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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Living in Saudi Arabia: An Interview with Pamela Davis - Page 2

Written by Rachael Repoff
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INT: The first thing I wanted to ask you was if you were familiar with Maureen Dowd, or more specifically the article she wrote last year about being a woman in Saudi Arabia?


PD: No, I’ve heard of her, but I didn’t know she’d written anything about Saudi Arabia... I can’t wait read it though; what specifically was it about?


INT: Essentially, the Tourism Minister's job is increasing revenues by trying to sell Western women on going to a fundamentalist-Islamic state...for a vacation.


PD: That can't be an easy job. 


INT: I know, when I first read that I kept imagining how the commercials would sound, I imagined some cheesy announcer saying: “Ladies, are you “fully educated”?  Do all your friends say you’re “high level”?  Are you just plain sick of driving?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, Say Goodbye to Bad Hair Days (we’ll explain why later) and say Hello to your next vacation hotspot..... in... Sunny... Saudi Arabia!!!”     


PD: (laughs) That's awesome...Very funny. 


INT: Anyway, when Down returned to the US she gave interviews to the top news shows.  During one interview with George Stephanopoulos, she said something at the beginning of the interview in a grave tone while looking directly into the camera.  “Saudi Arabia is the hardest country on earth for a woman negotiate on her own, because as a woman you can’t do anything on your own”.  


0 9PD: (nodding) Oh, that is true; you have to remember, Saudi Arabia is a place where, if you’re a woman, you really can not do ANYTHING on your own.  The hardest thing is the no driving, and if you were caught traveling in a car with a man that isn't your husband, you’d be arrested on the spot. 


INT: Yet, you were able to survive there for an entire year; when many women can't seem to adapt to such a drastically different culture, feel unsafe, and want to go home.


PD: Some women struggle making friends, then they begin to feel isolated... it’s these women who won’t last.  For me, I just tried not to take anything too personally and tried not to get wrapped up in the seemingly primitive way of life, because if you do, you’ll become angry and miserable


Also I reminded myself that I am a guest in their country, so if I’m going to choose to live there, I should embrace the culture.  I should be as respectful and accepting of their way of life as I can, even if I think it’s backward and crazy, which I do.   

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INT: What’s the best advice you’d give a woman moving to Saudi Arabia?   


Number one piece of advice, make sure to move to a Western compound.  Within your compound walls, you’ll find safety, security, camaraderie, entertainment (several compound’s have swimming pools, mini markets, playgrounds, bowling, gyms, and a spattering of restaurants), but most importantly, you gain the freedom to wear whatever clothing you choose.


For me, it was slightly different because my husband and I had spent time in Saudi Arabia for his business prior to my move there, so I wasn’t going over as blindly as other people do. I had a vague idea of what to expect.


INT: I recently read that the Saudi Price Sulton gave a statement describing some of the recent changes that were afoot; he proudly announced that they were "starting a coed university" and they now were "allowing women to sell lingerie to other women", and (my personal favorite) "they are even toning down the public beheadings”.


PD: (laughing) Oh my God, that hilarious - I actually knew about the lingerie, but doesn’t it sound like they are looking for some kind of credit for “toning down beheaddings”.  

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2013

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