Paramedic to the Prince by Patrick Notestine

Back in October tominoman commented on a blog post and recommended the book Paramedic to the Prince; a Paramedic’s Account of Life Inside the Mysterious World of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Patrick (Tom) Notestine.
I’ve finished reading and I definitely recommend it. I knew a fair amount about Saudi Arabia, but in this book some things were really driven home, in terms of how Saudi policies and traditions affect the normal person on the street.
The author was an experienced paramedic who went to Saudi Arabia knowing almost nothing about it, and ended up spending about ten years there, first at the National Guard hospital and then on the staff of Crown Prince (now King) ‘Abdallah.
The general ideas that I come away with are 1) promoting people based on family connections rather than merit is really, really a bad way to do things, 2) that it’s pretty much true that Saudis don’t want to work hard, and expect a free ride, 3) that rather than plan for the worst, they plan shoddily and hope for the best.
Obviously, this is one man’s point of view, and there are more sides to every story, etcetera.
Early in the book there’s an anecdote about a group of Saudis who, as part of the attempt to Saudi-ize the country (to decrease Saudi dependence on foreigners to do all the jobs that require competence), are sent to America for paramedic training. The course is a basic course that takes four weeks in America. The Saudis get sent over for three years, and when they return none of them can pass the basic test. Then they are placed in hospitals according to their family connections.
Something I hadn’t thought about before, and is a damn shame, is that Saudi society discourages studying any history before the advent of Islam. So their petroglyphs remain unstudied and unacknowledged, for example.
As a paramedic, this guy saw many cases of MJS, Maid Jumping Syndrome, wherein a foreign woman comes to Saudi Arabia to work as a maid and is abused by her sponsor and locked in a second floor room. The MJS occurs when she leaps out the window to escape. I figure that if it had only happened once they wouldn’t have coined the term.
There’s a whole lot of instances of incredible waste of vast amounts of money, and at the same time cutting financial corners that really, really should never be cut. For example, buying automatic defibrillators but refusing to buy the chargers for them. Ever.
In short, it’s a really interesting book and I recommend it.

1 Comment

Filed under arab, arabian, arabist, books, Saudi Arabia

One response to “Paramedic to the Prince by Patrick Notestine

  1. mohammed tanver

    hi i read the paragaph this is common because no one is ready to work hard and ready t learn in saudi bcz they belong to a good place where the natural resources are abundant to leavea happy leave .

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