Saudi Bathing Beauties

Now that the title caught your attention, I thought it was time to inject some light-hearted humor in honor of the end of May…

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Saudi Arabia: Mecca is Getting a Facelift

You may have noticed that I missed a daily posting as well as responding promptly to comments.  My spouse and I decided to have a weekend in Mecca.  This was my first time in Mecca since last Ramadan and I was quite surprised by the changes that have taken place – particularly in regards to the Haram (Grand Mosque).  Blocks and blocks of downtown Mecca to include bringing down two major hotels (Sofitel & Sheraton) have been brought down in order to expand the Grand Mosque and allow it to easily accommodate more people.  It is difficult to describe the massive undertaking that is going on.  If any of you have been to Dubai you are familiar with seeing the large cranes dotting the skyline like a new national bird.  It is not a sight one would readily associate with Mecca and particularly to see these large cranes surrounding the Grand Mosque itself.  We took our trip near 0200 hours as most other times one can not get close to the Haram in a vehicle.   Even at that late hour the Grand Mosque was busy and alive with thousands of  individuals performing umrah.  When speaking to residents of Mecca, most shared the view that the new facelift taking place in Mecca is one of King Abdullah’s greatest achievements.

What YOU Need to Know About Saudi Students Outside the Kingdom

Probably one of the most frequent and common emails I may receive privately from readers of my blog are about Saudi students. Usually a woman from the host country in which the student is studying has met and become involved with the Saudi student. In many cases the student marries the woman while he is outside of the Kingdom. When it is near time for him to return to the Kingdom he will seek permission and initiate paperwork to return with his new foreign wife…except the majority of the time the permission is denied. The woman will email me asking for advice and information.

What I am going to write in this post may not be what many of these women want to hear but rather what they need to know. Saudi students (male and female) who are studying outside the Kingdom on a government funded scholarship are very clearly advised on the rules and regulations which pertain to their scholarship. When they depart the Kingdom there should be no doubt in their minds on what is or not allowable. On the issue of marriage, Saudi students on government scholarships are prohibited from marrying non-Saudis. Marrying a non-Saudi without the approval of the government can result in the revoking the scholarship and the student unceremoniously returning to the Kingdom.

Many of these young men in these situations do choose to ignore the rules and regulations will likely tell the foreign woman (if she is even aware of the rules) is that “they do not apply to me as I am not a government employee or work for one of the government organizations which prohibits marriage to foreigners.” Or they may so, “don’t worry, I have WASTA or family who will ‘fix it’ for us so we’ll get the approval.”

In many cases the Saudi student may very well have to return to the Kingdom leaving behind his foreign wife and sometimes children as well.

Just to reiterate, Saudi men under the age of 35, Saudi students on government scholarships outside of the Kingdom and Saudi nationals who work for the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Intelligence Services, National Guard and armed services are prohibited from marrying foreigners. Yes; exceptions have and do occur but these are the MINORITY and certainly not a majority.

It pains me to receive the emails from foreign wives who have been left behind. The pain, frustration and sadness in their words come through loud and clear as well as the love they have for their Saudi husband. It bothers me that so few of these Saudi students failed to fully explain (if at all) to their foreign wife about the regulations and restrictions they faced.

So what is my analysis on why I think this is a recurring scenario? I wonder if in part these circumstances are impacted by the cultural beliefs on both sides. The Saudi travels outside of the Kingdom for education and usually to a more open-minded country where there are more freedoms and fewer restrictions on mixing. The women from these countries are accustomed to a culture of dating. A romance develops quickly and passionately between the couple. However with the strong cultural and religious beliefs of the Saudi, he may be more likely to segue to marriage rather than a continuing romance. Naturally the woman is pleased, honored, flattered and believes her dreams have come true. So they do marry. Oftentimes it is an Islamic ceremony and/or a civil ceremony in the courts of the respective country. The Saudi side of the family is probably not present at the wedding. That should also be a BIG CLUE that something may be amiss. Weddings and families are of utmost importance in the Kingdom. A mother, father, brothers, sisters and extended family members take it for granted they will be part of the marriage plans and celebrations.

Does the Saudi student feel any guilt or consciousness by his actions in marrying without the approval? Does he show fear, nervousness or trepidation that he will likely have to leave his wife and maybe children behind? And once he has departed, how regularly does the wife hear from him? How does he continue to support her? Did he even tell the foreign wife that under the customs and culture of the Kingdom and Islam, he should be fully supporting her, providing her with a home, dowry, clothing her, meeting her needs for food, medical care, etc? That she should only work if she chooses to; that it is his duty to care for her?

I’ll close this post with some thoughts for any woman who may find herself in a similar type of situation. Try to learn as much as you can about the Saudi student and his family. What is the status and parameters of his scholarship? If he is on a government sponsored scholarship – be careful! I realize any woman will want to trust the man whom she dreams of marrying but do not rely solely on him to learn about the Kingdom and its customs. And, Saudi men can be very private and are masters at having multiple lives which they can compartment with ease.

Saudi Arabia: Perspectives from a Saudi Man

Perspectives from a Saudi Man…

It is not easy as a woman to have an opportunity to speak candidly and openly with a Saudi man (within the Kingdom) let alone have his permission to share his views. Therefore I do wish to thank him for allowing me to interview him on a multitude of topics which I believe will be of interest to readers…

Let’s begin by telling a little bit about yourself…where were you born and what is your age? What kind of work are you doing now?

 

I was born in Al Farsha village; south of Riyadh in 1981, but my documented birth date is 31 August 1979. My family moved to Riyadh, where I studied until I finished high school in 1998. My mania about programming pushed me to establish a small company for computer networks with my brother, and beside this new business I decided to continue my study. I did my Bachelor in Computer Engineering and I graduated in 2004.

How do you like working in a multi-cultural environment? What have been the advantages as well as the disadvantages?

I always love to learn new things, and working in such an environment taught me and is still teaching me a lot; I interact daily with more than 7 different cultures, and every culture is rich by its habits and traditions. I see different ways of thinking, and I was able to benefit from these differences.

The only disadvantage was that I frequently needed to justify some Saudi habits and regulations and explain

Do you feel that the expats whom you encounter through your work are well-versed of the Kingdom and its culture?

The majority of them don’t know; they might know the policies or regulations, but this kind of knowledge does not represent the culture.

 

Do you have much interaction with expats outside of the work place? Please share some details such as what kinds of interaction or why you do not have interaction.

Yes I do. I work as an IT professional and this occupation presented me to many service providers in the field with whom I usually share work issues. This relationship developed over the years, and transformed into a friendship. Now they always ask for my help in anything related to the system here, the culture and customs, or the good places for shopping and touring.

As a Saudi man, how do you feel about the Saudi women in the workforce? Do you think it is better for them to pursue employment in a women-only or mixed environment and why?

I think it’s better for the woman to work in a women-only environment, if possible of course, whether she is Saudi or not! This is my opinion and the majority of Saudis, even the women themselves.

Moreover, we are not the only nation who believes in this, there are many of the Eastern nations do, even if they don’t practice, and there are practical environments running today in China, India, Japan and Korea.

What do you believe is the greatest misperception Westerners have of the Kingdom? And how can such misperceptions be corrected?

I believe that westerns have two great misperceptions about the kingdom.

First, Saudis are the tardiness and wealthy people before 9/11, and secondly Saudis are the world terrorist generator after 9/11.

And I would like to comment on this, we cannot judge the whole Germans as terrorists for what Hitler and his companion did!

We need significant effort to correct this misperception, and we need to talk to the westerners in their language which they understand and think, and this is the Saudi media duty to do so.

Have you had opportunities to travel outside of the Kingdom? If so, what has been your favorite place? And all factors being equal, if you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to go and why?

I have traveled to many places, Arab and non-Arab countries, Muslim and non-Muslim countries, but my favorite place was Yemen!

Last year, I and my cousin changed our plan of the vacation just at the last minute, we decided to travel to Yemen by car instead of flying to Malaysia, and we did! We drove more than 1,600 km around the country; I learned many lessons which I’ll never forget!

 

About the second part of question, if I could travel in the world right now, I will visit Baghdad, the only place that one day – 9 centuries ago – assembled all of us (The Arabs) as the sciences candles.

But what about travel in the Kingdom…what are some of the best places to go in Riyadh? What are the must-see places within the Kingdom?

In Riyadh, the best place to visit is Riyadh J.

Riyadh word itself in the Arabic language is a plural for Rawdha, which is the beautiful green place (especially in the desert), where the birds usually gather around it because of the water availability. In the seasonal rains of Riyadh, many places in the desert outside of Riyadh convert into green and grassy areas, like Rawdhat Khraim, Rawdhat Tenhat. I mentioned this different place because I know that non-Saudis would like to visit someplace different, a place which they never see. http://www.odyani.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16747

 

The must-see places within Kingdom are:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>In the eastern region, King Fahad Bridge in the way to Bahrain.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>In the western region, Jeddah Fountain.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>In the Southern region, Dhelá Aqaba, the bridges network that connect Saraat Mountains with Tehama.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4. <!–[endif]–>In the North, Mdayen Saleh.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5. <!–[endif]–>In Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Museum.

 

 

It’s a fact that my blog has viewers from all around the world. What message do you wish to share with them about Saudi Arabia and its people?

I would like to invite them to visit the kingdom, and to do a tour all over the country, see the habits, and watch the Saudi people life closely.

What would you like to know from Westerners? Here is your opportunity to also ask your own questions. I’m confident you’ll receive answers within comments from readers.

I have many concerns,

Why the westerners listen to non-Muslims about Islam religion, to non-Saudi about Saudi Arabia? Why do they ask Larry King or CNN about how does a Muslim woman feel! Instead of spending a minute to listen to a Saudi Muslim woman about how does she feel! And why I have never found a western media which was just and fair when talking about my religion and my country? And finally, why especially the Americans are media-driven people.

Naturally I have to ask, what are your views on women driving? Will they drive? Should they drive? Would you endorse your mom or sister or wife driving?

This question is like what are your views on men driving! I don’t see any difference!

Women drove since the first day cars entered Saudi Arabia. Just travel outside cities and you will see the countries’ women fueling their cars in the petrol stations and bringing their children from the schools. http://alaak.jeeran.com/MBARGA_car.gif

 

But when you come to this issue in the cities, the issue becomes complex! The government restricts women driving for some social reasons, raised by those who resisted one day the women would be educated in my country.

Anyhow, women will drive soon, and it’s a matter of time.

For my mom, I am asking her now, during this writing, and she told me she does not want to drive, because the car is dangerous, and before asking my mother, I have asked my two sisters. Aisha (22 years old) said that she does not want to drive, because she thinks that whenever she needs to go anywhere, Sami (My younger brother) will not refuse to take her there, and in the future, the task will be the husband’s.

Nora said she will like to think about driving, but after having public women driving schools, and after the car accidents rate becomes normal.

When I asked my wife, she answered why you are asking me this stupid question.

(Carol please don’t get mad on me, this is real answers)

How about covering…do you believe it is necessary for a muslim woman to cover her hair? What kind of message as a Saudi man, do you believe a woman is sending in the Kingdom when she chooses not to cover?

 

It is necessary for the Muslim woman to cover her hair, this is a direct instruction mentioned in the holy Quran that every Muslim woman knows.

By the way, I came to know that Christians and Jewish women also are required to do the same, but Islam is the only religion in which most of its people follow its directives, and one of these directives is to cover the women hair.

For the second part of the question, and according to the Saudi civil department, Muslims are 100% of the Saudi population, and whenever a Saudi woman choose not to cover, she is simply sending a message that she does not follow the Islamic instructions, and this is normal, followers of a specific religion do not represent the religion itself, but their religious personality, as the bad attitude and deeds of some Christians Cardinals do not represent the real religion of the Jesus peace be upon him.

As a Saudi man, what are your views on the men who have chosen to have more than one wife. And, how would you explain polygamy and its practice to a non-muslim?

First, I think that the word polygamy does not describe the real situation in Islam, what I know – this is according OXFORD dictionary definition and please correct me Carol if I am mistaken, that polygamy is the practice of having more than one wife for man, and more than one husband for women. In Islam, Muslim woman cannot have more than one husband a time.

 

Second, polygamy is an option, not a duty, and it has special circumstances and conditions where the man should fulfill, the Muslim man is expected to fulfill all his duties toward his first wife, offering her good living conditions, emotional and sexual satisfaction, and prior to him thinking of a second wife, he should be capable to satisfy all these needs for both the current and the wife to be.

 

Third, It’s true allowed in Islam for men to have more than one wife, but it is also the wife’s right to stipulate before she get married that the husband must not have another wife during her lifetime.

 

Fourth, having more than one wife has its functional advantages in some cases, and most obvious example of this occurs in times of war when there are inevitably large numbers of widows and girls whose fiancées and husbands have been killed in the fighting. One has only to recall the figures of the dead in the first and second world wars to be aware that literally millions of women and girls lost their husbands and fiancées and were left alone without any income or care or protection for themselves or their children.

 

Finally, in Islam the wife has the right to include monogamy as a condition in her marriage treaty, plus any other conditions related to place of living, quality of living …etc. as far as she does not ask for unlawful act, the husband once accepted her marriage shall abide by all the conditions, including monogamy, Muslim women know this very well.

 

What advise would you like to give to the expats who come to the Kingdom for work? How can they make the best of their time in the Kingdom? How can they get to know and become friends with other Saudis rather than only have them as a work colleague?

I advise every expat to buy a good quality umbrella, and whenever he finishes passport stamping, he needs to be so careful during riding the camel from the airport to the accommodation place, Finally believe me the best way to become friend with other Saudis, is to say Hello and share a Kabsa meal

And in closing, are there any other comments you’d like to add?

I would like to thank you for giving me the chance, and extend my thanking for brothers and sisters, who read this, and I invite them to comment and interact, I need to read their opinions.

Again, thank you very much for allowing a Saudi man’s perspective to be shared!

You’re most welcome.

Selling Lingerie & Undergarments in Saudi Arabia

Purchasing lingerie and undergarments in the Kingdom remains a less than pleasant experience for women in the Kingdom. Why, you may likely ask? 99 per cent of the sales clerks in such shops are men. The minority one per cent of women selling such products are at the women-only shopping malls. Therefore it is not at all unusual for the male sales clerks to at times go beyond the order of professionalism when assisting and selling such items of a personal nature. I’m not shy to acknowledge that when I am in need of such items I have my daughter-in-law select and send them to me from the States rather than risk an overly-arduous sales clerk make inappropriate remarks while one is trying to determine what size and style to purchase.

 

Thanks to Saudi in the US during a dialogue on this issue and market opportunities, he queried on the viability of home lingerie businesses in the Kingdom. For those not aware in the West it is very common for women to have parties which are similar to Tupperware parties where a woman will come to ones home and present a selection of lingerie items which women can order and purchase.

 

It goes like this, a woman will host a party. She will invite her various friends to this party in the privacy of her home. The female representative comes with her stock and sets it up in the home resembling a small retail store. Here is where the invited ladies can view, try on and select items without having to enter a mall or store. They can take their time, enjoy each others company and get advise from each other on what looks good. There is no pressure from a pesky and aggressive male salesman.

 

Women will make their various selections. The hostess of the party will usually get a commission and special gift for hosting such a party (just like Tupperware parties). Other women will also have the choice to book and host a party at a future date at their own home. After this business is concluded, the women usually enjoy a variety of snacks and each others company.

 

What a painless and enjoyable experience!

 

Now I wanted to post the links of such enterprises which specialize in the home lingerie parties for those who are interested but not surprisingly, all of those links are blocked. I did a google search term on “home lingerie business” and pages of information was provided. The links I was able to view are provided below:

 

 

http://www.ehow.com/how_2044511_select-lingerie-home-party-consultant.html (this one explains how to select a home lingerie consultant to come to your home and host a party).

 

http://www.athomedirectory.com/list.php?cat_id=42 (this link will provide links to companies where one can become a representative for at-home lingerie parties. I can access the link for the information but most of the individual company web sites for at-home lingerie business are blocked)

 

So what do you think? Do you agree or not on whether this would be a viable and enjoyable opportunity for acquiring lingerie and underwear rather than face the male clerks at the retail shops in the malls?

 

Bookstore Choices & Options in Saudi Arabia

In the States bookstores abound. There are bookstores which only feature new books and there are thousands upon thousands of bookstores specializing in used books. The larger bookstores in the States also have become popular gathering places with coffee cafes specializing in a variety of differing coffees, juices, sweets and sandwiches. Patrons are encouraged to take their book or magazine they are perusing and sit down in the shop with it. Various benches and tables may be scattered throughout the bookstore as well for patrons to sit down with a prospective purchase and relax. Book signings and lectures and other special events will take place at these bookstores. These activities will be broadcasted on the web pages, sent to customers via email and advertised via the newsletters of the establishments.

 

The largest bookstores as described above in the States include Borders (http://www.bordersstores.com/index.jsp), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/) or B. Dalton Bookseller (http://www.answers.com/topic/b-dalton-bookseller-inc?cat=biz-fin). These three to my knowledge are the largest and widest known.

 

If you view the links you will see that in addition to the books, they also sell gift items, speciality items, music, and much more.

 

By comparison in the Kingdom one has two choices in the Kingdom which have the largest variety of books: Jarir Bookstores (http://www.jarirbookstore.com/) or Obeikan Bookstores (http://www.obeikanbookshops.com/). Jarir has the larger selection of English language books. One important aspect I need to mention is that any books coming to the Kingdom are reviewed and inspected for “Islamic content.” What that means if any book is perceived to have material which can be interpreted as unislamic it would likely be rejected and banned from the Kingdom. Now that being said, Jarir does have a wide and varied selection. Obeikan has a fair selection of English but its larger inventory is on Arabic books.

 

Similar to the US bookstore chains identified, both Jarir and Obeikan will sell much more than just books. Jarir has an extensive selection and variety of computers, components and other electronic items. Both stores are also well stocked with office supplies and school supplies.

 

Used bookstores are present in the Kingdom but in Arabic with an emphasis on textbooks and research materials. I have not found a used book store which has English language books. Personally I find myself missing the used bookstores. I am an avid and fast reader so back in the States I’d spend a lot of time at used book stores or garage sales which allowed me to acquire the largest variety of books. I would go to the larger bookstores with new books when some of my favorite authors had a new book released which I wanted to add to my collection..

 

Neither Jarir nor Obeikan offer special programs –yet- like the larger booksellers in the States but I am confident that over time this will happen. Reading had not been as popular as a pastime in the Kingdom with most Saudis preferring tv or videos but I am optimistic that is beginning to change. I am aware of an increase in book clubs being formed in the Kingdom and not only by expats but more Saudis are getting involved in establishing book clubs and promoting reading (both English and Arabic). So as the demand increases the choices and options offered by booksellers will likely increase as well.

 

I Am a Muslim Woman – My Spoken Word

Please enjoy another lovely tribute received from Tariq Al-Meeana:

My Spoken Word


I’m passive, weak, uneducated
Veiled from head to toe
One of his four wives
Work in the kitchen all day
And spread my legs wide at night
That’s what you think, right?
Funny how the devil spreads ignorance amongst a “civilized people”
The Orientalist whispers in so many ears
To him, I’m the mistress of the harem
Black-hair, olive skin, eyes that glow, hips that don’t lie
Hold up
Sexual exploitation- There’s nothing exotic about that
Or
I’m poor, cracked feet that never touched soft designer shoes
Dirty, hungry, cold, alone
I’m calling out for help, America save me from my fathers, my brothers, my backward culture, America–  save me from myself,
Let me tell you something
You don’t have to be a woman to hear my stories
But you have to be a woman to understand them
The blood that boils in my veins is the same as yours
My story is a testament of my struggle
My struggle is a testament of my faith
I am a Muslim woman
Muslim woman.
I made Prophets weak in the knees,
Fought alongside my man in war
Then went home to nurture my baby
Does that surprise you?
You say I need liberation
What do you call it?
Oh yeah…Furthering women’s rights in the Middle East
I have one thing to say to you
My liberation won’t come from the one who has oppressed me
Bringing me democracy
You think you’re really gonna send Condi
to tell me how to be free
But wait, I’m not here to play the blame game
Let’s make this more real
Not only do I take this hate from you
But I take it internally from the close-minded bigots of my own society
So my Muslim father tells me how to dress, but so does BCBG
So my Muslim brothers tell me how to act, but so does MTV
Yea… so it’s this double bind I face
When I realize that if I do what I want,
I won’t make anyone happy
Too good to be bad, too bad to be good
But wait, why this dichotomy
Since when did my identity become a zero sum game
Why do you insist on labeling me?
Putting me in boxes simple and easy only for you to understand
Countless books and movies dedicated to uncovering me instead of just letting me be
What’s in free will when my spiritual will isn’t allowed to be free
Just look at France and Turkey
“Unveiling the Muslim Woman”
Why don’t I unveil your sexist patriarchal ideology
Remember The golden rule—treat others how you’d like to be treated, if you’re so keen to educate then please be educated,
Enslaving not our bodies now but our minds,
Eating disorders and depression, no love and not that much attention
This equality talk is cheap and the price expensive
Using my body to sell everything from cigarettes to automotives,
Confusing my flesh for my spirit
Confusing my humanity as weakness
When I say something in protest
Standing against trafficking, hunger, poverty, violence, you know “women’s” issues,
they brush it aside to…oh, she’s just a Femi-NAZI
So Don’t confuse my silence as submission
nor my covering for oppression
Don’t confuse my peaceful battle as lack of conviction
When you ask what sustains me
I say: not man, not America, But God, our God
Am I American, Kashmiri, or an ABCD,
On applications, I check none of the above, all of the above, some of the above, but ultimately

I am a Muslim woman.

Hafsa Kanjwal

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