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Joined: 31 May 2003
Posts: 1874
Location: Reverse Culture Shock Unit

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 4:10 pm    Post subject: news articles Reply with quote

The toronto Globe and Mail newspaper has just published two articles about KSA, casting its future in a negative light. The reporter interviewed Western and other expat workers, many of whom are leaving and many more who cant afford to leave because their wages exceed what they can earn at home. He looked at Saudiization which, reading between the lines, appeared a failure, and highlighted the growing population and the dwindling employment opps for Saudis --most of whom are young adults.
Are these reports exaggerations? Here they are:

Saudi Arabia loses lustre for ex-pats

Monday, July 7, 2003 - Page A7

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RIYADH -- With tennis courts, swimming pools and immaculate lawns, al-Hamra Oasis Village still looks like a tropical resort. But stroll past the fitness club and you're suddenly in the middle of Grozny.

Six weeks after the May 12 suicide bombings that killed at least 35 people at this and at two other foreigners' compounds in the Saudi capital, the scene of devastation is still horrific. The façades of the low-rise apartment buildings have been blown to bits, leaving nothing but their concrete shells. Rubble is strewn everywhere and several burned-out cars have yet to be towed away. One car had to be hauled out of a nearby swimming pool after it was hurled there by the blast.

The attacks, for which Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda have been blamed, have stunned the thousands of Western expatriates who have built a comfortable life here providing their skills to the world's largest oil producer.

"I think the time of the Western expat is coming to an end," said Bernice Hardin, who moved to Saudi Arabia from Edmonton with her husband, who works in petrochemicals, in 1993 and plans to leave in another year.

Ms. Hardin has loved her life of golf, bridge, houseboys and maids -- "I wouldn't have missed the past 10 years for the world."

Yet she feels that the relaxed atmosphere has begun to sour. "What's been different in the last little while is that you're looking over your shoulder and wondering if this is a good place to be," she said.

"This country doesn't have a bright future," lamented Gordon Boyd, a Canadian petrochemical specialist who is about to leave after more than five years in the kingdom. Mr. Boyd is pessimistic because the country's population is booming, unemployment is growing and expensive infrastructure is deteriorating. "It could go the way of an African country or Algeria," he said.

A U.S. official estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 of the 45,000 expatriate Americans in the country have left since the bombings. There are no similar figures for Canadians, who are still estimated to number about 7,000, but it's widely believed that many have already left for good or will not renew their contracts after they return from summer breaks.

Money remains the major motivator for most expatriates in Saudi Arabia. With no income tax and generous allowances, many can bank a good part of their salaries.

"I'm only here for the money," said Rick, a Canadian banker, former U.S. marine and Vietnam veteran who didn't want his name used.

Rick, whose estranged wife and daughter still live in Canada, said he hasn't been scared off by the May bombings. "If anything, it makes it more interesting to stay here. I've seen a lot rougher than this. I've been shot by artillery rockets."

Rob, a mining engineer, and his wife Joan were at al-Hamra when it was hit by the blast and Rob suffered serious injuries.

The Canadian couple asked that their names not be used for fear of retaliation. They were in their townhouse on the night of May 12 when they heard the pop of machine-gun fire. When Rob got out of bed to check out the situation, he was caught in the force of the explosion.

"I don't have any recollection of anything right after the blast," he said. "I was thrown across the room about four metres."

Joan, who was in the next room reading, found Rob trapped under the metal door frame in a bed of shattered glass. "Here was this person covered in blood from head to foot," she recalled. "He was a mess."

After 16 days in hospital and several weeks at home, Rob still has dozens of scars from glass shards, and his arm remains in a sling. He can't lift it because of nerve damage.

But despite the trauma, Rob says he hasn't considered leaving. The medical attention was excellent and the Saudi company for which he works has been extremely supportive, he said.

Though most residents of the compound have moved out, giving the place the look of a ghost town, Rob and Joan plan to stay a year.

Joan, a perpetual optimist, feels grateful the outcome wasn't worse. "I could be a widow today or dead. I've got an angel that takes care of me."

Saudi jobs no picnic for many

Monday, July 7, 2003 - Page A7

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DAMMAM, SAUDI ARABIA -- The young Indian travel agent didn't mince his words when asked how he finds life in Saudi Arabia.

"It is a sort of hell," he said without hesitation, adding wistfully: "In Hyderabad, I had so many girlfriends."

It's not just the absence of women and the shortage of entertainment that make life for the estimated 5.5 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia so depressing. It's the long hours and the lack of respect they receive from their employers and from Saudis in general.

While American, Canadian and British doctors, managers and engineers represent the cream of the expatriate community, living in pampered surroundings and earning high salaries, the Third World workers who keep the kingdom running are crammed into dormitory rooms and paid a fraction of what Saudis would get, even if the Saudis were willing to do the same work.

Interviews with Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino and Indian expatriate workers reveal the same pattern. They hate the environment, feel abused, but keep on coming back because the money is so much better than what they can earn back home.

"I work every day, 15 hours a day, sometimes 16," said Shopik, a taxi driver from Bangladesh who earns between 1,200 and 1,300 riyals ($430 to $470) a month after expenses. He sends as much home as he can for his wife and children.

Shopik has nothing but contempt for the Saudis.

"Sometimes, I take Saudis to their houses, they go inside and don't pay me," he said.

"It's not a life," agreed an Indian taxi driver with seven years in Saudi Arabia. But working here means he earns five times what a driver earns in India. "That [salary in India] is not enough. I can't give my son a good education with that salary."

Perhaps the most-exploited foreign workers, the hundreds of thousands of overworked housemaids, are paid a pittance and sometimes abused. They have no voice of their own in this male-dominated society.

Naji, a teacher in Riyadh, said he and his wife don't give their Indonesian maid a day off.

"What would she do?" he asked. "She has no car. There are no buses. She'd have nothing to do."
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Joined: 17 Feb 2003
Posts: 71
Location: Qatar

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2003 3:09 am    Post subject: I'm coming Reply with quote

I'm coming. Nothing can stop me. My dream has come true. After pursuing a teaching job here since November last year, I did it.

I'm relocating to Saudi from Korea. Nothing can stop my wife and I from coming to live in this lovely nation. The question begged by the Globe is: How long will it remain lovely? We're living in a Saudi apt. complex and not a compound so we can mingle with the locals and get to know them better. Hopefully, living with Saudis will be more secure than a compound.

What was in the foreign compounds that were targeted? Were they all residential compounds? Would a Saudi university compound ever be targeted?

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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 441

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2003 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seems pretty accurate to me .

Actually, it is probably understating the problems.
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Joined: 28 Jun 2003
Posts: 3657
Location: Tuamago Archipelago

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2003 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Titanic Man,

Don't want to sound discouraging, but if I were you, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much as regards 'mixing with the locals'. Saudis are nice people but at least here in Riyadh, they are very very very reserved. This isn't xenophobia - they're like that with their fellow Saudis too. A colleague of mine said that she has barely even spoken to the other people in the apartment block she and her husband lives in - and they are both Saudi! I'm not saying you won't be able to make friends, but it's highly unlikely that Saudis will form the basis of your social life, even if you wanted them to, which, realistically, is also highly unlikely.

Some people here have gotton a tad paranoid about potential bombings, but most are getting on with their lives. The three compounds targeted were all residential, and at least one of them had a very high proportion of Arab residents. As to future targets, who knows, what - if anything - will be next? Your guess is as good as mine, but if it worries you too much maybe KSA isn't the place for you.
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