Safety in Saudi Arabia
Usually, for westerners, this Arab kingdom is primarily known for being the motherland of one of the world’s most prominent religious, and where annually millions of people perform the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina – the Haj.
Is Saudi Arabia Safe? Saudi Arabia is indeed a very strict country regarding following the ways of Islam, and where Sharia law rules. Segregation of women vs. men, the strict ban of practicing other religions, and the death penalty by public decapitation or crucifixion did not help to create an image of Saudi being a safe haven for foreigners.
Sharīʿah, also spelled Sharia, is the fundamental religious concept of Islam, namely its law, systematized during 8th–9th centuries CE.Quote.
Being Islam for most of us, a very different religion both culturally and in practice, Saudi Arabia is probably more unknown and unreachable than any other country on Earth.
Combining this cultural reality and contrasts, with the fact of Saudis not issuing tourist visas, the country maintained its status of being inaccessible.
Just until recently, getting a tourist visa to Saudi Arabia was impossible.
Most travelers were basically just placing Saudia at the end of their countries to visit, not because they wouldn’t like to go, just because there was no way of getting in.
Recent government change and social rules being adjusted in this strict culture, the new King Mohammad bin Salman indeed set up new orders to develop and diversify the nation’s economy, and one of his main interests is to actually open the country for foreign touris.
Places such as Jeddah old city, Jubbah petroglyphs, old Ad-Deerah village in Al Ula, Al Ghat, Ushaiqir heritage village, the UNESCO sites of Mada’in Saleh and Ad Diriyah in Riyadh, and many other places will soon be open for those who visit Saudi Arabia.
Are you excited to go already?
Now, back to the point of Saudi Arabia being dangerous.
Why do people even make this question? This is quite a complex argument, and trying to quickly explain is hard and will most definitely not be entirely accurate. I will try to tell you a bit about this complicated matter to make you understand a few crucial subjects around the issue.
During the last decades, we’ve seen Muslim jihadist groups fighting against what it seems to be, in their logic, the desecration of Muslim lands by non-muslim armies and politics.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lybia, Syria are always on the news, and images of Salafi Muslim fighters cutting heads of westerners were indeed shocking for both the majority of Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.
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Let’s go back in time a bit:
The Soviet-Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 until February 1989.
The presence of American influence in Afghanistan and their economic support of the Taliban to fight against the Russians, created a long-term regional disaster that originated the creation of other branches of terrorist groups that keep on destabilizing the region, until the big event and ultimate game changer for jihadists groups such Al-Qaida. I’m talking about the Iraqi war.
The invasion of Iraq by US forces under the false pretext of Saddam having weapons of mass destruction (which is now openly known to be false), destroyed one of the most stable countries in the region and destabilized the whole Middle East along with it.
The political vacuum and “anarchic” period posterior to the Iraqi invasion gave birth to even more terrorist cells that engaged themselves on the creation of something unbelievable in the 21st century: the establishment of a Caliphate like as if the world was hundred years back in time.
A caliphate is a country with the rule or reign of a caliph or chief Muslim ruler. And do you know what? Al-Qaida and ISIS did manage to create a land of their own, a new Islamic State and their capital was Mosul in northern Iraq.
This emphasized the whole mess around Islam vs. The West issue.
But why am I even talking about Afghanistan and Iraq when questioning safety in Saudi Arabia?
Again, it is not that simple to explain this, and I do have to make you understand a few points.
The Salafi movement is usually characterized as being identical to Wahhabism, but Salafists consider the term “Wahhabi” derogatory.
A Wahhabi is one who follows Wahhabism or the teachings of Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab, a man born in Saudi Arabia.
Wahhabism has always been a form of Salafism, and, as a rule, all Wahhabis are Salafis, but not all Salafis are Wahhabis.
Wahabism, which is an ideological doctrine created in the 18th century, teaches fundamentalist Islam, and that rejects any renewal or regenerating Islam values, and culturally fights against obvious Western influence, democracy and Shia Muslims (another branch of Islam with around 400 million followers).
Salafi jihadism or jihadist-Salafism is a transnational religious-political ideology based on a belief in “physical” jihadism and the Salafi movement of returning to what adherents believe to be true Sunni Islam.Quote.
Now I will get to the point (yes finally!). Wahabism was designed by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and which almost 30% of Saudis supposedly recognize and follow as their main view and way of practicing Islam.
During the establishment of the country, the alliance between followers of ibn Abd al-Wahhab and successors of Muhammad bin Saud (the House of Saud) created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the Mohammed bin Abd al-Wahhab teachings are sponsored by the Saudi state, being the dominant form of Islam in the country until today. Also, 47% of the population of Qatar and 45% of Emiratis follow Wahabism.
Some Wahabis around the region supported and financed jihadist groups, and while on a culture clash and fight for power and religion, jihadi Salafi militant groups based on the Wahabi doctrine taught and dissipated a very harsh and non-tolerant war against everything that goes against their way of seeing the world. This affected mostly Muslims in the region, that
Stop it! Just tell me: Is Saudi dangerous?
No, not at all.
If you follow the country strict rule of law, Saudi Arabia is crime and theft free.
Many people do leave their car working while going to the supermarket, not worrying about any possible theft. Women, while having to dress conservatively, are not worried about crime against them.
If you keep your political and religious views to yourself, Saudi is a safe country.
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Please take into consideration:
- Saudi Arabia is explicitly an Islamic state, with no separation between state and religion.
- Respect people’s beliefs.
- Dress conservatively, even men cover their arms and legs.
- If you don’t believe in God, do not say this out loud. Not just because you’re being rude to Muslims around the world, but mostly because it is blasphemy in Saudi Arabia.
- Blasphemy is treated as apostasy and is criminalized and punishable by death (by beheading and crucifixion).
- Some Saudis are very dangerous drivers. If you rent a car in KSA, always double check your rear-view mirror.
Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred objects, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.Quote
Are you still here? Please don’t be scared.
Can I tell you a little secret?
Around two million Christians live in Saudi Arabia.
Can I tell you another little secret?
The majority of Saudis (like most Muslims around the world) are incredibly hospitable, kind and generous to foreigners. Thousands of westerners live and work in Saudi Arabia, and they all have fantastic stories of hospitality.
From my personal point of view and experience, I found a very sweet-generous hearted people that welcomed me while on my 14-day trip to Saudi Arabia.
Two weeks in Saudi Arabia
Small video of my two-week trip to Saudi Arabia.
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