20 April 2016

Saudi Arabia, Part 3

RIYADH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—This is the end of my Saudi Arabia trilogy, although an addendum will be posted in May when I come back to speak at a conference. (I suppose I could identify the now four-part series as a tetralogy or quadrilogy.) My visit to Jeddah was over too quickly. For the first three days back in Riyadh, with teaching and other presentations from early morning until late afternoon, I barely had time to think. Now, I have two days to reflect and clear up loose ends before I return to the UK.

Presentation time with Juliana D'Sa and
Raeid A. Faqehi.
My first day back in Riyadh was spent partly in the College of Nursing (male) with Master in Nursing students and partly in the Medical College, where I gave a lecture about detecting similarity in manuscripts (available on podcast). The next day was spent at the leading hospital in Riyadh, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSH), teaching on writing for publication and evidence-based practice. That day was hosted by Marinha Macedo, RN, nursing research senior specialist. By coincidence, I met her counterpart, Gillian Sedgewick, RN, at the Jeddah King Faisal hospital on the weekend. Both KFSHs are Magnet hospitals, the first in the Middle East. The third day was spent teaching at the General Directorate of Health Affairs, Riyadh on research and publishing. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, but I was glad when it ended, as I was exhausted.

Jeddah memories: Yours Truly with, l-r, Wafaa
Al-Johani, Shadia Abdullah Hassan Yousuf,
Hannah Erfan Banjar, and Ahlam Eidah Al-Zharani.
The day finished back at the Ritz Carlton at a dinner hosted by my former University of Sheffield student, Mansour Al-Yami, PhD, RN, now general director, training and scholarship, at the Saudi Ministry of Health, along with several colleagues from the Saudi Ministry of Health. You know you’re a frequent visitor to a place when you get tapped on the shoulder and turn round to see someone you know. Mustafa Bodrick, PhD, RN, of King Saud bin Abdulaziz University (blog passim) was also dining, and he introduced me to Gwen Sherwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with whom I will be dining tonight. Leaving the Ritz, I almost bumped—literally—into Joseph Westphal, U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Any closer, and I think the security detail would have “taken me out.” I wonder if he was making arrangements for U.S. President Obama, who arrives today.

Reflections on Saudi Arabia
I have mentioned before in this blog that I am often asked about my safety when travelling to the Middle East. When I ask people to specify more precisely what they mean—I understand the question but am tired of it—they never can. There is an association in people’s minds between Arabs and terrorists. The association is understandable, given press portrayal of the situation in some parts of the region. The same kind of association applied to Northern Ireland for a prolonged period, now euphemistically referred to as “the troubles.”

However, I have also noted a frequent question here—almost daily—in my meetings about my impressions of Saudi Arabia. My answer depends on the question. If I am asked, “Do I like Saudi Arabia?” I find it hard to say yes, simply due to the visual impact of women peeping out over niqabs, an image I find hard to accept. However, while the positional disparity of men and women runs deep in Saudi society, I realise this cannot be a barrier to cooperation and collaboration. I find the women charming, self-deprecating, funny, and easy to work with. This is not my country, and I am a guest.

On the other hand, I was asked if my view of Saudi Arabia was positive or negative, and I replied without hesitation that it is positive. To someone from the West, the intrusive nature of religion is alien. However, I have been coming here since 1991, albeit with a significant gap in time, and things are changing. This is a highly developed society with the best hospitality and the most respectful people I have ever met. As I have said before, we turn our backs on the Middle East at our peril.

Running has not been possible here, as there is not enough pavement to accommodate it in the part of Riyadh where I have been staying, so it has been the treadmill for two weeks. My various injuries are starting to resolve, and I can do a full-length pull-up without screaming. This indicates that, if I continue to improve, I should be able to start climbing again.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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