Happy Eid

Eid Mubarak

Wishing you all a peaceful and prosperous Eid, enjoyed with your family and friends. May Allah accept your deeds and forgive your lapses.

The picture in the background is a view from the top of Gara Mountain in al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia.

About these ads

Groomy

I don’t like going to weddings. But in every summer I get to go to more than my fair share of them. It’s just one part of the social obligations that come with the ties we talked about before. And with the high number of young single men in the family, it seems there is always a wedding around the corner. We had one last month, another this week, and we have three upcoming weddings in one household scheduled for later this year. Below is a short video I took during a family wedding two days ago.

Municipal fail, World Cup ministries, MOI can haz HR dept

  • The Municipal Council in al-Ahsa has failed to achieve the hopes of its members and the citizens who elected them, member of the council Hejji al-Nejaidi admitted. In a brief interview with Okaz daily al-Nejaidi accused the municipality of transferring SR17m that were allocated to develop Prince Meteb bin Abdulziz Road to some unknown project. He also accused the municipality of ignoring the council and not taking it seriously. “Eighty percent of the council’s suggestions and requests to the municipality have not been addressed.” Oddly enough (or maybe not) the head of the municipality also heads the municipal council, of which half members are elected and the other half are appointed. I have voted for al-Nejaidi back in 2005.
  • Khalaf al-Harbi likens the different government ministries to the football teams playing in the Wold Cup: “he Ministry of Culture and Information is like the USA team: it can relax in the knowledge that its mere presence at the World Cup is achievement enough, and more so given that its would-be audience is otherwise engaged watching baseball and basketball. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is like Italy: a solid defense and prepared to rough things up, with a preoccupation for not conceding in order to snatch the trophy on penalties…”
  • Today’s picture comes from a meeting between the deputy minister of education Norah al-Faiz and senior officials at the education department in al-Zulfi. Where is the deputy minister? Was she cut out of the picture like last time? No. This time she is not actually in the picture. No, she was not videoconferencing from her lofty office in Riyadh. She was in another room nearby, probably in the same building. The meeting was conducted using what al-Riyadh daily called an “audio circuit.” Al-Faiz has emphasized the importance of prayer rooms in girls schools, and instructed teachers to watch their students to make sure that they are praying on time.

    Norah al-Faiz meeting

  • File this under the FYI category. The Ministry of Interior said they launched a human rights department. The department will receive remarks and complaints from the public about the performance of security personnel. They have toll free telephone numbers, 989 from inside the Kingdom and 0096612928888 from outside the Kingdom, for members of the public to express their opinions or report those security officials who have broken the law. The department also aims to ensure that the public is made aware that security officials are not above the law and that justice will take its course against those who abuse their powers. The service allows the public to send their remarks in Arabic and English. The ministry said it has sent some staffers on scholarships to the US and Canada where they attended crash courses in English and computer terminology.

Education reform, Hassawi bisht, women in pharmacies

  • When the Saudi cabinet was reshuffled on Valentine’s Day last year, I said let’s not be overoptimistic. I thought the new ministers will need time before we can evaluate how they performed. About one year later, the minister of education asked today for three more years in order to “turn our ideas and visions for education development into reality.” I would happily give him these three years and then some more if he can really fix the education system, because if he could that would be the best thing to happen to Saudi Arabia since sliced bread.
  • Asharq al-Awsat has a short piece about the bisht, the cloak men wear over the white thobe in Saudi Arabia. Particularly, the Hassawi bisht that is made here in my hometown of Ahsa. It used to take about ten day to sew one of these by hand, but new technology allows you know to make 10 of them in one day. However, some people still prefer the handmade ones. Oh yeah, and the prices can go from $260 to $7000.
  • The ministery of health is studying a proposal to allow women to work in community pharmacies and optics shops. Currently, female pharmacists and optics technicians are only allowed to practice their jobs inside hospitals. The proposal was made by Jeddach Chamber of Commerce, who said they will keep pushing this proposal over the next three years. Aysha Natto, member of the Chamber, denied that this proposal is challenging the social norms in any way. Natto says the men who deal with women inside hospitals are the same men who will deal with them in community pharmacies. “It doesn’t make sense to continue viewing men in our society as wolves that look for women in every place,” she added.

What Laws Are For?

Although I have previously complained about the vagueness of some articles in Saudi Arabia’s newly implemented E-Crimes Act, my conviction was that having a flawed law that could be rectified later is better that not having a law at all. Today, Arab News runs this story about a man from my hometown of Ahsa who has been prosecuted according to the new law.

A court in the Eastern Province city fined the man SR50,000, sentenced him to 22 months in jail and 200 lashes for breaking into an e-mail account of a young woman and getting personal photos of her. The man was found guilty of blackmailing the woman by threatening to disseminate her pictures online and to her parents if she did not agree to have an affair with him.

However, there is something here that I don’t understand. I have read the E-Crimes Act and I can’t find any mention of lashing as a punishment for committing any of the violations there. Under the new law, people found guilty of using computers to commit crimes could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to SR5 million, but lashing is not one of the punishments the law stated for these crimes.

How come that this man is being sentenced to a punishment that can’t be found in the law? How can this happen? Are the judges free to add any punishment they think is appropriate for a crime even if it is not part of the law on which the accused is being prosecuted?

Old Kout

My family used to live in the heart of Hofuf, the Old Kout neighborhood. My grandfather and his two brothers owned small adjacent houses in those narrow allies, before they moved out to newer areas of the city over 40 years ago. My grandfather passed away when my father was only six years old, and my grandmother had to work to provide for the family, but they could not even afford to have electricity.

The financial hardships have caused my father to think of dropping high school and get a job, but his mother firmly refused and insisted that he continues his education. He studied under the dim light of a kerosene lamp, and went to become teacher. May his soul rest in peace.

Roba’s recent post about her fascination in abandoned spaces has encouraged me to do something I have always wanted to do. I wanted to go downtown and take pictures of the old houses, although I have never lived in them but something about them just kept pulling me. Maybe it was the stories my family have told me, maybe it is something else, but I have finally decided to go there with my new camera.

Sadly, most of the muddy houses have been destroyed by rain and fires. Despite going there many times with my father when I was younger, I could not recognize the houses. The rest of the neighborhood is mostly deserted except for a few houses occupied by poor workers.






Vote for Ahsa!

My beloved hometown of Ahsa (aka Hassa) has entered the race of candidates for the New 7 Wonders of Nature Nominees. This is the second campaign for the New7Wonders Foundation after their first campaign to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Friends of Light

Jordan’s rose-red city of Petra has won in the first campaign, and they are also present in the new list with Wadi Rum. Now I don’t think Ahsa will make it to the final nominees (it’s in the 47th place right now), but hey, please do me a favor and go vote. It will cost you nothing and you will make me happy :-)