Why homeless Britons are turning to the Sikh community for food

Why homeless Britons are turning to the Sikh community for food



“Why are you in Saudi Arabia?” Every Saudi I met asked me in my first few days in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The honest answer – because I got a visa. The permissions came through in an unexpected email a few weeks ago, more than a year after I asked to visit. I’ve been coming here for decades so I was thrilled to finally make the trip. I grabbed by black abaya, the long cloak that all Saudi females are required to wear, and left icy New York to head for the desert Kingdom.

It was 80 degrees upon arrival, but even here, the winter has surprises. A rare snowstorm blanketed the sands in the north. Local papers featured sculpted snowmen and camels grazing in the white stuff. There are many other surprises here. I’ve been to a Saudi film festival, in a country that doesn’t have one movie theater. I was invited to a “sweet 16” birthday party, where teenage girls sang and danced to “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea, and shouted the lyrics “I’m in the fast lane from LA to Tokyo.” The fast lane in conservative Saudi Arabia? Certainly not by Western standards. It’s the only country in the world where women are banned from driving and not just in the fast lane. Women need a male guardian’s permission to travel, work, and for some medical procedures.

The better title is the Ironic Kingdom, or the Magic Kingdom as many Saudis call this place. The Kingdom is filled with jaw dropping ironies. But in Saudi eyes, change is constant and at breakneck speed, from the new metro system, the largest construction project in the world, to the growing numbers of women in the workplace. Saudi women are now the majority of college graduates and higher degree holders.

I’ll be reporting on those changes over the next week and posting on what I find. “Yalla” as they say in Arabic. Let’s go!

Deb Amos