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Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram posts show a different side to life in Saudi Arabia

However, not all social media users are convinced

Adam Taylor
Thursday 23 April 2015 16:07 BST
Videos posted to Twitter portray the country create a different perception of the country
Videos posted to Twitter portray the country create a different perception of the country (Twitter/@samarfs_/@AmyRoko)

Saudi Arabia has become the focus of international attention recently – and not for positive reasons. Whether it was human rights abuses or military intervention in Yemen, outsiders have criticized the Gulf state as both a belligerent regional power and a hub of Sunni religious extremism.

Life in Saudi Arabia isn't quite so simple, however: For one thing, the country has a population of more than 28 million, and these people lead varied lives. And over the past few days, social media users in Riyadh, the huge capital that is among the most conservative cities in Saudi Arabia, have shared casual slices of life that paint a more varied picture of Saudi society.

The images present a more lighthearted, even silly view of life in the Saudi capital – but not everyone is so sure that the images shown are really so accurate.

The trend began on Snapchat, the U.S.-based social network devoted to pictures and video messages that disappear after a short period. Users in the Middle East and elsewhere could see a "Riyadh Life" story on their app which showed pictures of the Saudi capital. While these images disappeared, users saved many of the best moments.

The trend spread to Twitter, where over 130,000 tweets were sent with the hashtag #RiyadhLife over the past week, according to social analytics firm Topsy.

Footage of #RiyadhLife could also be seen on other social networks, including Vine and Instagram.

These images showed a more human and comical side to life in Saudi Arabia, and while much of the audience was domestic, outsiders seemed to enjoy the images too.

Yet some Saudis were not too sure about the messages sent in #RiyadhLife. Fahad Albutairi, a popular Saudi comedian and YouTube personality, was among those who voiced criticism, saying that the images "don't reflect the city's reality as much as they depict the Saudi stereotype in the minds of the Snapchat team."

For example, some Saudi users mocked Snapchat's repeated footage of lions in Riyadh, and outsiders' reactions to the footage.

Riyadh is just one of a number of major world cities to have been featured by Snapchat — others include New York, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Some users have noticed what might be an ulterior motive in featuring Middle Eastern cities such as Riyadh and Dubai, which was also featured by Snapchat recently, so prominently: Funding.

Gulf states have become big players in investment in Silcon Valley companies – and Snapchat's CEO Evan Spiegel recently held a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal about a potential investment.

© Washington Post

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