Fake street cleaners negatively impact those who clean the Kingdom’s roads

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Donning a street cleaner’s uniform, Arab News reporter Essam Al-Ghalib poses after cleaning the streets of Al-Rawdah district in Jeddah. (AN photos)
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Updated 16 July 2017

Fake street cleaners negatively impact those who clean the Kingdom’s roads

JEDDAH: One would think that no one really wants to be a garbage man, as the job entails handling things that most people do not wish to see, touch or smell.
In Saudi Arabia the job pays a mere SR400 ($107) per month, and involves spending up to 11 hours per day, six days per week in the stifling heat in places where feral cats and street rats abound.
But there is one benefit to being a garbage man: Due to a sense of pity and the charitable nature of Saudi Arabia’s citizens and residents, cash handouts are frequent.
A number of street cleaners told Arab News they are given SR700-SR2,500 each month in cash handouts from passing motorists.
This has not gone unnoticed by some who are in Saudi Arabia illegally and without a source of income.
Badr Al-Ahmari, a representative of Seder Group’s Environmental Services Division in charge of cleanliness in some districts of Riyadh and Jeddah, said there is a problem with individuals obtaining uniforms and pretending to be street cleaners in order to get money.
“In the case of one worker at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, he was found to be making SR300 an hour in tips,” Al-Ahmari said.
Arab News was able to obtain blue overalls, a reflective safety vest, orange gloves, a broom and a garbage bag for only SR114 from various safety-equipment businesses.
Donning a street cleaner’s uniform, this reporter cleaned the streets of Al-Rawdah district in Jeddah for two hours, receiving SR10.
This is hardly the SR300 Al-Ahmari spoke of, but for those who do not have money to eat, SR10 makes a huge difference.
During the course of this investigation, Arab News watched seven street cleaners for a number of hours.
They never wandered more than 200 meters away from a traffic light, repeatedly walking back and forth between cars as the traffic light changed color. They were obviously more interested in receiving handouts than cleaning the streets.
Arab News approached the seven street cleaners for an interview. One abandoned his garbage can and broom and ran away.
The second walked away. When cornered, he said: “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again. You’ll never see me here again.”
The third walked away briskly but was caught up to. As he pulled out his iqama from his wallet, SR5 and SR10 notes fell out and were blown away by the wind. As Arab News tried to collect the money to give it back to him, he ran away.
The other four street cleaners were employees of municipality-contracted companies who said they had cleaned their part of the neighborhood and were exhausted from walking in the heat for the past few hours.
They claimed to be resting at the traffic light awaiting the end of their shift for the company bus to pick them up.
One of them, Abdulrahman from Bangladesh, who cleans Tahlia Street and was the only one of the seven making an effort to keep the street clean, said his salary is SR500 per month.
He added that he collects aluminum cans and sells them for SR3 per kg, as well as cardboard boxes for SR40 per kg.
He said he depends on this and handouts from the public in order to send money to his wife and two children in his country.
Mohammed, a legitimate street cleaner, said: “Those who want to give us a tip shouldn’t give them to those who stand at traffic lights. The real street cleaners are those who clean the inner streets of your neighborhood and who shy away from places where there are a lot of people. If you want to give money, give it to the cleaners there who you actually see cleaning.”

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

Updated 27 June 2019

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

  • The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah
  • Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetched SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction

JEDDAH: Art for Al Balad, the first charity auction of contemporary art in the Kingdom, achieved sales of SR 4.8 million ($1.3 million) on Wednesday.

The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, all of which sold, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah, on Wednesday. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with auction house Christie’s.

“It was much above our expectations; we are very happy,” said Michael Jeha, chairman of Christie's Middle East.

About 200 Saudi art collectors joined artists and other members of the Saudi and international cultural communities at the event. Bidding was highly competitive, with “Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetching SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction.


• Nassif House was built in 1872. Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was received at this house upon his entry to the city in 1925.

• The Saudi government is keen to restore and preserve buildings with historic and cultural significance, and carries out regular renovation work.

• Al-Balad, or Jeddah historic district, is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom. It contains about 600 buildings that date back to the 19th century.


“Where to” by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen was the second-most expensive work, selling for SR 500,000, while “Witness in the Desert” by Abdullah Al-Sahikh attracted a winning bid of SR 380,000.

“It was extremely pleasing, very encouraging,” said Jeha. “The energy in the room was fantastic. The enthusiasm was very strong. I think for the very first auction, we can all be extremely pleased.”

Jeha described the growth of the art scene and culture in general in Saudi Arabia as very impressive, and said that the Ministry of Culture has developed a strong platform and program for the coming years, which will help to establish art and culture in the hearts and minds of people in the Kingdom.

The profits from the auction will help to establish a new heritage museum in Jeddah’s historic district and support The Help Center, a non-profit organization that provides customized support to children in the city with special educational needs.

The auction received donations and funding from galleries, cultural foundations, private collectors, and artists across the Arab World, the assistance of which was acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture.

“This would not be possible without the generous support of both the donors and the talented artists,” said Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, deputy minister of culture, in his opening speech.

The ministry aspires to create and develop a cultural environment in which artists and other creatives can access a platform that celebrates a shared identity and builds understanding between people.

Speaking of the Ministry’s three main objectives in its cultural vision for 2019, Fayez said that it aims to support the nation’s cultural transformation by promoting culture as a way of life, enable the sector to contribute to the economy, and encourage international cultural exchanges.

Before the auction, the works on sale were on display to the public in an exhibition on June 23 and 24.