Saudi Arabia: A Unique Culture Saudi Arabia: A Unique Culture The birthplace of Islam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to some 12,300,000 citizens and an additional four and half million resident foreigners. These non-citizens from predominantly Arab-speakingArab-speaking nations such as Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, comprise almost two thirds of the Saudi Arabian workforce. That being said, Saudi Arabia’s economic engine runs on the fuel of foreign indentured servitude and the sense of entitlement that Saudi Arabian citizens maintain and has become a way of life; a culture all to its own. This culture has evolved over time from the discovery and exploitation of rich fossil oil deposits; oil that has created one of the richest countries in the world. All about the Oil In 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became a unified country under King Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud (Lippman, & Myers, 2004). Prior to this date, the country was divided into three tribal regions of Najd, Hijaz, and Asir and their dependencies. Development of the oil industry in the eastern Saudi Arabia spurred a fragmented cultural change that, with the aid of Americans, eventually “mechanized, computerized, electrified, paved, air-conditioned” (Lippman, & Myers, 2004), and revolutionized the country. It wasn’t until the discovery of rich oil fields and the subsequent exploitation of those riches that the citizens of Saudi Arabia became a nation of wealth. From nomadic Bedouins whose country was a mere strategic ally in World War II sprang a people who fully embraced the modern and lavish lifestyles of American oil workers. The Saudis had gone from an impoverished culture to a super-rich one just as if it had received a dead relative’s large inheritance and it went to their heads. Cultural Clash The House of Saud’s (the founders of the Kingdom) direct descendants are the rulers of Saudi Arabia, however they have no legitimate claim to the country despite their historic battle prowess of the early 1900s. Sharia (Islamic law) is the law in Saudi Arabia; “the state exists to promote, protect and promulgate Islam” (Cole, 2010). The fact that the monarchies of Saudi Arabia have always upheld Sharia law has kept them in power. The king, “whose title is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (Cole, 2010) faces no greater challenge than upholding these religious credentials. Religious conservatives control the elementary education agenda, religious education, and university curricula. The national culture of Saudi Arabia revolves around Wahhabi Islam, a particularly virulent, extremely traditional, and intolerant form of religious thinking (Metz, 1992). The epicenter for Islam containing the two largest religious iconic cities in the Arab world, Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has since the early inceptive years of western lifestyles, started to reject those same ideals. This in turn has allowed for the Saudi Arabia to be considered the model religious-political environment to the entire Arab world. Family Ideals Most cultures have a basis of identity and status within society. For Saudis family is the most important societal foundation, more pointedly, families of formed alignments with other families who share common interests, ideals, and alliances are the keystone to survival. These familial circles are better understood as tribal lineages that are traced through paternal lines and where nepotism runs deep especially for the males of the tribes. As seen in their naming conventions, Saudis are very cognizant of their heritage, their tribe, and their extended families, as well as their nuclear families. A family business is open to participation by sons, uncles, male cousins, and function as the social welfare safety net for all members of the family. Women under Islamic law do not take their husband’s name. Instead, they maintain their father’s name showing they belong to his family for their entire life and also maintain control over their personal property, as an indication of their independence from a husband’s control. A woman is incorporated into a household when married, but not the husband’s family. Segregation found throughout the Muslim world between men and women is a mechanism to ensure modesty and avoid fitna (sexual temptation) (Metz, 1992). Children are held in the utmost important aspects of family and marriage, especially sons. A lineage and propagation of the familial and tribal name ensures the utmost happiness in life in accordance with Islamic teachings. Therefore, men are in line with the law when they take a second, third, or even fourth wife. Polygyny is not uncommon in the more conservative areas of Saudi Arabia. Muslim views, many times, are counter-intuitive to the way of the Western-minded individual and as of late (past thirty years) has created a high level of tension within the political-religious stability of the Kingdom and the Muslim nation. Conclusion With the discovery and development of rich fossil fuel deposits in Saudi Arabia, a tribal people were hastened through a revolution; from Bedouin lifestyle to 21st Century within less than a pentacost. As this conservative Muslim country fell in love with the lifestyles of the American workers in their country, many felt that Shuria law was undermined. Today a mixed culture in Saudi Arabian society is almost Jekyll-and-Hyde-like. Saudis have attempted to integrate western thinking into the Muslim world, but extreme opposition has created quite a rift in an otherwise peaceful people. The unique culture found on the Arabian continent is the result of American attempts to assimilate. References Cole, D. (2010). Countries and their culture: Saudi Arabia. Retrieved from https://www. everyculture. com/Sa-Th/Saudi-Arabia. html Lippman, T, & Myers, J. (2004). Inside the mirage: America’s fragile partnership with Saudi Arabia. Oxford: Westview Press. Metz, H. (1992). Saudi Arabia: a country study. [Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress]. (Adobe Digital Version), Retrieved from https://countrystudies. us/saudi-arabia/
A Unique Culture Saudi Arabia. (2017, Sep 18).
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