Discriminated against by a foreigner in my own country

I just had a really frustrating phone call. A friend of mine recommended a ballet instructor for my daughter. She gave me the number and I called to inquire and the lovely British ballet instructor informed me that she could not accept my daughter because we carry Saudi passports. I asked her why and she said that there is a directive that Saudi girls are not allowed to learn ballet. I asked her if she was ever provided with a written directive that Saudi girls weren’t allowed to learn ballet, and she said no that she was verbally instructed. I told her that that is not true and that there are ballet classes at some gyms here in Riyadh. So she changed the story and said that she had instructions that Saudis weren’t allowed on compounds. I told her that I’ve been in compounds. So she again changed the story. This time she had the audacity to say that she can only allow “western” passport holders, not only once but several times. I asked her what to you mean by western? How about Pakistanis? She retracted “oh no, I do allow Pakistanis.” Finally she said that that the compounds that she gave classes at required her to provide copies of the little girls’ passports. That is an outright lie because my son went to a daycare at a compound and never once was I asked to provide a copy of his passport. And then she started bumbling like a fool that in Saudi she has to wear a abaya. I said but that is not determined by your passport, every woman has to wear a abaya.

Anyway this is the new generation of Western expatriate workers here. Before 9/11, the attitude was very different. People who came here actually cared about making an impact, and getting to know the people of the country. Now so many of them strike me as money-hungry elitist who look down on “the ignorant locals”. When the ballet instructor told me that she has to endure discrimination too because she has to wear a abaya, as a Saudi woman, all I could think is that she has it easy. It’s her choice to stay or leave the country and naturally she wouldn’t be here unless she was being compensated for the inconvenience of wearing a abaya. As a foreigner, all that is required is that she have on this light black cloak when she’s out in public. She doesn’t even have to cover her hair. What about all those Saudi women and girls who are required to wear a heavy, below the ankles tent style abaya with their faces fully covered? And these Saudi girls aren’t here by choice nor are they financially compensated, and at the end of the day they don’t go home to a five star compound where they can walk around freely and enjoy the sun. Really, the ballet instructor is the one with the bad end of the stick? It’s bad enough getting it from the muttawa but when the same people who condemn us for not fighting for our freedom, practice discrimination against us, it gets really frustrating.

75 Comments

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75 responses to “Discriminated against by a foreigner in my own country

  1. How dratted stupid is the ballet instructor? She makes me ashamed to be a Brit. Ok – I know that things have changed in the Kingdom since 9/11, but I was always under the impression that the residents in the compunds were left to their own devices – all we had to do was obey the regulations regarding the abaya, and respectful dress.

    I’m sorry that you had such a rotten experience from one of my more ignorant country women, as I always found your people very polite and helpful when I was in the Kingdom.

    • Thanks Karen, Don’t worry about it. I’ve lived in the UK, Birmingham to be exact, and 99% of the British that I came across are open and accepting of others. I know Brits and I know that the woman I talked to over the phone does not represent the norm.

    • Mark

      Why should any woman wear the Abaya never mind asking all others to wear it even if it is not their customs? Thw women here from Saudi are completely in support of the vile horrible and disgusting culture over covering Muslim women form head to toe.. How utterly sad.. And to be honest, if I was a western Ballet teacher, then I would have concerns about teaching Muslim females.. Who knows, one day, the class might just be raided and the teacher taken away for some trumped up charge or another…. This is not discrmination, far from it and if the black cloud Abaya brigade want to complain, then march on the streets with your hair flowing in the wind and see who is discriminating.

    • sunny

      Dear Karen,

      Do you know how difficult is to work in a foreign country, and that too where conditions are very different from your home country.
      Moreover, you should respect the society where you live… If a powerful group of society don’t want you do something which they don’t feel ok, than its wise decision not to do so. This might be the case with poor lady, she might had been directed not to include saudi girls.

      More over Miss Eman Al Nafjan should understand that its not poor ballet instructor’s fault… Its her own people who don’t want that and she is the only person who can help this.

      Karen, just go through other blogs on this post and just analyse the local culture in the Kingdom.

      It is sorry that this is happening but its the local fundamentals who are involved not the foreigners.

      • Sunny, I *do* know what life is / was like in the Kingdom – I have the privilege to live in the Kingdom for 15 years – I was with my family in the Eastern Province (Al-Khobar) as my father worked for Saudia as an engineer. I know that things have changed since 9/11, but I was under the impression that the local authorities left the westerners alone when they were on their compounds.

        The ballet teacher’s response could have been more “diplomatic”, especially as she was teching non-western children, and I unfortunately agree – the expats who were in Kingdom (and I am ashamed to say that they were also Brits) did have a tendancy to look down on the locals, forgetting that if it wasn’t for them, they they wouldn’t be out in KSA earning their money (tax free I might add).

  2. I do not know what to tell u… maybe they do not want to open it to Saudis, and then it gets known… which would lead to its closure… however, u said there are gyms in Riyadh where u can your girl in to a ballet class… so…

    As I said, I do not know what to tell u… except I have to agree with you on the “Now so many of them strike me as money-hungry elitist who look down on “the ignorant locals”.”

  3. RT

    I guess the ballet instructor is a bit concerned with not geeting involved in some issues. But I cmpletely agree she shouldn’t complaint about the life here, she is here on her free choice and nobody stops her from leaving if she chooses.

  4. If she doesn’t want Saudis in her class, then why is she there in your country?

    It’s awful enough to be discriminated in other countries, but in your own country and by a foreigner at that? Humiliating!

    People who come to other countries for work should always jam it into their heads that they would have to entertain the possibility of serving the locals. Otherwise, they should leave and just serve their own kind. That woman didn’t realize how fortunate she is that she was given a chance to teach her art to others. As a teacher (no, not of dance but I had ballroom dancing lessons, hehehe) I believe that she has committed a crime in depriving those who want to learn from her.

    Inshaallah you’ll find another teacher who’s more generous to teach.

  5. ExpatInSaudi

    Although the woman’s unarguably wrong to have turned you down, I’m still surprised that one lady’s refusal to entertain made you make such a strong comment : “Now so many of them strike me as money-hungry elitist who look down on “the ignorant locals””. Isn’t it the same as a South-East Asian saying that most Saudis strike him as Westerner’s butt kissing, discriminating people who think of him as an imported slave?.
    I’m a Pakistani and I do not believe in generalizing an individual’s behavior as a nation’s mind set.
    There are good and bad people in every community.I’m not saying that you have judged an entire nation from an individual’s behavior.It is obvious from the post that you are only mad at that woman for her inappropriate behavior.
    I do think, though, that it is wrong to use terms like “money-hungry elitist” for foreigners. Of course we’re all in your country to make money.Think of it this way,If you belong to a middle class or maybe a lower class family and are barely making ends meet and you get a job offer to work in another country where the pay happens to be at least 6 – 7 times more than what you make in your country,what would you do?.
    I think this the first time you have received such a treatment from a Briton (I hope you don’t ever get in such a situation again).I hope you find a good ballet instructor for your daughter soon.
    Just out of curiosity, why did you ask whether she accepted Pakistani children in her ballet classes?.

    • ExpatInSaudi
      First of all, I wrote the post just after I hung up the phone so I was angry at the time of writing it. Now the balloon has popped and if I were to write about the incident now it would be a completely different post.
      I said Pakistan because she was saying westerners this and westerners that and I wanted to check if she meant she was racist (anti-Arab, anti-Muslim) or if she she strictly meant westerners as in Americans and Europeans as a security measure against terrorism. Pakistan popped into my head because its the closest in culture, religion, and its perception as a terrorist threat, just like Saudi, but isn’t Arab. So when she said yes we allow Pakistanis then it meant that she wasn’t worried about terrorists but rather confirmed she was targeting Saudis.

      • Mark

        Saudi woman,
        Maybe you should practice self restraint, patience and calm yourself.. you will get yourself all tied up in knotts… tut.. tut…
        Why not dress yourself up in Black and go .. err… go… er… go… I dont know, where can you go alone?

  6. I can completely understand your frustration with this ballet teacher’s responses. And to some extent it’s very true that many of the expats here seem to be “money-hungry elitists”. But I don’t know that it wasn’t always like that. Like Expat In Saudi said, isn’t that why foreigners are willing to live here?
    I’m British but I’m not white and I see it as a very sad fact that this country is brimming with racial discrimination.

  7. Elise

    It troubles me the attitude of the Ballet teacher. I’m trying to find a justification for her refusal to help Saudi girls. Perhaps there is this subconsciously… if she taught your girls, made their life a little better, would that placate them and make them less apt to demand changes in your government? If one gets ‘little freedoms’ but lacks big ones, does that console them with their fate? Maybe she was subconsciously exaggerating the rules and regulations of the government to make living under such rule unbearable. I know that only when life became unbearable here in the states in the 1700’s did men and women become active in their rebellion and fight for freedom. That’s the only reason I can come up with that this teacher chose to withhold her lessons.

  8. I have the sense that either this woman was hired to, or perceives herself as hired to teach ballet to expats only, ie an expat hire for expats–someone to keep the families of the expat happy with the amenities of home, ballet instruction from a “proper” British ballet instructor (some might argue that only the Russians or the French should be teaching ballet, but, whatever…).

    Her explanation gives me the ludicrous image of no Saudi little girls in black ballet leotard as a punishment for making women wear the black abaya…as I said ludicrous but it pops to mind.

    Being discriminated against in one’s own country provokes a special type of indignation. I once locked my self out of my apartment and had to endure the attitude of the concierge and the manager, both men, both going on about me with sniggers to my face in English (lieing that they don’t have to provide a key, that I hadn’t left my own spare key for such an occasion, that they have no right to open the door for me) and in Romanian, which judging by the looks had a lot more “machismo” in it than they dared to do in English to my face.

    I realize that give the social structure in Saudi your example is more dramatic, but I can empathize to some extent.

    I assume that offered free lessons for life you would decline to have your daughter taught by such a noxious influence…I hope she finds a wonderful teacher elsewhere and enjoys studying ballet as much as I did.

  9. You see this attitude in the US concerning Saudi women all the time. “Well, why don’t they just take off them burkey things?”

    Yes, it’s that simple, they just haven’t thought of it yet. Thank you for solving all of the world’s misogyny. /sarcasm

  10. You anger and frustration are totally understandable. The compounds walls, and for a long period of time, have always been means of segregation and isolation between Saudis and those working in Saudi Arabia.

    However, I am not sure I can totally dismiss her argument or point of view. She maybe knew, from a pervious experience, that allowing Saudis to attend such classes could invites nothing but troubles. You know how a huge chunk of community thinks of arts and music, let alone dancing!!

    She might provoked your anger, but what really should get on your nervous is our own understanding and attitude toward fine arts, as Saudis. That might be the reason that forced her to act in such manner!

    • Usman

      I think you are right. The lady on phone might just want her school to have low profile outside the compound. I don’t think this is a case of discrimination at all.

    • Saad, I know for a fact that there is a huge chunk of Saudi society, especially in Riyadh, who are appreciative of the arts. I don’t think that this woman had a previous bad experience with Saudis. She struck me as being new here and rather green behind the ears when it comes to how to deal with people in Saudi and not just Saudis.

      • Mark

        Saudi woman,
        I hope you are well and enjoying a wonderful day.

        I have to say, your post baffles me.. I hear you excusing the western woman for her actions, she is a little green behind the ears so to speak.. Ya know, she isnt really experienced with Saudi Life, culture, leisure time.. restrictions, laws, boundaries, who she can speak to, who she cannot, who she can walk down the road with, who she cant, can she drive, can she leave the compound and if so, how can I be dressed???..
        You scream discrimination, but excuse her because she is green. However, even those expats from the west who have worked inside Saudi for a couple of years are also very very cautious and absolutely right and correct to be that way…
        Saudi society, Laws, customs, Sharia punishments, yes, of course they make you very wary… why do we see so many Saudi women speaking out against the oppression and their treatment as second class citizens within Saudi Male society.
        If a society can chase women students back into an University inferno to die because they were not appropriately dressed according to Islam so must perish in flames, then I would Leave the country, never mind stop and complain about a ballet class…

        However I do hear you.. you are strong.. and your voice is getting heard..
        respectfully.
        Mark

  11. I’m so sorry to hear that the woman you spoke to was so unsympathetic and difficult. It must have been incredibly frustrating to deal with her. She sounds like a person who is very frightened and rule-bound, and who instinctively sides with the hand that feeds her, even it that hand also slaps her. There are lots of women like that all around the world, and they do in some ways deserve our sympathy and compassion. But then again, they also deserve our anger, our fury, because they are too cowardly and selfish to see how they participate in the discrimination against women that we all suffer from. Namaste,
    Kimberly http://pittsburghfeminists.blogspot.com/

  12. salam alaykum, Eman, pls do not assume that one foreigner’s attitude is representing all foreigners that come to your country. I do believe a lot of comments on your blog are being left by foreigners like myself, who have been living in KSA and appreciate the fact that we are the chosen ones who can experience life in this misterious – hard to enter for an average tourist – country😉 with such a unique culture… We also experience bad and nice things from the Saudis and not only Saudis here – well – we are all only people… You can always stumble on a person, that would be either lacking basic culture, would be an ignorant or would not like you beacuse of stupid reason… While reading your post, I also thought – like Mr Dosari – that the teacher might have had experienced some troubles while teaching Saudi girls, but the whole bunch of arguments and the whole conversation seems that it was not the only issue here… BTW: I know that some compounds indeed to not allow Saudis to enter…

  13. Racism and discrimination is rampant in KSA, ESPECIALLY by the expats. I faced the most from expats, including at the US embassy e.g. I asked a consul (at a biz networking event no less) about embassy events and was told I should go talk to the ASEAN women who annually organize a food festival. It’s not just about the passport you carry but the color of your skin and your religion.

  14. Hala

    Eman I think the lady is just intimidated by the Mutawwaeen so much as most expat women are, she is probably thinking that if Saudis start talking among each others about the ballet lessons in her home (dance and music) that her class would be shut down, she would be persecuted or she would be liable to lose her visa or something, I remember that a close Westerner friend of mine in Jeddah asked me when we first met if I was a mutawwa? before deciding to get to know me further, later on, she told me that there were rumors that some Mutawwa infiltrate their circle of friends to snitch on them?!!!

  15. uuurrrggghhhh the arrogant ***** i wouldn’t allow myself to use language in your space. I say if she can’t deal with “locals” then leave go back where you came from. The day us Arabs will stop having an inferiority complex towards Westeners just for the fact that they are Westeners regardless of who they actually are then it will be the day these ignorants will respect us a little more and stop looking at “locals” from the high pedestal that was given to them by “locals”

  16. Tiziana

    I’m so sorry for you

  17. مها نور إلهي

    My fellow Saudi woman…
    discrimination is everywhere … the lady’s attitude doesn’t surprise me… I’ve met many ex-pats who have come with the attitude of “let’s take those idiots’ money and give them nothing in return”…it doesn’t alarm me at all…I’ve had an employee recently who frankly and literally told me: you should be kissing my feet because I am an American working in you sh*** culture!”
    the ironic thing is that if she looked for a job in the States, no one would hire her cause she’s not qualified at all.
    However, these attitudes exists in all nations, and the more you have experiences, the more you will see…the good and the bad from every country.
    I’ve reached a state where I expect anything from anyone…nothing surprises me or upsets me…but you’re still young…it will come to you when you age like me🙂

  18. Craig

    Well, I’m not British but my guess is that she doesn’t want to risk getting in trouble with the government and she figures it’s just safer not to have Saudi students. I’ve read several stories of westerners hired as teachers in Saudi schools who have had their lives turned into nightmares by Saudi parents, so that’s not so surprising in my opinion. If that’s her thinking.

    As for the discrimination, I think her comment about having to wear the abaya was her saying that discrimination is not illegal or even morally wrong in KSA and she used herself as an example. And while you may not think having to wear an abaya is a problem, I don’t think many Christians (and most westerners are Christians) are OK with that. And that’s not only bigotry it’s a human rights violation, to force people to comply with the practices of a religion they don’t believe in.

    Bottom line, though, I agree with you. If she dislikes KSA so much she should leave. I don’t have much respect for people who live in a country they detest just so that they can make more money than they could make at home. I see that all the time right here in the US too and it’s really annoying.

  19. Therese

    This leaves me terribly sad — how could she not have the compassion to even try allowing your daughter for one class? It seems that she simply does not want the trouble. Have you spoken about it with the friend who originally referred the instructor to you? I wonder whether she has more insight. I am sorry that you had to experience this, and I hope that she is now feeling bad for her poor judgment.:/

    • Mark

      I am surprised you and your daughter are allowed out of the class and actually permitted to go to Ballet classes.. Wow.. Look how far Saudi Arabia has come..

      • Usman

        yet another American mole out there for his usual business. By the way your frustration with foreign cultures always amuse me.

      • Marbbe

        You and people like you are a disgrace!

        1) This woman is in another country and should
        be honored she was allowed to visit, or leave !

        Saudiwoman, all I know is if I had been in your
        your position I would of said “if you don’t like it here leave”.

        I don’t have a problem telling people if they don’t want to help change what’s wrong in my country just leave!

        I’m sorry you had to go thru this. Thank You for your post.

  20. yasmina

    Is it possible some authorities told her to not teach Saudis? Otherwise it is crazy for her to refuse you and if she is money hungry…well, you would be paying for class just like the others. I hope you find some ballet classes. What a shame.

    Yasmina

  21. مها نور إلهي

    @Mark
    I think you have never been to Saudi Arabia…your mind is so controlled by the media….
    I understand this sarcastic tone very well and i don’t blame you….we do have a lot of problems, but give me just one example of a country who doesn’t have problems at all…
    I think you should be reading more about Saudi Arabia from different sources to get a better and fair idea…if you don’t want to, then it’s better not to dignify us by your valuable comments…save your energy for people who are worthy of it🙂
    Probably you are wondering who is this person to talk to me this way…Well I am a Saudi woman who comes from the best working environment in Saudi Arabia…I come from a place where change in KSA is happening and is going to continue happening….
    http://www.daralhekma.edu.sa/

    http://saudirevelations.wordpress.com/about/

    http://www.1001inventions.com/

    http://aneyeonsaudi.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/college-of-love-by-maha-noor-elahi/

    Peace,
    Maha Noor Elahi
    English Language Lecturer at Dar Al-Hekma College
    Translator and Co-Editor of Noor Al-Hekma Newsletter
    Drama Club Advisor

  22. Bruce

    Sorry for your trouble but it is unwise to blog when angry. I am a newbie here and so don’t understand your customs but who built the compounds and who sets their rules? Did your friend have a child at this woman’s class and is she a Saudi?

    There is probably a practical reason for this rejection, several have been suggested already. You are too wise to be stopped by this. Perhaps this means a better teacher is waiting for your daughter. Good luck.

  23. Usman

    “but who built the compounds and who sets their rules?”

    A very very valid question!!

  24. coolred38

    While I understand your anger and frustration when itcomes to your child I find it equally hilarious that your pissed off at being discriminated against. Saudi nationals are KNOWN for being a very descriminating society..ask any asian, pakistani, indian, philipino etc. All I can say is…pot meet kettle.

    • Talcotary

      Agreed very nice point.

      I do remember Saudi Woman fighting tooth and nail a few days back on a different post almost justifying the mistreatment of Asians on her comment.

      Quoting Saudi Woman on a different post in this same blog (https://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/a-hero-farman-ali-khan/#comment-2007):

      ” Saudis prefer Americans or Westerners but it’s a lot more than just simple racism. First of all how many Americans are there in Saudi and how many Americans is an average Saudi likely to see in a week, month…etc. Let me tell you, not many. Americans in the whole country are probably in the hundreds. Compare that with Pakistanis, Indians or any other Asian nationality. They are here in the millions.
      Second point, Westerners, including Americans are asked to be here mostly for their expertise, so they are doctors, engineers and professors. Asians on the other hand are mostly here for more manual jobs. So when a Saudi or even Asians see a westerner they know that they are most likely dealing with someone of a higher profession and someone with money.”

      So bottom line Saudi Woman prefers Americans because they are “doing high-end jobs”, and Asians don’t deserve the better treatment because of their manual jobs.

      So coolred it is indeed the “Pot meeting the kettle”

      But at the same time i am not like Saudi Woman, i do indeed wish that her daughter doesn’t face the racism what Asians face at the hands of the Saudis, thats what we learnt.

      • Talcotary
        I do not prefer anyone based on nationality or race. I wrote that in response to someone saying that when an American walks into a shop or restaurant they are welcomed more. I stand by my word. That is not racism. Racism is refusing entrance or service to someone based on their nationality.
        I don’t like the idea that people are walking around with a lot of hate in their hearts, looking for people to be prejudice towards them just to prove that they are victims of racism. I’ve learned to look each person in the eye and not expect to be treated a certain way based on my nationality or race.

  25. What a typical liberal leftist this woman is. Her pre-judgements are all lined up, and here you go, upsetting her tidy little apple cart. I bet she brags to her friends how she is bringing “culture” to the natives and expanding their view of the world. Of course, it really is all about her. Women like this disgust me. If she is offering ballet, then offer ballet. Get out of the politics and just live the life of a ballet teacher. Obviously the powers-that-be know:
    A-That she is there to be a ballet teacher.
    B-Where her business is located.
    C-That Saudi girls might actually attend these classes.
    D-If she is uncertain about business practices in Saudi Arabia, then she needs to regroup, and do her business homework.
    You had every right to be angry. The woman is a loon.

  26. I would guess that the woman likely lives at one of the compounds which do not allow Saudi nationals. And if she lives at such a compound, then chances are likely that the corporations which sponsor these expat families also provide briefings and discourage reaching out and “mingling” with the locals. It also sounds like she has not had much cultural training and did not know how to respond when she realized she was speaking with a Saudi national.

    Bottom line, it is really her loss for missing out on the opportunity to get to know some local Saudis and experience the warm Saudi hospitality and traditions.

    As an American married to a Saudi we encountered various kinds of experiences, particularly when it came to interacting with the expat community. There were some places where I could enter –if I wished to — due to my American passport but which my husband was prohibited. FWIW, we made the decision to avoid those places as we preferred to do things together as a couple.

    • Carol,
      just to clarify, she named the places where she was giving classes and I know for a fact that not only do Saudis go in but also that there are high-profile Saudis living inside those compounds.

      Anyway what offended me is that when I first called her (you know my accent) her tone was completely different from when I said that I was Saudi. It really got to me. In the beginning I couldn’t get a word in without interrupting her because she was desperately promoting herself and the course. After I told her that I’m Saudi, she changed her tune completely and was trying so hard to end the conversation.

      • It makes me wonder what her reaction would have been if I had called and wanted to enroll one of my stepdaughters…given my pure American accent (and I know your accent too) and American name, would she have even questioned the nationality of my stepdaughter? If you are aware that her compound has Saudis inside of it, how would she have reacted then to an American with a Saudi family? This question is purely hypothetical but she sounds more and more hypocritical to me with her unusual reaction given all the factors.

      • Omaima

        U know what Ms. Eman ..
        I don’t have kids .. but I if I every had a child .. won’t let her/him go to such a place
        where they treat people differently because of their race

        this is racial discrimination
        if I was you .. wallah I would say ok thank you adolf hitler..!! in sarcastic way!
        I know its not polite but reading this made me soo pissed off
        U know Ms. Eman..
        once the italian embassador invited me for a dinner .. and he said call me so i pick u up!!
        I said u don’t have to ..
        and he said ”no .. they don’t allow Saudi women here to get inside for dinner parties in eurpean D.Q.., they allow men though” he said
        so Ms. Eman
        if Saudi are anyways discriminatng between men and women ..sex discrimination
        eurpeans and Americans would do they same ..!!

  27. DougT

    It appears to me that she is afraid of you. There can be no other explanation for her backpedaling.

    You have freely existed in both worlds, and she is a captive in her current environment.

  28. lark

    I am sympathetic to you in wanting a ballet class for your daughter. I think your worst fears may be true, this may be simply discrimination.

    But she may be fearing to go against Saudi restrictions on women and girls in any way.

    When I was in my early teens I went from a large American city to a rural Iraqi community for a year. I found the customs (abaya, etc) intimidating – and there were no religious police. Saudi Arabia would be much more intimidating!

    After all, foreign women are urged not to challenge Saudi customs and practices with regards to women. Perhaps she feels that many Saudis would object to a Saudi girl learning ballet on a western compound, and she doesn’t want to press that point, as a foreigner.

  29. ExpatInSaudi

    Saudiwoman,

    I can understand your initial reaction,but as Bruce said perhaps you should have waited for the infuriation to wear out. Anyway, I’ve been following your blog long enough to know that your anger had the best of you when you were writing about the incident.I completely agree with how Saudi and Pakistan are perceived as a terrorist threat but that discussion should be left for another blog entry.
    I think if the woman really want to stay away from trouble – she might put herself into by accepting Saudi students in her ballet class – then she should’ve told you so rather than coming up with lame excuses.

  30. I just want to add further that even though you wrote this post shortly after the incident when emotions were heated, this is an excellent topic for discussion.

  31. Karine

    You know, it’s not surprizing me! she’s a racist brit. What would you expect from a person coming from a racist colonial country such as UK!…

    British should be ashamed of their country’s miserable colonial and racist history!… yet, they still colonize some parts of the Gulf ‘in officially’.

  32. mich

    imagine what would happen to her if something happens while your daughter was under care after she was warned /adviced that this specific act is either frown upon or prohibited .
    vagueness in the saudi justice un written criminal code for argument sake -balley can be classified by the muttawas as promoting mystism subject to discretionary death penalty in a three minute trial
    ( actually may be 3 years in jail after relentless pleading by british authority)
    being circumspect in her part was the best cause of action.
    i have a problem in the way she went about it a simple reply that her class was full and she will notify you when space is available would have been appropriate
    if this was in east london this would have been a non -issue regardless of your country of origin
    please dont use logic when replying

  33. Vince (Wesa) Werber

    I feel nothing for you Lady but I do feel for your child. I don’t know enough about the ways of your people to really state anything one way or the other but you are taking this way too personal… It is your child that is the one affected not you.

    Are we really sure as to what pressures that may have come to bare to this Lady that has offended you? I suspect not. What is her true motivations in this isssue? Has she been contacted by the ‘powers that be’? We may never know…

    Try to see things through her eyes and re-post your situation.

    Have a good day and a better tomorrow!
    Vince a.k.a. Wesa

  34. I’m so sorry that this woman ticked you off so, and I don’t blame you for being upset – I would have been too. To me, it sounds like she’s afraid and doesn’t want any kind of possible trouble that she may have been warned about. It is a sad state of affairs to be discriminated against in your own country, but I know that when my husband and I tried to get information about joining a resort here, they beat around the bush and turned us down because my husband is Saudi. It was obvious that was the reason…

  35. I have no experience in Saudi, but my initial reaction before reading the comments was that this was ridiculous; how can someone come to a country and then discriminate against its native residents?

    And yet, I know from my own experience in Morocco that it happens all the time–though the expat scene is way less monied and quite different, there are plenty of private clubs for this or that nationality only.

    I won’t speculate as to what rules this woman might think she’s following, but even if they do exist, they’re ridiculous. Ugh.

  36. A decidedly weird discussion, I had to laugh as you countered all her objections! But I don’t know what to make of this woman? What is her problem bout saudis? Maybe it is something to do with the religious police… but then why not say so outright?
    Anyway, you wouldn’t want your girl to study with such a strange person.

    You have every right to let off steam and rant on your own blog. It’s not a (supposidly objective) news site!
    It’s a really bizarre story!

  37. Nadine

    You complain about how she discriminated at you! The reason you reacted politely here was that the instructor was British….You would not dare insulting a westerner but you are so upset they rejected you. I wonder what your reaction would have been like had this woman been a non saudi/gulf arab! You discriminate against the other arabs in every aspect and this is done officially by the government and socially by the people against other people who served the Saudis and taught them how to be civilized.

    The image of the Saudis became clearer to the world after 9/11, not just because the hijackers were Saudis – but because Saudi Arabia was all of a sudden in the spot light. People started to see how the so called Saudis are the farthest people from Islam and that they discriminate in ways that are in violation of all the Human Rights norms recognized by the civilized nations of this world. Go tell people that you pay a much less qualified doctor five times the salary of a very qualified doctor just because the former is a Saudi and the latter is niether a Saudi nor a Westerner. The civilized world has moved beyond this type of discrimination long time ago.

    We feel sorry for you that the British woman did not want anything to do with a Saudi!

    Go fix your own discrimination, and then complain that others discriminate against you.

  38. King Arthur - not a real king

    Hello Saudiwoman – It saddened me to see your post, although I know it was some time ago. It seems the instructor might have been sensitive to cultural differences with respect to allowing her in the class and possible consequences as a result of that. You know, I will now have been in KSA for almost a year – soon. But even in this blog I don’t say much to reveal who I am because of the control and feeling an expat has in this country. I think Saudi Arabi is fascinating. Timeless and modern, all in one! It’s awesome to see a country completely transform before my eyes. Oh yes! Many things I cannot stand that I see everyday. But I’m sensitive to the fact, ‘Hey, you are not from here so don’t impose your rules or feelings on the actual owners of this land…’ and so it goes, I do okay this way. I know there is serious discrimination here but that is not to say it doesn’t exist elsewhere, it surely does. The USA, wherever, everyone country does it. Just some do it on different levels and are not so ‘relaxed’ about it. I’ve been to many events in compounds and Embassy’s ~ the DQ. I’m American. It’s easy for me in Saudi because of my Passport. I will say that is true. I didn’t know that until I arrived. When I land at the Riyadh airport – there are hunderds of Southeast Asians in the customs line. I feel terribel for them; but not terrible enough to listen to the guard when he sees my ‘blue’ passport to go to ‘this line…’ — and so it goes, discrimination. But, on the other hand – there is a system here that people need to undertsand. I’m speaking from serious observation and chance-taking – i.e. Going to a Mosque; attending events no American would attend far from Riyadh – taking huge chances. You see that? I said taking huge chances… That’s right — It’s very risky how I live here during ‘these current times’ – Because, you see, I’m an American and much hated by a few. I don’t live in a compound – I am a professional the kind that gets paperwork approved almost immediately (for a small fee). This is the Saudi I see — ‘us and them’ – I wish it were not this way because the Saudi people and its culture is AMAZING! Fascinating. But what I really wanted to say is that generally, on the compounds, it’s a sanctuary from the stress and inconveniences outside the compound. I believe the ballet instructor was going with the ‘unspoken’ rule of keep them out. Whenever I go to an event or some athletic activity with a group – it’s always secretive – and markings to the places on the roads outside of town are very covert. This is not for discrimination — It’s for safety. People want to kill us here. This is not the case in other parts of the world for a Westerner. So, safety is important. The Middle-East (even a Westerner came up with that term, Middle-East) is used to violence and insane behavior in the name of religion ~ Ah! Religion. Such a lovely thing, isn’t it. ‘Organzied’ religion. All in the name of One. This amazes me as I, too, believe in ONE God ~ but I’d never kill someone for ‘God’ ~ and don’t believe ‘God’ would want me to kill someone… but ALL this is in the mind-set of the expat ~ Fear, uncertainty, etc. etc. ~ So, I believe, all in all, my dear Saudiwoman, this all played into her attitude and decision to decide to decline your daughter ~ and some ignorance. I love the Arab culture and such. But probably won’t renew (of course it will be offered to me) to stay another year. To me, living here is like being in a walled-in prison ~ but I don’t mean this in a cruel way ~ I mean this in a way that there is no promotion of human-joy, i.e. I never hear music being played on the street. In-fact, my Saudi friend has to sneak his ‘keyboard’ to my place so we can play music together with my guitar and it’s very, very sad. I have finally figured it out here: It’s not the religion that makes this such a difficult place to live and have ‘fun!’ – it’s the older-types that don’t want to ‘lose their power’ – Where else could a bearded man have the power and control he has over society and even women (which many Saudi women talk to me everywhere… even at risk, and have such control!?? – That is the issue here ~ control and Losing it. I’m glad to see it. You know, just sit at a signal light and watch the kids and young male adults — holding out emails and ‘begging’ the girl in the taxi to contact him ~ my wife almost cried when she saw this and said, ‘Oh my God, how sad… this is all they have – they take the natural instinct to meet and to ‘be’ that is so controlled and have to resort to ‘making their engines so loud’ and driving insane! to get attention. I said, it’s changing… it’s changing. This new ‘cell phone’ – BlueTooth Saudi generation is going to re-do this whole country and it’s about time. The Imam’s don’t even have a clue what’s on the horizon… Just sit back, and watch ~ Saudiwoman, in time, those compounds will be gone ~ and just a memory. Saudi is getting it ~ and your King is doing an awesome job. But I still want to go home!

  39. Laurea

    Salaam aleikum SaudiWoman!

    Ive been following your blog for some while. I really enjoy reading it, you are such a courageous and intelligent woman!(maashallah🙂

    I can understand you were upset for being rejected, I would be too. I am myself a westerner living in KSA. To be honest, most of the westerners Ive met (especially americans) hate saudis. Sounds bad but its true. The most common subject of discussion is how stupid/arrogant/backward/etc the saudis are.
    They dont let saudis into most western compounds, but if you are a saudi with an american passport, you are welcome!Whats the logic there?
    The woman probably never met and talked to any saudis, she is prejudiced by the “true” stories of her fellow countrywomen/men. She is probably afraid of you. She doesnt know anything about your culture or Islam, because she just isnt interested, like most westerners here. Her country and culture are superioir to yours. Often I hear americans and brits refer to saudis as “apes” “animals” “psychos” etc.They actually think that its funny. And unfortunatly they have no respect for saudis..
    So, think about it this way, you are lucky that your daughter didnt get to be under that bad influence of these ignorant people, alhamdulillah! and I hope you will find another place for her to learn ballet.

    You are absolutely right about westerners being discriminating and prejudiced toward saudis. I think it might have to do with culture shock. Its actually their way of somehow coping with the stress and pressures of living in KSA. They gang up and start hating everything about the culture and religion. That way its easier for them, because they can just continue to live in their bubbles🙂

  40. Vicky

    “Anyway this is the new generation of Western expatriate workers here. Before 9/11, the attitude was very different. People who came here actually cared about making an impact, and getting to know the people of the country. Now so many of them strike me as money-hungry elitist who look down on “the ignorant locals”.”

    I lived in Saudi for most of my childhood and adolescence, and sadly I don’t think this attitude only appeared post-9/11. As an eight-year-old (1995) I can remember my two best friends being turned away from our compound’s youth club because they were Pakistani. The youth club leader’s excuse was, “If we let them in, then all their friends will want to join!” Only Western children need apply.

    It was worse with Saudis. I grew up in the honest belief that there was some special rule that meant Saudis could not be invited onto our compound. Rule? I thought it was a law. Everybody spoke about it as though it were set in stone. Then my dad did the unthinkable and brought a Saudi friend back to our villa for a cup of coffee. The poor man was only with us for an hour at most, but soon the whole compound knew. There were dark mutterings and complaints, and of course the obligatory anxiety about the mutawwa suddenly bursting onto the scene. (“You can’t trust them – if they see alcohol or scantily dressed women, they’ll be off telling the police…”) I was still a child at this point, but now I was ready to start questioning. I knew that the mutawwa are already perfectly well aware of what goes on in expat compounds, and also that they aren’t going to trouble us over it. So what was the real reason for barring Saudis?

    It pains me to say it, but I think a lot of British expats are afraid of Saudi people. Genuinely afraid. I’ve never understood why.

  41. ribio

    someone told me they is three side to every story
    1.the brit side
    2.the saudi side
    3.the truth
    the saudi has all right to be upset that been said the brit has every right to decide who establish a commercial relation with but a unlike a sri lanka maid or a pakistan day labor.
    the brit should have used a little tact when saying no.
    this what i think happened before she came to saudi she listened to one horror story after another about what happens when they is a disagreement between a saudi and a non saudi-that was her starting point and best self preservation tactic avoid saudis
    one friend of mine had parked a car legally on a saudi street and young saudi damaged the car(he was a 100% at fault ) when the police came they sided with the saudi-its one thing finding two cars in a ditch and ruling for the saudi official thuggery is another thing now we have the westerner who was fair and as a result of this is heart is blackened
    whatever image problem saudi might have is up to them to repair cultural obeisance will get them nowhere
    sweden has decided to be oil free by 2020 watch out
    i personally generate my own electricity at home ( two small wind mill and solar panels and a small electric car my personal fossil fuel consumption is 0% i have been able to figure this out without a college degree

  42. ya i too hate this discrimination,,better civil society bodies should bring awareness for all these. hope i will support if any body encourages me.

  43. thomas

    i have to side with the brit on this since you posted this message the muttawas have banned walking /jogging and women health club in a saudi town and this is done without warning or at least public hearing/community consensus also i will say this
    you cannot use yourself as your own authority with total certainty meaning the brit is best suited in terms of deciding if any contact with you is beneficial to her it seem the management of the non saudi /foreign western enclave for whatever reason dont want saudi their( i think this is a self defence mechanism)
    i live in the us and saudi have a lot public relations to do i know at least 15 muslim from 11 arab/islam countries who have nothing good to say about saudis due to
    1.bad treatment of themselves/friends and family members by saudi nationals in saudi arabia
    2.a sense that saudis have created problems for them as muslims

    i think if
    1.they was no oil in saudi
    2.oil was not found in saudi arabia until say 1965
    3.if oil was as smaller part of the overall economy( meaning more involvement and full contribution of all saudi people would be required)
    all this issue would be minimized
    my neighbor is a saudi shia/ismailia(woman) heart transplant doctor and she cannot even go back why
    1. she has no husband-she told me she will never marry a saudi
    2.she has no son
    3.she has no brothers
    4.her beloved uncle is dead
    who would protect her or sigh approval forms for her money is not the issue she would work for 1 dollar a year if that would benefit women health(it something she is passionate about)
    i think saudi need to reinvent themselves

  44. amin

    come on you being seriouse your complaining of a litle stupid ballet incident as discrimination when you have people who are living in saudi that get that or even worse all the time.. especially the Asians.

  45. peter

    i fell bad for you but you have to understand that when deciding to go to some countries following rules is the best thing to do before the brit got there she was told that you can be caned and deported for bring bread to a 75 year old woman if you are not related to her also you are warned that if you come to a scene of an accident if you are not a doctor,nurse, paramedic or emercency medical technician let God decide what he want to do with the victim meaning do not touch them but unless you want to be charged with murder by un qualified medical assistance ( you will deported after your family abroad pays anything from 100000usd to 1m usd) they is no good samaritan law also do not pray in the presence of a muslim as that will be interpreted by the muttawas and contributing to the victim demise
    again the british perfected the art of deliberate aloofness .
    in life they something called sorting cost since the brit cannot tell or does not have the time to decide what will be the end game after dealing with a saudi she has decided not to as self preservation
    from the brit point of view britain is like a road with a posted 70 kph speed limit so you know how fast not to drive and saudi is like a road with no speed limit and you can be stopped and ticked for whatever the lawman decide the speed limit is -so the bet is
    1.do not drive
    2. make sure the person driving the car is not you employee and the car is not yours-in theory if he is ticketed for speeding you will too because you have control and dominion if employed by you

  46. Sunny

    Hello to all of you from the Emirates,

    allthough I do not live in Saudi I recognized some simularities with living here. I met so many expats who cry all day about the heat, the locals, the customs, different lifestyle compared to the west. But ALL of them have housemaids, Gucci bags and at least 2 big cars and all kids enrolled in private schools. Not to mention the tax free income that makes life soooo miserable. Further more all I hear is Abayah. Why do people have such a problem with it? Everybody to their own.
    I decided when I first came here 5 years ago not to move into an expat compound. Best decision I ever made. I live among the local people very happily and got to know a very rich and generous culture which no university degree could have given me. So thanks to the local people of Abu Dhabi who did treat me with kindness and hospitallity. I know that things are different over here but my point is…..greedy expats are everywhere no matter how good the lifestyle. And trust me, life is good over here. But still lots of them cry like babies. Some advise for those people-leave if you can not take it and do not stay for the money. And by the way, there are more serious issues in the world then to worry about women wearing their national dress.

    Last but not least, not all of course are like that. Just a specific group that feels too important to be thankfull for what they have been given.

  47. Laylah

    Hi Eman!
    I wrote about culture shock on my blog, which I feel explains alot of this weird behaviour:
    http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html

  48. Hanouf

    I’m sorry but with all honestly…its just a ballet class, honestly we have so many problems in this country, then someone comes out and says “Discriminated against by a foreigner in my own country” isn’t that discriminating, what the hell, I’m sorry again but thats super super pathetic, so what even if it was the girls own choice i don’t blame her she doesn’t want Saudi people in her house she’s a “FOREIGNER” she has things that would upset Saudi’s so what, plus not to mention Saudi peoples reputation of being violent, she doesn’t want a problem, seriously you’re talking about ballet, not a murder, i know you were angry at that time, but again honestly that happened to me so many i didn’t care because i understood, plus it doesn’t make sense if you’re angry at something so simple how about we get angry about serious things for once and stop being close minded retards who think about ourselves, just because we’re Saudi DOESN’T MEAN we have the right to do whatever we want “in our country”.

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