No doubt inspired by the endless supply of videos around the web of Saudi drivers tearing ass across the streets of the Kingdom, the NY Times recently sent a man to investigate. He found that between drag races and the “drifitng” shown in the video above, the Saudi streets come to resemble a cross between Death Race and The Fast and The Furious. It seems that a great national boredom, or “tufush,” has seized the young men of Saudi, and with no public entertainment and few jobs, an underground car culture has flourished. Wealthier and middle-class men drag race Corvettes and Imprezas all night, but for the poorer, more desperately in need of excitement, only drifting cars through and around traffic will do. And the scene has created one crazy melting pot of young, angry desperation.
“The idea behind drifting is, the economy and society don’t need you,” says Pascal Ménoret, an anthropologist with four years of field work in Riyadh. “They are mostly young Bedouins who recently moved to the city, and whose lives are marked by suffering and self-destructive behavior.” And according to the NYT,
Drifting, which tends to attract poorer, more marginal men, has also been an unlikely nexus between homosexuality, crime and jihadism since it emerged 30 years ago. Homoerotic desire is a constant theme in Saudi songs and poems about drifting, and accomplished drifters are said to have their pick of the prettiest boys among the spectators. Drugs sometimes also play a role. But a number of drifters have also become Islamic militants, including Youssef al-Ayyeri, the founder of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who fought in Afghanistan and was killed by security forces in Saudi Arabia in 2003.
Jihadism, homosexuality, drugs and getting fast cars sideways? So much for the west’s supposed monopoly on decadent nihilism. We’ve all seen the million-dollar playthings cruising the streets of Dubai, but the real car nuts of the Arab world put the oil sheik garage queens and the US “street scene” alike to shame. Not that we in any way endorse this behavior or hope to encounter oncoming sideways traffic anytime soon. But it sure makes for some entertaining Youtube.