Saudi Jeans turns seven

This blog has turned seven a couple of days ago. I said before that when I started this thing I never thought it would last long. But here we are, and I still can’t believe it’s been this long. Now I know that the past ten months were not exactly the best for the blog. I’ve been extremely busy with grad school, which meant Saudi Jeans was neglected and the updates were few and far between. I’m still passionate about blogging, and I still have much to say about things in Saudi Arabia and beyond. Next week I will graduate from Columbia Journalism School, so you can expect to see a higher frequency of posting here. I will probably write a blogpost reflecting on my experience at Columbia and New York, but for now feel free to take a look at my master’s project which examines the rise of Arab American standup comedy.

Thank you all for reading, commenting and just being great over these years. I feel lucky to have a portion of your attention and share my thoughts with you, and hope to continue doing that for years to come.

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Egypt: Domino Effect in Action?

I have been glued to the TV (and the laptop, the iPad and the iPhone) over the past few days, closely watching the events unfolding in Egypt. Thrilled to see Egyptians uprise against Mubarak, and concerned over the safety of my friends in the streets of Cairo. The regime has been trying to cut off the country from the rest of the world by shutting down the internet and mobile telecommunication. Obama statement was very disappointing, but I guess that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that the Egyptian people are standing up for their rights, and I hope that they won’t stop until they get them. Al Jazeera English is providing a great coverage, and CNN International is also doing a decent job, but I pay most of my attention to what people are saying on Twitter. This is the domino effect in realtime. Below are some pictures that I took during a demonstration held near the UN here in New York earlier today:

Miscellany from the past two weeks

  • So a couple of week ago, the Saudi Council of Senior Ulema issued a fatwa banning female cashiers. What happens next? Saudi Arabia gets a seat on the board of UN Women, the new United Nations super agency that is supposed to focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is not a bad joke, as Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said. It’s a reality now. It’s been 20 years since 47 Saudi women led a protest in Riyadh to drive cars. They are still not allowed to drive.
  • Jamal Ghosn: “I am not worried about the stockpiling of weapons, since I’m not naive to think that ever stops. I’m not worried about a certain $60 billion purchase of weapons, although I do wonder what will be the return on investment when it’s sold as scrap metal.”
  • At the time when I’m getting lost in Manhattan to report stories about life in New York, my good friends Ali al-Khalthami and Fahad al-Butairi back home get to do awesome, fun stuff like this:
  • The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association have announced that they plan to sue the Ministry of Interior on behalf of all those banned from traveling without a legal sentence. The current list of travel bans include some prominent activists such as Abdullah al-Hamed and Matrouk al-Faleh.
  • A group of wildlife lovers in Riyadh are leading efforts to free an endangered Arabian Lynx that has been imprisoned in a pet shop in a small glass box with a hard, concrete floor for over 4 years. How can you help? Glad you asked. Go to this Facebook group, and contact the Saudi Wildlife Commission.
  • Anyone who lived in the western region of Saudi Arabia can talk to you for hours about how great and delicious AlBaik chicken is. People living in other parts of the country are out of luck as they don’t have any branches there. There are several theories that have been flying for years as to why AlBaik don’t open in other regions, including one that involves the richest Saudi man alive. Nobody, however, has confirmed information on the true reason behind this geographic conundrum for friend chicken lovers.
  • I know it’s almost mid November, but Lou K has a pretty good post about once a pretty “Saudi” October. Probably unrelated, but you also may want to read The skinny on Jeddah dating.
  • The Brookings Institution’s Doha Center has launched its 2010 essay contest. It’s designed only for students living/studying in the 22 Arab states between the ages of 20 and 30, and the hope is to identify talent for political analysis in the region, as well as provide an unprecedented and independent platform to share their views with political leaders and pundits, the media, and the public at large. The first place winner will receive $2000, the runner up $1000, and honorable mention(s) $500. You can find more details here.
  • Sorry about the hiatus. Been busy with school. Here is two examples from the stuff I’ve been working on.

Scholarship students complain, Saudis big on the net, new header

  • The BBC website has this nice audio slideshow about the visit of Princess Alice Countess of Athlone, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Saudi Arabia in 1938.
  • Saudi scholarship students in the US complain that high living costs force them to take on part-time jobs. Welcome to the real world, kids.
  • According to a recent study, people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China are the busiest and most enthusiastic internet users, a study of the world’s online habits has revealed. So yeah, I guess we are big on the internet. Yay.
  • I have changed the header image. The new image is actually not very new. This photo was taken in New York three years ago.

Columbia

Probably most of you already know this by now, but I was actually planning to post about it earlier and did not have a chance. It is long overdue, but I guess better late than never.

Earlier this year I was accepted to the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. However, until the last week of July I was not sure that I will be studying here. My uncertainty had nothing to do with my desire to come to Columbia. It’s just that coming up with the needed finances to be here proved to be much, much more troublesome than anybody anticipated. But in the end everything somehow worked out, and shortly after that I put myself on a plane flying across the Atlantic.

I arrived to New York just a few days before school started on August 9. I was hoping to arrive a couple of weeks earlier to settle down and get used to the city before we start but that hope unfortunately evaporated due to the mentioned above problem and visa delays. I have basically hit the ground running, and have been running like crazy since then. The J-School is a lot of work, but for the most part I’m enjoying it. It is hard to believe that two months have already passed, but here we are, overwhelmed by deadlines, assignments and projects.

This is the reason why I have been neglecting the blog lately, but it is certainly not an excuse. As I promised two days ago, I will try my best to keep the blog up while I’m NYC.

That’s all I have to say for now. Before I go, I need to thank some many people. This will sound like a very, very long acceptance speech, so please bear with me…

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I’m Still Here

I’m not dead (and this post is not about Casey Affleck’s movie/hoax). Just been extremely busy. Good busy, for the most part. I usually hate this kind of “why I’m not blogging” blog posts, but I decided to write one to embarrass myself into getting back to the habit of blogging. I promise that I will somehow fit this into my schedule and update the blog regularly. If I don’t, feel free to abuse me in the comments :-)

Protests near Ground Zero

Today marks the ninth anniversary of 9/11. The day witnessed heated demonstrations — against and for the proposed Islamic community center — two blocks away from ground zero. I was there this afternoon with a friend of mine, and took some pictures.

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