Saudi Society: Which Tribe do you Come From?

Today, we will examine a historical yet ongoing issue in Saudi society: the tribes culture and society. I will go back to more basic topics in future posts, but I just felt like delving deep at this stage.

Saudi Society – Growing Up

It won’t be too complicated or difficult to understand, as I myself am not an expert in the subject. All I know is, that while growing up and attending school in Saudi, I had negative experiences because of this social aspect of Saudi society.
As a child, I learned about social classism at a very young age. I became highly familiar with the concept of discrimination from my school days. As a little girl attending private school in my city in Saudi, some teachers didn’t give me much attention or praise my skills, simply because I didn’t belong to a big family or tribe. Sad, I know.
At first, you don’t really understand why you’re being discriminated against. I was a good student (more like the class nerd), I always got straight A’s, I was even the top student in my class for many consecutive years.
I couldn’t find any reason for my teachers to “not like me” or neglect me.

Saudi Society: Family Name

As I grew older, I began to notice the patterns and understand the way these things worked, I came to the realization that all I was missing was a tribal – equating to important in Saudi society – family name.
My family and I are not Bedouins, we don’t belong to any tribe. We are simply modern Saudis. In Arabic, this is called: Hathar. It’s the opposite of the Bedouins, who have deep family roots in the desert.
As a modern Saudi, others from Bedouin roots would look down on me as a second class citizen. I faced this inferior attitude from some school students as well. They would have this extreme pride and enlarged personality just because of the families that they belonged to. They feel superior to others and treat them with less respect.
This discrimination was very strong in the first private school that I attended. It was very apparent in the way the teachers treated the students who came from big tribal families. They favored them to others, they were extra nice to them, they tried to get close to them and always gave them more attention than they truly deserved!

Teacher Discrimination

In the second private school that I attended, the teacher discrimination had a different basis. Since the school owner was American and therefore the school attracted a slightly different social group of the Saudi society, students from tribal families weren’t that many. But, many of the students’ fathers were wealthy businessmen and well-known in the city. The majority had family businesses and they were trading in big industries, such as consumer products, construction or architecture.
That’s why, some teachers would favor those students over the ones from the hard-working, middle-class or the ones with an average social status.
It was more like a silent rule that no one dared to discuss or speak openly about. I always felt that my self-esteem was being badly impacted from all these meaningless experiences. But somehow, there was no one there to talk to. No one who I could open my heart to and explain how I felt and that I didn’t think the discrimination was fair or had any good reasoning.
I truly believe that going through those discriminatory experiences has played a significant role in shaping my character and the person who
I am today. I’m aware that although they might have built my character into a strong and mature person, they also have taken away from my self-esteem, confidence and self-love.

Social Stigma

Another example of this social stigma can be seen at wedding ceremonies. I once had a lady (mother of a potential husband) ask me which family I belonged to. At that time, I wasn’t even thinking of marriage or paying much thought to the concept. Despite that, I was surprised by her question and her interest to learn my family name so she can judge me and my family.
I never knew that the true value of a person with all their traits (good and bad), their skills, their achievements, their goals, their dreams, their failures, was based solely on their last name and their family roots.
We are individuals – with all our experiences and all our characteristics. Human beings firstly and most importantly. We are souls – who feel and breathe and go through many ups and downs.

Let’s Promote Strong Values of Individuality

I refuse to be valued by an age-old, trivial concept; that of the tribal society and the historic family roots.
Let us all rise together above all of these age-old notions, that sadly still exist until this day and time. Let’s promote the strong values of individuality and respect to one another, regardless of our backgrounds or family origins.
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