Entering malls and shopping centers have become a real challenge for young Saudi men, who have innovated many ways and means to force themselves inside.
Under the prevailing rules, only women and families are allowed to enter malls. The young men are barred from malls because of fears that they may disturb families. The young men have considered this a challenge that they have to defeat and deal with one way or another.
Many young men dress like women in order to be allowed into the malls. Others bribe the security guard who controls the gates, while a third group pays money to young girls who will give them company to gain access to malls.
Most of these adventures take place over the weekends. Many young men gather at the gates of malls and shopping centers with the hope of being allowed to go inside. “Preventing young men from entering malls represents a real challenge that we have to overcome,” said Saeed Al-Amri, a young Saudi.
“We feel that we have been rejected by society. This feeling causes us to be more daring and challenge the authority, which has imposed this ban on us,” he added.
Al-Amri said that the lack of public entertainment places for young men made them squatter on the streets and hang around shopping malls to tease families going in or out.
“The entertainment facilities built by the private sector are too expensive, especially for unemployed young men,” he said.
Hassan Madawi, a security guard, said he was tired trying to follow young men and reveal their ploys and secret plans. “Some young men do not hesitate to tell me that their families are already inside and they want to join them,” he said.
Madawi said one girl could take about 10 young men inside the mall by accompanying them one after the other each time.
He said the guards were always quarreling with young men and would often turn them over to the security patrols, who would detain them and release them only after signing pledges never to do this again.
Khaled Mishaan, director of Saher security establishment, said some girls allowed young men to accompany them as their relatives against small bribes including prepaid mobile phone vouchers.
“Some young men wear a woman dress, while others fight with the security guards or bribe them to enter the shopping malls,” he added.
Mishaan said the young men were prevented from entering malls for fear of unethical behavior and added that about 95 percent of the malls were exclusive for women and families.
He said many men would leave their wives inside the mall and go out for their own business, because they were sure that the women would be safe and kept away from harassments by young men.
Mishaan blamed some of the young girls who wear revealing dresses for the bad behavior of young men.
“To avoid this situation, there should be time for young men in the malls. The evenings may be left for women and families, while young men may be allowed into the shopping malls during daytime,” he suggested.
Mishaan said about 95 percent of the young men came to the malls especially to harass women. “This necessitates the creation of special entertainment facilities for young men. It is the leisure time that makes young men hang around malls,” he said.
Dean of medical sciences college and head of the family and social medicine at King Khaled University Khaled Jalban said the very act of prevention consolidated the spirit of challenge with the youth.
He called for inculcating youth with good manners and for teaching them to respect regulations instead of facing them with prevention, which makes them more daring and challenging.
Jalban warned against intimidating the youth with laws and regulations and said this would unnecessarily antagonize them and make them break the laws.
He called on civil society organizations, municipalities, and the private sector to establish entertainment facilities for the youths, who represent about 60 percent of the Kingdom's population.
By Nadia Al-Fawaz