extreme.

BTW there are quite a few bands in Saudi (and "rappers" too), all amateur of course but that has all to do with the lack of A&R for western music in the region.

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post #4 of 90 (permalink) Old June 18th, 2008, 17:13 Thread Starter
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Istanbul is amazing for football, especially Galatasaray (craziest audience I've ever seen) and Besiktas (most beautifully located stadium in the world probably). Honestly, Istanbul is the best in every possible way. It has such an incredible amount of culture, the people are extremely friendly and tolerant, western and eastern culture go hand in hand, the architecture is lovely, you got a city as big as the average county in Germany or England, ... Istanbul to me is nearly a perfect city, only its huge size is a coin with a flip side (the girl I fancied lived in the same city but 2 hours away from my district of the town )



As for Saudi Arabia: I also think the restrictions are exagerated really. The press will report the bad things only, like the women who get arrested for talking to a man or driving a car, or an execution by beheading. Of course this is totally wrong and inhumane, but these things must be exceptions. And of course, as badmouthing Islam is a new fashion in our shameless western media, they will focus on those things happening and pretend that these are everyday events in Saudi. It probably happens only once in a while, and no matter how wrong those events are, I also find it hard to believe that this would be a regular event.

What does bother me and stops me from going:
- the segregation of genders. I like girls and I find the thought unpleasant that I would not even be able to have a friendly chat with a girl without people saying I violate a law. But I guess in practice, these laws are not enforced that often? Still, I am not a flirter and hate casual sex, but if I really like a woman I like to be able to express my feelings, which would be a bit difficult in the KSA.

- I as an autistic behave a bit differently than most people, and I do consider Saudi Arabia as a country where minorities are at risk. People would notice me behaving a bit odd, and then just try explaining the police about autism. My medication which is medically necessary for me, may be seen as a drug, and that could get me in serious problems.

- Mecca, the most fascinating city in the country, is not even open to non-Muslims so I would feel weird about visiting a country where the main attraction pole is not open to non-Muslims.

Despite these critics, I highly respect Islam and am heavily against the Islamophobia in the western world. IMO islamic societies show a lot more tolerance and solidarity, so us westerners could learn a lot from it. I do judge capital punishment and corporal punishment, but Saudi Arabia is not the only one to blame there, I equally judge the US for that.

In general the restrictions work two ways. What is forbidden can scare you off but attract you at the same time. The restrictions make Saudi Arabia having an air of mystery, an undiscovered land. So that makes it maybe more interesting to visit in a way. I hope the restrictions will be abolished some time, and then I would be on the first plane as it seems an incredibly beautiful country. The Middle East in general is a fetish of mine, mainly Israel, Turkey, Oman, Lebanon, Yemen and Iran are places I want to really see more of in the future.

And definitely check those two bands I named. Their lyrics sort of express the secret revolt young Saudis feel about their life with restrictions, so the lyrics of those two bands are quite political. Needless to say they rely on internet distribution rather than official permissions to sell in stores. The production quality of their music is bad, but they do rely on amateurish studios to record, because no professional studios are available in Saudi Arabia for hard rock and punk music.
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post #5 of 90 (permalink) Old June 18th, 2008, 17:15 Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HiJazzey View Post
lol come on guys. The country sucks and has it's problems but it isn't THAT extreme.

BTW there are quite a few bands in Saudi (and "rappers" too), all amateur of course but that has all to do with the lack of A&R for western music in the region.
In the region... bit exagerated. I lived in Turkey and most alternative music (even metal, hard rock, darkwave, etc) was freely available in the Istanbul record stores. My friends in Israel also can buy and import any music they wish and metal and rap are very popular in Israel. Beirut also has a vibrant rock scene.
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post #6 of 90 (permalink) Old June 19th, 2008, 00:31
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You didn't understand. Western music is freely available in Saudi.
I'm talking about A&R. You're not going to find an exec signing metal bands in Saudi. The local labels are only interested in Arabic music.

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post #7 of 90 (permalink) Old June 19th, 2008, 00:59 Thread Starter
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Ah OK, I had a wrong abbreviation for A&R in mind. I stand corrected.

Sorry for going offtopic, but what should I expect in a Saudi music store? "Western" music is very open for interpretation. Would I for example be able to buy only pop music or also more alternative and dark stuff like Tool, Bauhaus, Joy Division, ... ?

Also, just out of curiosity (so ignore my question if you would consider it political - it is just out of interest) but are the shopping malls, stores etc mixed or would you have separate opening hours or separate shops for men and women?
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post #8 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 17:08
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From my little experience sometimes the security at malls stop single men/non-family from entering. This happened to me twice, once in Riyadh and once in Jeddah.

Both incidents I was able to talk to the security guy and tell them that I'll be in for five minutes and leave.....of course I spent more than five minutes p

Don't lament the treachery of time;
long have dogs danced over the carcasses of lions.

Don't suppose that their dancing raises them above their masters;
for dogs remain dogs, and lions remain lions.

Insult me as you wish;
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It's not that I have no response, but;
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post #9 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 18:03
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The music stores are just like any chain music stores you find around the world.

Regarding malls, the malls don't like young men bothering customers, and the heat it generates, so security will stop you entering if they suspect you are looking to chat up girls.

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post #10 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 18:13
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I love Saudiaaaa ..I wanna go back

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post #11 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 19:00
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I love Saudiaaaa ..I wanna go back
Wow

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post #12 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 19:24
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I don't know a single person who was raised in Saudi, that hated it there. I have both male and female friends living there right now, who love it (and not all of them are Muslim, by the way)

The people who do hate it, are those who move in their 20s from a more "open" country to Riyadh/East Coast for a well-paying job but have no friends or family.

Personally I spent 3 years of my childhood in Riyadh. And I have nothing but good memories.

But to be honest my Riyadh visits are boring...coz I don't anyone there. In Jeddah, however, I always manage to have a blast.

Don't lament the treachery of time;
long have dogs danced over the carcasses of lions.

Don't suppose that their dancing raises them above their masters;
for dogs remain dogs, and lions remain lions.

Insult me as you wish;
For my silence to the depraved is a response.

It's not that I have no response, but;
A lion does not reply to a dog.
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post #13 of 90 (permalink) Old June 21st, 2008, 19:44
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I was born in Saudia and lived quite an amount of time over there. I guess it's down to the fact that I am a religious person and Saudia laws and regulations very much are upto my taste.

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post #14 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:17 Thread Starter
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The problem is, I would feel constantly insecure because of the restrictions. Involuntarely, autistic people behave differently, and if I see how some minorities (eg homosexuals) are being looked at I can imagine I would feel insecure. Also, not being able to meet women when I want (also for non-dating purposes) is somewhat unappealing. Plus moral objections to capital punishment and corporal punishment (even for harsh crimes, admit that beheading is barbaric ...)

But anyway, I am not wanting to badmouth the people, I have a lot of respect and fascination for Islamic culture and have several Muslim friends. I will always stand up against islamophobia and defend the culture towards those that badmouth it.

My issues with visiting Saudi are not the people nor the culture. It's just the regime that I feel uncomfortable with. The police is not really free of corruption, imagine people assume you did something wrong you could end up in very serious problems because "guilty until the contrary is PROVEN" is not always working that way. If you then know that severe punishments are still practised ... I would somehow feel not very at ease.

But the country attracts me at the same, much like the Middle east in general. I would love to live in the M.E. again but I think I'd rather go for Israel, Beirut or Jordan. Unfortunately working permits for those three countries are very hard to get, otherwise I'd love to move there for a 2 or 3 years.
Saudi is a place I'd love to go to if the regime would change, but until that happens I feel a bit uncomfortable with the thought.

PS: I think this topic is great, it is very educating and it proves we can discuss more serious issues than football in a polite and respectful way
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post #15 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:19 Thread Starter
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The music stores are just like any chain music stores you find around the world.

Regarding malls, the malls don't like young men bothering customers, and the heat it generates, so security will stop you entering if they suspect you are looking to chat up girls.
This means men and women do meet in public quite frequently then and that the stories of strict segregation of genders is very exagerated by biased western media?
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post #16 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:26
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Give Saudi a few more years and it will get the same positive attention Dubai is getting.
Thing are only getting better.

I don't recommend visiting it at the moment because tourism was just recently allowed to foreigners, but we don't have much to show for it yet. The food is amazing, and not to mention dirt cheap. Life in general is easy for Saudis, not necessarily foreigners. No taxes, everything and I mean everything is cheap!

I've spent half of my life there and I just got back from a month visit and I already miss it. I see huge potential in my country and as I said before, things can only get better.
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post #17 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:29
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This means men and women do meet in public quite frequently then and that the stories of strict segregation of genders is very exagerated by biased western media?
Definitely.

Riyadh is a different story, but in Jeddah it's not rare to see. This is something that has changed recently though, a few years ago when I was in high school it wasn't as easy and when out with girls you'd have to keep an eye out. Now no one cares.
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post #18 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 02:35 Thread Starter
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So you can go there and date a few Saudi belles? You can just approach girls and go out together without any need to be careful not to get caught?

I did have the feeling the stories in the media here were exagerated but I didn't know it was this liberal.
In the western media people mostly portray how people would be arrested when seeing a woman in a public place, how a theft could lead to amputation of your hands, etc.... Well, the coin has 2 sides. If it happens then I can only disapprove it (I am very strongly against corporal punishment and capital punishment) but the western media of course will find pleasure to focus on those events and disregard the positive evolutions. Typically for our western media and the current racism rising in Europe

Knowing those severe punishments do happen would still make me feel uneased I think, even though I have no criminal record. But I experienced before that sometimes people who are innocent still can get in trouble based upon assumptions, and then people like me who are different than the "norm" would be the first ones at risk. I'd love to live in places like Beirut, Tel Aviv or Amman, but I would maybe wait another few years before heading to Saudi Arabia.

(PS: I used to refuse visiting countries practising capital punishment alltogether because of my moral objections to it, but I guess I would maybe not apply that very strictly anymore as long as it is not frequently practised. I would for example not mind anymore to visit Egypt or India despite capital punishment existing, but I would find it morally difficult to spend money on tourism of countries like Iran or Singapore who frequently apply it)
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post #19 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 03:04
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So you can go there and date a few Saudi belles? You can just approach girls and go out together without any need to be careful not to get caught?
No not really p Saudi girls are very materialistic, you can't expect to go up to one and get their attention that easily. They're not your typical girls, they think they're better than everyone and will not give you face if they don't know you. But if you know girls it isn't a problem to hang out as it used to be.



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I did have the feeling the stories in the media here were exagerated but I didn't know it was this liberal.
In the western media people mostly portray how people would be arrested when seeing a woman in a public place, how a theft could lead to amputation of your hands, etc.... Well, the coin has 2 sides. If it happens then I can only disapprove it (I am very strongly against corporal punishment and capital punishment) but the western media of course will find pleasure to focus on those events and disregard the positive evolutions. Typically for our western media and the current racism rising in Europe
Things are exaggerated. The amputation of your hands for stealing is a reality but not common. There are certain protocols to follow which make it uncommon.


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Knowing those severe punishments do happen would still make me feel uneased I think, even though I have no criminal record. But I experienced before that sometimes people who are innocent still can get in trouble based upon assumptions, and then people like me who are different than the "norm" would be the first ones at risk. I'd love to live in places like Beirut, Tel Aviv or Amman, but I would maybe wait another few years before heading to Saudi Arabia.
The legal system here not too many people are fond of, not because of the religious aspect, but because the mixing of tradition with religion. As I said things can only get better, things will change gradually.

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(PS: I used to refuse visiting countries practising capital punishment alltogether because of my moral objections to it, but I guess I would maybe not apply that very strictly anymore as long as it is not frequently practised. I would for example not mind anymore to visit Egypt or India despite capital punishment existing, but I would find it morally difficult to spend money on tourism of countries like Iran or Singapore who frequently apply it)
I don't see how it should bother you. Don't do anything illegal and you're fine p

Besides, PROVING you did something is super difficult. I'm a forensics major and my biggest challenge will be bringing this back to Saudi without problems.

Things will only get better
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post #20 of 90 (permalink) Old June 22nd, 2008, 03:51
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Saudi is an acquired taste for expats, i know some of them (many of whom are westerners) that live a very happy and successful life there, mainly because they understand how things work and they've adapted to it.

But i think you wouldn't like it for the same reasons that you state, it is restrictive and it is a closed society. You also have to learn how to operate in the country and it is not an easy process. I would cite any other Gulf country as being a lot more open, transparent and practical to visit or live in.

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