BEYOND the glitz and glamour of the grand malls and super highways, the multi-cuisine restaurants and cosmopolitan communities, there’s another side to Saudi Arabia that not many people talk about: the sleepy small towns and villages, where life goes from one day to another at an unhurried, graceful pace, untouched by the bigger-better-faster, more fevered tempo of the big cities.
Here, bedouins still saunter into supermarkets and mosques with little sprigs of Rayhaan (fresh fragrant herbs) tucked into their turbans and a silver dagger at their belt; neighbours drop in after the late-afternoon ‘Asr prayer, bearing Qahwah (Arabic coffee) and homemade sweets; children troop in for prayer, boisterous and sweaty after a football game in the sand lot, women buy and sell — unhindered and unselfconscious — in a separate area of the main Souq designated specially for them, and the night stars twinkle solemn and huge after sunset, with no competition from bright city lights.
I remember feeling apprehensive about having to live in a small town during the early days of my stay in Saudi Arabia, but now, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Alhamdulillaah, I met many wonderful people and was made to feel accepted and welcome in a manner I never experienced in the urban ghettoes of Jeddah, where we moved later.
I recall the women of my Hayy (neighbourhood) coming over to welcome me after I had moved in and inviting me to their houses… the platters of home-cooked food that descended in time for Iftaar in Ramadhaan…the thoughtful gifts and trays of special meals of lamb shorba and chicken soup after I had a new baby. I remember the sumptuous lunches and dinners we were invited to, where the hostess took special care to serve us herself; the elderly women who insisted we call them ‘Khalah’ (aunt), unabashedly curious about the culture we came from, questioning us late into the night in their eagerness to learn about a different way of life firsthand.
Perhaps what helped was that we resolutely steered clear of negative preconceptions and consciously worked at harboring good thoughts and expecting nothing but khayr (goodness) from Allah, realizing that He has the forelock of every creature in His hand, and that He is capable of all things.
Obviously, Saudi Arabia is not immune from the human failings and modern afflictions that beleaguer the world today – it has its own unique strengths and problems. Yet, the constant negative press coverage, online slugfests and criticism in real-life conversations reflect an unhealthy preoccupation with the more evil aspects of this culture or society. This perpetuates stereotypes, leading us to evaluate and interact with people based on generalizations, instead of individual merit. In doing so, we only foster greater prejudice, constrict our worldview and in the case of those of us who live here, make our lives bitter and discontented.
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Little Known Charms Of Small Town Saudi Arabia http://downsum.uni.me/update.php?viewcomments=2299642922795676