KSA fascinates Brazilians
By : Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
Invited to cover the ASPA Summit here in Riyadh by the Saudi Embassy in Brasilia, I managed to invite a team from Rede Globo, the largest television network in Brazil, to accompany me to the Kingdom. I must confess that they have been more excited to cover all aspects of Saudi life, then the summit itself, and that is a good thing.
“Can we stop here?” they asked me excitedly when we were passing a mosque during prayer time on our first day in the capital. We duly stopped and allowed them to film the faithful going in to pray. The “miswak” seller at the entrance fascinated the Brazilians, and I explained to them that the sticks, cut from a special tree, are used to clean one’s teeth, that they have medicinal properties, and that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to use them.
Next, we took them to downtown Riyadh, which with the terrible traffic jams here took us a long time. When we finally arrived around midday, the crew filmed the shops closed for prayer time. The veteran Brazilian reporter, Jose Roberto Burnier, explained to Brazilian TV viewers why the shops were closed, while his cameraman zoomed in on him holding up the padlock of one of the many perfume and “bukhoor” shops.
Our next stop was a famous shopping mall. There the security guard said we needed permission from the mall management to film. We tried to find someone to allow us to do so, but were unsuccessful. Then Burnier noticed a friendly Saudi couple coming up the escalators, so we ran after them to see if they would agree to be interviewed. Luckily they readily agreed, and the woman, a 24-year-old nurse, who had most of her face covered except for her eyes, talked to us about municipal elections (she had not registered), and stressed that she believed her face covering protected her. When asked by the Brazilian reporter whether she thought women should be allowed to drive, she said that was up to every individual woman to decide.
On their second day in Riyadh, the Brazilian journalists managed to interview the Brazilian Agriculture Minister Katia Abreu, who was here to witness the announcement of the Saudi lifting of the ban on imports of Brazilian beef. There had been one case of suspected mad cow disease in the south of Brazil in 2012, which led to the three-year ban. The Brazilians are euphoric that the ban has been rescinded since the Kingdom represents a potential market of $170 million a year in beef imports. Their report aired on Globo TV on the late news show and the next day on the morning news show “Bom Dia Brasil.”
The reporters are naturally curious and ask me a stream of never-ending questions, including how to say certain things in Arabic.
Everywhere we go the Brazilian journalists are met by smiles on the part of Saudis, who love Brazilian football and ask our colleagues an endless stream of questions about famous Brazilian players. Burnier is interested in interviewing the Brazilian player Camacho who used to play for a local Riyadh team. Unfortunately, we find out that he was already transferred to a team in Qatar a few years ago.
We really need to bring more foreign journalists from Latin America to the Kingdom to show them our way of life and allow them to see for themselves our customs and ways. Unfortunately, for many Brazilians the Kingdom is still a far-away and exotic place, a quasi-fairy tale land full of stereotypes. More close-up coverage by foreign journalists of the Kingdom will surely dispel many negative ideas they have of us, and allow for a better understanding of the Arab world and Islamic way of life.
The writer is a Saudi journalist based in Brazil.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.