Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Saudi culture and visiting the sick
Since my last post showed a rather negative side of saudi culture, this post will display one of the many positive sides to the Saudi way of life.
Visiting the patients in hospitals is a very important thing here, it stems from Islam and its teaching to visit the sick.
A patient in saudi hospital is rarely ever left alone. He/she will almost always have a "sitter" staying in the room with them. These sitters are family members, they might be a son, a daughter, a mother or father, a grandson/daughter, aunt or uncle, brother or sister. The most important thing is the patient is never neglected and left alone, he or she will always be looked after by the family. The family might also provide a paid sitter in addition to family members.
As a westerner this came to me as a surprise, a very positive one of course! In western countries like my home country, sadly patients rarely have visitors, they might come on weekends only,or only on holidays if patient is for example in elderly home. Some of these people might have been forgotten in these elderly homes with absolutely no relatives visiting at all..
It would be considered a disgrace and great shame to put ones parents in an elderly home here. Elderly homes do not even exist!There is no need for them, it is an honor to take care of ones parents and have them live in your home.
The sitters take care of all the basic needs of the patients. They will help them eat, even feed them if they cannot themselves, they will assist them to shower and to toilet, and anything else the patient needs. I think this is just awesome! The families here are so close and its amazing to see how dedicated they are. For example, I would bet you no average western man would "babysit" their very ill, possibly demented, bedridden mother. Would a western man change her diapers, feed her, turn her in bed, rub her feet, read her books or recite Quran/read Bible? The average saudi man on the other hand would NEVER say a bad word or get irritated if the mother is demanding, forgetful or confused.
In the Quran there is several verses stressing kindness towards parents, here is one "..be dutiful to your parents, if one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.(Quran 17:23)
Type into Google "kindness to parents" and all the top 10 results are from Islamic sites :)
And how about a husbands dedication to his ill wife? They will go through anything to please their wives, they truly are great husbands. This also comes from Islam, the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said "the best among you (men) are the ones who are best in treatment towards their wives."
The elderly patients will be the most respected, they might have great great grandchildren visit them!
Children are much valued in saudi culture and family sizes are often large, I've come across parents with 17 children!The more common amount is around 6.
A patient might have many visitors at a time, sometimes so they fill up the whole room. They will bring tea or arabic coffee, dates, chocolates, flowers, cakes, pastries etc to offer the patient. When other relatives come they are then served to those sweets also. Sometimes the whole family will eat a meal together in the patients room. You might even see them sitting on the floor on a carpet eating and chatting. Saudis are the most hospitable people I have ever met. They will always invite the nurse to have a cup of tea or coffee, to have taste of the foods, and will generously give chocolates and other goods, even if they are poor they will want to give you something.
Often the visitors will come in groups of either men or women, and they will visit the patient separately, although if they are close relatives they will go in together. Sometimes when many women visit at a time the whole room will smell like their lovely perfumes, or they might even burn some bukhoor inside the room (mind you it IS forbidden). Bokhoor is a kind or special wood that is slowly burned and the smoke smells really good. This is also used as a welcoming gesture to guests.
Ive been lucky to have met many lovely saudi families and become friends with some.