I was sitting in a living room in Taif, but couldn’t help but feel like I was in a club. I was half asleep at 4am, while Khaleeji music blasted and Saudi girls dressed in diva short dresses and obnoxious high heels swayed their hips back and fourth with glasses of vodka in their left hands and cigarettes in the other. The men would jump in and out on the dance floor, sometimes dancing with each other, and other times grabbing a girl and playfully spinning her around. Although 'mixing' of the sexes was forbidden, they cast what Saudi considered socially acceptable far aside for that evening.
My friend Mohammed tapped me on the shoulder and laughed as he pointed out a couple making out passionately on the couch. I looked at them with sleepy eyes, but enough to make out that it was the police officer we met from earlier that day, who now had a beautiful Saudi girl sitting on his lap in his arms. We knew he had a wife and children, and this woman was definitely not his wife or the mother of his children.
They ran out of alcohol, my friend Mohammed came up to me, “the dealer is coming, you wont get in trouble, can you go out and grab the vodka for us”. I laughed, I was the only one in the room who didn’t drink but I understood why they were afraid. I supposed it was better for me to get deported than them be jailed for god knows how long. “He’s coming in a black suburban, when you go outside to the car just reach out your hand with this money, but DO NOT look at him. He handed me a wad of riyals. It’s super important that you don’t look at him ya azizity.” I giggled to myself, I felt like I was walking out to do some major drug deal, all for a little bottle of alcohol, something that could be bought in most of the world by 18 year olds. I followed his instructions, walked out to the black suburban, turned my head away and reached out my arm with the equivalent of 100$ in my hand. I was fighting myself back from laughing out loud as the whole process just seemed so silly to me, and I suddenly felt the money pulled away and a bottle slide into my hand. Right as my fingers gripped around the bottle, the car quickly sped off.
I sat for a moment in the middle of the street. I looked at the bottle wrapped in a shopping bag in my hand, and I giggled to myself, I couldn’t believe the trouble they went through to get this little bottle, and it was only 15$ in America. I heard Mohammed shout a whisper to me, “ya bint! Get in here”. I looked up and snapped back into Saudi reality, and I walked into the house.
It stunk of cigarettes and dancing, they had disco lights and an excellent sound system. The girls were flirting and dancing up on the men, and as the house was empty they were to stay the night. I told Mohammed I would go to sleep. I jokingly asked him which girl he liked. And although he had danced and laughed with all of them he said “Ohhh, I don’t like these kind of girls, they are sluts”. Typical, I thought, though all these men were participating and doing the exact thing the girls were, only the women got the negative label. I shook my head, and was too tired to make a comment, though I usually wouldn’t miss such an opportunity.
I retired to the bedroom alone and locked the door to my room. I slept in peace, except a few knocks and bangs on the door which I ignored. I slept through the booming of the music in the living room down the hall. I woke up once, I heard the call to prayer and an argument going on outside my room with the booming music still continuing. It cut out in silence while the rest of the fujr call to prayer continued. One guy made them turn off the music while the Athan was on, I knew they stopped music during the Athan out of respect for God, but I had to giggle to myself, despite all the things they were doing that they believed to be “haram”, they still managed to keep some degree of religious tradition – while drunk at a mixed party. Oh Saudi, I thought to myself, and fell back asleep.
I woke up early the next morning. To my surprise, the sun was up and the music was still going. I unlocked my room and walked out down the hallway, I heard giggles and turned and saw two of the girls I saw the night before in bed moving under the sheets, as they heard me walk by they turned around and giggled and yelled “good morning”! I saw the police officers head pop up and he gave me a guilty (but very happy) smile. I faked a smile back, and said “asshole” under my breath. I moved on. I walked into the living room to say my goodbyes, a few people were still dancing in the middle of the living room with drinks in hand and a few others were passed out on the couches. I walked by the door, and a few of the girls who were wearing short tight dresses with their breasts popping out, were changing their heels to flats and putting on their abayas and adjusting their niqabs to properly cover their face. I giggled again. One girl looked at me, she still had one sparkly high heel on, and her abaya was open to reveal a dress that more looked like a tight t-shirt that had to constantly be tugged on so her underwear wouldn’t be seen, she was tying the niqab around her head, and as I looked at her she smiled back with an understanding smile, as if to acknowledge that she knew it was odd to be covering up after last night. “We’re not hypocrites Habibity” she said, “in order to be a Hypocrite, you have to have the ability to make a choice.” I smiled, “Don’t feel you need to justify anything to me.” I replied. She smiled, and hugged me and kissed me on the cheeks.
Her and her friends were now covered from head to toe in black, I escorted them out. The other two girls walked out with their boyfriends who were in their boxers with messy hair and they kissed their girlfriends goodbye. I walked out with them onto the driveway, I saw one of the girls walk up to the Indian driver who was parked safely within the gates of the house so nobody could see women coming out in the morning. She put her pointer finger in his face and said with a scold, “if you tell baba where you had to come to pick us up, Wallahi I will get you in so much trouble!” He backed up frightened, “no, no madam, don’t worry it is not my business. I am saying nothing, nothing.” She jumped into the back of the car satisfied and they waved goodbye. I had lost track of which one was which, as they all looked the same covered in black. I looked at the guys waving goodbye, they looked back at me. “Did you guys have a good night” I asked. They gave me a huge smile, and I laughed with them. “Well, your girlfriends are nice”, I said to them. “laaaa ya binty”, they said with shocked sarcastic voices “these are not nice girls, they are like prostitutes.” “Well,” I replied, “more innocent is the sinner who is victim of the system then the oppressor who keeps the system alive.” Ahmed looked at me with a smile that showed he got what I meant, then he gave me a friendly pat on the head – as if he found my remark cute yet insignificant.
“This is Saudi ya bint, this is Saudi.” He finally said.