HARA: A Slum Area

A young man came to work in Saudi Arabia for an IT company in Riyadh. An Indian who lived in the USA and was a USA citizen came here in Riyadh , excited and happy. He brought his pregnant wife here too. Life was ok the first few months. He bought a new car. He got furniture for his apartment and was all set to start a life. One day, he was driving around with his wife in the car and he decided to go to HARA ( Hai Al Wizarat) to buy something. Having heard stories about mugging and car thefts, he decided not to take any risks – so he left the car on for air conditioning and locked the doors to get off and quickly buy what he needed as his wife waited in the car. He was in the shop a few seconds when he saw his car speeding away, with his wife in it!

A man, a Saudi, had walked up to the car, very quickly broken the window, jumped in the car and taken it – with the pregnant wife! He came on to the DABBAB street, hoping to hit the highway asap. Meanwhile, the wife begged and cried and told him she was pregnant ( in what language or signs I don’t know!) and he felt sorry or guilty or I don’t what , and he told her to leave her purse, mobile and anything else in the car and that he will stop for JUST a minute so she can get off. She got off, leaving all her belongings in the car as he took off – never to be caught. The Indian Professional went to his office the next day, resigned from his job and left the country for good.

This is one story. There are countless stories of people being mugged, threatened with knife, beaten up and much more by Saudi youth in this area called HARA. Surprisingly, the major population in this area comprises of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. Mostly labor and small shop owners with a few professionals too. There are stories of the Bengali Mafia, Indian Mafia and other mafias operating in this large area in the center of Riyadh.

You go there, and you feel you are in an old city neighborhood of India. Areas never developed. The building you see in the picture, has been there since I was a small child. Small apartments, with clothes drying in the balcony. Small shops. And in the alleys, very scary guys. dark in color hanging around. A deprived segment of the society that can resort to any act if they badly need something. Clear and obvious negligence bythe Municipality. There is filth, garbage all over the place.

You never, as a rule, leave your car on and get out. You do not walk alone there late at night. In fact, you avoid going there at all. NEVER ever take your family there when you need to buy something.

Hara, apart from the scary people, also has many nice small indian and Pakistani shops where people can get loads of products from back home.

I sit here and wonder how many of the thousands of people living in Hara are legal in KSA, not associated to some political party from their country and not associated to a criminal activity!

Finally, one does  wonder: this is in RIYADH? The capital of KSA? Truly unbelievable.

The populations of various Asians is growing  day by day. There are gang wars sometimes. Due to the very strict laws here they don’t use guns – but they have enough blade power to make anyone hand over their wallet to them.

People who have been mugged or harassed in Hara, have learnt, with much pain, that reporting  a crime against them will bring no definite solution to this – so why bother.

So when you go to Hara, pay attention to the following:

1. Go alone or with male friends, but never family.

2. Do not talk to too many people. You will find many beggars and other kinds of  people.

3.  Take out the key after turning the car off  when you want to just step out for even a second.

4. The best time to go there is in the morning. Less people and more convenient.

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8 thoughts on “HARA: A Slum Area

  1. It’s funny that you should have written those two posts concurrently, Ali, because if there is one difference I’ve noticed between here and the other Gulf countries, it’s the number of beggars. I saw more beggars in my first two weeks here than I saw in five and half years working in Qatar; than I’ve seen on half a dozen trips to Dubai; than I saw in the two months I worked in Abu Dhabi.

    Usually you’ll see the fully covered women, always at traffic lights. Occasionally you’ll see grubby kids with the most miserable expressions on their poor faces. The more I see them, the less often I give. Is there no-one to help these people? They can’t all be lazy good-for-nothings, as they are commonly called.

    A slightly more sophisticated ploy is for people dressed up in the thoub and shemagh and hang around the Corniche waiting for the likes of me to wander past on the way to the supermarket or coffee shop. They approach with an empty pack of pills in their hand and a look of pain and pity on their face. “Please kind sir, my father/brother/cousin is very sick and we don’t have enough money for the medicine…” The story continues, and the story is always the same.
    I gave a guy a hundred riyals, once. He said he needed petrol to get to Kuwait. And anyway, I’d just been paid. As a believer in what goes around comes around, and more importantly, that it is very easy to allow yourself to remember only the help that you give and not the help that you receive, I try to give to cases who I believe are genuine. But wait a minute – this guy who has dressed up in the thoub and shemagh, do I detect a Hindi twang under his English accent? You have to admit that it is unusual for non-Arabs to wear this country’s national dress. The thoub, maybe, but not the shemagh too. So I start to wonder…well, why has he dressed up like this? Does he think that I’m more likely to give to a Saudi than to an Indian? Does he think I don’t know the difference between the accents of an Indian and an Arab speaker? Ah, that’s right, a brown face is a brown face to the white man. First, that’s patronising to himself. Second, it’s patronising to me. Third, if you hadn’t tried to so obviously trick me with your appearance, I might have believed your stupid story!

    On a positive note, I had the chance to wear a thoub for the first time this week and I am happy to confirm that all the rumours are true! Talk about natural air conditioning. Take me to the thoub shop!

  2. Sure, meet up with me.. I want to get some new ones tailored also. I know some nice tailors.
    As for the beggers. The Abaya women on the traffice lights are a new thing.. a new business!
    As for the ones in HARA, you will find other nationalities doing this business. And they are not polite at all. If you gave a riyal or two, they will start to insult you. It could get serious too. A friend of mine had a 1 hour argument with one Indian , bearded , religious old man who wanted a few hundred to get his 7 daughters married in India!!! My friend told him that he has an organization in India that will take care of his family, the man started cursing him!…lol.
    Yes, begging is HUGE industry here, in Pakistan and in India. I don’t know about other countries.

  3. the area in the photograph was my home for 14 years where i spent my chilhood. i can proudly say that it is one of the safest location in Saudi arabia. please dont insult this place called as HARA.

  4. I lived in this same area for 23 whole years. Me and my entire family. Not one incident experienced or witnessed or heard of. Trouble comes to those who either seek it or invite it. It all boils down to one question: how smart are you? Do you have the least bit of common sense and logic to know there are things you shouldn’t do? Like leaving your pregnant wife in a car with the engine running? Thats sheer stupidity. Its akin to leaving your windows / doors at home unlocked and then crying about it when someone breaks in. I doubt that can be called breaking in. An open window / unlocked door is an invitation, simple as that.

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