While on our recent Saudi tour, we stopped by a city called Ha’il. Now this city has a reputation for being the most welcoming people in all of Saudi Arabia. It is common knowledge that if you go to a random person’s house, they will take you in and feed you even if you are a stranger!
We experienced a funny version of this hospitality as we got in an Uber from our hotel to go downtown for dinner. Our driver was shocked to see that we were westerners and was very curious about us. He said that before we go to dinner he would take us to his home for coffee. No was not an answer this man would accept. He stated that we were foreigners in his city and thus must be treated and warmly welcomed. On his insistence, and since we were literally hostage in his car, we really didn’t have much choice.
He then began driving to his house where we were hoping we would get some coffee and not get murdered.
If an Uber driver nearly anywhere else tried to take me to their house when I was trying to go to dinner, I would normally lose it, but I had been warned about the welcoming nature of people from Ha’il, so the group and myself were willing to go along with it. As if we had a say in the matter!
This man brought us to his house and then filled us with litres of coffee and tea. Now the house wasn’t exactly a house, it was actually kind of empty except for one front room which was used to host guests and watch TV. It was absolutely strange but also kind of funny. After a while, he dropped us at the restaurant and refused to let me pay him, even after offering several times!
What was even funnier is that when we finished dinner we called for another Uber and the same guy accepted the job and drove us back. He even stopped along the way so we could take photos of random roundabouts with cool statues. This time however I had selected a different payment method which means I would automatically get charged. He realised this halfway through our journey and he was deeply offended that I was now obliged to pay him. He turned to me and said “I thought we were friends!”.
The generosity of this random Saudi man didn’t end there either. He stopped in front of our hotel and brought me to the back of his car where he gifted me some local perfume. Again if this was happening back home alarm bells would be ringing and I would be seeing nothing but red flags! This man though, was completely genuine and was living up to the Ha’il stereotype 100%.
The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t accept candy from strangers, except if they are from Ha’il, in which case take it lest you offend them!
Picture top right: Our lovely host pouring us some deliciously fragrant Saudi coffee.
Picture middle: The home in which we were kidnapped/received our wonderful hospitality.
Picture bottom right: One of the cool roundabouts that our driver/kidnapper stopped at to let us take a photo. Saudi Arabia easily has the best roundabouts in the world (except maybe Turkmenistan!).