Saudi-US relationship, Graduates taking jobs they don’t want

  • King Abdullah will meet the American President Barack Obama in the White House next week. In this piece for The Majalla, Caryle Murphy examines the changing nature of the Saudi-US bilateral ties over the past 20 years. The previously so-called “special relationship” has become what both countries now refer to as a “strategic dialogue.”
  • Rima al-Mukhtar, who recently said she hates free lance [sic], reports that many Saudi college graduates are taking on jobs that are unrelated to their degrees due to a lack of available opportunities and a loathing for being unemployed. Boo. But seriously, only seven percent of jobs are available to Saudi women?
  • KAUST’s Museum of Science and Technology in Islam (MOSTI) has redesigned their website. The Museum celebrates the contributions of Muslim scholars to science and technology during the first Golden Age of Islam. Admission to MOSTI currently is limited to the university community and its invited guests. No word on when it will be open to the public.

Advice to KASP boys & girls, letter to King Abdullah, more families only

  • Fouad al-Farhan wrote a very good blogpost, analyzing the different types of Saudi students abroad, and offering some invaluable advice to the boys and girls of KASP. What I find incredibly disheartening and slightly funny is how some commenters there totally ignored the whole gist of the post and focused instead on Fouad’s choice of words, despite the fact that the words they found objectionable were not meant for a specific person(s). It just shows you how some people here can be extremely oversensitive, unbelievably easily offended, and absolutely thin-skinned.
  • Last week coincided with the fifth anniversary of King Abdullah’s ascend to the throne. Many congratulatory ads have been published in newspapers. Many overly praising items have been written and broadcasted. But leave it to fellow blogger Ahmed Ba-Aboud to put things in perspective. “King Abdullah, don’t listen to them,” he says.
  • Two guys at the grocery store checkout counter. Their groceries include a large soda bottle aka “family size” bottle. They are told they can’t buy it because, like many other things in the country, it’s for families only. Hilarious, but I won’t be too surprised if it happens in real life. It is exactly this kind fanaticism we are particularly good at.


    The video was created by the awesome Malik Nejer. More of his work can be found here.

MOE news, colorful abayas

  • The Ministry of Education has started investigating a school incident where a public high school teacher made his students play a theatrical scene representing detailed postmortem procedures like how to wash a dead person, cover him, and then laid him to rest. In other news, the ministry issued on Wednesday a circular to all schools in the Kingdom ordering that no music or dancing be allowed during upcoming graduation celebration, which must take place in the morning within the last three weeks of the academic year, and that no cameras should be allowed in schools. Last week I attended my brother graduation ceremony from intermediate school (that’s junior high for you American folks). The celebration took place at night, there was no dancing, and the music was “Islamic” aka nasheed. There were hundreds of cameras, including a video crew brought in by the school itself. Below is a video I took during the graduation:

  • Out of the 198 members of FIFA, only 32 countries can play in the World Cup in football (that’s soccer for you American folks) every four years. Saudi Arabia did not make it to the tournament that will take place in South Africa and starts on Friday. This, of course, will not stop business owners of trying to make money on the occasion anyway they can, including selling World Cup themed abayas. Non-black abayas was one of the topics which appeared in that now infamous MTV video. Speaking of such nonconformist abayas, Khalaf al-Harbi wrote a hilarious article earlier this week on Okaz about the Blue Abaya Controversy.

MTV, beauty queen camels, flirting with books, and more…

  • As part of their True Life series, MTV has broadcasted a one-hour documentary on Saudi youth last Monday. Even before it was aired, Resist the Power, Saudi Arabia has attracted big attention. Over the course of last week, I have received many emails asking me to watch it, and more emails later asking what I think of the episode. I have not watched it yet. I will probably watch it, but only after this silly hoopla dies off. Local media, as expected, jumped in with the usual mixture of conspiracy theories and anger caused by the documentary. Very typical. There are rumors that some people who appeared in the show could be prosecuted, but nothing is confirmed at this point. Many bloggers reacted, and most of what they said have been balanced and well worth a read: here, here, here, here, here, and here.
  • Forget about MTV, and watch this short video by local artist Abdulaziz al-Muzaini which pokes fun at Riyadh rains:

  • Remember the guy who was suing Aramco over the death of his beloved beauty queen camel? He has actually won case. Saudi Gazette reports that the General Court in Khobar has ordered the oil giant to pay 1 million riyals to the heartbroken owner. Aramco’s lawyer said they intend to appeal the verdict with the Court of Cassation.
  • Based on her experience with a public library where she lives in Dubai, Badriya al-Bisher believes that opening more public libraries will encourage Saudi boys and girls to flirt with the books instead of flirting with each other. That’s an interesting theory which I would love to test in Riyadh. It will make for one hell of an experiment.
  • The first patch of graduates from private medical colleges in Jeddah were previously told their can intern in university hospitals. Now they are told they can’t, and that if they want to intern then they have to pay SR60,000. Unbelievable. Shada Ahmadi, a student who is yet to start her internship, told me “it’s a big frustrating issue in our college.” UPDATE: Intern doctors graduating from government universities, who had their monthly reward cut in half by a decision from the Council of Higher Education five years ago, have launched an online petition asking the government to reconsider that decision.

Arabizing the private sector, more on discrimination at KAUST

  • Essam al-Zamel has a very insightful post discussing an important part of the unemployment puzzle in Saudi Arabia. Employers in the private sector avoid recruiting Saudis because they accuse them with lack of productivity. Essam believes this lack of productivity is not related to education or scientific degrees, but rather due to their inability to communicate in English. “How can we expect anyone to be productive when they work with a language different from their mother tongue?” he asks. We can either change our first language to English and make it the main language for communication and eduction even if that means losing our identity, or we can Arabize our economy especially at the private sector to make it more suitable to our youth
  • After Nathan, here is another KAUST blogger writing about discrimination in the new community. “The problem is that the way KAUST is now run, the university is a beacon of oppression and exploitation to many,” says Richard Denny. Yes, I do realize that such practices are widespread in the country. However, I believe this is not a good excuse for such thing to happen at KAUST.

MOE hiring process, al-Nujaimi mingling saga

  • The Ministry of Education (MOE) is hiring. Out of the 34,000 people who applied for teaching jobs, only 21,000 managed to score more than 50% in the Qiyas test aka the Saudi SAT. Today, those 21,000 candidates were interviewed by MOE in order to “inspect their ideological tendencies.” What MOE means by the words between quote marks is actually this: make sure those teachers-to-be are not extremists who will spread their poison in schools and produce future terrorists. Sounds like a good idea, right? Not really. I mean, can’t those extremists conceal their extremism for a brief interview just to get the job? Can’t they pretend to be tree-hugging, peace-loving, dialogue-embracing, upstanding citizens for the duration of a short encounter with their potential employers?
  • Shiekh Mohammed al-Nujaimi, who once described segregation as one of the fundamentals on which the Saudi state was built and then took a U-turn after al-Shethri fiasco, was recently rumored to be mingling big time with unrelated women during a conference in Kuwait. Interestingly (or maybe not) al-Nujaimi has praised the infamous al-Barrak’s fatwa in which he called for opponents of the kingdom’s strict segregation of men and women to be put to death if they refuse to abandon their ideas. After pictures and videos of his mingling made their way to the web, he first denied what the pictures and videos suggested, and said some of them were photoshopped, which is something the organizers of the event considered so insulting that they threatened to sue him.


    Today, al-Nujaimi finally admitted that he mingled, but he said he did it for all the right reasons: to prevent vice and help those misguided women find the righteous path. This should go well with those women, I guess.

Noura al-Faiz cut out, Op-Ed writers do interviews

  • So Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, the minister of education, had a meeting with teachers. Present at the meeting were senior officials at the ministry, including Noura al-Faiz. At the end of the meeting, photos were taken. Few days later, the PR department at the ministry published special print materials to mark the occasion. However, there was something wrong with the the cover photo: Noura al-Faiz has been cut out! Prince Faisal said he was unhappy that this happened.
  • Ashraf al-Fagih thinks it is so strange that an op-ed writer like him would do an interview. The writer in question is his fellow columnist in al-Watan daily Mahmoud Sabbagh, who prepared the questions for an interview with an STC executive that was published two weeks ago. I agree with most of what Ashraf says. Most Saudi journalists are unprofessional and lack basic skills. However, I don’t think that opinion writers are exempt from doing journalistic tasks like conducting research and doing interviews. Actually, I believe this must be at the heart of their writing.