In today’s post, I answer another common question that people wonder about my country, Saudi Arabia.
The Law in Saudi Arabia
By government laws, we don’t have any movie theaters, bars or nightclubs in Saudi Arabia. Alcohol is banned throughout the whole country. You’re not allowed to consume it anywhere – even at your own home. Doing so is illegal and it’s completely your own responsibility. That’s when the common Western expat question arises: So what do you guys do for fun? for entertainment? We like to go out clubbing and dancing.
Entertainment in Saudi Arabia
To give you an idea of what we do for fun, we do have chain coffee shops, franchise International restaurants and homegrown cafes and foodie spots. So if we wanted to go out for dinner, we can. It’s just that there is no alcohol served anywhere. If we want to catch up with a friend over coffee at Starbucks, we can too! if we wanted to go to the beach (in my city), we could easily do so.
For us, residents of Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, we can even drive over the causeway to neighboring Bahrain for a movie and dinner night. Yes, we are the lucky ones. We can get to Bahrain within 45 minutes to an hour if the road is clear and there isn’t much traffic. Bahrain has normal cinemas just like everywhere else in the world. However, the movies are highly censored, so you should be prepared to miss out on a lot of scenes. This can be frustrating, especially when the censoring effects you understanding the movie plot!
Gatherings At Home
Another favorite past time for Saudi people is to gather in someone’s house and do different activities together. Of course, the gatherings must be gender segregated. So if you’re a woman, you will be hanging out with women only. The same rule applies to men. The gatherings can be done on a weekly basis. So during weekends, we would go to our family friends’ house for a meal and catching up. The mother would cook food at home, and we would gather around a wonderful spread of tasty homemade food. To be honest, food in Saudi Arabia takes up a major part of our lives. It’s part of our culture to cook homemade meals and host dinner parties.
To us, gathering around a meal with friends or family is a significant part of our culture and lifestyle. It creates a warm atmosphere and strengthens the ties between us. It’s not only about the bond, it’s also about the food. I don’t think you can be raised in Saudi Arabia and not become a natural foodie. Because the food is so good and makes up a big part of our lives, we grow up to be foodies and home bodies.
90’s Saudi Arabia
Aside from gathering around freshly prepared homemade meals, we also used to play board games with our friends and family. I’m talking about the ’90s here – the simple days. In those times, technology didn’t play a big part of our lives and we didn’t even have mobile phones!
For entertainment, we played cards – UNO being a popular one, Monopoly (we were business-minded even as kids!), Charades, and my all-time favorite – Guess Who. Yes, those were the days. Of course I’ve explained what we girls used to do in our free time. The boys obviously played video games, football, or other types of games. We also occasionally went to the cinema in Aramco compound or just went for a walk in that residential area. We were even able to go Trick or Treating inside the Aramco camp! and as teenagers too! not as kids!
I must admit, I was a late bloomer. But so were many of my friends. Those were the nineties. It doesn’t bother me that I took my time to grow up. I’m still in no rush to move on to any other phase of my life. If the right person comes along, then yes. Otherwise, I’m happy just living my life as I wish without any interference or meddling from anyone.
Advantages of Meaningful Connections
There are many advantages to not having so many outdoor entertainment options in a place. One is that you develop deeper and more meaningful connections. Your social circle in Saudi become your community. That way, you can be assured that you always have someone to confide in and who you know you can strongly trust. We all shared similar mindsets, goals and dreams. Well at least to a certain extent.
While living in Saudi, your social support network is a vital element in your life. You will always have someone to spend time with and to share memories with. That’s why, there’s always a sense of community. You almost never feel lonely or isolated. You tend to spend most of your time with friends or family. And you rarely go out alone or do activities alone. Even shopping for a new wardrobe is done with a friend or two. Another obvious plus to not having many entertainment options is the ability to save more money. Saving becomes a piece of cake when living in Saudi. Since the sources for spending a lot of money don’t exist in the first place, you find yourself naturally saving more money than you would living somewhere like Dubai for example.
As you can see there are endless benefits to not having the conventional entertainment venues as in the Western world. The alternative recreation options offer wide opportunities for personal development, connecting with others and building strong bonds and solid friendships.
For an extroverted introvert like me; someone who likes to spend some quiet time in self development and growth, I used to read a lot, play video games and ride my bicycle around the house. The bike riding is another story for another time.