Things You Try To Forget About Growing Up In Saudi Arabia In The 90s

5 months ago By Tariq Fahmy


Awhile ago we did a piece on 11 things Egyptians who lived in Saudi Arabia can’t forget — some of our favorite childhood memories. But with every positive experience, there’s also a flip side (which is now kind of funny, looking back). 


As Egyptians, the common nickname we all had was ‘ta3meyya’. Why? Well, basically because we (the Egyptians) are the only ones who call it that; other countries refer to it as falafel. So that’s where the nickname comes from. We had to deal with it for the whole of our childhood without knowing the reason in advance. Don’t forget you were called “yalmasry” as an insult too. 


Losing your mom

And I don’t mean like being kidnapped or anything like that, more like being separated in the supermarket and trying to identify your mom from the 1000 other niqabis, especially when your mom is wearing a full-on niqab. At first it was your mom who found you first, but then as time went by you developed your Sherlock skills and learned to identify her by her bag or shoes. 


Prayer time

Horror falls upon you. The call to prayer is here, which means you have to go pray no matter what. Prayer time in the 90s in places like Riyadh meant that 15 minutes ahead of it shops started to close and clerks started hiding inside. If you were a three year old or if you were a Christian (yes, Christians were forced to go and pray too in Riyadh) you’d try to hide with your mom but that usually failed, since they used to come and start ordering you aggressively to go and pray. So you gave up and went to pray. 


Separate schools 

It’s not enough that you were brought up in a society where men were separated from women — you had to go to separate schools as well. So you basically had no contact with the opposite gender whatsoever except for two occasions: 1) when you came back to Egypt for a vacation which to you seemed like Malibu. Or 2) when you’d go with your parents to the family dining section, where you got a  glimpse of the opposite sex’s faces. You can pretty much imagine the suffering we’ve been through. 



A lot of movies, songs and cartoons were censored. You’d find tapes that had women on the cover with a black marker inking them out. And when it came to movies shown on national TV, sex scenes being censored, totally understandable, kissing scenes, yeah sure. But why on earth would they censor Porky the Pig from cartoons?

Thank God for the age of satellite. 

Oh, did I mention there was a ban on some international women’s sports at some point too?

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