• The minister of justice said his department is drafting a law that would allow female lawyers to argue legal cases in court for the first time. Progress, I guess.
  • Finally al-Ahsa is getting its share of the development cake. I was hoping that SAGIA would choose the region for its new project, but it’s actually SCTA that decided to invest here. Al-Oqair beach, one of my favouirte spots on the east coast, will be the home for a SR50b tourist city that is expected to create 80,000 jobs and generate SR100m in annual revenue.

Craving Driving

Craving is one of the common symptoms of pregnancy. Usually, women during pregnancy tend to crave certain foods not normally considered a favourite. Those cravings are not completely understood, but many doctors think they are related to hormonal changes. However, they are not limited to foods, and in our local culture pregnancy cravings are taken very seriously due to the belief that if a craving is not satisfied the baby will be born with a skin mark that resembles the craving.

Now, why am I talking about this? Well, this is why…

A policeman was patrolling the ring road in Hofuf, east of Saudi Arabia, when he noticed a car that was being driven in a strange manner. He asked the driver to pull over. To his surprise, the driver was a woman, and her husband was in the passenger seat. The husband tried to convince the policeman that he had to let his wife drive because she is pregnant and has been craving driving the car for days. The husband said he knows it is illegal for women to drive, but he allowed her to do so because she was craving it so badly and he was afraid his baby would be harmed. The policeman handed a ticket to the husband and warned him not to repeat the offense.

Moral of the story? Pregnant or not, Saudi women should not crave driving because they will simply be asking for a ticket. Unless, of course, they have a big fat wasta, but that’s another story…

Saudi Dates

No, I’m not talking about that kind of dates, because as I’ve previously said on this blog, dating in Saudi Arabia is a risky business which I prefer not to get myself involved in. What I’m talking about here is those nice little things you find at the top of palm trees; dates that you can actually eat.

On the recently revived Jeddah Food blog I found this link to an article from the July/August 2004 issue of Saudi Aramco World magazine by author and photojournalist Eric Hansen. In the article, we follow Hansen in his journey to chronicle the history of dates production in the US, and later on his trip all the way to Saudi Arabia in order to compare the quality of dates between the two countries.

Al-Hasa, my hometown, is well-known for producing some of the best dates in the world. One type in particular, khlas, has a legendary reputation for its sweet taste. Reading through the two parts of the article made me feel proud, but it also made me feel a bit sad because growing dates has become a dying profession. The process consumes huge amounts of water, and as most of the natural water springs in the region have dried up, the costs have been rising to a degree where production for commercial purposes is becoming less and less profitable.

One point the writer gets right though, and I’m certainly glad that he does, is that most Hassawis don’t buy their dates from the market but rather from farmers they know directly. Not to mention of course that most families receive amounts of dates as gifts from friends and relatives. Actually, in many years we get more than what we need of dates that we end up giving away some of it and freeze some of it to enjoy later in the year.

Old Kout

My family used to live in the heart of Hofuf, the Old Kout neighborhood. My grandfather and his two brothers owned small adjacent houses in those narrow allies, before they moved out to newer areas of the city over 40 years ago. My grandfather passed away when my father was only six years old, and my grandmother had to work to provide for the family, but they could not even afford to have electricity.

The financial hardships have caused my father to think of dropping high school and get a job, but his mother firmly refused and insisted that he continues his education. He studied under the dim light of a kerosene lamp, and went to become teacher. May his soul rest in peace.

Roba’s recent post about her fascination in abandoned spaces has encouraged me to do something I have always wanted to do. I wanted to go downtown and take pictures of the old houses, although I have never lived in them but something about them just kept pulling me. Maybe it was the stories my family have told me, maybe it is something else, but I have finally decided to go there with my new camera.

Sadly, most of the muddy houses have been destroyed by rain and fires. Despite going there many times with my father when I was younger, I could not recognize the houses. The rest of the neighborhood is mostly deserted except for a few houses occupied by poor workers.

Vote for Ahsa!

My beloved hometown of Ahsa (aka Hassa) has entered the race of candidates for the New 7 Wonders of Nature Nominees. This is the second campaign for the New7Wonders Foundation after their first campaign to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Friends of Light

Jordan’s rose-red city of Petra has won in the first campaign, and they are also present in the new list with Wadi Rum. Now I don’t think Ahsa will make it to the final nominees (it’s in the 47th place right now), but hey, please do me a favor and go vote. It will cost you nothing and you will make me happy :-)

Form for the Other Saudis

I don’t care if Mohammed al-Mussaed, aka Green Tea, and his likes call me a rafidi because the opinion of extremists is not of value to me. Now of course people like him would argue that “rafidi” is not meant as a sectarian slur but merely a description, but to me as well as many others this term has very negative connotations because it has been used for a very long time to degrade the group of Muslims to which I belong. But as I said, I could not care less.

What I care about, though, is how the government treat those so-called “rafida.” I expect our government to treat all citizens with justice and equality. This is what King Abdullah promised this nation, “a land of justice and moderation far removed from hatred and extremism.” And I still vividly remember his first speech as a King when he vowed justice for all.

When I was a young student, I was taught in school that all citizens of Saudi Arabia are Muslims, period. That’s why none of the official forms and papers used for Saudis here contain an item for religion. If you are a Saudi, you are automatically, er naturally, a Muslim. Or at least this is what I thought until I stumbled upon this form:

Form for Saudis

This form bears the logo of the Ministry of Health and it is used by the directorate of health affairs in Ahssa for those who apply for a job at government’s hospitals. The headline in this form clearly states: “Form for Saudis.” However, a few lines underneath that title there is a space where applicants are required to provide their religion and sect. So what’s going on here? Is this form only used in Ahssa or is it used throughout the Kingdom? I don’t know, but I can confirm that this form is not fake because I personally know someone who had to fill it when he applied for a job.

I have heard many people talk about sectarian discrimination at the healthcare sector in my hometown of Ahssa, but as a good citizen I always choose to ignore them and believe the government who insist that they don’t discriminate on sectarian basis. I would like to think that there no such thing as institutionalized discrimination here, but I think there are some individuals who use their power to pass discriminatory practices.

In this era of sectarian strife that is taking the region, it is high time for our nation to eliminate all practices conveying prejudices and for the government to take strong measures to stop discrimination on all levels. It is only with unity and solidarity that we are able to stand and overcome the challenges facing our country. Now let’s put the words into action.