Saudi Workers
Overview of the new track in Jeddah, workers clean the seat shells on the grandstand. Image Credit: Reuters

Foreigners who come to Saudi Arabia as guest workers are sometimes misrepresented in some parts of the media as those who have no interest other than in padding their pockets. That is a grossly unfair characterisation of most of the millions of expatriates who have come in the last five decades to help transform this country from a sparse desert to a thriving nation.

Many come, work and leave without much fanfare and notice. But one such individual wanted to be heard. Mohammed Khan, born in this country as a son of an expat worker who had come here many years ago and for whom the time to move on has arrived, penned his thoughts as the day of his departure from the kingdom came close. The following is his story:

“As I count on my final days in this beautiful land — Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I write to you with lot of emotions. It’s time I have had decided to leave, to carry on my further academic commitments.

“I am an Indian expat student born and brought up in this Kingdom. Be it my childhood or my graduation age, I have carried all those in KSA. The country has provided me immense skill set, be it the knowledge of this world via academics or knowledge of Islam, or the proficiency in the Arabic language I have, or the beautiful recitation of the Quran I imitated and learnt. Everything I have today is from the kingdom and its big-hearted people. Whether it was the youth or the elderly people I had conversed with over the years, you all were too amazing. Every conversation with you taught me something good. Will miss your composed yet beautiful culture.

Kingdom will always be in my heart

“Certainly, the provider of sustenance (Rizq) is the Almighty, and he is the knower of our hearts and InshAllah if he plans my sustenance and livelihood in KSA later on in my life, I will happily accept it.

“It brings tears to my eyes as I move on, I wish I could get a medium to thank my beloved Saudi citizens. Nevertheless, I write this as a final thanksgiving note to all the Saudi citizens, I have witnessed and seen the Kingdom with my eyes rather than hearsay, and I am indeed blessed to have spent a majority of my life in this country. This is with love and for indeed “AL WATAN FI QULOOBINA”, the kingdom will always be in my heart.

“Thank You.

A loyal and proud resident of Saudi Arabia — Mohammed Khan.”

The above note is a very apt response to those Saudi commentators who are quick to point out ills in the direction of this group of individuals living in our land. Let us not delude ourselves into believing that Saudis today would readily fill all the posts and professions held by the expats, especially in the semi and unskilled sectors.

In the fields of construction and the expansion of the country’s infrastructure, the role of the expat must be recognised. They have played a significant role in making this country what it is today. One would not stumble upon a sizeable number of Saudis queuing for such professions held by expatriate workers. Granted, Saudis must be afforded a priority when it comes to employment, but many of the expats can fill niche sectors that Saudi applicants won’t take.

Work without interruption

Instead of criticising their presence, let us appreciate their contributions. Many leave their homes and families behind to eke out a meagre existence and save a little every month to send home. Their families are no different than ours, each depending on the earnings of the wage earner to sustain family life.

Leaving behind fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and children, these foreign expatriates, who reside among us ask little of us as they fulfil their duties. And yet they love and feel like the rest of us; the joys and pains that course through our emotions are not alien to them.

And these workers rise up to the task diligently. Some are subjected to deplorable conditions, their rights violated many times and yet they remain faithful to the task without interruption.

Should people who are quick to judge them not get off their high pedestals and recognise that they really are of no threat of any form to our society.

Let me put a rest to all who deride the presence of the migrant workers. They are not pariahs or rejects, but the silent and rarely acknowledged stalwarts that have helped oil the machinery which helps run the rest of us. Let us show some appreciation.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena