Ok I took a break and I learned something about myself. I’m a polygamist, I’ve married this blog over the father of my children and now I’m attached to it and cannot stay away too long from my spoiled second husband, let alone two months. If I try, I just miss it more. I knew it all along but I had to give it a try.
Now that’s out of the way, I have to tell you what I was up to last night. My very dear friend Tine has finished her time here in Saudi and is leaving soon. Unfortunately, being cooped up in expat compounds; she has never had a chance to see muttawas in action. These lions of Saudi morality are a staple mark of life here so I couldn’t let her leave without the experience. That’s why we went on a muttawa safari. We headed to their natural habitat, shopping malls. And we weren’t disappointed. At Riyadh Gallery, a mall that opened about a couple of years ago, they had the World Cup match on this humongous TV screen that you can watch a mile away. I’m not exaggerating; people on all three floors were watching the same screen. There were about three hundred people there.. Halfway through the match the muttawa came in and ordered the TV off. There were two muttawas and one police officer escorting them. They strolled around this crowd searching for men without women. Because it is illegal for single men to go to a shopping mall. They have to be accompanying a wife, mother or sister. Every once in a while they would stop young Saudi men and ask them where their women were. One guy they didn’t believe had to drag a little girl over to the muttawas so she could verify that he was related to the group of women he pointed at.
Before the muttawas came in it was noisy and men and women stood next to each other looking up at the screen. At every highlighted moment in the match there was either a collective roar or groan. The atmosphere was electric. Then the muttawas came and everyone knew that these three men had come in long before seeing them stroll by. Even Tine remarked on how these muttawas must be feeling this power they had over the people. No one objected to having the match turned off. Women went scurrying off to find seats in segregated areas. Teenagers headed the opposite direction that the muttawas were coming from for fear that they would be stopped because of their hairstyles and low worn jeans. Everyone was silently glancing around, looking for the muttawas and guessing who their victims might be.
We decided to follow them, albeit from afar to see who would they take. They focused their energy on young Saudi men. They even went into the bathrooms looking for hiding offenders. Before we lost them, we had witnessed them apprehend two men. They made the two offenders come along as they continued with their morality raid.
Both Tine and I were angered by how passive people were. It’s as if they really believed that they were guilty of something. Hundreds of people shaking in fear of a couple of bearded men. No wonder that things remain the way they are. People believe they deserve to be treated this way. It took the muttawas about twenty minutes to finish their raid and just like when they came in, you knew that they left. The match was turned back on and everyone relaxed and became noisy again.
Before they left, I took Tine outside to show her how arrogant muttawas are even in the way they park. And sure enough, their jeep was parked on the pavement right next to the automatic doors. You would think they were an ambulance.