Thoughts on Jeddah

Three weeks have passed since the Jeddah catastrophe. People now are eagerly waiting for the verdict of the investigation commission. While we are waiting, it might be useful to look back and reflect.

The heavy downpour has exposed some nasty things such as the nonexistent infrastructure and the abundant corruption. But like what happens with many other things in life, sometimes we need to see the ugliness before we see the beauty. There are at least two good things I saw coming out of this disaster: the great spirit of the people, and the power of social media.

In the days and nights following Black Wednesday, we have seen more than 7,000 persons who volunteered to help in any and every way they can. I’m proud of Ibrahim al-Kushi who opened his house to shelter the displaced. I’m proud of Bassem Kurdi who decided to stay at the hospital when everybody else told him to go home. I’m proud of so many young men and women who, despite the harassment of some self-appointed guards of morality, rolled up their sleeves and spent countless hours at al-Harthi Exhibition Center to organize, distribute, and deliver the donations to those who need them in the most damaged areas of the city.

The relief efforts have been largely coordinated using the internet and social media tools. One Facebook group in particular was central to these efforts as it acted like an umbrella and a gathering point for volunteers. The group is called Rescue Jeddah, and it boasts more than 9,000 members. The content there is all in Arabic but you don’t need to read anything to see what they have been up to. Just look at the pictures and the videos and you will get a good idea on what they have done so far.

Beside Facebook, people were using blogs, Twitter, and SMS to circulate the latest news. They were also using Flickr and YouTube to document what was happening in real time. Some of the pictures, like the one of the dead little girl covered with mud, were really disturbing. But I think that in crises you need shocking images to make others understand the gravity of the disaster.

As for videos, estimates say more than 400 videos have been uploaded over the past three weeks. Most of these were taken by citizens using their mobile phones, but I have also seen some well-produced videos like this one by Mohammed al-Rehaili. In the end, I will leave you with this short film by Bader al-Homoud, who captures the tragedy but instead decides to focus on the bright human side of the story:

Read more:

  • One of my favourite blog posts about the disaster is this by McToom in which he offers an illustration on the basics of drainage systems. You know, because our officials are too busy to read long blog posts like mine.
  • Khaled al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of Arab News, wrote a letter to Makkah governor. “At the moment, the people of Jeddah and the surrounding areas are hurt, sad, anguished and in both physical and mental pain,” he said.
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10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Jeddah

  1. I just wanted to add my voice to that of Ahmeds, and say how proud I am in seeing the youth of tomorrow pulling together =)

    Also how proud I am of the brave girls of Jeddah and particularly my sisters (whom I was surprised to see in the video too I must say!!!) in standing up to the crowds of cowardly belligerent men, who did not want to help, and stood in the way of women in helping out! (Whilst until today, together with the large group of volunteers) the girls are working around the clock, those men (who tried to stop them) have given up and allowed these girls to prove them selves in our society- hands on, doing the jobs that would of only be perceived as a “mans” job only weeks ago!! Well-done girls!!!!

    However we must not forget the sad reality we still live in– I was told a story about a guy during this catastrophe who got stuck in the floods with his wife and daughter in the car. The guy swam to safety, and as he did not have the strength to swim back to save his family, but he did however have to the strength to stand in the way of young men who wanted to rescue the wife and daughter—may they rest in peace

    I hope this is a harsh reminder of the kind of aggression the younger generation of females (and males) are facing in today’s Saudi society– God bless you Jeddah- God bless you ahl Jeddah- and god bless you the people who make me proud to be Saudi, because you are the shimmer of hope that will put us back on the map!

    • Bravo to your sisters! This type of crisis does separate the men from the boys, and the women from the girls.

      Great blog you have! As a psychiatrist and an aunt, I particularly liked the example in your post on 4 ways to treat people of the 5 year old who thought he had accepted to die to save his sister’s life. I may use that one as a teaching or research example–with all due credit of course!

  2. Ahmed–outstanding post! All the links and the video were excellent, in addition to your excellent framing.

    All–can anyone explain what “wearing our ‘bishoots’ ” in the Al Maeena article means, ie the ‘bishoots’ part? Thanks.

  3. You are very good at taking somthing that has the capasaty to b so complecated and just telling it as it is for al mand kind to comprehend…
    i only hope one would folow up with this tragedy and advis an ergashion simple sestom ..
    will wate to see what hapens
    thanks for keeping it real

  4. ooohshiny–thanks for sharing this. I hope financial compensation and Saudi citizenship are granted to all his family, ie wife included as the article mentions children only.

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