25 May 2010

Saudi Arabian Youth

Last night I had my TV on as background noise as I was organizing my room, and since True Life was on when I flipped to MTV - one of their less offensive shows - I decided to just leave it on. But then, as I was picking up my running shoes, I heard the adan (call to prayer), and turned around to discover that True Life was airing a special on the lives of youth in that country. Mumtaz! (Fantastic!)

The show was actually more fantastic than I could have hoped... Not only did I get to hear, for the first time, the accent of people speaking the Saudi Arabian dialect of Arabic, but I also got my first look (besides the movie The Kingdom, which doesn't count) at what cities in Saudi Arabia actually LOOK like. You read so many stories about things happening in Saudi Arabia, but it's all politics, or when you do see news reports, all they get is a picture of guys in white robes walking around or oil burning from a tower against the backdrop of a huge setting sun or black ghost women scurrying into their houses. You never see the houses or the schools or the offices or any other glimpse into the actual lives of these people.

True Life, Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia actually shows you that. You follow young men and 1 young woman doing their best to live modern lives within a traditional culture. I don't want to give away much, because the full episode is available online (at least right now it is...), but the way these people live makes me very thankful for the "liberal, tolerant" version of Islam that is prevalent in Morocco. It is just another example of how no faith, no ideology, can exist as a monolith.

Obviously, the story of Fatima was my favorite. Fatima is a 20-year-old woman introduced as trying to start a colored abaya business. We soon find out, however, that Fatima is a rebel in many respects. I see her as a strong role model for other Muslim women in the Middle East, and very representative of the educated, upper-class women I have come to know in Morocco and beyond. My friend and I watching the show together decided that we (1) now more than ever wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia, and (2) needed to become friend with Fatima.

A full episode version is available here, on MTV's website. It seems to be viewable in most countries. Any thoughts you have after watching it would be most welcome here!