Thursday, September 29, 2005

I (heart) Saudi

I've just discovered an interesting Saudi Blog - Farah's Sowaleef - I came across it because of some comments I'd made on The Religious Policeman's blog - the post in question is entitled 'It's Good News Day! '. There seems to be a state of open warfare between these two people, with Farah being a youngish student in Riyadh, and luvvin' it, and Al Hamedi being the miserable old git exiled in England. Farah and many of her commenters doubt the veracity of Al Hamedi's claims to be a genuine Saudi. To which I say 'why claim to be Saudi if you're not?'. Bah. Have a read through Farah's blog though, it's very interesting and it might even make you want to visit. Not that they'd give you a visa or make you feel welcome or anything.

While we're on the subject of Saudis, Dubai is awash with them this week. It seems that 30-40,000 of them have come over to try to buy shares in the ludicrously underpriced IPO of Dana Gas. I had to visit my bank yesterday, and in the taxi on the way we were twice cut-up by cars bearing Saudi plates, and once stopped and asked for directions to a particular bank. When we got to my bank I could barely get through the doors, and the noise was unbelievable. The queue that was trailing out of the front door curved round to the staircase and up across the mezzanine floor, where, presumably, the applicants were being dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Apparently the big hoo-hah is because this particular IPO has been made available to all GCC nationals, rather than just UAE nationals. But in order to apply for the shares, you have to physically get a form from one of the participating banks in the UAE. Of course there's no guarantee that you will be allocated anything, and it looks like the whole thing is turning into a bit of a fiasco.



Blogger Farooha said...

I kinda like the fact that I'm referred to as "youngish." and the (heart) bit, by the way, is NOT helping! :-)

Why would someone act Saudi when they are not? Because it's interesting to you people, that's why. You think the Independent quoted my blog and crowned it blog of the week, just because? I'm going to be interviewed by a Brazilian newspaper tomorrow, whereas had I been anything but Saudi, I'd just be carving I (heart) [insert guy's name] onto my desk, or something..
that's why anyone would claim to be Saudi!

ps: check this out

7:43 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Well 'youngish' because I don't actually know how old you are. 'You people', though, is generally acknowledged as a pretty offensive way to refer to anyone.

All that I'm saying Farah is that I lived for one deeply miserable year in Riyadh, 13 years ago. There was absolutely nothing there that I could relate to, or that I could imagine my family relating to, so I left at the end of my contract.

I never met any Saudis who actually liked the place. It seems you love it to bits, and that's great (but surprising), I will be following your blog with interest. However, Al Hamedi presents a very convincing picture of KSA that 'we people' enjoy reading. Well, I do, anyway.

8:34 pm  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I have no issue with believing that many Saudi women love their country and have a great time there. If they have loving and adequately liberal parents, are allowed to get a full edcuation and encouraged to work, and the family has ample money for their needs, no wonder they are happy.

The problem is that not all Saudi women have this life: and the ones that are less emancipated are far less likely to get their voices across in cyberspace.

The problem with Saudi society, at least as I perceive it from having lived "next door" for half a decade and spoken to plenty of Saudis and Saudi expats, is that if you are from a family that is coercing you into early marriage, and your husband/father/brother is not liberal, and restricts your freedom/education/workrights, you have virtually zero hope of redress.

You also can't drive. You may not want to drive, but the fact is that if you did, you can't. So you aren't fully free, and your rights are less than they would be in pretty much every other country - including other Arab and Muslim countries.

And while (most probably middle class, educated) Saudi women can go on and on and on about how wonderful their lives are and super their country is, I would rather be dirt poor and struggle and live in a country where I had 100% equal rights as a human being than live in an ivory tower, forced to rely on males for travel rights and other permissions.

9:32 pm  
Blogger Farooha said...

Well, I turned 20 last month. And I strongly apologize for the offensive content of my comment, I didn't think it would offend you because judging by your previous entries and comments, it seemed like you were a fun old guy. (did that offend you? woops. sorry again!) ;-)

I'm so sorry for that miserable year of yours.. I also do know that when one is new to any culture, they'd be like a fish outta water. The fact that the people of Saudi Arabia are a pretty rigid bunch must have not helped.. but, as one who tries to dig deep into expatriate communities, I lay half of the blame on the expatriates themselves. They give into propaganda so easily prior to their arrival that when they actually do arrive, they completely isolate themselves, which is quite absurd if you ask me. I mean, in the end, we're all people. No matter how odd or terrifying we may look, we're still human beings.. brothers and sisters in humanity... there would have to be at least one bond or another. We just had expatriates over for dinner last week. They too say that had we not approached them, they would have never made any efforts to understand the culture. The thing is, well ok, don't understand the culture, you don't have to after all, it isn't yours and your just here to do your business, fine by me, just don't go bashing it.. My ancestors lived out the hardest conditions ever known to mankind, I just don't think it would be right to abandon everything they fought for, all the values they believed in, for a bucket of oil found. You could bash the royal family and their corrupt system all you want..heck, I'd gladly join in! But not the people, their mentalities, their beliefs, everything they stand for. I'm sure you agree. One thing I love about the English is their respect for the cultural identities of people all around the world...

I take everything Al-Hamedi says with a pinch of salt, for starters his Arabic is terribly, TERRIBLY weak. In fact, it's quite funny. No Arab would speak Arabic that way. And even if he were an Arab, if anything, this gestures what kind of Arab he is. I'm sorry, but I truly believe that we can get freedom without being eager to let go of our identities, or languages at least. Some of his posts are spot on, and truly tickle my funny bone, others are just plain.. "ummm whaaaaat??"

That's all!

As for you, secret Dubai.. I LOVE where it is I come from, and I don't think I have to explain myself on this one. It's my home, I enjoy its virtues and tolerate its flaws. Is that not the way you feel about your home? And what are you on about? I'm treated like a full human being, alhamdellah. Who isn't treating me right? For the love of GOD enlighten me? Who? The friggin government? To hell with them, when was politics ever clean? My family treats me with utter respect. And just so you know, my family comes from one of the most rustic, conservative areas in Saudi called Qaseem. (a place, Al-Hamedi is "unfortunately" not too fond of) Anyhow, my uncles and cousins there (whom we visit on a regular basis) are all practially living off my father (I guess that doesn't even qualify them as middle class). They are barely making ends meet, but they're with their loved ones and live in their own lands.. that in itself is a good enough reason for you to love your land. Your loved ones, its coziness, the fact that no one can ever tell you to one day leave. My family in Al-Qaseem also treats me with their utmost respect. As for these overused, TIRED "arranged marriage of 12 year old arab girl to 60 year old merchant" sagas, I think you (if you're an Emirati) would know that that is something the whole Arab world is wrongly accused of. If I have never even KNOWN a Saudi girl who was forced into marriage, me coming from one of the most conservative places in Saudi, how would you expect it to be like for the people of the more educated, well off class?
My advice? You can monger such tales among yourselves about us forever, Hey! as long as it entertains you, right.. just don't give into them.

ps: The women driving thing? *yawn* read through my posts to know how women feel. You think the actual people of Saudi Arabia are ok with that? Men and women alike have voiced their opinion millions of times, if the government isn't hearing us out, why should we as a people be blamed? Why should I rebel against my own people when we all have the same view regarding it.. it won't ever change the way I feel about my home.

4:42 am  
Blogger moryarti said...

Wow... talk about being defensive!

I just browsed through some of the Saudi blogs and their posts. I have to say that this is an aspect of blogging i never knew existed :) thanks Keefieboy

It kindda reminded me of a six month stint i spent bouncing around between jeddah and Riyadh - and I won't say how it reminded me 'cause i don't want to be lectured on how judgmental i am and stuff :)

I don't agree with alot of what Farooha is saying about "us people" but again, thats her opinion and she is entitled for it...

10:33 am  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

Al Hamedi made a mistake that NO Arab would make. He worked on the assumption that a person named "Farah" would be a guy. As an American, it would be like me assuming someone named "John" was a female. It could be, but NO ONE would ever assume it. What made it worse is that he came up with 2 different reasons as to why he wouldnt know that Farah, in the Middle East, is an exclusively male name.

Farah is also right about his Arabic skills. He was caught out on another blog on his usage of Arabic.

Why would he lie? It is obvious. Anyone who knows Saudis would certainly be aware that they would never take criticism of their country seriously if it came from a Pakistani, Bengali, you name it. Being "Saudi" would give him the right to be critical. But lets be clear here, no Saudi, NO SAUDI would ever confuse the name "Farah" for a male. No arab for that matter.

With his obsession of cricket, I would say he is Indian, Pakistani or Bengali, and probably has spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia.

A bigger question might be, what are his goals? If he truly wanted to impact Saudi society his blog would have to be in Arab, or at least have an Arabic mirror site. If he really wanted to work for change in Saudi why would he make a blog in a language that most Saudis are not comfortable enough to read and post in?

I dont think he could do a blog, by himself, completely in Arabic. Arabic is a VERY hard language to write properly, even for educated Arabs. Trying to write in nothing but Arabic would expose him as a non Saudi/Arab in no time.

So, if his idea isnt to change things in Saudi, what is it then? To just expose Saudi Arabia to the west? That seems to be all he is doing. If you look at the people active on his blog you'll find many, if not most of them are Westerners. Not to mention many of them are anti-Arab, in general, and Islamophobes. Considering this, it is a site that not many Saudis would take seriously, even if they could read and understand the content in a different language.

I dont get into conspiracy theories, so I wont put any out there. It is up to you to think about what he(or even she) thinks they are trying to do and accomplish with the blog.

As to Farah, I love her site. I am an American married to a Saudi woman, even so her blog has given me big time insite into Saudi Arabia, especially the najd area that I am not too familiar with.

3:47 pm  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

Opps, the line should have read:

"What made it worse is that he came up with 2 different reasons as to why he wouldnt know that Farah, in the Middle East, is an exclusively male name."

See what mistakes non Arabs like Al Hamedi and I make? LOL!

3:49 pm  
Blogger secretdubai said...

It's my home, I enjoy its virtues and tolerate its flaws. Is that not the way you feel about your home?
I love my home, I enjoy is virtues, and abhor its flaws. I don't think flaws should ever be tolerated.

Who isn't treating me right? For the love of GOD enlighten me? Who? The friggin government? To hell with them, when was politics ever clean?
If it's not clean, it should be cleansed. If you don't have a democratic process available, you can't even begin to do that. And yes I realise that Western democracies are nearly always corrupt and it is very difficult for "the little man" to do much. But at least there is a process there, and freedom for the little man to follow that process. Corrupt politicians can be ousted, and prosecuted, and even jailed. So can prime minister and presidents.

This is not an East vs West or democracy vs monarchy argument. It's just fact.

11:29 pm  
Blogger kaya said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:38 am  
Blogger kaya said...

With all due respect to Farooha,and her sentiments regarding her country blah blah.Maybe she can explain how come the minutes they get on a plane: their abaaya/hijaab disappears and they spend 45 minutes in the toilets dolling and tarting themselves.This summer as usual, I see them at Harrods,Edgeware road,and other places, diplaying their bodies and using language that would make a sailor blush all because someone dared to pick up an item, that they were interested in.
OH I SEE!They are by default allowed to misbehave the minute they leave their territory.
How do I know they are SAUDIS per se?Because they, in their extreme stupidty never fail to brag about WHO they are,and expect everyone to prostrate or shudder with fear at the mention of their nationality.
This is bullshit.
I lived 3 years at the BUSTAN CENTER in Dubai,and worked there and had access to all guests information and I know what lechery went on.Unless now you will tell me that all the BAD ONES carry dual nationalities,and its a conspiracy against you all to defame you.
Why are Saudis considered the most arrogant of all Arabs.
If it is not true than why this generalisation?

(keefie I be putting space after de commas now-pls note)

10:11 am  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

A few issues with Kayas post. First, and most obviously, Saudis are not allowed "dual nationality". They can only have one passport, so it is either a Saudi one, or a foriegn one, not both. Saudi authorities, if they find out you have a second passport will confiscate it, or give you a stark choice. How do I know this? I am married to a Saudi. She makes a mistake that many do, she assumes that Saudis who travel abroad are an accurate picture of what ALL Saudis are like. This is FAR from the case. Saudis who travel abroad do NOT cover the broad spectrum of Saudi society, but rather then to be the monied elite. They are no more representative of all Saudis than the typical "Ugly American" abroad is representitive of all Americans.

I will admit that Saudis who go abroad often do have superiority issues, but I think this is a failing amoungst all Gulf Arabs, not just the Saudis.

If you buy into generalisations, we can go into generalisations about every ethnicity, but I am one to think that stereotypes, and that is what these are, are based on ignorance more than anything else.

3:49 pm  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

Now "The Religious Policeman" is suggesting that if people dont like his comments they can stick The Qur'an "where the sun doesnt shine."

Oh yeah, he'll get moderate Muslims and Saudis to his side using language like this. Of course, Mahmood, of Mahmood's Den chimes in to say anyone who thinks that was in poor taste must be a sheep, a rabble rouser who gets wroked up by any Mullahs fart.

Yes......these are the guys that are going to reform the Middle East? NOT!

5:45 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

His comment was made in the context of the Tate Gallery in London removing a piece of an art from an exhibition in case it caused offence to (primarily) British Muslims. It was a bit of a mixed-up story and, as he himself says, was an 'emotional outburst'. This comes in the wake of the Burger King 'Allah' Ice Cream fiasco and plenty of other politically correct 'ooh we better not upset the Muslims' type incidents.

Anyhoo, Ramadan Kareem!

6:07 pm  
Blogger kaya said...

Abu Sinan I am well aware that SAUDI'S are not allowed DUAL NATIONALITY.I was merely being sarcastic.
Like schizophrenics(who blame their wickedness on their other identities.)

12:01 am  
Blogger kaya said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:04 am  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

You miss the point. The "Religious Policeman" is not an Arab, is not Saudi, and it is clear he is NOT interested in reform in Saudi Arabia or Islam.

No one who is interested in either would make it his main stock in life to insult both. The readership on his blog proves my point. The vast majority are non Arabs, non Muslims. Look at the commenters. Most of them are die-hard Islamophobes and anti-Arab racists.

If he was interested in reforming anything he would seek a readership who could inact such reform and change. Instead he seems to want nothing more than to piss off and alienate the very people whose help he needs to reform these communities. Hence the belief has to be either he is stupid and thinks that pissing off even the liberal sections of these communities is a good move, or that simply he isnt really interested in reform. I vote for the later.

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow...guess what? i really don't care what you think of us? we know how good or bad we can get but all in all we are proud people. Enough with the superior tone of yours...We are way better way better than a hater like you would ever realize. I have been around the world and I have been to cultures where I just couldn't see myself in but I never bashed them. I know that people who do that have little minds.


4:42 am  

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