‘Olden Days’ in Saudi Arabia



Elsa Franco Al Ghaslan

Published — Friday 5 April 2013

Last update 5 April 2013 4:31 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

I remember my first day in Saudi Arabia as if it happened yesterday. My Saudi husband, Saud, and I arrived in Dammam — in the middle of the night — straight from our honeymoon in my country. It was winter time, so I was wearing a coat, stockings and gloves. My husband had previously told me that women here cover their heads, therefore I had tied a lovely silk scarf around mine, just before getting out of the plane.
The plane landed and passengers started to proceed through the exit. It was almost my turn. I was excited, I wanted to see everything right away. It was dark outside. There were only the airport lights which blinded me the minute I stepped out of the plane. I started to descend the steps. The heat was unbearable, the hot humid air was like a steam bath. With my coat, stockings, gloves and scarf I felt I was walking into a huge oven. We entered the airport building, a plain crowded room. It was nothing to compare with the beautiful airports which were built years later throughout the country. I looked around and all I could see was a mass of white, walking clothes. What a strange sight this was for me! There were men everywhere and all of them were wearing the traditional Saudi dress, the “thobe,” a long white ankle length garment and the “ghotra,” a large white headdress. The men walked in all directions around me. I felt lost in a strange world where I must have looked like a freak. I walked as if in a dream. I kept close to Saud, I was afraid he might disappear, swallowed up by the white crowd. He was one of the few men wearing Western clothes. I did not know it at the time, but this was the last time I would see him in pants and a shirt. From now on he would only ever wear a thobe and a ghotra or a “shmagh” (a checkered red and white head cover).
I walked straight ahead. I was feeling a little scared and intimidated. I was holding my beauty case when I suddenly felt someone snatch it from my hand. I froze in astonishment and fear. I whispered to Saud, “Someone took my beauty case!” I honestly thought it had been stolen. What a surprise I had when my husband simply answered, “Oh, it’s my brother!” I didn’t understand right away, and asked myself, “What does he mean, his brother? I have neither seen nor talked to anybody. I haven’t been introduced to anyone.” This was my first encounter with the Saudi way of handling any relationship between a man and a woman. No greetings were exchanged, no words were spoken, not even a glance because we were in a public place. I tried to hide my bewilderment and I must confess, my embarrassment. Right away, I found myself so different, so ignorant about the traditional ways. I was a true fish out of water. Soon after did I realize that I was also something like a zoo animal in display when conservative women (relatives and neighbors) started coming to see, visit, observe me as a strange never-seen-before “object” of curiosity. In those days a Western woman in a Saudi household was as rare as a black pearl.

[email protected]

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

MADINAH/JEDDAH: Pilgrims and visitors performing tawaf (circumambulation) of the Holy Kaaba or praying around it may look forward to relief from the blazing sun, as a proposal to shade the Mataf area is being studied.According to local media, the mat...
JEDDAH: Users of WhatsApp were a joyous lot on Saturday as the call facility finally became available on the popular messaging service in the Kingdom.The facility, which is for free now, through WhatsApp was earlier banned in Saudi Arabia and only me...
TAIF: Terrorists can carry out reconnaissance missions in the guise of beggars, even wearing the abaya, and pose a serious threat to the security of the nation, an expert has warned.“Begging is a bad phenomenon anyway. However, it can pose a serious...
RIYADH: A Border Guard soldier died on Saturday in a missile attack from across the Yemeni border in Dhahran Al-Jonoub in Asir.The man, identified as Pvt. Abdulilah Abdullah Hamoud Al-Shahrani, was patrolling the border in the area when the attack to...
RIYADH: Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman takes pride in his religion and his country, according to Prince Sultan bin Salman, Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) chairman.“King Salman lives his life in a confident and re...
RIYADH: Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani and Khaled Al-Muhaisin, the president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), are scheduled to meet soon to clear resolve differences between Nazaha and Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). According...
JEDDAH: Starbucks has clarified that the ban on women’s entry at one of its Riyadh stores is only temporary and that the coffee shop will be opened to them soon after a separation wall is erected.Starbucks reportedly said that members of the Committe...
RIYADH: The Saudi government is strongly supporting the development of organic farming and institutional capacity building as part of an ambitious plan to expand the Kingdom’s shift toward organic agriculture, which will be good for the country’s nut...
RIYADH: An attempt to smuggle in 2.4 million amphetamine pills was foiled along the coast of Tabuk.An Interior Ministry spokesman said the traffickers fled from the coast after they were chased by Border Guard patrols.The spokesman said a suspect boa...
RIYADH: King Saud University (KSU) closed the booths of five companies which participated in the recently concluded five-day Career Week because of lack of interest in employing applicants.Career Week, held under the auspices of Custodian of Two Holy...
RIYADH: The Kingdom has been developing Oroug Bani Maradh as a protected area for eco-tourism in the heart of the Empty Quarter.Aside from a number of live flora and fauna, there’s are non-domesticated animal species in the wildlife sanctuary located...
JEDDAH: Two women and three children, including an infant, lost their lives in separate fire incidents on Friday.A woman and two children died when their tent caught fire at Al-Issawi, 35 km into the desert, on Friday. The operations room of Civil De...
RIYADH: Arrangements are being made at the Ministry of Health to open a new portal for the Zika virus on its website.Faisal Al-Zahrani, the ministry spokesman, said that the new portal will give adequate details and updates about the virus which has...
ARAR: A Saudi father has urged his two sons to immediately surrender, after their names recently appeared on the list of suspects who participated in the terror attack on the Special Emergency Forces Mosque in Asir in August last year.Salem Yaslam Al...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education has called on schools to implement a national anti-drug plan and given a four-month period to implement the plan and report the results.Educational directorates, according to a recent circular, have issued a directiv...

Stay Connected

Facebook