Friday, April 18, 2008

Inside Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia's economic development depends on the labor of foreign workers. An estimated 27 million people live in the kingdom, of which at least 6 million are migrants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Saudis have always despised manual labor, perhaps because of confidence stemming from their oil wealth, or perhaps because the concept of royalty pervades society. Many Saudis live as if the world were their five-star hotel, with bellboys and waiters and maids always eager to please. In 1962, the kingdom abolished slavery, though human rights organizations argue that expat workers are subjected to inhuman conditions today. One Saudi man in his late 20s confessed that, should he take a scholarship to study overseas, he would end up spending thousands of dollars a year on underwear. At his home in Riyadh, his family kept a Filipino cook, driver, and maid who washed his briefs. "I don't know how to cook or to clean my clothes," he told me. "So, whenever I am in the United States, I just wear my underwear once … and then throw them away."

10:15 AM