The dangerous culture of drifting in Kingdom
There are many aspects of our society that are markedly different from what they used to be only a few decades ago. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, sometimes good. But one definitely bad thing caused by this is a phenomenon almost as old as the time automobiles appeared in Saudi society: “Tafheet.”
What is tafheet? Quite simply, it’s car drifting. Non-Saudis see this from time to time, and it can be scary at first, but then you get used to it.
If you exclude football, Saudi youth have one hobby they intensely love to practice or at least watch, and that is tafheet. You take a car, go to a speed bump-free street, and you drift to your heart’s content. If you don’t own a car, a minority of youth found a surefire solution: Simply steal one! And this is yet another social phenomenon that has appeared with our way-too-fast modernization. Some young people steal cars only to drift, then abandon them somewhere. Yes, I am talking about those forsaken, damaged, dusty cars you see sitting there for weeks without even a “for sale” sign? Yeah, probably a “steal, drift and abandon” victim.
Why is tafheet so prevalent in Saudi society? First of all, too much free time. Other than school and its chores (which occupy little of our youth’s time or interest), there isn’t much to do. Saudi schools don’t have extracurricular activities that encourage kids to do more productive things with their time outside of school.
Second, we don’t have a lot of hobbies here — in fact, the word “hobby” itself is somewhat alien to our culture. Saudis have grown up and lived in tough desert environments, and that’s something even the most well-paved streets and impressively-constructed skyscrapers can’t conceal: This is a harsh place. Our ancestors were too busy surviving in these lands, they didn’t have time to pass many hobbies to their offsprings. And even the hobbies popular worldwide wouldn’t work in our environment anyway or with the uninterested Saudi view of artistic things. So skiing, parachuting, painting, sculpting, surfing, mountain climbing, and many other hobbies, those are no-goes!
Third reason tafheet exists: Encouragement. Our youth rapidly populate any street once they hear tires screeching and this eggs the drifter on. He goes on to perfect this skill, always looking for that addictive euphoric rush anytime he executes a nearly-suicidal move in front of an awe-struck crowd. Really, car chases and drifts in Hollywood movies seem laughably amateurish compared to what Saudi teenagers can do.
There are other factors, but those are three major ones, and as long as those factors and automobiles remain, tafheet will always exist. However, knowing the skills and the thirst for tafheet among the Saudi youth, if all cars somehow disappeared today, I’m sure our teens will find a way to drift with camels!
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view