Read Me/Disclaimer

Read Me/Disclaimer: This is a non-political/socio-political blog. It's a running tale of my Saudi Arabian adventure, great, good, bad, and ugly. It is uncensored, and I don't really care what you think of it, read it or don't. I don't care. I did not decide to do this as a means to an end, but rather to document the means with which I occupied my time while waiting for my end... All that being said, I'm an American Expat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The opportunity to help build this system and the salary that accompanied it were to good to pass up.-Geoff

"The views presented here are just the views of some asshole named Geoff, they are not necessarily the views of my employer, my co-workers, my family or anybody else. First hand knowledge and second hand accounts were used to compile the information. These are not scientific facts and figures. These views are not necessarily supported, endorsed or even appreciated by the KSA the USA or any other country for that matter and the author makes absolutely no claim that they are."**

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Surf's Up!

Couch Surfing (CS) 
has made it to Saudi Arabia  

I don't know exactly when it happened, but its here.  It may have been months ago or years ago, I just learned about the trend last year myself and was considering it as a means to travel on the cheap when on annual vacations or in new places.  When I registered on the site, I though for sure I'd have to use a VPN and or my home address in the states.  I couldn't believe it when I realized that that I could sign up in Saudi, I further couldn't believe it when  saw there were a lot of people in Saudi offering couches.  Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Khobar, Dhrahan, but I was absolutely blown way when I discovered that there were women on the site.  Not just Western women either, but Asian, Persian and even Arab. 

For those not familiar, "Couch Surfing" or CS is a fairly recent phenomenon that involves creating a profile, getting verified and offering up a couch to travelers.  Users on the site search places they intend to be traveling and look for hosts that match their needs and personalities.  They then send a "couch request" specifying when and for how long they'd like to stay.  If the host feels that there is a good potential that the two will get along, at least for the weekend, he or she responds.

CS is often defined as a project or a movement.  The idea being that some people want to travel not only on the cheap, but actually get to experience the local culture, cuisine and people.  I wholeheartedly agree.  For examples sake if someone from Saudi was visiting the US for a few weeks, they would learn a great deal more about it from me or some of my countrymen than they would if they were hidden away in a hotel.  At a hotel they would eat steaks and chicken and burgers, maybe taste a glass of wine or three.  With me they would eat real BBQ (beef) courtesy of a friend who owns a BBQ place and does competitions, they would eat fried ravioli St. Louis style and have homemade biscuits and gravy with their eggs in the morning (or they would have until the divorce).  At others houses they might be invited to a Friday night football game, catch a live local concert, have a bonfire on the beach.  Tour a local winery or micro brew and have some alcohol actually WORTH drinking.  Nowhere would they be stuck listening to elevator music and flipping channels on the TV remote unless they wanted to.  This is the idea behind couch surfing, finding some kindred spirits in other travelers out there and really experiencing the world around you.  I love it!

There have however been some negative reports about CS, and some of them potentially pertain to Saudi Arabia more so than other places.  There have been reports that some out there use it simply as a dating site, that they screen the requests not for personality, but rather for looks.  Its easy enough I guess, say on your profile that you've traveled Europe and are now open to hosting Europeans traveling the US.  Host a guy once or twice a month, and get some good reviews and eventually the requests from women will come in.  If that's what you were after, you've succeeded.  You now have dates coming directly to you.  Using CS as a dating website is scummy, but as long as all parties are consenting adults, I don't really see the harm in it.  Its a little slimy, maybe even scummy, but these things happen, as long as you know how not to come on like an asshole, I say no harm, no foul.  We are human animals after all.  This is where things get tricky though...what if you're a little overbearing and you've promised someone a couch, you meet them shake hands, get along well.  Then you take them out for the evening, show them around and have some fun.  Once home, you come on a little too strong and they rebuke you.  Now the uncomfortableness sets in...and its almost really too late for the person whose in a strange place to find somewhere else to go.  Now you've crossed the line from a little slimy to out and out asshole and predator. 

In Saudi there is an additional problem, number one its illegal for single men and single women to be in each others company here.  In fact outside of work (and sometimes at work too) it is illegal to be with someone of the opposite gender unless you're married.  Generally, the CPVPV (Religious Police) will leave Westerners alone, but not always.  They've yelled at me before, never anything serious but sitting too close to a family, waiting for stores to open during prayer, looking at them etc...and there has been more than one occasion of people being dragged off to jail for not being able to prove marriage. 

Secondly though, rape is often times unreported in Saudi because the woman will be in trouble also!  The courts will say that if she were at home with her parents, this wouldn't have happened.  In a prehistoric caveman sense--they're right.  But hiding women under tons of wrappings and leaving them at home to sit on the couch, watch TV and get fat until they get married is borderline abuse of human rights.  I know its a different culture and all, but c'mon people! Getting back to the point though, women, expat or GCC citizens who decide to allow a male traveler to couch surf, risk rape or abuse at the hands of their "guest" and have little recourse in the legal system.  Even a woman who fights an attacker off and throws him out of her house cannot dare to call the police, not here in Saudi.  And yet, they're on there.  Brave souls, trusting in the goodness of their fellow humans.

I plan on couch surfing to Jeddah, I need to do some diving and I'm hoping to go in the next month or two before its cold.  At first I thought I was going to get stuck doing the hotel thing, but we'll see if I can't catch a couch or two.  I'll let you know how it goes. 


  1. Very good post with useful information. I really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics from a stand point of knowledge and information. Please keep on posting.

    Surfing Cyprus

    1. Thanks for reading Robert! And thanks for the compliment, I try not to just rant, or spout things I know nothing of, so its appreciated!

    2. I just checked out your website also...very nice! Think you can teach a 35 y/o to surf? The last time I was on a surf board I was 15 in Santa Cruz (Capitola) CA (not the biggest waves). It was a big foam board thingy and a day of lessons my mother had gotten for me. I loved it, but didn't live close enough to keep up and try to get any better! Always wanted to give it another shot though...

  2. Hi, good write up! they blame the women if the men couldn't control their desire...unfair but too bad we live in the world where people use religion to control the humankind!!!

    1. Thanks for reading Cindyrina! And thanks for the compliment. If it makes you feel any better, I don't know more than a few men who still actually blame the women, nor do I know more than a couple who would expect their wives, mothers or sisters to cover up while on a trip to another country. However it seems the majority are not willing to speak out and put a target on their back. The Religion is intertwined with everything here: life, politics and culture. So yeah it is definitely used to control. I find that I'm not anti religion, but that being here has really highlighted the importance of separation between church and state.

      Again, thanks for reading, and think about following me on blogger!

  3. I did not know about CS. Initially it seems like a pretty cool idea. Just be ware of bad asses.