Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Ordinary People of Saudi Arabia


Three years ago, I had the opportunity to travel through parts of Saudi Arabia while on a research fellowship at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Along the way from Riyadh to Mecca to Medina and back to Riyadh, I had the good fortune to meet with regular folk. Surrounded by Mid-East experts and academics, and their talk of politics, religion, and "what the Saudis want" or "what the Saudis are like" or sectarian policies and rivalries/proxy wars with Iran in Yemen and elsewhere, it is easy to forget that the average population is comprised of ordinary families who struggle to obtain their everyday needs, put some food in their children's bellies, and hope for a better life in the future. In the photo above, I met with one such person on the way from Mecca to Medina and talked about his daily routine over a cup of camel milk. During my visit to the port city of Yanbu on the Red Sea Coast near Jeddah, I got to spend time with the family of camel herders photographed below before heading off for a swim and dinner of fresh fish. The father to my right worked at the Saudi Aramco Yanbu Refinery for almost twenty years before making the decision to return to the Bedouin life he missed. My thoughts are with the ordinary people of Saudi Arabia who, like their counterparts everywhere in the region, are not responsible for the actions and policies of their leaders.

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