Maysoon explains herself

So Maysoon Azzam, the anchor from Al Arabiya channel who could not stop herself from laughing on screen while reading the news few days ago, finally decided to come out and explain why she was laughing so hard. Well, she did not exactly state the reason behind the laughing, but she justified it saying she is only human and not a robot.

Shocking.

Because I have always thought that Maysoon Azzam, Suhair al-Qaisay, Rima Maktabi, and the rest of Al Arabiya anchors were pure angels who descended upon us from the heavenly skies, to peek from the silver screens of our televisions and tell us the horror stories of war and conflict with a smile on their pretty faces. It has never, ever, not even for a single moment, crossed my mind that they could be mere mortals like me. Sorry. My bad.

UPDATE: Okay, that’s strange. The link above to the article that Maysoon Azzam has written on Alarabiya.net no longer works. It seems that the article has been deleted from the channel website. However, the piece has been already republished in many other websites. You can find it here and here. In her article Azzam says the management “understood what happened and received the incident and the reason behind it with a supportive smile.” The sudden deletion of her article probably suggests otherwise.

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Untie

This comes from teh Green Truth today:

Many Saudis are lamenting the way family ties in the Kingdom have become weak, something that seems to have become one of the hallmarks of modern life and is in stark contrast to how people in the region used to live not so long ago.

I, for one, am not. I think family ties in the Kingdom are still strong. They are too strong, actually, that distant relatives somehow believe they have the freedom to intervene in your so-called modern life. This freedom, nevertheless, is limited to them and cannot be extended to you because first, who are you? and second, what do you know?

“Families are no longer what they used to be. The entire family system has disintegrated. You can nowadays find fathers and sons at loggerheads and cousins hostile to each other,” said one Saudi old man in Makkah who asked for his name not to be published.

Not what they used to be? The entire system disintegrated? I’m sorry, is there a heated debate about gay marriage in the country that I’m not aware of? And btw, fathers and sons disagreements are ancient. In other places they are called “generational differences,” and I think you should know this, especially since you like using 17th century vocabulary like loggerheads and stuff. Also, what’s up with the privacy freakishness, old man? But I will cut you some slack. I understand that you probably don’t want to get in trouble like those kids who appeared on MTV.

Saudi woman Latifa Ali said she has not been on speaking terms with her sister for over 10 years and has tried to make up on numerous occasions. “My sister is adamant in boycotting me. She wanted her son to marry my daughter but I refused for several reasons. My daughter is a university graduate while her son has only studied until secondary school. He was also unemployed at the time. My daughter refused to marry him and there was no way I could force her,” she said. Latifa Ali misses her sister whom she loved and was very close to. “I felt safe with her. I still long to be with her but she doesn’t want to be with me. She considers my daughter’s rejection of her son an insult,” she added.

Aww… inter-family marriages and their never ending drama. I have seen this happening in my family hundreds of times, but would that ever stop them? Never. Despite recent evidence to the disastrous consequences of such marriages on those much cherished ties, my mom is still willing to lose an arm just so I agree to to marry her niece. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not because I care about the oh-so-important ties, but simply because I hate congenital diseases. Not to mention that I find this way of getting married arbitrary and outdated.

Hassan Ali, another Saudi who lives in Makkah, said he fell out with his brother after he argued with his sister-in-law who used to meddle in his personal family affairs. “My brother became angry and sided with his wife. We’ve not spoken for five years. We’ve failed to make up even though I’ve tried a lot to do so,” he said. “I love his children who also love me but he’s threatened to kick them out of the house and deprive them of their inheritance if they even dare speak to me,” he added.

See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about. When close becomes too close, you are just asking for trouble. I can’t help but notice though that Hassan’s brother is too influenced by old Arabic movies and their stupid oft-repeated family feuds. Deprive his children of inheritance? Classic.

Uncle Saad is 72 years old. With tears in his eyes, he mentioned that his children are alive and yet do not see him. “My children left me and their mother who died just two years ago. They only ring me on occasions and just visit me out of duty,” he said. “My neighbors help me and take care of me. They give me money and clothes. My sons and daughters are also busy with their own families,” he added.

I won’t say anything here because this is just sad.

Huda Al-Fahim said it has been a year since she had a dispute with her brother. “He asked me to give up my share of inheritance after my father died. He had been pressured by his wife. I refused and complained to the authorities who then allotted me my share. He then kicked me out of the house and has not talked to me since,” she added. Huda has tried hard to reconcile but her brother refuses to budge. “I do not know how long this will continue. It is totally against the teachings of Islam to boycott your own kin and blood,” she said.

That is a typical case of the familiar brotherly bullying after the father’s death, and I’m afraid it has little to do with the lamented weakening of family ties allegedly caused by changes in modern life. I don’t see why Ms. Huda is so keen to make up with a brother who is acting like a jackass. Until he starts to use his brain again, I say good riddance.

Commenting on the issue, Raid Kurdi, an education expert, said family bonds are not as strong as before but that the problem has not reached a worrying level. “Families should look carefully at the reasons why they are falling out with each other,” he said. “We need to, however, deal with this issue. We need to reject it and make efforts to keep families together. This is important,” he added.

Enter the expert. Our expert analyzed this incredibly fascinating, although admittedly troubling, phenomenon and came up with the perfect solution: “We need to reject it.” Totally. Because, you know, “This is important.” You heard that? Im-freaking-portant. If you don’t realize this by now, and we are nearing the end of our very interesting “news story,” then you might as well want to kill yourself or something.

He also said such matters do not usually worry non-Muslim societies because family bonds are not very important for them in general. “We do not have the same respect for the elderly as we used to have in the past. We’ve also become impatient with each other,” he added. Kurdi also called for more efforts to inculcate love and respect among members of the same family.

However, this piece cannot be complete without some good ol’ bashing of “the other,” so before I go allow me to say: damn those infidels! It turns out the weakened family ties are not merely the result of changes in modern life — whatever that maybe in our little corner of the world — but also due to foreign influence, because we, as God honest infallible Muslims, never do anything wrong.

Love and respect. Hell yeah.

LOL On Air

Al Arabiya anchor Maysoon Azzam lost her composure on air when one of her colleagues stumbled to the ground behind the camera. All her attempts to suppress laughter failed and she had to end the news bulletin rather prematurely. As Jon Stewart would say, here it is your moment of zen:

Advice to KASP boys & girls, letter to King Abdullah, more families only

  • Fouad al-Farhan wrote a very good blogpost, analyzing the different types of Saudi students abroad, and offering some invaluable advice to the boys and girls of KASP. What I find incredibly disheartening and slightly funny is how some commenters there totally ignored the whole gist of the post and focused instead on Fouad’s choice of words, despite the fact that the words they found objectionable were not meant for a specific person(s). It just shows you how some people here can be extremely oversensitive, unbelievably easily offended, and absolutely thin-skinned.
  • Last week coincided with the fifth anniversary of King Abdullah’s ascend to the throne. Many congratulatory ads have been published in newspapers. Many overly praising items have been written and broadcasted. But leave it to fellow blogger Ahmed Ba-Aboud to put things in perspective. “King Abdullah, don’t listen to them,” he says.
  • Two guys at the grocery store checkout counter. Their groceries include a large soda bottle aka “family size” bottle. They are told they can’t buy it because, like many other things in the country, it’s for families only. Hilarious, but I won’t be too surprised if it happens in real life. It is exactly this kind fanaticism we are particularly good at.


    The video was created by the awesome Malik Nejer. More of his work can be found here.

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:

Ahmad al-Ghamdi sacked (or maybe not), Quarter to Nine news cast

  • Ahmad Qassim al-Ghamdi, the head of CPVPV in Makkah was sacked. No, he wasn’t. Yes, he was. No, he wasn’t. Well, apparently nobody knows for sure. The grand mufti came out with a strong statement few days criticizing al-Ghamdi, practically telling him to keep his mouth shut. Confusion is still dominating this matter. Will update you as things clear up. UPDATE: a spokesman for CPVPV sent a message to al-Hayat daily saying the news are inaccurate.
  • Arab News reports on Sah, a local internet channel that has gained some more attention lately. I have been following their satirical news show “Quarter to Nine,” and I have to say that I find it pretty nice. I think they could do a better job finding bizarre stuff in Saudi newspapers to make fun of, but for now they are doing okay. It’s a good example of what good content the new generation of Saudis can create using new media tools.

Watch this

Okay, so here are three videos that have been making the rounds on the local interwebs lately:

This is a commercial for the Saudi teleco giant Mobily. As with most of their ads, it is of high production quality. But that’s not what make it interesting. What makes it interesting is the fact that it stars Prince Abdullah bin Meteb, the grandson of King Abdullah. This is the first time a prince appears in a commercial, and some people think such thing signifies a change in the way members of the Saudi royal family conduct themselves. I don’t know. I mean, can’t this be just a sports sponsorship deal? Prince Abdullah is a professional rider who could use a sponsor for such an expensive career, and Mobily is a for-profit company who wants to improve their image and make more money. I, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when I saw the tv ad.

In this video, a man who allegedly belongs to the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is seen ambushing a jalsa which is basically a small gathering where people entertain themselves with music and dancing. The bearded man snatches the oud from the singer’s lap with a swift move, and then smashed it to the ground in a scene more commonly associated with rock concerts. So much for calling to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.

The Cube is a popular British game show. For some reason, the Saudi state TV thought it was a good idea to bring it to their screen. The Saudi version is the same as the British one, except that our version has a nutty host who keeps on screaming. This video was put together by fellow blogger Raed al-Saeed, who previously produced Schism and Why Gaza children don’t deserve to be killed. I wonder if what he did is legal under the new e-media law proposed by MOCI :P