- Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. But when they go outside the cities they usually get behind the wheel for fun. Sometimes, accidents happen. This week, a young woman in her twenties died along with three female friends when her car overturned outside Riyadh.
- King Abdullah arrived to the US on Monday for treatment of a herniated spinal disc and a blood clot that is causing him back pain. Worrying news for the Saudis, no doubt. Interestingly, the royal court seems pretty transparent about the King’s health situation. By Saudi standards, this type of transparency is quite unusual.
- Residents of the Middle East who are heavy viewers of Arab television news networks like Al Jazeera are more likely to view their primary identity as that of Muslims, rather than as citizens of their own country, a new study suggests. Huh?
- Lou K has been on a roll lately. His latest: How to create a Viral Email (Saudi Edition).
- Katherine Zoepf was in Riyadh earlier this year to report on women’s issues. Her latest piece on Saudi female athletes was published on the front page of the Times last Saturday. I actually never bought the argument that the IOC would ban Saudi Arabia from competing in the Olympics because of the restrictions it puts on women’s sports.
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.
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.
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:
- Broadcast rights of major sports events such as the World Cup used to be a hot topic for debate in the Arab World. Not anymore as most people here have grown accustomed to the realities of premium TV in the region. But something in this article from the New York Times caught my attention: “In many smaller European countries, public broadcasters still have a firm grip on the World Cup, under a collective agreement between FIFA, the governing body for the tournament, and the European Broadcasting Union, a group representing public broadcasters. A similar deal was signed between FIFA and the African Union of Broadcasters, providing viewers with free access to all the World Cup matches across much of sub-Saharan Africa.” Why this is not the case here? In the Middle East there is such a union. It’s called ASBU. Unfortunately for the people in this region, ASBU is too weak and has been subdued by private TV networks owned by individuals with close ties to Arab government. Go figure.
- Speaking for the World Cup, Saudi Arabia did not make it to this year’s tournament for the first time since 1994. This failure to qualify and other local sports issues have been recently discussed in the Shoura Council. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW) has come under strong criticism from Shoura members who questioned the performance of GPWY and how they spend their budget. I highly doubt this will change anything in that aging body, but I’m glad to see them getting kicked, even if it was merely symbolic.