Photo: the slate.comIt’s about that time of year again, one that I like to refer to as “Gulfie Season.” This is in reference to the influx of Arabs from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. They come to Egypt and wreak havoc on all its inhabitants, throwing their money around at any given chance.
Egyptian television begins their yearly campaign in an effort to teach manners and etiquette by placing strategic ads. One of the commercials last year showed a man returning to his parked car only to find that it had been hit with no culprit in sight. As is the norm here, he begins yelling and asking others nearby if they saw anything. Then he finds a note on his car with the number to the person responsible for his new dent (probably one of many considering the driving techniques or lack there of embedded in every Egyptian). While this ad was undoubtedly also to teach fellow Egyptians about proper actions after such a situation, it is notable that it appears right before and during Gulfie Season gets underway.
I have always had a dim view of Gulfies, particularly Saudis (as I loved being grabbed in appropriately while trying to smoke a cigarette in the airport by a Saudi, whom pretended to be blind, but carried out his actions in front of a group of people). The women have no concept of personal space, nor do they have an issue knocking you out of their way.
However, I recently read Princess: The True Story of Life Behind the Veil. I agree with one comment I saw posted about the book: it is not for the faint of heart. It was taken from a Saudi Princess’ memoirs, written by American writer Jean Sasson. Not only did the entire book make me angry, but what really upset me was every reference to the Saudis coming to Egypt and actions that they would carry out. One such passage describes a lower class woman selling females as young as eight years old to these male royals around the age of thirteen or fourteen. The male royals raped the girls repeatedly – taking their virginity – and just throwing them back out into the street.
I will admit that I cannot speak on such actions as I have not been personally witness to any of them – thank God – but this book did something else for me. I pride myself in being open-minded, but perhaps I’m not. After reading this book, I felt horrible at all the preconceived notions I had regarding Saudi women. I assumed they were happy, with tons of money to spare, and little regard for anyone else. How close-minded I found myself to be. How could I have prejudged an entire group of people based on only a handful of personal incidents and a magnitude of heresy?
As I’ve admitted in previous posts, discovering this about myself is disappointing.
I was sitting at my favorite restaurant, Taboula, with a couple of friends about two weeks ago. A group of about eight Saudi women came and sat at the table next to us. I was immediately put off by their constant stares. I – once again – assumed they were staring because of the way I was dressed and my table drinking a couple of bottles of wine plus beer. Then a little girl they had with them got on the table and began to belly dance (about as much belly dancing as a two-year old can do) and we all started smiling. Next thing I know, a beautiful cake was brought out and the women promptly sent two pieces over to my table. How quick I’d jumped to conclusions when the stares could have possibly just been in wonderment.