Monthly Archives: December 2011

I think I’ll spend my money on……,0

It’s the end of the year, and on a different note, one of the saddest news stories of the year for me was the splitting up of REM.


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We got 60 billion dollars!

What do you do with $60 billion?  This is the budget surplus for Saudi Arabia in 2011.  Will there be more “redistribution” as there was in the spring?  Certainly this is what those I have spoken to are hoping for…with a hint of  mockery in their voices.  Of course, the danger of last year’s pay out is that, if it is not repeated, discontentment may spread.

However, this doesn’t seem likely in 2012, as the Guardian points out:   F.Gregory Gause also recently concurred, saying that in the short term the Saudis will have plenty of money to deflect social and political pressures.  But one day, the well will run dry.  What then?

Well, as Gause goes on to demonstrate, the security and patronage networks – which are intertwined – are two of the key reasons why opposition is not forthcoming.   In Jeddah, so far, I have been slightly disappointed that I have not seen national security in action, although perhaps this demonstrates it’s strength.  I can’t personally comment on patronage or the “use” of the religious establishment in quelling discontent, but it’s worth reading Gause here:

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Evidently chickentown

the fucking view is fucking vile

for fucking miles and fucking miles

As we sped down the coast at 160 km/h in our freshly dented Mazda3, I realised that the song on the mixtape was chosen to mirror an opinion of Saudi Arabia.  What fucking gets me fucking down isn’t the city, but the attitude of the expats within it.
The driver hates Saudi Arabia with a passion.  He likes to drink, smoke, take drugs, sleep with (and sometimes pay for) women, and eat unhealthy food.  These were actually amongst the things that John Cooper Clarke was berating as symptoms of industrial decline in Britain.  Apart from eating and smoking, most of the things the driver likes do to cannot be done where we are.  He finds this difficult to accept, and isn’t alone amongst expats in moaning about this.  None seem to recognise this as a strength.  I’m not going to judge those who need to drink all the time, or those who pay for women (actually, maybe I should judge these people)…but to have a go at a country and it’s religion when you are it’s guest and earning money from it is beyond the pale.  Some of my Saudi friends have also expressed similar views to mine, and many find it unusual to be hanging around a westerner such as myself when most just stay in their compounds or even in their hotel rooms.

My new office mate described all Arab students as “the same” the other day.    He thinks they are dirty so he doesn’t shake hands with them, and refuses to eat food outside shiny restaurants.   He has expressed opinions that they are rude and would not adapt to western life so he doesn’t understand why they’re learning English.  Westerners are clearly much more polite.

I realise this view isn’t unusual, nor am I the first person to be writing about it, but it’s so extreme here.  Moaning about everything…the restaurants closing at prayer time, the lack of women, the lack of freedom, the lack of alcohol, the lack of pork, too many cars, too much litter, too smelly, too much homoeroticism.  The most annoying thing is, I’ve started to moan myself about the lack of entertainment.   Our trip at the weekend was a let down in terms of what we wanted to see.   We tried to track down the rock carvings in Taif, only to be shown a two year old sign advertising camel racing.  The national park was a building site and the museum in Taif was closed.  But we entertained ourselves in other ways which were equally enjoyable, and there’s beauty in even the worst looking building site.  But the day after, as we drove down 80km of litter-covered beach I began to despair.  We eventually, miraculously, stumbled across an ice-cream truck.  Some light at the end of the tunnel!

‘Ureed Wahed……Ice cream min fadlak’

‘No Ice cream’

I should have known.  But still, I was pissed off.  Why would you not have ice cream in a baking hot country, on a beach, in an ice cream truck!?  Undoubtedly I was influence by my colleagues’ constant moaning.  I probably shouldn’t hang around with such people, but firstly I don’t have much choice.  Secondly, they aren’t all bad people, and sometimes it’s just “banter”…but when it permeates every conversation it stops being banter.  One shouldn’t expect the sort of entertainment we are used to in Britain.  We shouldn’t expect to drive around the corner and find a fishing village with slot machines, a fish and chip shop and a pub.   We should appreciate Saudi Arabia for what it is, and realise that – despite it’s wealth- it is still a developing country.

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