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.

Fake Posters

Moleculo has made these awesome fake posters:

You are invited to Riyadh International Cinema Festival. Live the real experience inside the theater.

Jeddah Metro: Commuting has become smarter.

Dear female citizen: It’s time for you to drive. You can do it.

Your duty as a citizen is to tell us about any unemployed person. Unemployment has been ended, completely.

The Grand Musical Event: the Saudi Opera, led by maestro Fahad ibn al-Balad. Now, at Buraida Opera Theatre.

Arab News Redesigns

Finally, and after many long years of stagnation, Arab News gave their website a redesign. Nothing groundbreaking, but certainly an improvement over their old one which looked like a website from the mid 90’s.

True to its nickname, the Green Truth, the new design features the green color heavily, using it for all headlines and links. Although I have to say that the green .com next to the newspaper name is pretty lame and it looks rather outdated. The website also uses more pictures in a much nicer way than the old one. But more importantly, they finally introduce RSS, but the feeds are not full so you will have to visit the website to read the articles.

They also decided to open all articles to comments by readers, so that’s something as well. The very first comment on the new AN was about the Grand Mufti’s call for monitoring of massage centers, and it reads: “That’s all this blind man cares about?! I expected him to encourage MOH to care for the poor patients who lose thier (sic) lives due to mistakes and recklessness. I guess massage pose a greater danger!!!”

I guess it will be interesting to watch their policy when it comes to comments. Is it going to be like al-Arabyia’s ‘everything goes’ policy, or something like al-Watan’s which its editor Jamal Khashoggi recently bragged that he employs ten girls whose their sole job is to monitor comments.

But back to the redesign itself, it will be inevitable to compare it to the other English daily in the country, Saudi Gazette, which has also gone through a redesign last year.

While Saudi Gazette uses a solution developed by the local company SmartInfo, which Fouad al-Farhan recently sold, Arab News uses Escenic, a CMS developed by a Norwegian company that was also used for the website of al-Majalla. However, when compared to other regional and international newspapers, both remain pretty barebones. Nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that really stands out.

It is very obvious that newspapers here are still approaching the web with their old mentality. Except for al-Riyadh, which has a very good team of local smart developers, none of these newspapers think of their websites as an important part of their service. None of them has an ‘online newsroom,’ and none of them think of their websites as a new medium where they can build a community where they can engage their readers in ways print cannot do.

I believe that the local internet scene is still lacking on many levels, and there are many opportunities to create excellent Saudi content especially in Arabic. The attempts that we have seen so far in this field are very weak and leave much to be desired. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I have some ideas that I’m working on, so if you are interested please get in touch.

Back (to basics)

The past few weeks were difficult, but I’m glad they are over and behind me now. As you can see, I return with a new design (if you follow the blog using a feeds reader you may want to visit the site to check it out). The redesign is based on Sandbox, and it’s a throwback to the minimalism that inspired the look of Saudi Jeans in its first two years.

Longtime readers probably remember when I used to post a bunch of links to all kinds of stuff everyday. I kept doing something like this through the “shared items” on the right sidebar, but it was not exactly the same. As an experiment, I’m reintroducing the daily links in the main column of the blog with occasional context and/or commentary. However, these linky posts will not be open to comments initially. Based on how the experiment goes, this may or may not continue to be the case.

I’m mostly satisfied with the new design but it’s still kind of rough around the edges, so if you run into anything funny please let me know.

Facebook Friends and Colorful Circles

Fellow blogger Roba al-Assi and I have quite a few things in common: blogging, Riyadh, admiration for Andy Warhol, a passion for the interwebs and stylish geekiness… and, among other things, 17 mutual friends on Facebook.

But Roba and I never actually met in real life.

We keep talking about possible chances to meet, but these chances never seem to come. Ah well, I’m sure we will get to meet some day. Until then, I will kindly ask you to go and check out this awesome post she wrote illustrating the fascinating overlapping of her social circles online.

Cute T-shirts from Nada e-Shop

There are more female bloggers in Saudi Arabia than any other Arab country. We can probably argue over the reasons, but one of the reasons imho is that in the time that real life in the country poses many restrictions on women, the internet is offering an outlet for them where they can express themselves and show their colors to the world but also maintain a certain level of privacy and protection. Girls are not only using blogs to speak their minds, but also to showcase their talents, and even use these talents to make money. I have previously posted about iNouf’s laptop sleeves, and last week I came across another interesting example.

Welcome to Nada e-Shop, where brush + colors + t-shirt = drawn by hand, not printed artwork turned into business. Nada al-Mughaidi has graduated from the College of Education in Jubail, but her dream as a child was to become a cartoonist. She started drawing on t-shirts for her family and friends, who encouraged her to start a custom t-shirt business. In May 2008, Nada launched her blog and started taking orders. The blog also includes pages for rules, FAQs, and prices. She is based in Dammam, east of the country, but she shipping is available to any place inside and outside the Kingdom. What I really like is that every design is only produced once, so you will get a t-shirt like no other. The blog is in Arabic, but you can check out samples from Nada’s designs on her Flickr page.