Scotland Study Centre

صورة1

The Director of Scotland Study Centre has written the following article:

I spent five months teaching in a women’s college in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. However, as a non-Saudi, as a non-Muslim, and especially as a non-Saudi, non-Muslim female, in those five months I only managed to gain limited insight into the Saudi culture and practices. It was therefore in the hope of gaining a deeper understanding of what I experienced in Madinah that I agreed to write a review for Addul al Lily’s ‘The Bro Code.’
Perhaps ‘The Bro Code’ is best understood as a series of statements about Saudi Arabian values and customs that, while not proven to be true, nevertheless provide a basis upon which to evaluate our own research and experiences of the country. Another main asset of the book is that it does not take a religious or any other partisan viewpoint. Although titled ‘The Bro Code,” the book remains gender-neutral in describing Saudi Arabian practices in all their often bewildering and contradictory forms.

‘The Bro Code’ is termed a ‘book,’ but it the type of book that appeals well to both avid and less avid readers. A main plus is that you can dip in and out of the different statements, making it very easy to digest.. The statements are grouped into categories that relate to body parts; however, the book does not have the sort of overall hierarchical structure that readers expect of a traditional academic publication. Nor does it have the normal references and support for statements expected of an academic research study. Al Lily has based his research in multiple interviews and in his own extensive personal experience and insights as a Saudi insider. He also intersperses the lists of statements with statistical analyses of the interviews that shed light on Saudi and non-Saudi views of each other and of each other’s cultures and values

While the list of statements in ‘The Bro Code’ is long, I will focus on the first three, as they helped make clearer the basis of my experiences in Madina. I will also focus on those statements that relate to my arrival at my hotel in Madinah and on what were the most extreme and memorable of my many experiences during my five month stay there.

Statement Nos 1-3

  1. Saudi society is divided into two domains, a domestic ‘inside the house’ domain and a public ‘outside the house’ domain.
  2. Women are responsible for and belong to the domestic domain.
  3. Men are in command of and are affiliated with the public domain.

As very much an outsider to Saudi Arabian culture, my entry to the inner women’s domain took place immediately on my arrival at El Meridien Hotel, the only hotel in Madinah allowed to accept non-Muslim guests. I arrived at about 3 a.m., and without even being offered a seat or a cup of tea, the male staff immediately fetched a black abbaya and hijab and told me to put them on, right there at the reception desk, on top of my own clothing. As I struggled into the abbaya and attempted to put the hijab on properly, I had a really uncomfortable sense of humiliation; I felt my own culture and values were being belittled, while complying with having to wear the abbaya and hijab symbolised my own acceptance of this belittlement. As stated in The Bro Code Statement No.1131, however “compliance is compulsory.”

Putting on the ababya and hijab, I also immediately regretted having bought a wardrobe of long, dark, baggy clothes for coming to Madinah. I later wore them under the abbaya, and they served me as work clothes in the college. However, my fashion sense was in stark and very dowdy contrast to the colourful, and sexy, clothes worn by some of the staff and by the majority of the students in the college. The stark contrast in women’s dress-styles and behaviour for the public and private domains was my first insight into the contradictory nature of Saudi culture and values. The teachers and girls arrived swathed in black, with only their very made-up eyes showing. Immediately inside the college walls, however, they were creatures transformed. De-abbayaed and de-hijabed, and de-niqabed, the students were no different to young women elsewhere, with their immediate interest in fashion, make-up, music, relationships, and fun. They, like other young women throughout the world, were also interested in more serous topics, and they were especially keen to find out and experience for themselves what life is really like in the ‘outer’ world. Their curiosity, as well as their inherent confidence in their own abilities, was particularly evident when they questioned me about what it was like to drive. “It’s easy, isn’t it, Miss?” they asked, and they all laughed when I answered, “Of course it’s easy. Men can do it, can’t they?”

Whiteness is said to have a positive value in Saudi Arabian culture. In contrast, Statement No.318, highlights the use of the expression, “May God make your face black” as a curse. No. 486 also states that black-skinned Saudis are “jokingly” referred to as “slaves.” This ability to refer to humans as slaves is indicative of a mentality more in tune with medieval times than with the 21st Century, and some of the functions I witnessed at the El Meridien hotel did indeed resemble medieval banquets.
The hotel was at times commandeered by Saudi Arabian Princes and other high-ranking officials for official functions and parties. One such party meant that all guests of the hotel had to wait until the party was over, “perhaps very, very late, or tomorrow morning” – before being allowed access to our hotel. I and the other college teachers, as non-Saudis, were privileged to have been allowed earlier access at 9.00 p.m. I was escorted to my room by guards carrying machine guns, past an enormous tank stationed in the hotel courtyard, past the main party taking place in the reception area.

There were only males present in the reception area, as in Saudi Arabian culture the sexes are also segregated for parties. As I was rushed through the party by the armed guards, what stood out most were the “slaves,” dark-skinned men wearing very bright, colourful clothes and turbans, holding golden trays with goblets, and serving the other, lighter-skinned men in their white cloaks and headdresses. I looked on, as if viewing scenes from a parallel, past world.

There were guards with rifles stationed at each corner of each floor of the hotel. I was escorted to the door of my room and was told that I would only be allowed to leave it after 9.00 a.m. the next morning. Looking closely at the armed guards, their faces were in stark, and pleasant, contrast to the intimidating nature of their military clothing and rifles. They smiled at me, politely and pleasantly. They looked like innocent young kids playing at being soldiers.

At 9.00 the next morning, I peeked out my room door, and, seeing no guards, I went down to breakfast. I was served by the usual, very cheerful and friendly Asian waiter. He had worked in Saudi Arabia for nine years, during which time he had viewed its culture with critical interest. We chatted about the events of the previous evening, and he commented: “They come. The men go one place, the women go another place. They sit, they eat, they talk. They look bored. They go home. In my country, there is music,and dancing, and fun. Here, no music, no dancing, no fun’”

There was fun in Medinah. I experienced it everyday with my fun-loving and inquisitive students, behind the walls and closed gates of the college. I also experienced it intermittently, when at times I was taken by some of the other teachers, mainly Palestinians and Syrians, on outings with their families. Fun was also stolen, most memorably as I and a Syrian friend and her daughters hitched up our abbayas and raced each other, hidden in the darkness, in the evenings behind the El Meridienl.

I recommend ‘The Bro Code’. It provides what seem to be unbiased glimpses, and a degree of understanding, of Saudi Arabian culture, a culture that, even when you live there, can otherwise be difficult to access and comprehend. Some day there will be ‘The Sis Code’, and that is sure to provide even more insight, and even more interesting reading.

For the source, click HERE.

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Harvard

The Professor at Harvard University George B. Moseley III has written the following private review of the book:

You have written a very interesting book. It is unlike anything else I have read. I like it a lot. Coming to it as a non-Saudi, it is tempting to comment on the specific beliefs and practices of Saudi men and women that you describe. But, I don’t think that would be useful at this point.

First, I want to say that the book is well written, from beginning to end. It is not only clear what you are saying, but you use words economically, and in a way that is pleasurable to read.

The presentation of the attitudes and behaviors of Saudis in bite-size chunks works well. They are succinct and convey their meaning quickly and simply. This format makes it easy to jump around the book, and dive in at any point to find something new and interesting.

The range of “explanations” is comprehensive. They cover nearly every topic about which someone might be curious, concerning every aspect of life in Saudi. I cannot imagine an issue that you have not addressed. I worked for one month in Saudi and it was nice to read candid descriptions of some of the activities I observed.

The credibility of your reports is enhanced by mentioning the research that is behind it. That raises the question of who is the target audience of this book. At a couple places, you list the variety of people for whom you intended the book. You also say that the primary purpose of the book is to entertain. At the same time, you refer to its usefulness to non-Saudi Muslims planning a Hajj, foreign writers, business travelers and expatriates, scholars and journalists, among others.

Asian Affairs

Saudi Arabia

Asian Affairs

The subtitle to the book is ’666 Rules on how the Human Body should Act in Arabia’ and indeed it does have 666 guidelines or rules on how to behave in, and understand, Saudi Arabia. Dr Abdul Al Lily, an academic at Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal University, has conducted thousands of interviews to write this remarkable, original book. Most of the guidelines have not been written down before; they make insightful reading.

The book addresses two different audiences: expatriates and Saudis. First, it explains to expatriates the unwritten rules that make society tick, and how visitors need to behave to be accepted in Saudi circles. It explains why Saudis behave in particular ways, giving foreigners hitherto unrevealed insights into this opaque and contradictory society. Its method uses parts of the body, from the face, eyes, ears and mouth through the waist and genitals to the legs and feet. This gives Dr Al Lily a somewhat vertical framework but it opens up Saudi traditions, involvement with Islam, belief in their society and also some interesting characteristics.

However, this is a book with a serious intent and addresses the numerous distortions of Saudi culture presented in the international media. After all, Saudi society is a Muslim society of a particular conservative brand of Islam based on an 18th century unitarian preacher which is perceived to cover every aspect of a person’s life. The west is usually judgmental of this brand of Islam and consequently of Saudi mores, seeing the Kingdom as a deviation from most of the world’s cultures, says Dr Al Lily.

But, I quote him again, the west does not understand that “they [Saudis] think this deviation is the right way of doing things and that others do things the wrong way. These Saudis’ pride has apparently ’teased’ foreign writers and commentators and encouraged them…to insult and mock Saudi culture.” Much of the distortion arises from too little sociological interpretation being written in a language accessible to foreigners, not Arabic.

The second audience is Saudis themselves – and the few foreigners that have lived in the Kingdom long enough and taken the trouble to try to fathom the society. For them the 666 narrative is fascinating and witty, a bit of a hoot and fun. It reminds me of the wit in Rajaa Alsanea’s 2005 novel, Girls of Riyadh. But Dr Al Lily is kind and affectionate to his compatriots, taking their side but exposing their vanities and contradictions.

The question of gender in such a seemingly closed society is one Dr Al Lily tackles with vigour. Contrary to western perceptions of a culture where the sexes do not meet informally and sex is controlled through the family, Dr Al Lily shows how young men and women meet, become items, get round the prohibitions and move to marriage. For instance, guideline 566, “When the Saudi man gets married, his life stops. When the Saudi woman gets married, her life begins. That is, before marriage, the Saudi man has so much freedom and can have a ’wild’ time. The Saudi woman has restricted freedom. She is hyper–vigilant of doing anything that might affect her marriageable status.” But Dr Al Lily discusses how people get round this; take guideline 397, “A man hooks up his male friend with the female friend of his lover. Experts in women will know if a veiled woman is interested from her eyes and from the style of her black cloak.”

Dr Al Lily highlights conservative Islam’s hold. In a number of guidelines between 200 and 240 he details the effect of wahhabi Islam. Without ever mentioning the word Islam he talks about the pervasive “reminders regarding traditions…(200) When one stops at traffic lights, there are signs next to them reminding one of traditional norms and values.” But this is mild compared with later guidelines when he focuses on the hai’a (the religious police’s agency), (227) “The ’tradition agency’ is active. It has its own cars that its members drive around… They also walk on foot in public places (e.g. shopping malls) to make sure everything is consistent with traditional values.” During 2016 the hai’a has been less active, however.

The reader can take the book on different levels. You can read it as an amusing description of the vagaries and contradictions of Saudi Arabia; you can find political messages in it. But in my view it is a remarkably candid explanation of the Saudi society, shining a light and critiquing it. But in the end the writer is a Saudi and an academic and it is cheerfully non-judgmental.

For the source, click HERE.

Alarabya (Featured)

Alarabya 

Alarabya

Dr. Abdul Al Lily, an Oxford graduate and an assistant professor at King Faisal University launched ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ last year. It is his first book and the first to be published in English, Spanish and soon Chinese. It is an Amazon bestseller. It has been talked about in different languages and by magazines, journals and newspapers. It is recommended by international institutions such as the University of Manchester and by known figures, like Dr James M. Dorsey (Journalist) and Caroline Montagu (Business Woman). Last month, the book was sold out twice at the Riyadh International Book Fair.

Saudi Gazette caught up with the Saudi author to discuss the book:

SG: Can you talk us through your book? What can the readers expect? How can it help them?

AL: This book sets out a series of rules meant as guidelines to live by and behave properly among Saudis and/or to understand their culture. Most of these rules have long been unwritten and only verbally communicated among Saudis. As a result, visitors to Saudi Arabia have been unable to follow these rules appropriately. Those interested in Saudis or their civilisation have neither understood nor recognized these rules. For such reasons, these rules need to be spelled out in bold print.

My book has been written to respond to this need, as well as to inform a broad audience on the nature of gender roles and relations in this country. Every culture is governed by an internal code of conduct, and this book offers the first written code of Saudi society. It is the product of close observations of daily activities and more than 2,000 interviews with nationals and residents over the past four years.

This code shows 2030 tweet-sized (often previously unrecorded) explanations of how the human body acts in Saudi Arabia. It covers everything from top to bottom; the face, eyes, ears, mouth, waist and extremities. This code must be carefully considered if one wishes to stay within the circle of Saudis.

SG: What are the interesting components in it? Has your marriage to a Westerner influenced your thoughts on Saudi culture?

AL: The book is the first to talk about Saudi culture in a purely descriptive (and thus non-judgemental and unbiased) manner. It is the first to be written by a Saudi who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, who is still based in this country, who is a former formally-recognized imam and who comes from a working-class family — yet has traveled the world, is married to a non-Muslim European, studied in Oxford, published with the largest international publishers and hence has the ability to communicate with foreign mentalities. It is the first to present Saudi values and norms in the form of a bullet-pointed list and in tweet-sized explanations.

My marriage to a non-Saudi, non-Arab and non-Muslim has made me more able to reflect on my own culture and to compare my own Saudi, Arabian and Muslim background to those non-Saudi, non-Arab and non-Muslim cultures. My wife and my many non-Saudi friends and interviewees help me a lot see things in Saudi culture that I could not see before because I was taking them for granted. These people helped me raise my awareness of Saudi norms. I was writing in the book any Saudi norm or practice that these people raised my awareness of. This is why one reader of the book wrote: “Unique that an Arabic man is critical looking at his ‘own kind’ in the Arabic world”.

SG: Do you have a target audience? What motivated you to write this book?

AL: The book is written to serve three types of people. First are non-Saudis. Non-Saudis who concern themselves with Saudi culture are stuck in a loop, rehashing the same issues of Saudi culture over and over again. This book drags the international discourse out of this rut by drawing attention to other issues and therefore showing that Saudi society goes beyond those issues that have already been commonly talked about in the media.

Most traditional Saudi norms and values, beyond these rehashed issues, remain obscure to non-Saudis, having been left essentially untouched and unaffected by liberal ideologies over the last few centuries. Those obscure issues have passed unnoticed by researchers and have slipped under the radar of the international media. Therefore, there is a need to expose all of the norms and values within this culture to the outside world, providing a detailed description of those norms and values. The current book provides such a description.

Second are Saudis. This book presents to Saudis their own tradition in a written form, thereby increasing their awareness of their culture and their self-awareness. Seeing something is different from reading about it. That is, although a person may not notice what he or she sees and is exposed to during daily life; he or she is more likely to notice it when it is presented to him or her in a written form. Through this book, I wish to help Saudis notice the taken-for-granted and thus overlooked aspects of their social life.

Third are future Saudis. This book documents current Saudi culture for future generations. Sooner or later, Saudi tradition will cease to be a part of the modern world and will become history. Therefore, there is a need for a descriptive account that captures this lifestyle before its citizens move on, and before its unique norms and values vanish. This volume offers such an account.

Previous generations were not good at recording Saudi tradition. Hence, most information about past Saudi culture was either not well recorded, or it has been lost, meaning Saudi history is not fully known to current Saudis or to anyone interested in this subject.

SG: How has the readers’ response been so far?

AL: Non-Saudi readers have left positive feedback about the book in Amazon.com, goodreads and other venues. Some shared their enthusiasm about the book in person or via private messages. One, for example, said: “Your book is something that takes you from ‘oh ok, it makes sense’ to ‘omg, are you serious!!!”’ Another said: “I read the whole book in one night! It’s a fascinating read”. Another wrote: “I have online friends from Saudi and they expected it to be inaccurate but did, in fact, confirm everything I quoted to them”.

One reader wrote: “For the first time I have found in writing all the verbal norms ruling the country”. Another reader thinks that the book “gives a glimpse of Saudi Arabia you don’t get though the news”. One reader thinks that the book is “easy to read, unbiased and answers many of the questions people have about this mysterious and controversial culture”.

On the other hand, most Saudi readers did not like the book, partly because they did not like their culture to be documented. Normally, Saudi nationals do not like their tradition to be documented, especially when this documentation takes place in a foreign language, partly because they do not want to be subjected to criticism by the outside world. They feel this culture has been subject to ongoing, harsh and, most of the time, unfair criticisms by others. They think that it is not the business of other cultures to dissect Saudi culture.

The book is explicit about Saudi practices, although Saudis normally do not like to be explicit about their cultural issues and matters and do not like to open up to the outside world the closed nature of their tradition. Despite this dissatisfaction of these Saudis with the intention behind the book, most of them think that the explanations of Saudi culture provided by the book are accurate and reflect the reality. For example, one reader wrote: “I’m Saudi and it was so fun to read! Laughing and going ‘Yeah, we do that’ was a constant feeling throughout the book.” Another Saudi wrote: “Hilarious book with truths”.

SG: What was the response at Riyadh International Book Fair?

AL: I spent 48 hours at the book fair, standing next to my book, talking to those who were interested. Actually, Saudi female readers (who skipped through the book) tended to disapprove of it. They did not like the book because they thought that I wrote it with a West-oriented intention of changing the current status of Saudi women. They reported being happy with the current status of Saudi women.

Male potential readers tended to be supportive of the book. Many of these men bought more than one copy to give as a present to their male and female non-Saudi friends. Some potential readers criticized the book for exposing both negative and positive practices of Saudi society. They said that I should have talked about only positives, without reporting negatives. Some critics repeated the widely common maxim, “Say something useful, or be silent”, stressing that there is no point of reporting certain Saudi practices because such reporting is “useless”. Some critics think that the book is intended to distort the reputation of Saudi culture at the international level.

SG: What do you think about the literary scene in Saudi Arabia?

AL: Saudi Arabia is in need of qualitative academics and anthropologists, who are Saudi, born and raised in Saudi Arabia and interested in hearing and recording the voices of those working-class and lower-middle-class Saudi men and women who are normally disregarded by the global media (which have a bias toward the opinions of Saudi activists and elites). There is a lack of English-language writings by Saudis on Saudi culture.

Saudi academics tend not to have a strong linguistic and communicative fluency and the liberalism that enables them to communicate with an international audience and to depict their tradition without being defensive or biased. Many Saudi writers and commentators lack the ability to speak the language of an international audience.

Non-academic publications by Saudis and directed to the outside world tend to be either written in a self-protective and politically oriented way or written by Saudis who may not have the ability to communicate with Westerners’ ways of seeing the world.

Publications on Saudi culture in the market have mostly been written by non-Saudis. Writings about Saudi culture by Saudis are normally driven by underlying political agenda and written defensively, with the authors apparently trying very hard to show the outside world that Saudi Arabia has a good society and that its reputation has been distorted.

The current book addresses this bias by being entirely descriptive, thereby imposing on the reader no political views or directing his/her way of seeing Saudi tradition.

Even in Arabic, the practice of documenting Saudi tradition is weak, because documentation is in general limited in Saudi Arabia. What Saudi writers normally care about is to write not about their society but rather for their society, i.e. to write not about what their society has actually done but rather about what their society should ideally do and should have done.

SG: Are you currently working on any new project or do you have plans to launch a new book in future?

AL: In future, I would like to see another book written in English by a Saudi woman, entitled “The Sis Code of Saudi Culture”. I am currently working on the sixth edition where I incorporate the input I have received from Saudi and non-Saudi readers and where I am conducting more interviews to capture and record more descriptions of Saudi norms and practices.

For the source, click HERE.

Saudi-British Society

Saudi British Society

The subtitle to the book is ’666 Rules on how the Human Body should Act in Arabia’ and indeed it does have 666 guidelines or rules on how to behave in, and understand, Saudi Arabia. Dr Abdul Al Lily, an academic at Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal University, has conducted thousands of interviews to write this remarkable, original book. Most of the guidelines have not been written down before; they make insightful reading.

The book addresses two different audiences: expatriates and Saudis. First, it explains to expatriates the unwritten rules that make society tick, and how visitors need to behave to be accepted in Saudi circles. It explains why Saudis behave in particular ways, giving foreigners hitherto unrevealed insights into this opaque and contradictory society. Its method uses parts of the body, from the face, eyes, ears and mouth through the waist and genitals to the legs and feet. This gives Dr Al Lily a somewhat vertical framework but it opens up Saudi traditions, involvement with Islam, belief in their society and also some interesting characteristics.

However, this is a book with a serious intent and addresses the numerous distortions of Saudi culture presented in the international media. After all, Saudi society is a Muslim society of a particular conservative brand of Islam based on an 18th century unitarian preacher which is perceived to cover every aspect of a person’s life. The west is usually judgmental of this brand of Islam and consequently of Saudi mores, seeing the Kingdom as a deviation from most of the world’s cultures, says Dr Al Lily.

But, I quote him again, the west does not understand that “they [Saudis] think this deviation is the right way of doing things and that others do things the wrong way. These Saudis’ pride has apparently ’teased’ foreign writers and commentators and encouraged them…to insult and mock Saudi culture.” Much of the distortion arises from too little sociological interpretation being written in a language accessible to foreigners, not Arabic.

The second audience is Saudis themselves – and the few foreigners that have lived in the Kingdom long enough and taken the trouble to try to fathom the society. For them the 666 narrative is fascinating and witty, a bit of a hoot and fun. It reminds me of the wit in Rajaa Alsanea’s 2005 novel, Girls of Riyadh. But Dr Al Lily is kind and affectionate to his compatriots, taking their side but exposing their vanities and contradictions.

The question of gender in such a seemingly closed society is one Dr Al Lily tackles with vigour. Contrary to western perceptions of a culture where the sexes do not meet informally and sex is controlled through the family, Dr Al Lily shows how young men and women meet, become items, get round the prohibitions and move to marriage. For instance, guideline 566, “When the Saudi man gets married, his life stops. When the Saudi woman gets married, her life begins. That is, before marriage, the Saudi man has so much freedom and can have a ’wild’ time. The Saudi woman has restricted freedom. She is hyper–vigilant of doing anything that might affect her marriageable status.” But Dr Al Lily discusses how people get round this; take guideline 397, “A man hooks up his male friend with the female friend of his lover. Experts in women will know if a veiled woman is interested from her eyes and from the style of her black cloak.”

Dr Al Lily highlights conservative Islam’s hold. In a number of guidelines between 200 and 240 he details the effect of wahhabi Islam. Without ever mentioning the word Islam he talks about the pervasive “reminders regarding traditions…(200) When one stops at traffic lights, there are signs next to them reminding one of traditional norms and values.” But this is mild compared with later guidelines when he focuses on the hai’a (the religious police’s agency), (227) “The ’tradition agency’ is active. It has its own cars that its members drive around… They also walk on foot in public places (e.g. shopping malls) to make sure everything is consistent with traditional values.” During 2016 the hai’a has been less active, however.

The reader can take the book on different levels. You can read it as an amusing description of the vagaries and contradictions of Saudi Arabia; you can find political messages in it. But in my view it is a remarkably candid explanation of the Saudi society, shining a light and critiquing it. But in the end the writer is a Saudi and an academic and it is cheerfully non-judgmental.

By Caroline Montagu

For the source, click HERE.

Brunswick

Business in Saudi

In this interview with Brunswick, Dr. Al Lily discusses his bestselling book, which offers foreigners unprecedented insight into Saudi culture.

What is unique and different about your new book?

This Amazon best-selling book is the first English-language piece to talk about Saudi culture in a purely descriptive (and thus non-judgmental and unbiased) manner and to deliver the voices of working-class and lower-middle-class Saudi men and women. It is written by a male Saudi who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, who is still based in this country, who is a former formally-recognized imam and who comes from a working-class family—yet has traveled the world, is married to a non-Muslim European, studied in Oxford, published with the largest international academic publishers and hence has the ability to communicate with foreign mentalities.

What are some of your most surprising findings?

Music is not allowed in public facilities (e.g. restaurants, shops and gyms). There are no musical concerts, cinemas, ballets, nightclubs, musical schools or musical associations. There are no female changing rooms, no CCTV cameras in female-only areas and no human-shaped statues in museums. There are no pigs: no pig toys, no pig cartoons, no pig t-shirts and no pig comics. There are no video clips or bedtime story books featuring pigs. Advertisements do not display the faces of Saudi women. At times, faces of foreign women on imported products and gym machines are pixelated or obscured using black pens or tape. An adult woman covers her face in the presence of any adult with whom she is eligible to be in a marital relationship, including an immediate cousin, brother-in-law or adoptee. So, a man does not know how his female cousins or his sisters-in-law look like. An adult woman does not veil in the presence of her ‘brothers-in-milk’. The concept of ‘brothers-in-milk’ means that two total strangers are perceived as brother and sister if they are breast-fed by the same mother. When defecating, one is not supposed to sit in the direction that points towards Mecca.

Some women veil when using webcams to chat with their family. When not in use, some women cover the hole of the webcam with tape. When ill, many Saudis do not go to medical doctors and rather seek treatment from religious scholars. There have been discussions among Saudis about unconventional types of legitimate marriage that can be done secretly, can last even for a few hours and be based on simply an oral contract articulated by the two parties. Some Saudis rely on a ‘matchmaker’ to find them a partner. A woman is divorced if the husband says three times: ‘I divorce you’. Yet, for some, during her cycle, she cannot be divorced – if he says ‘I divorce you’, it is invalid. There is a welcome-to-married-life package that includes books and audio materials. This pack gives advice about married life. However, it does not address eroticism. There is no marriage or wedding during Ramadan. If one has intercourse during daylight hours of Ramadan, this is a sin. To redress this sin, one has to fast during daylight hours for 60 consecutive days. If, however, one cannot do such fasting of 60 consecutive days, one feeds 60 poor people.

Should foreigners interested in doing business in Saudi Arabia read your book?

The book lists a large number of norms and values that are specific to Saudi culture, making Saudi Arabia a land of unconventional and unique business opportunities. Yet, deep understanding of Saudi culture is essential, helping investors to start or close deals and to know where to put their money. The book shows Saudi society to be highly regulated and directed by rules that are difficult for foreigners to recognize without a detailed, descriptive guidebook (like the current book). These rules have long been unwritten and only verbally communicated among Saudis. The book makes a list of examples showing Saudi culture to witness a great deal of dependency and classification, with Saudi men depending on Saudi women, and Saudi women depending on foreign workers. This dependency opens unique opportunities for foreign investors. The book provides norms showing Saudis to have culturally unique work ethics and efficiency standards. It also shows that Saudis prioritize culturally and socially oriented matters over work and professional matters. It also offers values showing the need for foreign business people to establish and sustain emotional relationships with their Saudi clients.

What is most important for them to know about Saudi culture?

The book shows that a crucial factor for the success or failure of foreign businesses is how well investors know Saudi culture. This is important for various reasons. First, Saudi culture tends to regulate not only one’s public life but also one’s private life, including what one does inside the restroom. Second, Saudis are protective of their own tradition and sensitive towards anything that might somehow affect their traditional norms and values. They interpret (or misinterpret) any act by foreign cultures toward their own culture. They explain this act as a conspiracy against their traditional norms. They may twist a text or picture written or designed by a western figure to make it look as if it is a conspiracy against Saudi tradition. Third, any product or business activity that Saudis interpret as having any element that goes against their culture will make many of them lead campaigns or even boycotts against this product or business. If any country or company missteps Saudi traditional values, nationals boycott against its products in the hope that this will teach them a ‘lesson’. Fourth, many Saudis proactively seek to keep their society closed and pure. ‘Dirt’ should remain outside the country. Many have sought to prevent foreign values from being imported, initiating real and virtual campaigns against Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s celebrations.

 

Saudi National Channel

Saudi National Channel

The shelves of the Riyadh International Book Fair hosted the book “The Bro Code of Saudi Culture”, the bestselling English-language book on Amazon, which is about the culture, values and customs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by the assistant professor at King Faisal University in Al-Ahsa Abdul Al Lily.

“During my scholarship abroad, I felt that I did not want to be close to my foreign peers. I also thought they did not want to get close to me because they had negative stereotypes about the people of Saudi Arabia. I became a source for my foreign peers answering all their questions about Saudi Arabia, until I decided to write them in a book in English in a simplified way”.

“It is the first neutral attempt to convey the customs and details of Saudi Arabia without judgment or bias, during which I interviewed 2,000 Saudis and foreigners who lived in Saudi Arabia and had the ability to notice customs in Saudi Arabia that were different from the customs in their own country. I have arranged the book sequentially on the human body from head to foot, talking about the Saudi norms and values related to each part of the body,” Al Lily said.

Al Lily continued: “My main goal is to deliver this book to a larger number of people in the West, and for the book to be a reference for Saudi students aboard to answer the questions of their scholarship to answer the questions of their foreign peers about Saudi culture.”

For the source, click HERE.

Saudi-British Society

Saudi British Society

Forensic insight into Saudi social and cultural norms in “The Bro Code of Saudi Culture”, a book by Abdul Al Lily. Dr. Al Lily self-published the book last year, selling it on amazon. Now it’s gained a lot of interest and attention as the author has unpicked and captured previously unrecorded behaviour and social customs, often misunderstood by non-Saudis. Our trustee Caroline Montagu was one of the first people to recognise the significance of The Bro Code.

For the source, click HERE.

Saudi Gazette

Saudi Culture

Dr. Abdul Al Lily, an Oxford graduate and an assistant professor at King Faisal University launched ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ last year. It is his first book and the first to be published in English, Spanish and soon Chinese. It is an Amazon bestseller. It has been talked about in different languages and by magazines, journals and newspapers. It is recommended by international institutions such as the University of Manchester and by known figures, like Dr James M. Dorsey (Journalist) and Caroline Montagu (Business Woman). Last month, the book was sold out twice at the Riyadh International Book Fair.

Saudi Gazette caught up with the Saudi author to discuss the book:

SG: Can you talk us through your book? What can the readers expect? How can it help them?

AL: This book sets out a series of rules meant as guidelines to live by and behave properly among Saudis and/or to understand their culture. Most of these rules have long been unwritten and only verbally communicated among Saudis. As a result, visitors to Saudi Arabia have been unable to follow these rules appropriately. Those interested in Saudis or their civilisation have neither understood nor recognized these rules. For such reasons, these rules need to be spelled out in bold print.

My book has been written to respond to this need, as well as to inform a broad audience on the nature of gender roles and relations in this country. Every culture is governed by an internal code of conduct, and this book offers the first written code of Saudi society. It is the product of close observations of daily activities and more than 2,000 interviews with nationals and residents over the past four years.

This code shows 2030 tweet-sized (often previously unrecorded) explanations of how the human body acts in Saudi Arabia. It covers everything from top to bottom; the face, eyes, ears, mouth, waist and extremities. This code must be carefully considered if one wishes to stay within the circle of Saudis.

SG: What are the interesting components in it? Has your marriage to a Westerner influenced your thoughts on Saudi culture?

AL: The book is the first to talk about Saudi culture in a purely descriptive (and thus non-judgemental and unbiased) manner. It is the first to be written by a Saudi who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, who is still based in this country, who is a former formally-recognized imam and who comes from a working-class family — yet has traveled the world, is married to a non-Muslim European, studied in Oxford, published with the largest international publishers and hence has the ability to communicate with foreign mentalities. It is the first to present Saudi values and norms in the form of a bullet-pointed list and in tweet-sized explanations.

My marriage to a non-Saudi, non-Arab and non-Muslim has made me more able to reflect on my own culture and to compare my own Saudi, Arabian and Muslim background to those non-Saudi, non-Arab and non-Muslim cultures. My wife and my many non-Saudi friends and interviewees help me a lot see things in Saudi culture that I could not see before because I was taking them for granted. These people helped me raise my awareness of Saudi norms. I was writing in the book any Saudi norm or practice that these people raised my awareness of. This is why one reader of the book wrote: “Unique that an Arabic man is critical looking at his ‘own kind’ in the Arabic world”.

SG: Do you have a target audience? What motivated you to write this book?

AL: The book is written to serve three types of people. First are non-Saudis. Non-Saudis who concern themselves with Saudi culture are stuck in a loop, rehashing the same issues of Saudi culture over and over again. This book drags the international discourse out of this rut by drawing attention to other issues and therefore showing that Saudi society goes beyond those issues that have already been commonly talked about in the media.

Most traditional Saudi norms and values, beyond these rehashed issues, remain obscure to non-Saudis, having been left essentially untouched and unaffected by liberal ideologies over the last few centuries. Those obscure issues have passed unnoticed by researchers and have slipped under the radar of the international media. Therefore, there is a need to expose all of the norms and values within this culture to the outside world, providing a detailed description of those norms and values. The current book provides such a description.

Second are Saudis. This book presents to Saudis their own tradition in a written form, thereby increasing their awareness of their culture and their self-awareness. Seeing something is different from reading about it. That is, although a person may not notice what he or she sees and is exposed to during daily life; he or she is more likely to notice it when it is presented to him or her in a written form. Through this book, I wish to help Saudis notice the taken-for-granted and thus overlooked aspects of their social life.

Third are future Saudis. This book documents current Saudi culture for future generations. Sooner or later, Saudi tradition will cease to be a part of the modern world and will become history. Therefore, there is a need for a descriptive account that captures this lifestyle before its citizens move on, and before its unique norms and values vanish. This volume offers such an account.

Previous generations were not good at recording Saudi tradition. Hence, most information about past Saudi culture was either not well recorded, or it has been lost, meaning Saudi history is not fully known to current Saudis or to anyone interested in this subject.

SG: How has the readers’ response been so far?

AL: Non-Saudi readers have left positive feedback about the book in Amazon.com, goodreads and other venues. Some shared their enthusiasm about the book in person or via private messages. One, for example, said: “Your book is something that takes you from ‘oh ok, it makes sense’ to ‘omg, are you serious!!!”’ Another said: “I read the whole book in one night! It’s a fascinating read”. Another wrote: “I have online friends from Saudi and they expected it to be inaccurate but did, in fact, confirm everything I quoted to them”.

One reader wrote: “For the first time I have found in writing all the verbal norms ruling the country”. Another reader thinks that the book “gives a glimpse of Saudi Arabia you don’t get though the news”. One reader thinks that the book is “easy to read, unbiased and answers many of the questions people have about this mysterious and controversial culture”.

On the other hand, most Saudi readers did not like the book, partly because they did not like their culture to be documented. Normally, Saudi nationals do not like their tradition to be documented, especially when this documentation takes place in a foreign language, partly because they do not want to be subjected to criticism by the outside world. They feel this culture has been subject to ongoing, harsh and, most of the time, unfair criticisms by others. They think that it is not the business of other cultures to dissect Saudi culture.

The book is explicit about Saudi practices, although Saudis normally do not like to be explicit about their cultural issues and matters and do not like to open up to the outside world the closed nature of their tradition. Despite this dissatisfaction of these Saudis with the intention behind the book, most of them think that the explanations of Saudi culture provided by the book are accurate and reflect the reality. For example, one reader wrote: “I’m Saudi and it was so fun to read! Laughing and going ‘Yeah, we do that’ was a constant feeling throughout the book.” Another Saudi wrote: “Hilarious book with truths”.

SG: What was the response at Riyadh International Book Fair?

AL: I spent 48 hours at the book fair, standing next to my book, talking to those who were interested. Actually, Saudi female readers (who skipped through the book) tended to disapprove of it. They did not like the book because they thought that I wrote it with a West-oriented intention of changing the current status of Saudi women. They reported being happy with the current status of Saudi women.

Male potential readers tended to be supportive of the book. Many of these men bought more than one copy to give as a present to their male and female non-Saudi friends. Some potential readers criticized the book for exposing both negative and positive practices of Saudi society. They said that I should have talked about only positives, without reporting negatives. Some critics repeated the widely common maxim, “Say something useful, or be silent”, stressing that there is no point of reporting certain Saudi practices because such reporting is “useless”. Some critics think that the book is intended to distort the reputation of Saudi culture at the international level.

SG: What do you think about the literary scene in Saudi Arabia?

AL: Saudi Arabia is in need of qualitative academics and anthropologists, who are Saudi, born and raised in Saudi Arabia and interested in hearing and recording the voices of those working-class and lower-middle-class Saudi men and women who are normally disregarded by the global media (which have a bias toward the opinions of Saudi activists and elites). There is a lack of English-language writings by Saudis on Saudi culture.

Saudi academics tend not to have a strong linguistic and communicative fluency and the liberalism that enables them to communicate with an international audience and to depict their tradition without being defensive or biased. Many Saudi writers and commentators lack the ability to speak the language of an international audience.

Non-academic publications by Saudis and directed to the outside world tend to be either written in a self-protective and politically oriented way or written by Saudis who may not have the ability to communicate with Westerners’ ways of seeing the world.

Publications on Saudi culture in the market have mostly been written by non-Saudis. Writings about Saudi culture by Saudis are normally driven by underlying political agenda and written defensively, with the authors apparently trying very hard to show the outside world that Saudi Arabia has a good society and that its reputation has been distorted.

The current book addresses this bias by being entirely descriptive, thereby imposing on the reader no political views or directing his/her way of seeing Saudi tradition.

Even in Arabic, the practice of documenting Saudi tradition is weak, because documentation is in general limited in Saudi Arabia. What Saudi writers normally care about is to write not about their society but rather for their society, i.e. to write not about what their society has actually done but rather about what their society should ideally do and should have done.

SG: Are you currently working on any new project or do you have plans to launch a new book in future?

AL: In future, I would like to see another book written in English by a Saudi woman, entitled “The Sis Code of Saudi Culture”. I am currently working on the sixth edition where I incorporate the input I have received from Saudi and non-Saudi readers and where I am conducting more interviews to capture and record more descriptions of Saudi norms and practices.

For the source, click HERE.