Just like other nations, we all have different cultures and traditions that we follow every now and then. We eat different
food, we have different ways to live and we all have different beliefs. For more than a decade, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has almost been my home. Since my first grade in primary school until I was in my fourth year high school, I had lived here. For those long years, it took some time to impart something new to the world. It may not be new to some but for a few people (since I have lots of friends in the Philippines asking what it’s like to live here) maybe it is. An idea occurred to me to divulge some insights on how we live here.
I consider myself lucky to acquire an opportunity to live here but not lucky to live that long. Despite the luxuries this country holds, this place is as arid as its deserts. The presence of the huge shopping malls and the city lights are the ones giving life to this place. They have no cinemas, alcoholic drinks are strictly forbidden, no drugs (of course), pork is also strictly prohibited, no nightlife (which includes bars and casinos), and no concerts. Hands down to their low crime rates though. For the reason of preserving their cultures and traditions, and considering that their Holy Place is located here (Mecca/ Makkah), they have secluded their nation to a lot of things. Before the western influences, they had been very stern to the lifestyles of the people living here.
Unmarried men and women are not allowed to date. Unlike in other countries, men and women (even if they are only friends) are no allowed to get together unless they are family. Women are very preserved and very conservative. There are no holding of hands, no public display of affection and no exchanged affections between opposite sex. The schools are also exclusive for boys and for girls. Although that idea is starting to change since they are learning to be receptive, most of them are still implacable regarding this custom. They have exclusive branch of banks for females while restaurants and cafes have family sections and singles section.
As aforementioned above, women are very conserved. It is mandatory to wear a long black robe with long sleeves (which are called ‘abaya‘) as well as a veil which covers the whole head and sometimes the face (it is called ‘tarha‘). Women are not allowed to drive and are not allowed to work before(except in a bank and in the hospitals). Can you imagine buying make up or worse, underwear to a store where salesmen are the ones in charge? It may be awkward but that’s how it works here before. There are improvements, at least recently, since they hire salesladies already who are fluently speaking in English. I’m impressed! There are exclusive stores which doesn’t allow males to enter.
The people here are very friendly and they are very fond of long cheek-to-cheek greetings. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop but you’ll usually know, I guess? I was amused when I met one of my mother’s friends. It was my first cheek-to-cheek so I thought it would only be one but when I started pulling away from her, she started pulling me again and gave me 2 or 3 more. Ha! I usually smile and get coy but I got used to it eventually. I still haven’t figured how many cheek-to-cheeks I have to do when I meet them. My friend (Filipino) told me that the number of their cheek-to-cheek greeting is proportionate to how close they are to each other. I haven’t confirmed if it’s true. I think it depends on the person greeting you.
The only religion practiced is Islam. It is highly restricted to practice other religions. Bibles, crucifix, figurines of saints,
etc. are prohibited and never to be used nor displayed publicly. The only place for praying is their mosque. Although in other countries, polygamy is taboo, it is practiced here in Saudi Arabia as long as they can support their spouses and their children. As far as I know, they are not allowed to have more than one wife if they can’t support them. It is very prominent to have arranged marriages here and they are allowed to marry their blood lines (unlike in most countries, it is incest, right?).
Regarding the food, since they have no pork, we usually eat chicken or beef or sea foods. Their main food here is chicken which are very piquant in every dish. So far, the best fried chicken I’ve ever ate is made here. It’s called Al Baik. I am also fond of shawarma and kabab. Different indistinguishable spices give delectable delight to their dishes. I am becoming more corpulent and have less resistance to food.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lived here for so long but I still haven’t learned their language. I am regretting this until now since, even if we have an Arabic subject during my school days, I didn’t take it seriously so I feel so sorry for myself. I just know how to read and how to write but I don’t understand most of it. They read and write from right to left so it’s really different.
I’ve spent half of my life in this country and I’m very lucky to be one of those people to learn their customs and ways on how they live. I hope in the future, I would be able to live in another country as beautiful as Saudi Arabia and to be able to learn their different cultures and traditions.