Day of pride and remembrance, or confusion and chaos

The National Day should serve as a time to celebrate and to reflect upon the strides made in the development of education, healthcare, communication, commerce, the role of women in the Kingdom, along with other important milestones achieved.

October 01, 2012

Amal Al-Sibai

Saudi Gazette

The National Day should serve as a time to celebrate and to reflect upon the strides made in the development of education, healthcare, communication, commerce, the role of women in the Kingdom, along with other important milestones achieved.

However, due to the immature and irresponsible behavior of many young Saudis, the National Day in the past few years has become known as the day of traffic jams, noise, and disruption. Sticking half their bodies out of the car window, yelling, stopping the car in the middle of a busy road, and blaring loud horns is an inappropriate way to show pride, happiness, and appreciation of a great country. Such behavior contradicts all the values that the leaders of this country have ceaselessly been trying to promote, such as, moderation, respect of others, productivity, learning, and peace.

One Saudi proponent of social reform, Farouq Al-Zouman, wrote a sarcastic comment on Twitter and FaceBook, saying that during the National Day if you hide in your home you will be safe.

Saad Zain lives in an apartment on the busy Takhassusi Street in Riyadh, and years of experience have taught him to stay within the confines of his home on National Day, instead of venturing out for a good holiday. On the night of the National Day, Zain with his daughters stood in their balcony, which overlooked the main road, to witness the wild fervor of the youth.

“We witnessed creatively painted cars whizzed by, cars with pictures of the beloved King Abdullah, passengers in the car holding up the Saudi flag fluttering in the wind. There is no harm in wearing green clothes, decorating your car, hanging the Saudi flag, or even getting your child’s face painted, but some people engage in foolish and even dangerous activities. I saw a young man whose face and hair was painted green, and he would open the side door of the mini-van he was riding in and throw glass bottles on the streets. He could have hurt someone or damaged someone’s car. How is throwing glass bottles related to participating in the festivities of the National day and honoring your country?” questioned Zain.

An architect working in Riyadh, Muhammad Hallak, shared his experience with the Saudi Gazette. “Last year I made the mistake of leaving my home on the evening of the National Day. I was going to a friend’s house which normally is only 10 minutes away. I got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam for over one hour because motorists stopped, got out of their cars, and danced on the streets.”

After learning his lesson hard way, this year Hallak was much wiser and decided to stay at home all evening. He purchased groceries, rushed home, made microwave popcorn, and watched a children’s movie with his family.

Streets were clear and calm in Riyadh on the National Day all morning. The celebrations started at around 7 PM and lasted until after midnight.

Moustafa Rustom, an expat living in Riyadh, seized the opportunity of the empty streets during the day to take his family out for lunch. When they headed afterwards to a mall to walk around and get some coffee, they were met by security officers at the mall entrance. The security guards said that all the malls in Riyadh received instructions to close their doors from 4 o’clock in the afternoon on National Day.

“Since I work at a private company, our days off throughout the year are very scarce, and we only get three or four days off for the Eid holidays. The National Day is a rare and pleasant occasion to get some time off, but unfortunately we could not take much advantage of it because we were so afraid of getting stranded in traffic in the evening,” said Rustom.

Instead of enjoying the holiday, shopping, visiting friends, and touring the city, most employees and their families were trapped inside their homes until the chaos safely passed and everything went back to normal the next working day.

Intellectuals and scholars urged the youth to express their joy and celebration in ways,rather than creating commotion on the streets and behaving in an unacceptable manner. Such immature outbursts on the National Day portray an inaccurate and negative image of Saudi society and they send the wrong message to others.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamoud, media professor at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University, said: “This year’s National Day represents the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in educational development and in serving the people of the country. The Kingdom also stands for defending the weak and helping those in need, as this country has been a strong voice in bringing an end to the suffering and oppression of innocent people in the neighboring Arab countries. The National Day should reflect the ideals and the vision of this country, which is home to the two Holy Mosques and the place from which Islam sprung forth and spread to all regions of the world.”

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