Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Short" shorts and science in Saudi Arabia

short shorts Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia Pop Culture Middle East blog

We all know that Saudi is a conservative country where women cover up. But did you know that men have to as well? My brother learned that the hard way when we went to Scitech, an interactive science and technology centre.

Sultan bin Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center Khobar blog

Scitech Saudi Arabia Al-Khobar dress code blogMy brother is a stylish guy. You could even go so far as to call him a "hipster." *shudder* Unfortunately the security guards at Scitech don't have an eye for fashion and so turned him away when we went with friends to visit. Apparently my brother's shorts did not meet the detailed standards which you can see at the right. But he wasn't the only one who was turned away. A nine year old who was showing much to much of his lower thigh and knee area, and who was WITH HIS FAMILY, was turned away as well. At least these guards were being consistent!

Little brother and I decided to return with our parents, and a longer pair of shorts. Just goes to show that a regular outing in Saudi is always surprising!

Now about the center itself. It is one of the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Charity Foundation projects and was gifted to KFUPM in 2006. Scitech was established along the lines of the latest scientific centers in the world and is meant to serve students and researchers in science, technology and other fields. It has seven major exhibition halls with more than 350 scientific displays, an IMAX theatre, and an astronomical observatory (although I don't know what they'd be able to see, the air is too humid and dusty here to see much).

Once we were FINALLY allowed inside, I noticed that the entrance hall included paintings and artwork on the walls and ceiling. Clearly KFUPM sees art as part of the learning experience at Scitech, which you know I like!

Scitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia dress code blogScitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia dress code blog

Scitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia introductory hall blogThe first hall that we went to was the Introductory Hall which focused on Saudi, its history, and its achievements.

It was rather a small section and we came to see the interactive exhibits so we didn't stay long before moving on. The Discovery Oasis was next, but since it's for children 4-8 so we skipped it. We decided to go to the Amazing Technology hall instead.

Scitech Khobar Saudi dress code Amazing Technology Hall blog
This area is centred around human creativity and the scientific principles that came from it. You can move robotic arms around, like my brother did below, or you can learn how the Internet sends messages around the world. There's an exhibit on the zero-coding system and its inventor, on a desalination plant, oil rig, car parts, and floating trains.

Scitech Saudi Arabia Al-Khobar robotic arm blog

Unfortunately a lot of the interactive exhibits were broken and need of repair. I know that kids can be rough so I would understand if there were a few exhibits that weren't functioning, but to have many of them not working made me feel like they set up the center and then just sat back and thought that they were done, with no thought put into maintenance. Heck in my photo of the Amazing Technology hall you can see a maintenance worker playing with one of the exhibits! I think that's great he can do that, but I didn't see him or anyone else fixing or replacing broken parts. Like a couple other places I've been to for my blog, while the idea behind it was good, the execution was lacking.

Scitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia out of order blog

Scitech Al-Khobar Wonders of Science blogNevertheless, after trying and failing to make my robotic arm pick up any of the Styrofoam pieces, I moved on to the Wonders of Science section.

According to the website, you can find the explanation for scientific phenomena that have long bewildered and amazed you. It will make you experience your daily life in a completely new way, especially when you practice all that is new in the Wonders of Science. Or you can just push buttons and pull levers like I did.

Scitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia Our Beautiful Seas Hall blogI left my brother and mom, who were trying to figure out a puzzle, to visit "Our Beautiful Seas," where I was absolutely amazed to see a huge aquarium.

To be honest, I didn't really look at any of the other exhibits they had in this hall. I was walking around the water tank looking at all the colourful coral and fish. Once I got to the other side, I found a sea turtle! It was lying still at the bottom of the tank and a shark was kind of nudging the back of its shell. Either the shark was nibbling it and the turtle was dead, or the turtle was just ignoring the shark because he was being annoying. I'm going to choose to believe the former because when animals die in fish tanks they float to the top, right? I should have known better. Zoos and marine mammals parks are not kept in good condition in the Middle East. Not so different than SeaWorld I guess!

Scitech The Living World Hall Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia blogAnyways, after that traumatizing experience, I headed on over to the Living World section. 

Here you can not only learn about the human body and how it works, but about different animals and the environments they live in. I noticed that in the entrance to each hall there was a quote from the Qur'an that related to the subject material of the exhibits. For instance, in this hall the quote talked about how every living being on Earth was interconnected. In scientific terms you could say that the planet is one big ecosystem. I think it shows really well how science is dealt with in particularly religious countries and how there isn't always a division between the two, but a seamless integration.

Scitech Earth and Space Hall Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia blogThe final section was on Earth and Space. Here you could walk into a reproduction of the Earth's core and make a mini tornado. You could also sit in a device that, if it worked, would mimic what it would feel like in an earthquake. I'm more of a museums and gallery type person, so I finished going through the centre faster than my family. I found them again in the Wonders of Science hall, still trying to figure out that puzzle.

Scitech Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia IMAX theater blog
The outside of the IMAX theatre.
We ended our trip by watching a film in the IMAX theatre, which was packed. We were given headphones which narrated the movie in English, as it was screened in Arabic. The documentary which was showing at that time was Wild Ocean. It was a bit misleading as it only focused on the seals and sharks living off the coast of South Africa and not the whole ocean, but it was informative and pretty enough. I usually get seasick (see what I did there?) when I watch IMAX films as you're forced to look up the whole time and its a bit overwhelming, but I coped by falling asleep.

I enjoyed my trip to Scitech and I would definitely recommend it to families with children. But parents, just make sure your kids are wearing pants.


  1. I've been there before and truly think that they should pay more attention to maintenace as it could be a spot for inspiration for those young brilliant minds. Though I felt like it was not given much attention even from the visitors you could almost hear your voice echo. Maybe it is poor marketing I don't know. Good read Nadine, well done!

    1. Thanks Julio :) Scitech seemed like a popular place so a lot of people would be seeing the broken exhibits, it really does make a difference to see working ones!