Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is it safe?!?!?

One of the great things about coming to the Middle East is to find out how many people care about you. One of the downsides is the fact that you find this out because they are going to worry about you. Sadly I think that Barbara bears the brunt of this. People assume that I am the crazy husband dragging his family (though they are the one who had to talk me into this ;-) into this "dangerous" place so in efforts to empathize they feel no qualms about sharing their concerns.

So I want to take a minute and set the record straight. We are VERY safe!! (though as the previous post indicates, I lose some of the moral high ground if we ask "is driving safe?" ;-)

For starters lets start with the fact that I live in a FORT! I have been in a gated community before, but never one where they had guards with a 50-caliber machine gun mounted in the back of a truck and national guards on permanent duty :-) Our fort is 35 square kilometer with a beach, palm trees, wind surfing, diving, snorkeling, modern air conditioned (and lots of it!!!), a great K-12 school, rec center, Burger King, 2 grocery stores, and a whole host of other amenities. To get to my house involves two checkpoints with armed guards and "protective weaponry". No ID? NO ENTRY FOR YOU!!! Now there are obviously two ways to look at this. The first being "even the Saudi's think it is dangerous" and so they put up all of this protection. The alternative is that they understand that this perception exists and this needs to be ameliorated if they want to get top quality people (or even people like myself ;-). Though I believe that it is more than likely a mix of the two, I tend towards the alternative.

When it comes to family friendly, KAUST is helping to write the book. We live across the street from a park, we are half a mile from the Red Sea, I can walk to my office in 20 minutes, when school starts I am told that we will have kids running out of our ____________________ (insert appropriate descriptor for all over the place). After work I had a flat on my bicycle and had a person bring me a tire patch and help put it on tonight, just because I saw him as I was walking the bike home.I just had a friend come back from the states and bring me some things that I wanted. When it comes down to great people, KAUST gets them.

Now back to safety. It seems in a country that has public executions on a regular basis, that there are not as many people who want to commit crimes (or they just have better criminals here not sure which). According to the United Nations, I have a 1 in 20,000 chance of being murdered in the US, here it is 1/5 of that or 1 in 100,000 ( In 2007, Saudi had 256 murders throughout the WHOLE country. In 2010, Chicago had 419 ( So just on the raw numbers I am almost twice as safe in Saudi than in Chicago ;-)

The people are very much like in America in terms of there a great people and there are jerks!!! One friend had a guy that he didn't even know, practically demand that he try some of his food. The one risk with this is if you share food with a Saudi you are practically friends for life. This guy sent our friend a text in the middle of the same night asking when they were going to get together and hang out.

In the end I am to the point that when I am asked "do you feel safe?" I feel like the granny who was pulled over and as part of the traffic stop asked if she had any weapons in the car. When she replied that she had a 38 in her purse, 45 in the glovebox, and a Glock under the seat, the officer asked "what are you afraid of" to which she replied "Not a darn thing!!!"

Am I safe at KAUST? You bet!!!

Best wishes to all,



  1. I have to agree with Kent. No matter where you live in the world there is always the possibility of some harm coming your way. Whether it is a natural disaster or a crazy person shooting people randomly at a Batman movie in Colorado to some extent makes little difference. Both are so unpredictable and infrequent that fear of such events shouldn't be allowed to interfere with daily life. When comparing the more everyday safety concerns, where we live in Saudi is either the same or better than other places in the US. In all honesty, I was much more afraid driving from Tennessee out west than I am of daily life here.