Interviewee: Jodutt Basrawi
Interviewer: Erman Ermihan
1) What is your average weekday and weekend like?
– How many hours do you go to school? I go to school from 7:50 AM, to 2:30 PM, so that’s about 6 hours and 40 minutes. There are a few days, however, when I stay at school until 3:30 PM for after-school activities (sports, clubs, etc.).
– How many hours of homework do you have weekdays & weekends?
On weekdays, I work on homework for about four hours, but I take MANY breaks! I take advanced classes at my school, so it’s my fault that I put myself into such a position (a good fault, nonetheless).
On weekends, it varies. There are days when the teachers are in the mood to just carelessy assign massive quantities of homework, while other times they let us be free like birds. On average, I’d say around four hours as well (especially the day before school!).
– How many hours do you have for yourself weekday & weekend?
During the weekdays, I don’t have too much time for myself, and it mostly depends on how well I’m focusing on my studies. If I do a good job at finishing my homework, I have about an hour or two of free time. Otherwise, I have little free time on the weekdays.
Thankfully, there’s lots of free time on the weekend. Every Wednesday and Thursday (weekends here are Thursday and Friday. It’s different!), I spend most of my free time with friends, family, and away from the books. Friday is, of course, the day when I have the least hours to myself and when I really need to finish my assignments!
2) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself at my first year at law school. I aspire for a legal education once I earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Just like how engineers earn business or management degrees in graduate schools, I desire a law degree in hopes of making more opportunities for myself. Considering the success I’ve had in the school clubs I’ve been involved in (and my interest in the law itself, of course), law school is an appealing path worth travelling.
3) What is your favorite thing you like about living in Saudi Arabian?
The one thing I love about living in Saudi Arabia is how unique it is. Saudi Arabia has given me a rich identity that I myself find overwhelming. Its values, history, and influential role in the world make it a country not worth underestimating. My upbringing in this country has also made me into the person I am today. Despite its flaws and mistakes, Saudi Arabia provides an atmosphere that only a few people in the world can experience.
4) What do you dislike most about living in Saudi Arabia?
The only thing I dislike about living in Saudi Arabia is how slow it is. Progress comes slowly; it takes awhile for things to change here. I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve noticed such sluggish behavior is present in all aspects of the country. Of course, it is still improving itself every year, but it takes a lot more time for such better change to occur. This makes Saudi Arabia a bit boring at times.
5) What are Saudi Arabian students most passionate about?
Generally, Saudi Arabian students are most passionate about their families and faith. Saudi students do their best in making their families proud by doing well in school, participating in sports, and making good decisions. Saudi students are always aware religion is important in Saudi Arabia. Islam originated from this country, so Saudi students are proud to be members of a nation where the genesis of one of the greatest religions in the world took place.
6) What do Saudi Arabian students know about Turkey and how do they view Turkish people?
Saudi Arabian students have different opinions regarding Turkey. Some students admire Turkey’s power and grand influence in the Middle East and the world, while other students are skeptical of Turkey’s past and how the Turkish people view an ideal society. You’ll find students that agree with Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies and students who have points to argue against Turkey’s civil system.
Regarding Turkish people, many Saudi students love Turks! They like how Turks share similar cultural tastes with Arabs in general, and how we both can agree on the awesomeness of Turkish and Arab food alike. However, I have come across a few Saudi students who have had bad experiences with Turks. Some Saudi students consider Turks as “arrogant” and “stiff” or “confusing” and “unrealistic”, but I always end up convincing them that Turks are arguably the coolest people around. Ultimately, all Saudi students view the Turks as a very proud group of people, and we know that the Turks have many reasons to be proud (history, empires, culture, Istanbul, food, innovation, etc.).
7) If someone were to visit Saudi Arabia, where would you recommend they visit first?
Visitors to Saudi Arabia should first visit Jeddah, the commercial capital of the country. Jeddah is right on the coast of the Red Sea and is home to all sorts of people. Hajj pilgrims always stop by at Jeddah before and after the trips to Makkah and Medina, the two holiest cities in the Saudi and Islamic world. Visitors to Jeddah will notice its melting-pot atmosphere, the grand Saudi culture, and the many activities average Saudis love to do. Jeddah is known as the “different city” in Saudi Arabia since you’ll find Saudis of all colors and how there are just so many things to do in Jeddah (snorkeling, go-karting, football, hotels, and everything else).
8) Any one interesting fact about the Saudi Arabian way of life?
Living in Saudi Arabia is very easy. There are no taxes, little crime, lots of facilities, lots of malls, and lots of services. You either live in a very large apartment in any Saudi city or within the comfortable houses in compounds (compounds are gated neighborhoods with all the security and facilities you can imagine). Compounds usually have their own supermarkets, recreational facilities, and services. Raising a family in Saudi Arabia is much easier in comparison to other places.
9) BBC – “In September 2011 – King Abdullah announces more rights for women, including the right to vote and run in municipal elections and to be appointed to the consultative Shura Council – the most influential political body in the country.”
“A woman is sentenced to 10 lashes after being found guilty of driving – the first time that a legal punishment has been handed down for violation of the ban on women drivers. King Abdullah overturns the sentence.”
Wikipedia – “King Abdullah has declared that women will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.”
In a country where women are not highly respected (or not seen as equals to men), how do you evaluate these changes (examples are stated above)? What are your comments? What is the general view of your friends and your family members?
King Abdullah, the current King of Saudi Arabia, has been trying to reform the country in terms of women’s rights. However, little has happened for the past 5 decades. Women are very subordinate to men in Saudi culture, and considering the bedouin influence that Saudi Arabia is characterized by, women’s rights will still be disregarded for the next few decades. However, the King’s efforts are evident through the examples stated above, and he’s even mentioned that women in Saudi Arabia will inevitably gain access to driving after he’s done being King. Saudi Arabia’s conservative values and bedouin culture (remember, Saudi Arabia was just a large desert until oil was discovered in the east portion of the country) play a role in the little change that has occurred for women’s rights. In fact, just about 3 years ago, women were a part of Jeddah’s city council, yet they were kicked out of the council after 6 months of participation. Overall, change is slowly coming to this country for women, but it has been difficult.
In regards to my comments concerning these changes, I admire King Abdullah and the Saudi government for showing some will for giving rights to women. I like how King Abdullah is trying to use the best of his abilities (he’s the king, but Saudi Arabia has councils ruled by princes and religious authorities) to slowly turn bedouin culture around and raise the social status of women in Saudi society. Throughout history, Saudi society has obviously viewed women as domicile and only useful for taking care of the family, but given the demands and systems of the modern world, King Abdullah (and I, again, like this King) is acknowledging the need for better positions for women in Saudi society.
Generally, my family and friends share the same views as me. They hope to see more Saudi women take charge in Saudi society, and I know they’ll be happy when Saudi women will finally drive their own Fords, Chevrolets, and Ferraris (Saudis are very wealthy!).
10) As we observe from the outside, we notice that the internationally popular types of music are not very popular in Saudi Arabia (e.g. rock, classical, metal, pop). As a guitar player and a musician who is into rock music, what do you think about the development of popular music rather than the traditional music in Saudi Arabia? Was it hard, at first, to get people’s attention as Midnight Rush?
Popular music is becoming more apparent in Saudi Arabia as the years go on. Saudi artists are starting to change their music styles and a lot of the younger ones sing pop music (check out YouTube). However, compared to its neighboring countries, traditional music is still much more appreciated by Saudis in general, and unfortunately, rock music is disliked in Saudi culture. The whole idea of a band with guitar players, a drummer, and a singer or two is too western of a style for Saudis. Saudi Arabian musicians, particularly the traditional-oriented ones, play instruments like the oud and the tablah, two Arabic instruments that have been around in Saudi society for centuries. The oud is considered the grand-father of the guitar, so many Saudis just want to play the oud instead of the guitar. For them, it wouldn’t make sense to play a Western instrument over a very similar-sounding Saudi instrument.
As for Midnight Rush, it was indeed difficult to get the attention we wanted. Although we have a huge fan base at our own school, it’s taken us almost a year to grab the attention of other Saudi students. This year, however, at our school’s Battle of the Bands competition, we had our biggest audience yet, and we noticed that the majority of the crowd was actually Saudi! It was unbelievable! Today, we’re setting eyes on playing in two more events: a charity walk-a-thon and a local art show. We’re more active as a band this year than years before, so it comes to show that our work is paying off.