In response to the negative behaviors seen in line cutting post, I was asked by a Finnish reader to write about an example of a very good behavior or a nice deed I witnessed done by a Saudi.
No problem! It’s very easy to write about positive incidents in Saudi-Arabia because they do happen all the time, we just don’t hear about them often. Or then, people are blind to the positives and can only see the bad and negative in things. This is often the case with many expats here, unfortunately. For outsiders, all they seem to hear about from the media are the bad things which happen in KSA. So here’s a dose of positivity in form of mini-series of “true stories” from Saudi Arabia.
I’m going to mention a few random things that came to my mind about Saudi-Arabia and GOOD manners, hospitality and friendship.
A very recent really nice deed by a Saudi man happened just last week. My husband and I had left for a long walk with the stroller on a Friday afternoon around Diplomatic Quarters. We had walked so far that we had actually gotten lost! Suddenly out of nowhere a vicious sandstorm hit. We started walking faster but realized it would take at least another half hour until we reached anywhere near home. Suddenly a car stopped and a man asked us to get in his car, insisting on driving us home without even asking where we live! So we gladly took the ride home (he insisted on taking us all the way to our door) and only then realized how far away we had still been. Here’s a pic of the sandstorm rolling in:
Once I was flying alone with my then 8 month old daughter along with three large bags in my hands. I had been struggling with all my stuff on the previous flight out of Finland, but no one had helped me. When I was boarding the next flight to Riyadh, there were Saudi men going out of their way to help me.
As I stepped on the airport bus I noticed it was full of Asian men without famlies (very common on flights to Saudi) and a group of Pakistani men were sitting and occupying all the seats but none of them moved their butts, they just ogled at me with no shame. I was standing there with all my things and a squirmy baby in my arms yet none of the men had the decency to give me a seat. A Saudi man had already helped me lift all the stuff on the bus and now another stepped in to clear a seat for me.
The Saudi man (he looked like a muttawa btw) noticed the situation and how uncomfortable those men were making me feel and told those staring men off. It worked, they suddenly remembered to lower or divert their gazes. He made way for me to sit on the benches, he even had to push (nicely, not aggressively) one reluctant guy to the side and asked the men to clear three seats for me. The men very reluctantly moved, but I was thankful the Saudi guy helped me because those men would’ve never listened to a woman.
Later one young Saudi guy insisted on carrying all my things up the plane, then went to search for an empty over head locker for them and when we landed he fetched everything and brought it all to the airport cart for me. He was so polite and respectful and didn’t try to chat me up or anything.
This was not an isolated case, I’ve been helped by Saudis with the baby and things every time I traveled alone with her.
Another incident from the airport, again I was alone with the baby and now had the stroller with me and needed to pass through the security check. I found it extremely difficult to handle everything with all the stuff and as we know usually all around the world the personnel don’t usually assist much. Well this time the Saudi national guards saw my despair and motioned for me to pass the whole queue.
One officer took the baby and started to play with her on the other side. The other one came to fold the stroller and lift it up on the xray machine. At this point the women have to go into a separate female check-up room so I left the baby with the men(they were so fascinated by her cute smiley face that they forgot to “check” her) and went in for the pat down. When I came out they were all gathered around admiring the baby, had re-assembled the stroller and placed all my belongings next to it. None of them were looking at the monitor :) That really warmed my heart and made me smile.
Just last week at Al Owais souq we had first a negative incident but it lead to such a positive response from others I want to mention it. I was walking along the souq alone while my husband was still at the car getting the baby out of her car seat. A car full of young Saudi guys pulled up and they all start trying to chat me up suggesting all sorts of things. I have zero tolerance for this kind of harassment and knowing my husband was nearby I started shouting back at them. I told them to eff off and their jaws DROPPED.
I turned around and followed them now openly flicking them off. They got really angry and shouted insults. I saw my husband approaching and pointed the car to him. When he realized the situation he RAN after the now panicked fleeing boys (with the baby in his arms). When the car reached the intersection they had to slow down and my husband was able to kick the car as hard as he could before they screeched away from the scene.
Immediately other Saudis watching the situation came to our defense asking my husband do we need any help and cursed those men out. One man said he saw how disrespectful and horrible they were and we were right to react. Then another passerby came and asked my husband does he want them to follow that car and catch the guys. People were also suggesting to report them to police and they had taken the license plates.
It felt good that this sort of bad behavior was condemned so strongly and people were openly supportive of us.
A few years ago the family of a long term patient of mine wanted to arrange a wedding party for me, after hearing we had just recently gotten married in Finland but we didn’t have the chance to have a celebration yet. They insisted on hosting a female only party for me. It was so sweet and to this day I keep contact with one of the daughters.
Another family I got to know well through a patient over a course of few years became really close to me. They invited my whole family over for dinner when they were visiting Saudi the first time. They gave me a wedding gift when they heard I got married, and another gift when I converted. I became friends with one of the older women in this family and she is a big fan of my daughter! This family has given me so much warmth and made me feel like I am part of their family. The best moment was when the 90-yr old grandmother wanted to kiss me on the forehead as thank you and high respect she had for me for caring so well for her husband.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to pass the line to the front by Saudi men. It has happened at grocery stores, airports, all sorts of offices and places where lines have formed consisting mainly of men. As the sole woman they acted like gentlemen and let me cut in front and nobody ever complained, it is taken as granted that women shouldn’t be made to wait that long.
Once we had gotten stuck with our SUV in the desert with a group of expats and were unable to get the vehicle out of the sand. We were literally in the middle of nowhere (600km from Riyadh) there was a sandstorm and it wasn’t looking good. Luckily some Bedouins had seen us dummies from far away and came to help us out. They pulled the Hummer out of the sand with a Toyota pick-up truck and then lead the way to a very nice campsite we could never have found without them and made us Arabic coffee on the fire!
I had a patient once whose grand daughter has to be one of the most beautiful persons inward and out that I’ve met during my time here. I was new to the Kingdom and she helped me with many things in the beginning. We often had long discussions over Arabic coffee during my breaks on night shift. She confided in me about many problems from her life and I felt a real connection between us. She was my age and the sitter of her grandmother and present in the room most of the time. She was not married which is very uncommon for such a stunning woman of her age. From her own will she remained single because she simply had not found the right person and had refused all the cousins and other relatives! I was impressed by her strong will.
I was very sad to hear when the patient was moved back to Jeddah where they lived but kept in contact with this woman.
A year later the same patient was back in our hospital and when they arrived the family immediately called me in the room. I was so happy to see them and vice versa. The grand daughter gave me an incense burner like the one they had had in the room which I had so much adored! I couldn’t believe she had remembered and brought it all the way from Jeddah for me.
What saddens me is I don’t know what happened to her after they left the hospital again. Suddenly her phone was cut off and her Facebook page deleted. I often think of her and wonder how she is doing and hope her problems were solved and that she found true love.
There are many many more stories to tell but I will leave you with these which I think are good examples of the considerate and polite nature of Saudi people.