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

Welcome to Earth

So today I had to dig into my family’s archive to look for the immunization documents from my early years (long story). While flipping through the papers I found this thing:

It is not a birth certificate. It is a gift from the hospital where I was born. It has my picture, date of birth, and wishes of a long prosperous life. I’m the only one of my brothers who has one of these. According to my mother, the hospital stopped giving these away shortly after. My favourite part of it is the polaroid, which is still in a good shape after all these years. The picture was taken during my first few minutes into this world, apparently still inside the incubator. I can only guess what the expression on my face means, but it’s probably a combination of bemusement and boredom. Yeah, I’ve been in this place for like 5 minutes and I was bored already :P

If you liked this one (and seriously, what’s not to like? JK ;-) you might also want to check these two blogposts where I posted old pics from the days when I was fat and happy. A new header for the blog is also in the works, so stay tuned.

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.

Let’s Ban Everything

If I sound irritable lately, it is because I’m going through withdrawal symptoms. It’s been ten full days since I had shawerma for the last time. “Then go get yourself some shawerma,” you might say. Well, I guess you haven’t heard: shawerma is banned in al-Ahsa!

In a boneheaded move, Al-Ahsa municipality decided to ban shawerma during the summer. The whole thing started last year, when some people suffered food poisoning after they had shawerma at different restaurants in town. Following the incidents, the municipality issued an order to all restaurants telling them they are not allowed to serve the delicacy for the four months of summer (yes, summer here can last four, five, and even six months).

ShawermaI’m actually pissed off, not just because I can no longer have one of my favourite meals, but also because of the way the municipality is dealing with the whole matter. Instead of monitoring the restaurants to make sure they are following safety and health regulation, and then punish those who violate them, they go and ban everyone. They are punishing everyone. There are places that sell nothing but shawerma, and this decision would simply kill their business.

This type of collective punishment is easy for the municipality to inflect because the affected parties don’t have the means to protest. What could they do? Go to the municipal council? Please! Plus, even if they wanted, they can’t because they are not Saudis. You see, although these restaurants are owned by Saudi citizens, they are run by foreign workers. They pay an annual fee to the Saudi owner who does not care what the hell happens to the restaurant as long as he gets his money at the end of the year.

I’m really disappointed in al-Ahsa municipality. They have done some good work in building new infrastructure and improving streets and services. But this decision banning shawerma is just ridiculous. In addition to being irresponsible, it shows laziness on their part. They don’t want to do their job of making sure that the regulations are followed, so they go and issue a general ban.

If we are to use the (il)logic of our municipality, then we should close down restaurants altogether since you could get food poisoning from eating anything. While we are at it, we should also ban cars because they kill so many people. We might as well ask men and women not to marry or have children because, you know, they will die at some point. Let’s ban everything. That would make life much easier for many of us, wouldn’t it?

Read more:

Old Pictures from Saudi Arabia

Around two years ago, Google announced that they teamed up with LIFE to put 10,000,000 historic images from the photo archive online. Last night I spent some time searching the archive for images from Saudi Arabia. Here’s some pics that I found:

This picture of Crown Prince — and later King — Faisal was taken in San Francesco, 1945. He was leading the Saudi delegate to the conference to adopt the Charter of the UN.


Taken in 1942, this is a view showing the country 20 miles east of Hofuf, my hometown and where I currently spend most of time.


Former Saudi minister of petroleum Abdullah al-Tariki is seen here at his office in Riyadh. The picture was taken in May 1961.


In the ‘60s, retired American industrialist Thomas W. Kendall and his family took a vacation around the world using their private plane. One of their stops was on the shores of Jeddah.

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.