From al-Nakhil to Batha: The Laborers’ Den
In Saudi Arabia, I live in an area called al-Nakhil on Prince Turki Road. That place is somewhat close to the city center of Riyadh. To go to the center only takes about
ten minutes. If I had only traveled around this area, I would think that everyone in Saudi are rich and loaded to the brim. But looking at the city center of Riyadh only doesn’t tell the whole story of Saudi because the further away from the center, the smaller the buildings and the tougher the living.
The place I went to today for the second time since my arrival is called Batha Center (pronounced Ba-ta-ha). This is a place quite far from the city center of Riyadh and takes about twenty minutes to reach from my home. Batha Center is a place I like to call the Laborers’ Den due to the demography of the people and the environment. The people who live around Batha Center and work in Batha Center are people who have to work hard for a living. They are laborers and thus, you can see there are less Saudi natives here and a lot of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistan and prominently Filipinos.
In the city center of Riyadh and the surrounding area, the streets are clean, there are no animals and people dress nice in their toub(Arabic traditional dress) and also Western clothes. In Batha, it’s very difficult to find that. Look at the images and you can hardly see a while toub. Laborers’ work hard and why wear a toub only to mess it up?
The main reason that laborers are attracted to Batha is due to the prices.
Compared to the center of Riyadh, Batha sells things rather cheap. Batha is where you can find pirated copies of originals from China. Batha is where you can buy a large banana for five riyal per kilo compared to about ten to fifteen riyal per kilo in the center of Riyadh.
My family and I are Malaysians. As a result, our faces look very different from Saudi people. In the expensive shopping malls of Riyadh, we look really out of place. Surrounded by Saudi people is sometimes very unsettling with the glares of curious people. But here in Batha Center, the opposite happens. Most of the people here are Filipino and according to history, we have more or less blood ties with them. Our faces look Filipino and in Batha Center, we don’t feel awkward. We may speak different languages from the Filipino but overall, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different. And sometimes, I can even hear people talk our native language Malay. I usually say hello when I hear people talk Malay.
But still, despite all that things I told you about Batha, there are still large buildings that show in Riyadh,there is an opportunity everywhere. Large buildings provide jobs and even building these buildings provide opportunity to the less fortunate in Riyadh. To me, these buildings show that Riyadh is still moving forward despite the very large distinction between the rich and the poor. There is even a rumor that Riyadh will one day be the new Dubai. Well, that would be an interesting thing to see, wouldn’t it?