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.

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Twenty-Six

I’m 26 and I’m still here. I’m still not sure where I’m going next, and I’m still not sure where I will be for my next birthday. I’m not sure about anything anymore. Here’s to the waiting, uncertainty, and lifelong dreams…

Saudi Jeans Turns Six

I celebrate the sixth anniversary of Saudi Jeans today. The blog that I started just for fun has claimed a life of its own, and has in many ways become central to my own life. It has been a great journey. Like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, turns and twists, joy and fear. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes nice, sometimes nasty. But always, always interesting.

Some argue that although I say the goal of this blog is to push for change in Saudi Arabia, little has changed in the country and this little has nothing to do with Saudi Jeans or blogging. That could be true, and I’m okay with it. Changing a nation is too great of an endeavour for a humble blog like mine to meet. But for me the question is not if blogging has changed (or can change) Saudi Arabia or not. The question I keep asking myself is: is it wroth trying? And my answer is absolutely yes.

I know that I aim too high. That’s just me. I can’t settle for less, I want everything. I’m greedy like that, but I don’t accept injustice and I believe that we, as people, deserve better. My dreams are big and wild, but I will never suppress them. You can share those dreams, or laugh at them, but you can’t stop me, and you can’t shut me up.

What the future holds for Saudi Jeans? I don’t know, to be honest. After I wrote this blogpost on new year’s eve, some readers had the impression that I was laying the ground to announce later the end of the blog. It certainly wasn’t the case. Saudi Jeans will be around for at least one more year. There is a big chance I might leave the country in the coming few weeks. I will be away from KSA for a while, and I’m still unsure what is that going to mean for Saudi Jeans. I, however, plan to continue blogging from abroad.

Allow me in the end to express my gratitude to my family and friends for I’m nothing without them, and thank you readers for giving me some of your attention over these years.

The kid in the video is my little brother Mohammed. I took this video about two weeks ago in an amusement park here in Hofuf, east of Saudi Arabia.

7

Last night we celebrated the seventh birthday of my little brother Mohammed. Don’t let the picture fool you, it was really fun :P

birthday

God, I love this kid.

Unhappy Birthday

As someone born and raised in Saudi Arabia, I am quite familiar with the kind and amount of hostility Wahhabi teachings hold against the display of joy in most aspects of daily life because they view such display in contradiction with the piety and solemnity that is required in a Muslim. This can be explained by their obsession over superficialities and their disregard of all things mortal. The hostility is clearly seen in their attitude towards celebrating occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

So when I heard Sheikh Salman al-Awdah speaking on his TV show last week on the permissibility of such celebrations I was sure that he would get a lot a of heat for that statement. Al-Awdah, a former poster boy of Sahwa, has been increasingly distancing himself from the official religious establishment of the country, promoting more tolerant fatwas and opinions that obviously deviates from orthodox Wahhabism. His new approach gained him some popularity with the public, but not much from the old guard who seemed to ignore him.

This time, however, they think that he has gone too far. The matter of birthdays and anniversaries, silly and insignificant as it may sound, was just too much for them that the Grand Mufti himself came out saying “such a call is against righteousness.” Other scholars such as Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie said al-Awdah made a mistake and urged him to retract what he had said.

The Wahhabis’ rationale (if you can call it that) for their contempt of celebrating birthdays and anniversaries is because they consider it to be in imitation of non-Muslim practices, but they don’t go out of their way to explain what is exactly so un-Islamic about it. The lame excuse of imitating others is xenophobic, but that is of course not surprising because xenophobia is very characteristic of Wahhabism.

Although the official religious establishment here is disturbingly zealous when it come to such trivial matters, they don’t mind twisting and zigzagging for political gain. For instance, until recently, marking the national day which falls on the 23rd of this month, was a big no-no. Then, and for reasons that I leave to your imagination, they said it is ok to dignify the day provided you won’t call it “Eid.” It seems to me like a mere technicality, but what do I know?

Twenty-Four

I’m turning 24 today, and I don’t know what to make of it.

Usually, I’m not so big on birthdays. Why should people celebrate getting older, especially that few years later they will wish they were younger?

Living for almost quarter of a century, I have come to realize how useless my life has been so far. Not that I’m not trying, but I just fail. Again and again. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough? Or am I trying too hard that I can’t put things in perspective anymore?

I don’t know.


My birthday cake from last year. Courtesy of my roommate.

When I think about the past year, and despite all disappointments and failures, after all is said and done, I believe that I am blessed and lucky. Blessed because I have people in my life who made it their mission to see me happy and content; and lucky because although I have not done anything impressive, many good things happened to me.

I have made great friends, I have traveled to new places, and above all I have been overwhelmed by people’s kindness. Whether those people know me better than I know myself, or total strangers who recognized me in airports and restaurants, I have come to see and feel the goodness inside them, and it was a reminder that no matter how hard life can get, that it is with love and compassion that we survive.