Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Calling … Working Here

May 14, 2010 by John M. Williams
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by John M Williams / Special to the OB Rag / May 14, 2010

Let me set the stage. The school I work in is a remedial college designed as a feeder for King Saud University (KSU). My school is called the Preparatory Year Program (PYP). Students take courses in English, physics, chemistry, biology, math, IT and a group of business related subjects.

The organization is a little complex, but let me try. At the top is King Abdullah. Then comes the Ministry of Education. Next is KSU. KSU contracted with a Saudi company named Obekan. Obekan hired Bell, a United Kingdom-based English language teaching charitable trust associated with Cambridge University. Bell recruited teachers, created the administrative structure, and runs the school on a day to day basis. The role of Bell is rather like that of a middle manager; they have very little real power, but are the face of the organization to teachers and students.

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Riyadh Calling … #3

March 20, 2010 by John M. Williams

by John Williams

So far, I’ve commented on Saudi society with the intent of relating how different it is from the US. I haven’t intended to be critical. It hasn’t been my intent to elevate one system over the other. I haven’t wanted to choose. Now, though, I want to say some things about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) that I think are positive.

First, these people walk the walk when it comes to the question of hospitality. For example, as I’ve said, I live in a hotel. One afternoon, I was near the entrance having a smoke when a youthful Saudi man was also in the lobby (you are allowed to smoke inside of buildings here), pacing, apparently deeply in thought. At a point, his route brought him close enough to me for me to remark, “You seem to be thinking very seriously about something.”

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Riyadh Calling …

March 2, 2010 by John M. Williams

by John Williams

I’m now nearing three months in Saudi Arabia. Much of what I’ve already said remains unchanged.

However, I have learned that the characteristic black outer garment the women here wear is called an abaya, not a burka. I’ve also learned that is only worn when a woman wishes to go out in public. It isn’t worn around the house. Further, it is rather like your mom saying, “Don’t forget your jacket!” Except, of course, in this case the women are not told by their mothers, “Don’t forget your abaya!”, but by their culture.

Additionally, I’ve also learned that how much face a woman shows in public is decided by her husband. Some are allowed to (or is it directed to, I don’t know), show their entire face, quite nun like; others show just the eyes; and others show nothing of their faces at all, black from head to toe.

I’ve also learned that thobes, the characteristic attire for men, can be purchased in subtle pinstripes as well as in solid colors.

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Riyadh Diaries …

February 5, 2010 by John M. Williams

by John Williams

Burkas: Just like Ford’s Model T, you can get a burka in any color you like as long as you like black. Men’s attire ranges from white, through grays, to black, plus shades of brown. None of this traditional attire is patterned; all solid colors.

Lefthandedness: Though statistics would say a certain percentage of people will be lefthanded, I haven’t met a single one here. And, if you extend your left hand to a Saudi or touch them with your’s, they will either draw back or, at the very least, wince.

Saudis don’t complain about their culture or society: In six weeks, I have not spoken to a Saudi female.

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