As I have been born and bought up in the Saudi Arabia, I have come to love it like no other place. Its home. Everything about it is soothing, peaceful and familiar. The perfectly built roads, the sky scrapers, the shawarma, the way Saudi’s pronounce ‘Bebsi’. It is a country that gave us everything. It blessed us with a highly sophisticated, luxurious life. But the time to leave home had to come, it was inevitable.
Once I proceeded further with my life and went to a new place. I had to pop out of my safe bubble as I was now out in the world, and I had started to realize how excessively dangerous it was. As days passed by, I came to the conclusion that my country, my home, was the most peaceful place on this planet.
But as I started interacting with people outside, I was deeply dismayed at the opinion the world held about Saudi Arabia. When I disclosed the fact that I had come from Saudi Arabia to people, their faces showed astonishment, and they gave me looks of pity like I had just mentioned the worst place for living possible. Then once the pity passed, I would be lined up with the most absurd questions that have ever been received about the country. “How did you live in such a prison-like place?” “Did you ever get to step out of your house?” “Do you have to wear those black covers and the headscarf at your home too?” I even got asked if the place had malls. I was so astonished at their opinion about the country that I had to pause for a minute, and think of a logical answer to their questions. But all that came out of my mouth was- SERIOUSLY?
I could not believe that people could be so ignorant about a certain thing or place. I knew Saudi Arabia has always had an image of being an oppressive country, but to this extent? My mind just could not process it. I turned to my phone, which, due to my continuous feeling of home sickness, was stacked with beautiful pictures of my city, and when I turned it towards them, they could not believe their eyes. Right ahead of their eyes was the country they thought was an oppressor, a country as backward as time could get. The country, which had just slashed every opinion they had ever had about it. They grabbed my phone and said, “No way! This is Saudi Arabia? We thought it’s a village!” Upon asking them what had shaped their opinions in the prior form, they all had the same answer, “The Media”.
As time progressed and my interest in the reading about the events happening around the world and the news progressed, I started to see it more and more each day. The media, almost all over the world, portrayed Saudi Arabia like it was the most confined place to ever exist on the Planet Earth. The amount of false stories that I have come across regarding the country and its rulers are incomputable. There were stories about the Princesses being held bondage at their own palaces, stories about women not being allowed to step out of their houses, stories about such immense amount of oppression that I could not help but laugh, laugh at what the world believes. Laugh, but still be deeply saddened about the kind of erroneous and deceitful information that was being dispersed to the people.
As a person who has been born and brought up in the country, I would like to narrate my side of the story. Saudi Arabia is by far, the most peaceful and pleasant place I have ever been in. No one has stopped me from stepping out of my house because I am a girl. In fact, the Saudi women are the most shopaholic women in the whole wide-world, and are always out with their girlfriends picking up the most lavish and expensive stuff. Which brings us to this, yes, Saudi Arabia has malls. And yes, every kind of clothing is available and not just the abaya and the headscarf. It is an extremely developed country where one can find every leading brand of every product; Gucci, Coach, Chanel. You name it, we have it. The capital city Riyadh, which is also where I reside, has one of the best planned road system. And no, the distances aren’t traveled by camels. Saudi Arabia is home to some of the best cars you could ever lay your eyes on. From gold plated Lamborghinis to Swarovski studded Harley Davidson’s, there is absolutely nothing that you cannot find here.
But due to the reason that Saudi Arabia is an Islamic nation, and also the most important part due to the presence of the two Holy Mosques and cities, Makkah and Madinah, the country is ridiculed and disgraced over every single issue. The fact that a woman cannot step out without an abaya in Saudi Arabia is considered oppression, but the fact that a muslim woman is not allowed to walk out of her house with a face cover in France isn’t. Freedom does not mean being able to walk naked on the streets, but it means being free and able to do what one desires to, whether it being covering yourself, or not covering at all.
I am not denying the fact that the country has some flaws. Yes, the restriction over driving for women is a very unfair rule, and yes, sometimes I wish I could step out without an abaya. But does that mean that the country has oppressed me? No. An oppressor is one who burdens its people with cruel and unjust impositions. If that was really the case, then why would people like me who have been fortunate enough to experience their life there be ever willing to go back to it?
Every person and every place has its own flaws, but overemphasizing a country’s flaws to this extent is just irrational.
I hope to see the day where the whole world will see Saudi Arabia for what it is, and not for the horrific picture of it that the media paints. And I hope to see that day soon.