While Pakistanis and nationals of other developing countries are flogged or given death for such crimes, a section of the Saudi elite continues to have drink and dance parties where even the feared religious police stays away because of the connections of some of those attending.
A US consulate cable released by WikiLeaks gives an insight into the “underground nightlife for Jeddah’s elite youth.” The cable, which is dated as recent as November 18, 2009, was sent by the US Consulate in Jeddah. It vividly describes the party scene in the Saudi Arabian city, but quotes a ‘high society Saudi’ saying that increased conservatism has pushed the nightlife and party scene even further underground.
Parties in Saudi Arabia came to the world’s attention in 1979 when a British nurse, Helen Smith, was found dead after having fallen from a sixth-floor balcony at a party in Jeddah. The cable notes that the country’s religious police keep their distance at parties when they are attended or patronised by a Saudi royal and his attendants. One example is of a Halloween party which was attended by consulate officials and described in the cable.
The party was at a prince’s residence and had 150 young Saudis – men and women in the 20s and early 30s – in attendance. According to the document, the prince traces his lineage back to King Abdullah’s direct ancestor.
According to the document, “the scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume. Funding for the party came from a corporate sponsor, a US-based energy-drink company as well as from the princely host himself.”
According to the cable, the easiest way to throw parties is by hosting them at princes’ houses or with princes in attendance because the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Protection of Vice then stays away.
This Halloween party featured a plentiful supply of alcohol – banned in the kingdom. Available at the bar was a cocktail punch made using “sadiqi – a locally produced moonshine.”
“While top-shelf liquor bottles were on display throughout the bar area, the original contents were reportedly already consumed and replaced by sadiqi. On the black market, a bottle of Smirnoff can cost 1,500 riyals when available, compared to 100 riyals for the locally-made vodka.”
Officials also learned that a number of the guests were “working girls”, a euphemism for prostitutes or escorts and drugs were available at such parties, even though it was not seen at this event.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2010.