November 27, 2005

I saw a woman! Or: Single men's social misery in the depths of the desert

I Saw a woman, and a kid… and yet another kid, in fact I've seen a dozen of them playing in the garden beside the pool, whoa... a band of talkative women gossiping while the food was being served by a mob of maids, that is all but too exhilarating, so I decided to retire to a numb bunch of men setting aside for a breather, where am I? or is it where was I before this encounter?

This was a scene from what would have been a typical Ramadan iftar feast among a crowd of a delightfully happy neighbors in a cozy gated-community compound anywhere in Saudi, and it happens to be that I'm invited to one of them feasts... but what was it that made the scene too momentous for me that I had to suppress the feelings of alienation and gazing-around sense of surprise while replicating an image of normality and tactful behavior?

Will -can you barely hear the slurred-voice of a looping sample from "it's a man's world" running in the background?- I am single (my fiancée lives in Jordan), I live outside any type of gated-community –for a multitude of reasons-, I am engaged in a nation-wide telecom project that drains me out of any time to facilitate a chance of a "social" life, oh' and I am currently living in non other but Saudi-Arabia!

Yes indeed, a sad portrait of the reality that many single expatriates face over here –along the unfortunate locals living away from their families-, the abnormal multi-level economically-driven elitist segregation and alienation against swarms of a dominantly-male work force that seems to no longer identify itself with any family environment, during the business working hours, and the hours after; when one finds himself caged outside the world of open markets, recreational centers, shopping malls and good dining places.

Please do not read me wrong here, I am not calling for unlawful mixing or looking for someone to guide me to the many exclusive fully-fledged parties and out-of-place social events... all I want is the normal happy mix of people in the streets, markets, playgrounds and parks that is comprised of normal men, women, kids, families, -and yes- singles alike going about their business without necessarily anticipating an explosive encounters amongst each other.

For God's sake, I’ve been here for almost a year and a quarter, an I am craving to go to the Riyadh zoo, to reminisce my family trips over there when I was young! -"It's a man's world" chorus should have stopped looping by now-, unfortunately I can't be admitted in, I must be accompanied by a family –who should accompany who I ask myself?-, a family by current definition should include a wife as a bare minimum requirement, and anything from a trolled toddler to a half dozen trailer of kids, I thought of barrowing my aunt's 10-year old daughter but it won't cut it as a qualifying family... I comfort myself by feeling sorry for the envisaged misfortunate case of a father who’s looking forward to spend quality time with his kids at the zoo while Mom is not available -for some reason- and got turned away because he doesn't qualify as a family!

Yes there are singles-only hours to enter the zoo, but they are ridiculously confined to certain days and hours that also happen to be the typical business hours we're busy at! So there goes any chance to ponder upon God's magnificence perpetuated through his overwhelming creation that was gathered from all over the world for the benefit of "families only"...

The singles workforce in Saudi –enter the rhetoric tone- is an oppressed tender of society indeed with a wide spread feeling of being systematically and institutionally marginalized from any hint of family-oriented social life! Be it that you are a white-collar top executive who missed out on bringing a family along or a humble I’ll-do-anything-for-a-living south-east Asian laborer!

I must add that this does not even come close to being equated with say the couples-only night-out dilemma of the wannabe poser-cum-clubbers of western Amman, for the latter case doesn't challenge a welfare necessity, unless I stand corrected; being denied admission to the corrupt environment of a nightclub wouldn’t exactly shatter one’s psyche! In contrast with the uncalled for tampering with one’s welfare when trying to enter a public area, a supermarket, or a furnished-apartment complex for a night-over or simply a food-court on a weekend and being denied access for merely being single!

So there you have it... a humble account on how I am being simmered into an anti-social entity that eyes any given family with envy that stems from a complete sense of sheer rejection by the post-modern society of Saudi today! I must note however, that despite the drama illustrated above, I still do enjoy my time here, and indulge in many activities –when time permits- that I would otherwise have been unable to do if I was burdened with any family-related responsibilities.


Yas said...

Assalamu 'alaykum

I still do enjoy my time here, and indulge in many activities –when time permits- that I would otherwise have been unable to do if I was burdened with any family-related responsibilities.

Make the most of it while you can! Trust me you'll miss life as a single person once you're married! (well I'm not married, but then married people say that too often)...

Yas said...

With regards to your dilemma..
how is it properly written? Sheikh or Shiekh?

I'd say Sheikh or shaykh This is more like it.

Anonymous said...

i totaly with you 100% from a to z
i am a jordainan who lives in amman
i face that mostly every week end when my time helps me to go out
i do face that when i need to do some shoping
nother malls nor scinmas permit the intrens of "guys" from 11 up i guss.
and the bigest problime is that if your wearinga suit and look like an excutive , and rides a bmw or a jaguor all doors will surprisgly be opened .
i think this is the new racisim this time against males , not all males just the "guys" who just want to hang out after a hard week or need to buy some stuff or just want to have diner or even watch a movie.
the thing is that this is promoting for male-female hangout since guys cant enter withoutr a female , so its not realy about "family" its about a narow minded person who is in a postion which he/she doesnt desrive.
and its about a comunity who misunderstod the whole religein and islam "thing".
i think that the right way to end this is to boycute (this is the way to get ur rights back)
and anti adevertising , and i will be happy to any thing upon my power to end this .
here are some places that do that "behaviur"

mecca mall ( week ends and speacl ocauians )
abdoun mall (week endsand speacl ocauians )
amman mall (weel endsand speacl ocauians )
maxim mall ( every day and every houre)
grand sinemas ( week ends and primiers)
senirey sinma ( week ends after 6 pm)
galria ( after 6 pm )
luganos ( every day)
star bux ( week ends)
abou el dahab center ( week ends, other wise has a stuped enogh "family floor" which mostly lover "bf-gf" visit)
and the list could even grow more.
thank you

Farooha said...

Ya shaikhuna al majeed.. hehe

Well, you're welcome to join the Saudi blogging community, it is one that knows no conditions (it doesn't matter if you're single or not hehe) so drop us a line and join us, why don't ya?

Arabian breeze said...

i ironically, i happen to be reading your well-written article after me and my wife decided to take our kids to see the zoo for the 1st time, and there it was, in a society that believes that it gives more credit to family based values, we were denied entry for the very reason that we were a FAMILY.
i reason that my average going IQ rate was not enough to enable me to understand the "logic" behind this denial !
in a society that claims that it gives more emphasis to family-based activities, there were denied entry for that very reason.
it was an odd enough situation that i thought that may be instead of displaying poor animals in this zoo, the members of its management should be the one on display as they deserve this for the very reason that surly they dont think or logic like human beings.
also im sure they are of a rare numbers that they should be included on the list of creatures on the endangered list of animals.
surly the actions and decisions of such "people" do not short-fall from amazing me any less than any wild, rare and strange-acting "animal"