On Wednesday, the high school went to the beach. The woman who owns the school also owns a very nice beach complex, and she opens it to the students each year. The beach day is sort of like the Saudi version of the American field day. But without organized games or competitions...or organized anything, really. We just laid around the property, dipped our feet in the water, and soaked up the beautiful weather. It was a very nice day.
Before going, I'd heard tales of this wondrous beach house. The other English teachers went on and on about how nice the house is, and how beautiful the beach itself was. "You just sit on the beach and you can see miles and miles!" one of them said.
While the houses and other buildings on the property were very impressive, and the water was so blue and beautiful, I found myself walking away from the whole experience with a feeling of "meh." A quizzical, slightly culture shocked "meh." But meh nonetheless.
When I go to the beach, I want to be able to look left and see for miles, and look right and see for miles. But at this beach, I looked left, and I saw this:
And when I got to the other end of the property and looked right, I saw this:
I've mentioned before that if a piece of property has been purchased--even if nothing is built on it--the owner has to put a wall around it. I'm still uncertain as to the logic behind this rule, but it I guess it clarifies property lines for any prospective land purchasers with large architectural plans. But at the BEACH?! Really?! Is nothing sacred anymore?
I guess the Saudis would say yes. Their privacy is sacred. So sacred that they will build a wall 100 feet out into the sea to prevent prying eyes from drinking in their exposed bodies. I can't help but think that all this wall building and secrecy only makes people more nosy.
In Miami, for example, there are various beaches. There are parts of the beach that are...more liberal than others. But there are no walls separating the topless section from the more family-friendly section of the sand. And it's no big deal! Of course you end up with the creepers with video cameras that will troll the topless beach looking for a rise (literally), but that's the risk you take when you go to the topless beach. From what I understand, people rarely accidentally wander onto the topless beach. You pay attention to your surroundings and mind your own darn business!
Of course there would be absolutely NOTHING resembling a topless beach in Saudi Arabia, so why is there the need for the walls? Are people here just that nosy? Do they not teach their children that it's rude to stare? Are the young boys not raised with a respect for sunbathing women and families?
I just don't understand the walls. And I'm getting a little tired of them.
Even away from the shore, the walls feel so...unfriendly. I have no idea what my neighbors look like, and I'm not sure which one of them has the rooster that wakes me up every single morning. One of them has gotten a peacock, but I don't know which because of all the walls. There is not neighborly kindness here because you never make eye contact with your neighbors. It makes Saudis seem really rude and unfriendly. But the Saudis I've met at work have been just the opposite. For a country that's so concerned with appearances and perception, you'd think they would be willing to lower the property wall a little bit just to have some human contact.
It's all very curious.