Saudi Arabia: Queu? Never Heard of It.

I have found that orderly queus are rare to see in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.  Most folks just gather haphazardly rather than form an orderly line.  This is especially true when boarding an aircraft in the Eastern world!

Therefore, it should not be surprising to discover that few men and women will line up orderly for services or assistance in Saudi Arabia.  Many do not think twice about cutting in front of a line and especially if the patient individual waiting a turn is an expatriate.  Although I must say that in my personal experiences, men were usually kind to allow me to go ahead of them in a line.

The women, though, were another breed completely.  Saudi women did not have a conscious thought on cutting in front of an expat for service or to ask a question.  They would also use their children to do their dirty work for them.  Pointed looks or even a comment to these women had no effect upon them or their actions.  After all, they were usually completely veiled and thereby anonymous.

However one time even their anonymity would not be on their side.  This time I, without knowing, had my own secret weapon with me…Mama Moudy.

We were shopping together in a shoe store.  There was a good sale going on and the store was packed.  Mama Moudy made her selections and I had made mine.  I gathered up both of purchases and went to the cashier.  Just as the cashier was taking my purchases from my arms, two veiled Saudi women came up and started pushing my items away and instructing the cashier to check them out.  He looked uncertain but set my items aside in order to serve them instead.

The next thing I knew Mama Moudy was at the register beside the two women.  She spoke softly and quickly to the veiled woman.  Mama Moudy was also veiled.  The other women picked up their purchases, apologized to me and moved to wait their turn behind me.  Mama Moudy kept beside me until our transactions were complete.

On returning to the car she gave my husband an earful about rude Saudi woman who thought they could push around female expatriates because they weren’t Saudi.  She told my husband that she reminded them that an expat female could easily be the daughter of a Saudi mother and should be treated with appropriate respect!  No one messes around with Mama Moudy!!


26 Responses

  1. Long Live Mamma Moudy

  2. We never experienced the butt in, either in Kuwait or in Qatar, but we witnessed it plenty of times, even those whose faces were exposed did that to other expats.
    I suspect it was the one other thing widely respected in most of the world, our greying hair and my snow white beard that discouraged such behavior.
    The worst experience WE had was when a Qatari child stared messing with things in my wife’s cart, breaking one item. She had said something, but was ignored by the Qatari mother.
    Said mother paled when *I* approached her and asked her where her husband was. She rapidly gathered her brood and beat a hasty retreat.
    She later tried to hide behind her husband, when we saw her in the mall outside of that store.
    I only nodded and pretended not to notice the family. Embarrassment was enough, for her, without causing her husband embarrassment over the behavior of his children.
    Besides, a good guest forgives minor misbehavior of children. 😉

  3. i wonder what is the best way to proceed in case you are an expat woman all alone at a store and this is happening? should you say something? or should you just “tolerate” such a horrible behaviour?, also, what are the best words or movents to use in case it happens?

  4. HOW TRUE! After many years of living in KSA, I have learned to stand up for my rights. If someone cuts in front of me, I simply tell the clerk that I was there first and refuse to be intimidated by these rude women.

  5. I feel this has gotten better- but maybe I am more assertive after years being here (don’t get me started about what happened at the airport last time I traveled)

    In blatent cases when there is no mistake what is happening I find it more effective to stare down the cashier. I once told one, if you pick that up (her items she placed on the counter ahead of mine) I want to speak to the manager right now. He spoke to the women, that they had to wait their turn.

  6. Now I know why! It was happened to me just yesterday. There was a long queu at a cashier in one department store. There was a veiled lady stood outside the queu but right at the counter, waiting for her chance to cut the line. The ladies who queued in front of me were all Saudis and she didn’t dare to do it. But when my turn came, she just stepped in front of me and put her purchases in front of the cashier. I am an Asian woman with a tan complexion, and I am so sure she could have thought I am some kind of maid or other ‘low class’ expatriate whom she thought deserved to be treated that way. Anyway, she was startled when I told her politely to move her stuffs and start to queu. She just stared at me but then slowly grabbed her stuffs when she realized I stared at her back to indicate ‘I am waiting’. Not sure whether she was shock because of my proper English or because of no brown Asian ever dare to tell her off before. Please apology if my comment sounds accusing her for being racist toward me. But trust me, in only three months here I was so often treated with rudeness just because of being brown Asian. An officer lady in the security-check cubical at the airport shoved my back out of the room when she was mad as I didn’t understand a single word she said in Arabic. That was my first experience ever to be checked in a private room. Apparently I forgot to put my purse on the baggage x-ray control. But shoving my back and shouted at me like I was an animal? Especially after she chatted and laughed with a Saudi lady before me? And this Saudi passenger was allowed to sit on a chair during checking! I have lived 10 years in Germany and couple years in US and UK. Not once I was treated differently, despite of all prejudice about racism toward Asian in Western countries. Sad that the real racism I experienced is in the country of ‘my sisters’ and ‘brothers’ – because I am also Moslem like them.

  7. Greetings,
    Blue Abaya had a similar post recently. I am quite nervous about this happening to me when I get to Saudi Inshallah(August). Any suggestions are very welcome. I speak no Arabic, but I Am fluent in English. I am a Black French woman & know that skin color(which tends to be associated with country of citizenship) matters a lot there.
    Merci, Rahma

  8. You’d think the especially pious-looking ones (i.e., those under veils, those wearing cross necklaces) would want to give a good impression of their religion and would defer to others out of sheer manners if not “in honor preferring one another.”

    Breaking in front of lines, pushing my items away and demanding theirs be checked first is one of the quickest ways to give me a wrong impression of your culture, people, religion – however my snap judgment process you.

  9. looool..i am so glad someone put those rude women in their place..i am dying to know what momma moudy told the girls in that hush tone.
    This is a common story and when u think about it…kids as young as 6 are taught not to push in line and to respect the person being served in front of u. What are their mums teaching these girls.

  10. great story! Hurray for mamma moudi!

  11. I always call out the cashier and embaress them! Normally yell “hey am I invisible?” Or “I’m not standing here for decoration!”
    This and I’m a 100% Saudi male…. One time @ American Eagle this cashier totally ignored me as waited in line and proceeded to assist any female at site… So I called him out on it and yelled “Do I need to wear a abaya for some attention?!” His boss wasn’t too happy about it 🙂

  12. One thing to note…. Although, it is considered rude… Most ppl here don’t see it as such… Actually some are shocked if you express anger about it….

  13. Rahma:

    Yes, don’t go. Then you avoid the backwardness and hate that is Saudi. Remember they are in a state of inquiisition and witch trail mode at this point. They are calling to kill apostates, witches, heretics, burining/destroying christian churches, warring with different sect, funding terrorist,schooling text books equate jews with pigs and hatred of non-muslims, etc.

    Can you get any backwards seriously.

  14. @ Bigsitck1

    “They are calling to kill apostates….”
    they are calling, but what about the country who are killing not only apostates but every one child, innocent, women, elderly. destroying mosque etc. Do you know this country who is doing all that? do I need to tell you? Yes I think I do because the truth is hidden from you because in your country there is no freedom of speech when the speech matter. If you are in congress or in military and you exposed what your country is doing there is no freedom of speech fro you.

    Just look at this soldier, how criticised the Lord of Colombia Barak Hussein Obama, he has been sacked. They make of hem example, to terrorise others, that no one dare to speak.
    In Congress they can not expose the lie of the government because they are under the oath. Just watch Dick Durbin in Jon Stewart show to understand this.

    Mr Bs your house from glass you shouldn’t throw stones. Your country want their bad deeds hidden. Gorge Bush was going to bomb Aljazeera HQ in Doha!! Why? I know why, to suppress freedom of speech in the middle east. He already bombed the media in Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. And Aljazeera office in Kabul. Your country do this to hide the bad actions. They don’t want you to know what is going on. They want their crimes to go unreported.
    And then they came with new idea! PROPAGANDA!! Manipulate social media to make America look better. Check here:

    Will you say to people do not go to America because of these actions?

  15. @ Bigstick1
    Many things about Saudi make me nervous, however I cannot back out of it this late. Hoping that living in Al Khobar will make it a bit easier(big expat community). Also, I do enjoy living abroad. I made it in Libya under Ghardaffi & only left when the uprising began.

  16. Snowman, you confuse Bush’s idiotic jokes with reality. He’d never consider bombing ANYTHING in Doha, Qatar, as he’d lose TWO major US bases there. I know THAT first hand.
    As for a service member “being sacked”, ANY commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer who speaks ill of his COMMANDER IN CHEIF is guilty of insubordination. Said person is lucky not to be brought before a court martial and severely punished for insubordination. Again, something I know quite well about, as I’m retired military.
    As for “killing every one child, innocent, women, elderly… mosques…”, ad nauseum, it is called collateral damage, in short, innocent people get hurt in war. I also know about being on the receiving end, both from incoming “friendly” fire and from Al Qaeda’s attack on the WTC. My cousin died in the south tower on the 84th floor. Be happy *MY* wishes weren’t followed when the Taliban refused to hand over the criminals from Al Qaeda, as I had provided a plan for thermonuclear bombardment to ensure the erasure of Al Qaeda. Weapons of mass destruction should be met in kind, as the airliner attacks were declared a WMD attack, we’d have saved a lot of lives with vaporizing some mountainous terrain.
    I’ll tell you first hand, I’ve called for fire, which resulted in innocents being harmed, I was EXTREMELY FAR from being pleased. Indeed, I and my men were extremely upset about innocent civilians being injured and we evacuated them for medical care.
    AS for mosques, shoot at me from a mosque, it’s no longer a house of worship, it’s an armed bunker and a valid target. Don’t want your house of worship destroyed? Don’t store weapons and explosives in it, don’t use it as a base of operations to attack from and don’t fire from it. When you do, it’s become a valid military target. As such, I don’t give a tinkers damn if it’s a mosque, Roman Catholic church or Friends meetinghouse.
    I’m also well aware of US activities on social networks, pity the vast majority of it is tracking terrorists and suspected terrorists through the CMPC, whose personnel (most of whom are Muslims from the Middle East) I’ve personally met in Doha, Qatar.
    I also know quite a few Al Jazeera reporters, I shared a villa compound with many of them. We got along with each other famously. We even had meals and drinks together. We also didn’t discuss things work related or duty related, as social time is social time.

    Overall, I’ve had many, many people talk about how nice a guy I am. I’ve also had people speak in fear of doing battle with me and my men.
    I far, far prefer the nice guy to the latter, but am proficient with both.
    But, like any good father, I *REALLY* want peace and quiet.

  17. Snowman:

    Talk about clueless. Any military personnel knows when they enlisted into the voluntary military services that they are consenting to limit their freedom of speech while in the military. Now if they don’t support the stance they are allowed to leave after their hitch is up and then they can blast away so long as it is not deemed classified material. Now once the material become declassified talk away. Now they agree to this upon entering or they don’t become part of the armed services. So they have voluntarily given up a certain amount of free speech as it is deemed necessary to keep the civilian population safe, sound and confident in the military forces. In addition, if military personnel were to undermine the course of the military by being allowed unwaiving freedom of speech then the countries security could be at joupardy.

    Now quite frankly no country on earth will allow their military personnel to undermine the countries governance without some form of punishment. NO COUNTRY. So before you go off on glass houses you better understand the military code and purpose for every country on this earth. That is to protect and safe guard it’s citizens to the exclusion of your own life and rights. This is what a soldier does and this is what a soldier ultimately becomes. They lie down their lives for their country and citizens.

    Now all he is getting is kicked of the military. Once this happens then he call rail away all he likes. No freedom of speech problems then.

  18. Rahma:

    What made you decide to go to Saudi?

    Next, good luck and stick with expats. Do not trust the locals particular as they will deem you to be a lesser being as many have hang ups on skin color. Just recently a woman who just happen to be in a Mall when a 13 yoa started acting funnying was arrested for being a witch. Her only crime was she was near the kid when it happened. The thing is she is from Sri Lanka.

    So just be careful.

    Now it would be interesting if once you get their you provide some of your opinions on the area and your take on the environment.

    Are you going to be living on a western compound? I think that makes it a great deal easier to live there.

  19. Snowman, on April 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm said: …. Your country want their bad deeds hidden. Gorge Bush was going to bomb Aljazeera HQ in Doha!! Why? I know why, to suppress freedom of speech in the middle east ….

    To suppress freedom of speech in the middle east? Snowman, that is laughable and delusional. There is no freedom of speech in the middle east to begin with (turkey and israel the sole exceptions). So, my friend, there is nothing to suppress!

  20. Actually, Abe, Qatar has freedom of speech and press. Al Jazeera was founded by, but directed to be totally independent of the Emir. Early on, it had criticised the Emir’s policies. People thought he would then exert control or shutter them.
    Instead, he changed his policies to bring them more in line with what Al Jazeera suggested, which was toward a more open government.
    That has happened a few times since, each time, the Emir corrected flawed policies.
    If you read my comment above, to have bombed Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar would have resulted in the loss of TWO US bases, one of which is part of the air campaign in Afghanistan.
    But, some consider a bad joke over a hot mike as fact, rather than a stupid empty wish. I guess that they really believe that Reagan actually had bombers heading to Russia too… :/

  21. Good for you and mama moudy 🙂 many a time Juman helped me with her death stare and arabic – god only knows what she told the women, was quite effective. 🙂

  22. I think I’d totally lose it if people behaved in that way to me while making a line, I am a very rigid person when it comes to rules and respecting others, only once a woman dared to do that to me at a bus station, without going to details lets just say she was so humiliated that she left the premises without buying her tickets…

  23. If it isn’t considered rudeness, then what is it? This happens to me all the time and every time I am so personally affronted. The only time I made a fuss was at the pharmacy when a local woman pushed in front of me, I did speak up but only because I felt so sick, I just wanted my medicine and get home.

  24. Ahh, God bless mama Moudy!

    I would like to add that from my observations it’s not only the expats that get cut in line, but Saudis (mostly women) do this to each other as well. Like someone said above it’s just seen as the normal thing to do, to push yourself in front of everyone else. There are many Saudis who get annoyed and angry at this phenomenon too!

    I did write a post about this problem after an incident at IKEA which really tipped me off! Here’s the story:

  25. @bigsitcl1, going there for work(Geophysics). Will check in when I arrive Inshallah.
    So sorry for getting off track Carole!

  26. @ Rahma
    It’s no secret that Saudi is not the best place to be, especially for women. That being said, you won’t necessarily hate it. I’m a Saudi geophysicist working in Dhahran and know a lot of expats who don’t mind being in Saudi. Of course you’ll hate some aspects of it but I think you’ll be fine.

    As for cutting lines, it really gets me worked up. My only advice is that don’t encourage this behavior by saying nothing. Stand up for yourself by either talking to that person directly or to the employee behind the counter. If it’s any consolation, line cutting used to be worse in the past.

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