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Saudi Airport Officials…

May 20, 2006

It always ticks me off when I see the all too familiar scene of a Saudi treating foreigners from Asia like they were some domestic animals. I’ve lived my whole life in KSA and have grown up in a society whose general public think of themselves as superior to anyone who is not a native of this vast desert. By the time I was 7, I knew that Saudis look down upon literally anyone who isn’t white, mainly natives from East and South Asia; while literally holding Western nationals above their heads and treating them like monarchs. Not ALL Westerners though; just North Americans and anyone else who looks Caucasian. 

On my flight from Doha last week, I missed my plane and was to take a transit in Manama and then to Dammam. The officials at the Doha and Bahrain airports are by far some of the most respectful airport officials I’ve ever come across. Although I don’t live in those nations and haven’t lingered around long enough to see how they really treated people, I saw that they treated all nationals alike whether processing visas or aiding lost passengers. That wasn’t the case when I landed at the King Fahad Int’l
Airport located on the outskirts of Dammam. 

I have a habit of getting off last from a plane and taking my time to the passport counter and this time was no different. On the flight with me were several Asian nationals and I saw several of them stand at the GCC line; none of them being processed. I thought that since there was a rush hour the officers wanted to process them quickly and allowed them to stand there. After standing behind them for a couple of minutes, the officer at the counter saw me and called me to the front of the line. 

As I walked past the other passengers, I could sense their anger and humiliation…cursing me and the officer for what was happening. The officer greeted me with a ‘7amdellah 3ala salaamah’ and as he stamped my passport, I asked him why he wasn’t processing the other men. Without looking up at me, and with a hint of satisfaction in his tone, “they’re standing in the wrong line…” 

I didn’t know whether to curse him…or the oil that started the decades of racism that lead to this. The officers at the other counters were shouting at the Indian nationals and even sending some of them back to the end of the line simply for not knowing Arabic. A couple of officers were chatting nearby and when a passenger approached them and asked them a question, they ignorantly replied, “mafi ma’loum” and then continued about their jokes. 

Just as I was about to tell the passengers standing at the GCC line to stand at the other line to get processed, a bearded officer came out of a room and after seeing them, he quickly told them that they were standing in the wrong line. God bless him because he just saved those men hours of humiliation. 

What do these people get from treating innocent foreigners like this? They already feel like slaves earning $150 a month and having to get yearly AIDS tests and iqama renewals while Saudi high school dropouts earn 3 times as much. They already feel like shit when they ride bicycles from one end of the city to the other while the rest of the kingdom rides in German performance machines, Japanese luxury rides, and American gas guzzlers. Isn’t it enough that they HAVE to keep on coming back to the kingdom to earn low wages to send back home, leaving them with a few hundred riyals to survive the month; all the while living in cramped and overcrowded apartments, not to mention with the lowest safety standards? Isn’t it enough for them to be respected for the great job of keeping the streets clean and keeping you satisfied when you wake up to find your garbage taken away? Isn’t it enough for them to earn some degree of respect when it is they who wash your cars and deliver your food and set up your cable dishes? 

Majority of Saudis I know, and a great percentage of Saudis are respectful and grateful for other nationals; whatever their nationality is. I would do them great injustice if I generalize the whole kingdom and label them as racists but we can’t deny that bad people exist in every society. I guess there are black sheep in every flock…

Categories: Arabs, B.S, KSA, Life, Middle East, Opinion, Travel
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