Recently I received a message from a former professor I had in my undergraduate career at Marshall University. He informed me that he would be teaching a class in the spring semester focusing on blogging and other forms of social media, and asked me to write a few words about what I do and why I do it. Now, I know I wasn’t the best, most motivated student he has ever encountered, but he was still a great professor and wrote me reference letters that ultimately helped me to get my current job here in Saudi Arabia, so I was much happy to oblige. With that being said, here are the top 5 reasons why I decided to start a blog.
1. People are generally curious about Middle Eastern life.
All the images of the Middle East we see in American media are typically of murder, bombings, and public beheadings. When people in the West find out I live here, I am immediately bombarded with questions. I often get asked if I have seen murders or
beheadings, to which I always chuckle a bit. I’ve never seen any act of violence while I’ve been here, and to be perfectly honest I feel far more safe here than I did back in Huntington. It’s okay for kids to play outside unsupervised. It’s safe for women to walk alone at night. I never fear I may be attacked, robbed, raped, or murdered. I know that the media portrays a negative image of the Middle East, but we need to remember that the Middle East covers a very large geographical area, and not lump all the countries together. Both America and Mexico are both considered North America, but lets not forget that they are astronomically different.Maybe things in Syria are looking bleak, but that isn’t a representation of the Middle East as a whole.
2. I wanted to keep my posts about Saudi separate from other social media.
Originally I did post a lot about my life here on my social media accounts, and it really brought the racists out of the woodwork. I posted a lovely photo of a very sweet, South African christian friend dressed in traditional Saudi clothing. (I mean, hey, why not dress up? When in Rome… er, uh, Saudi…) Some of the comments were nice or inquisitive, however my own family left some very negative comments, accusing her of being a terrorist that kills the American people. Their ignorance and hate was overwhelming, and it is intensified by the fact that they are my own family. They are so disgusted because I live here that I am certain they will never speak to me again.
Another reason I wanted to keep it off of social media is because I don’t want to force everyone to learn about my lifestyle here. If you post too much, or the same stuff over and over, your friends will become bored… Unless you post cat videos. No one can ever see too many videos of cats.
3. Saudi is a very secretive place.
In the past, a head scholar even issued a fatwa (religious ruling) that photographs
were haraam (sinful in Islam). Majority of Saudis take these fatwas very seriously, even my mother-in-law, who admitted that she regrets listening to that fatwa as she destroyed almost all her photos. Photography and videography is still a bit uncomfortable to some people, although social media photo sharing is becoming more common as technology becomes easier to access. Probably 90% or more of my students have Snapchat, and about 70% use twitter. But even with the boost in social media, everything is in Arabis so a lot is still unknown to the Western, English-speaking world about the true life here. I blog (and vlog) to show the world what it is really like- like most other places in the world, just hotter
4. To clear misconceptions and humanize people.
Before my grandma called me a terrorist for the photo of my South African friend in traditional Saudi clothing that I mentioned earlier, she and I had a conversation about life here. She asked me if I could buy foods such as milk, chicken, and rice at the local supermarket. At first I laughed a bit because of the absurdity of the question, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became.
She didn’t even ask me this question because she wondered about the food selection at the grocery store. She asked me because she wondered what the people here eat. Fox News has taught her that all people in the Middle East are inhumane terrorists, and in turn she has dehumanized them. She was astounded to hear that people here are just like people in America, that they eat chicken and rice and drink milk. Maybe if I can show that the Saudis are just regular people like me and you, I can help close that ‘us vs. them’ divide.
5. Because I enjoy writing.
After all, I did get my degree in English. Plus, I live in Saudi Arabia. It isn’t the most exciting place, and I do have enough free time on my hands to maintain a blog. For me, it’s a hobby, something I enjoy to do, and hopefully a tool I can use to enlighten people about the true life here in Saudi Arabia through a Westerners eyes.