Yesterday, when the news poured of the death of Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, 80, who died of cancer in a New York City hospital, a question came to my mind: Why NYC when I heard the Saudis have some of the best healthcare facilities in the Middle East?
My question was answered on the same day, when I read that his brother, King Abdullah, 85, was receiving critical medial care at the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh. The king was discharged from hospital on the same day his half-brother died and was shifted to his palace to continue medical treatment at home.
The king has been to foreign hospitals for critical surgery but has used Saudi hospitals for all other types of surgeries. Generally, senior Saudi officials do not travel abroad for minor medical treatment. Their own hospitals and doctors are good enough. A large number of Saudi and foreign doctors run these hospitals.
There are two huge medical complexes in Saudi Arabia: the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, the capital, and the King Abdulaziz Medica City in Jeddah on the Red Sea.
The Saudis have also developed world-class hospitals in the private sector that attract much of Middle East's 'medical tourism.'
Education is another area where the Saudis have done well. Up to 50 modern universities exist in a country of almost 25 million people. Almost half of the students are girls. In some Saudi regions the girls surpass boys in college admissions. The illiteracy rate in 2009 was 13%, which is not bad.
Saudi Arabia was a very backward place in 1932 when it was declared a kingdom.
Its first modern university was launched in 1957. The latest one opened doors in 2010.
Much of Saudi Arabia's achievements are buried under unwarranted and politically motivated criticism in the English-language American and US media that dominate internationally. But there is a lot to the kingdom behind the smokescreen.
P.S. In Pakistan, almost the entire Pakistani political elite, which is a closed-circle mafia in many ways, lives abroad, banks abroad, resides abroad, and receives all medical treatment abroad. It comes to Pakistan only when it is its turn to rule. The alleged dictatorships of the Gulf are far better than our fractious, violent and fake democracy.