Sunday, 17 February 2013


When I think back to my childhood I'm fondly reminded of 'playing out', of riding my bike, making dens in the fields around the village, building tree houses and generally being outside with my friends. Good times. 
When I lived in London I used to think it was a shame that kids are generally deprived of this freedom, due to the roads being busy and there being a overall feeling of distrust towards others. I was a youth worker before I moved to London but it was only in London that I was introduced to 'Play Work,' a government idea designed to give the under 11's the 'right to play.' It was good because it meant there was lots of playgrounds and play centres, but still lacking that essential element of kids being able to have adventures on their own, without the supervision of adults.  

Now and Then

My Girl
(although childhood is of course better without the dead friend)

But now I can safely say that when it comes to the freedom of the child (or lack thereof) Riyadh blows London out of the water. People here live behind walls, and their kids are confined to playing on the small patch of concrete between their front gate and their house. The five year old girl I know was even riding her bike inside the other day. But the real reason Riyadh is worse is because things just deteriorate for children as they become teenagers. The fourteen year old I know dreams of having a sleepover with her friends, but for one reason or another she's never been allowed to have one. When I was fourteen I would stay at my friends house or her at mine pretty much every week and sometimes without even asking our parents first (shocking), or on a school night (doubly shocking). It just wasn't that big a deal. And then there were the party sleepovers with several people, watching loads of films and eating junk, telling ghost stories and talking about boys. And all of that fun from the safety of your own home. I don't understand why a parent would deprive a child of this joy when there's no danger in it at all.  
It's like the parents here worry that the other children will be a negative influence or something. As far as I'm aware, a lot of Saudi kids spend the weekends only with their immediate family, or sometimes their cousins if they're lucky. And the rest of the time it's just them on their own, sitting in their rooms playing on their IPad. 

Just another thing to add to the list of things that make me sad about this place...

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