Jeddah Disaster

At least 44 people were killed in Jeddah after a heavy downpour. The rains caused a major infrastructure failure and the results were disastrous. My heart goes out to all Jeddawis.

This would not have happened if the people of Jeddah had a say in how their city is run. This would not have happened if there was transparency and accountability in how our country is governed.

I’m beyond angry and disgusted.

UPDATE 27/11/09 2:40: The death toll reaches 83. Keep in mind this is the official number announced by the Civil Defense. The actual number might be higher. More rains are expected on Jeddah tomorrow.

Wild Dreams

When you live here long enough, you become so accustomed to the absurdities of life in the magic kingdom that nothing can surprise you anymore, and you can come across the oddest of news stories without a flinch. Some recent examples…

Saudi Gazette says that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA) has held a closed door meeting in Riyadh for “interpreters of dreams and visions.” As if it is not enough that our government has been trying to tell you who you can (or can’t) marry, now they are trying to tell you how you should interpret your dreams.

We have no constitution or written laws; our human rights record is dismal and corruption is becoming a common practice in the public sector, yet here is our government holding a closed door meeting to help us interpret our dreams. How about helping people to actually make their dreams come true? Oh, sorry, I guess that’s not on your busy agenda.

Speaking of dreams, a paper presented at the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market held in Riyadh said the country’s expanding tourism sector will provide 900,000 new jobs for young Saudi men and women by 2020. No disrespect to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), but this seriously wild dream calls for some extensive interpretation by the MIA people mentioned above.

What tourism are they talking about?

I have a suggestion for SCTA. Before embarking on your unrealistically huge ambition of making Saudi Arabia a tourist destination and invite millions to come, you, as well as many other government departments, may want to try make life more tolerable for those of us living here. I’m not talking about the enormous megaprojects you like to brag about so often (economic cities, techno valley, blah blah blah).

What I’m talking about is much more simple. Basics, really. People should able to meet freely in public without fear of being prosecuted. Organizing cultural and artistic events should not be a state security matter. Also, have you ever heard of public transportation? Yeah, we don’t have this.