Believe it or not this is an actual question I get asked every once in a while.
Expat nurses often ask me about some strange habits Saudis have and odd stuff they saw patients doing. I guess being married to a Saudi gives me more insight into some things but don't get me wrong, I'm no Saudipedia. But I like to correct some common misconceptions whenever I can.
Often some of the questions I get asked are related to Islam. For example why do Saudi men constantly fiddle with the prayer beads, why do Saudi men chew on sticks or why do Saudi women splash water all over the bathroom floors? Others are more cultural such as why do some female patients keep their whole head covered with a cloth while the doc examines her "down under"? Why do Saudis throw all the trash on the hospital floors or why do Saudis cluck their tongues all the time?
I don't have an answer to everything, although sometimes I wish I understood.
Back to the question about the spitting on people. First of all I like to point out that although it does look and sound like the person is in fact spitting on the patient, he is by no means *spitting*. What is happening is actually praying. The person is reciting Quran and kind of "blowing" the words onto the patient. If anyone knows how to explain this better, feel free to leave a comment.
Well thankfully some of the confused nurses want to find out what is actually going on while others just like to remain ignorant and poke fun at the Saudis saying, they like to spit on people! I have to admit I've witnessed some pretty "enthusiastic" styles myself and saliva has certainly been seen flying around, especially with Bedouin patients. But this practice is only a sincere attempt to cure the patients :)
For more weird habits of Bedouin patients check this post: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2010/06/bedouins-as-patients.html
Read about Saudi women who never remove their veils here: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2011/06/eternal-veil.html
Blogger Qusay sent me this clip it shows little kids imitating the reading and blowing, very cute thanks!