Writing in Saudi Gazette, Khaled Batarfi notes that it’s long past time for Saudis to get over themselves. He criticizes the social and mental barriers that keep young Saudis from taking jobs in the service industry because it’s ‘beneath their dignity.’ It’s not just the young that resist. Fathers, grandfathers, and tribal elders see it as an affront to their dignity that their sons might take a job that put them in a position deemed servile.

It’s simply a fact that not everyone can be the boss; somebody has to do the actual work and it shouldn’t be low-paid foreigners. Even the noble Bedouin had plenty of scutwork to do in moving tents and herding their flocks. Villagers had to build their own homes out of palm trees and mud. It’s time to remember that there was life in Saudi Arabia before oil made everyone relatively rich.

Saudis in service: It’s about time!
Khaled M. Batarfi

IT was Fathers’ Night at Prince Sultan College for Tourism and Administration in Jeddah. Dinner was prepared and served by the students under the supervision of a famed South African chef.

A misty-eyed father told me his story. He owned a hotel chain and was trying to persuade his son to run the food department, including room service and kitchen. The boy would not hear of it. He felt it was beneath him. The kitchen is for women, he protested, and service is for the poor. As a Saudi graduate from a good and rich family, he believed it was his birthright and destiny to be a general manager — right out of the box.

When the father saw his son serving the tables and proud of the dishes he had prepared that night, he felt his best wishes had come true. Now he was asking me to please convince his son to join the Hospitality Department of the college on a full-time basis.

I admired the father for his plans. As happy as I was for him and his son, he reminded me of a sad story. The son of an educated family wished to be a chef and joined a prestigious European school. The grandfather was furious.


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