An Egyptian man in Saudi Arabia has been arrested after a video of him having breakfast with a woman went viral on Twitter.
In the video, a man with an Egyptian dialect eats breakfast beside a woman wearing a full face veil, who many assumed to be Saudi.
This is in contravention with law in Saudi Arabia, where in workplaces or eateries like McDonald’s and Starbucks, families and single men have to sit in different areas.
Women must sit separately from single men in these places.
They are not allowed to exercise most activities without being accompanied by their male guardians, usually a father or husband, but possibly a brother or a son.
The man was arrested by the Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development, who accused him of “committing several violations and taking up a post exclusively reserved for Saudis”.
The Arabic hashtag “an Egyptian having breakfast with a Saudi” has been used over 113,000 times on Twitter, where it has become the centre of a cultural divide.
In the 30-second video, the man and woman briefly joke about eating their breakfast together, with nobody else invited.
But the point which has caused the most consternation comes at the end of the video, when the woman appears to feed the man.
Many Saudis on social media were highly critical of both the man and the woman, with the majority of people wondering why the man was punished instead of the woman.
“I need to understand why men are constantly punished and not women,” said Twitter user Malak. “I am a Saudi [woman] and I swear I want them to punish her with him. Laughter, eating at the workplace… where are your limits?”
Some people meanwhile stressed that work relationships should transcend gender, with Twitter user Tarek Abd Alaziz calling for colleagues to be able to “joke or eat or do anything else among the general relations of humans”.
But not everyone agreed, with Hammoud Alduhayian saying that “developing jobs for Saudi women among foreigners is considered an explicit breakdown of customs, traditions, and values.”
هُناك اكثر من المصري “بهاء” وسيناريوهاتهم تحدث يوميًا بين اسقف المولات والمجمعات التجارية فـ استحداث الوظائف للسعوديات بين الأجانب يُعد انفلات صريح للعادات والتقاليد والقيم .#مصري_يفطر_مع_سعوديه pic.twitter.com/r8prckcdf1
— حمود الضحيان ابونواف (@H_S_Alduhaiyan) September 9, 2018
The view from Egypt
In Egypt, many people reacted with surprise at the outcry from Saudi Arabia and wondered how anyone could be arrested for what they regarded as an innocuous video.
In particular, people pointed out the discrepancies between the arrest and the country’s recent progression in women’s rights, where women were given the right to drive in May.
Television presenter Osama Gaweesh said he was confused with the arrest, asking: “Doesn’t [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman want a new, open Saudi Arabia with concerts and movie theatres and beaches and a 2030 vision?”
While another Egyptian user, Sonia, called it a result of “fragile egos” amongst Saudi men.
cant believe the Egyptian guy is about to get deported & lose his job because saudi men have such a fragile ego #مصري_يفطر_مع_سعوديه
— Sonia (@AnotarizeddDesi) September 9, 2018