I’ll point you to two blogs today, both covering Saudi Arabia to a greater or lesser extent.

The first is Riyadh Bureau, the effort of Ahmed Al Omran of Saudi Jeans fame. Ahmed is back from his studies and internship in the US where he worked at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Riyadh Bureau provides short and to-the-point coverage of political and social issues affecting the Kingdom.

The second is the 59 Steps Blog, by Steve Royston, a British businessman who has lived and worked around the world, but who currently resides in Saudi Arabia Bahrain. He has a new post up that looks at the changes that have occurred in the country over the past several years:

Saudi Arabia – By No Means a Social Monolith

If you have never been to Saudi Arabia and only have a passing interest in the Middle East, you might think of the Kingdom as a monolith of social repression and intolerance, and only pay attention when stories emerge to support that view.

If so, this post is for you. Even if you can’t be bothered to wade through my prose, at the very least follow the links.

I lived in the Kingdom for many years. Today much of my business is there. And yes, there are powerful conservative interests in the country whose influence is putting a brake on social change that would be recognised as meaningful in the West. But the country is no monolith. There are as many different opinions and attitudes as you would find in any other country, even if the authorities make it difficult for many outside the Muslim world to visit and find out for themselves.

If you need evidence of Saudi social diversity, take a listen to this podcast from Jeddah, the city where I spent most of the 80s. It’s the latest in a series of conversations that I’ve dipped into over the past three years.


In the podcast, three young Saudis discuss a variety of subjects, including journalistic standards, freedom of expression, attitudes towards women, sexuality and other subjects high on the taboo list of the social and religious conservatives.

November:30:2012 - 09:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
3 Responses to “Also Watching the Kingdom”
  1. 1
    Jerry M Said:
    November:30:2012 - 15:47 

    I enjoyed listening to the podcast. I have followed Ahmed’s blog for at least 4 years and I was curious as to what he sounded like in person. Given their exposure to Western culture I don’t think these folks are representative of their country today but overtime as more and more of their follow citizens are educated abroad you might see a shift in Saudi attitudes.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    November:30:2012 - 17:31 

    @Jerry M: I think that was one of the goals of King Abdullah’s foreign scholarship program.

  3. 3
    Nessreen Said:
    December:03:2012 - 17:43 

    It’s pretty tough to find “folks representative of the country today” when, as we mentioned in the podcast episode, every Saudi is a chameleon, whether or not they’ve been exposed to Western culture, or educated abroad.

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