The menace of beggary has always plagued Jeddah. In a city which is the gateway to Makkah and Madinah with visitors from both inside and outside the country, this practice is truly nauseating and especially in the holy month of Ramadan when the spirit of giving equals that of prayer and worship.
Stop at any traffic light in the city and you will find hordes of women shrouded in black tapping on the windows of your car. At times the driver feels that the window is about to crack because of the intensity of the knocks! And these moving black objects could be men!
The other thing that upsets me is the wailing and cries for help by some after the end of prayers in mosques. They beseech you to give alms claiming to have ailments that need immediate medical attention. Some act as if they are severely handicapped and I used to wonder how they were able to get to the mosque. I followed one outside and saw him being driven away in a shiny new car!
Then there are those who ask neighbors about who is living in this or that house and then knock on the door asking the house help or driver: “Where is sheikh so and so?”
Most intriguing are the ones that come to you with an old piece of paper with a seal on it saying that the bearer owes money and desperately needs help.
In the age of the cell phone, the messages from “widows”, “orphans” and others are written in good Arabic asking for aid. I once asked my assistant to let the person come and sign for the money she took. She did not know how to write!
These then are all the rackets devised by these crooks to take full advantage of the holy month of giving. And these mendicants are from all nationalities. And they have dozens of techniques to make an inroad on your emotions. So please in this holy month, do give charity, but to those who are deserving.
P.S. Also be careful of people popping up and asking you for gas money as they don’t have the necessary cash to be able to drive back to their city.
Look them straight in the eye and tell them to buzz off!!
— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena