Tuesday, September 30, 2003

3 Years in Prison for Attacking Religious Police in Yanbu

Beardies get a kicking

YANBU, 30 September 2003 — A court has sentenced two men to three years in jail and 3,000 lashes for attacking members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

The two men were arrested after they and 11 others attacked members of the commission in order to rescue two girls and two men from their custody. One of the girls escaped.

After their arrest the two men alleged members of the commission had been beating and pulling the hair of one of the girls they had earlier arrested on the beach on suspicion of not being related to the men in their company.

The commission denies any wrongdoing

Men Must Accompany Pregnant Women in Clinics

Why? Find out here.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Divorce - Saudi style

ABHA, 21 February — A Saudi man in the southern city of Jizan decided to divorce his wife after their phone bill soared to a record SR90,000. His wife admitted that she used to call the special number to take part in the one million riyal contest, with the hope of winning the prize. Prominent personalities in the region tried to convince the man to change his mind but he rejected all offers, including the one made by the woman’s brother to pay up the phone bill. The man’s insistence on divorce will break up the family.

JEDDAH, 7 July — A man in Tabuk recently divorced his wife through a text message sent by mobile phone to his father-in-law. The message, “Your daughter is divorced,” triggered a conflict between the two families, Al-Jazirah newspaper reported yesterday.

The woman’s father considered his son-in-law’s action an “unpardonable humiliation”.

The text message came while family elders were trying to reconcile the couple, who had been separated for several months, the paper said. The man was perturbed when news reached him that his wife planned to travel abroad with her family without seeking his permission.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Saleh Al-Humaid, head of the Shariah Court in Tabuk, said the court would give a ruling on the legality of divorce through a text message. (AN)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Introduction of English at Elementary Level Worries Private Schools

Introduction of English at Elementary Level Worries Private Schools
Muhammad Al-Harbi, Arab News Staff

DAMMAM, 28 September 2003 — The recent decision of the Education Ministry to make English compulsory and include computers in the curriculum for elementary students is worrying private schools, which have benefited from the lack of English and computer lessons in state schools.

When the Ministry of Education recently signed a contract worth SR65 million with Hewlett-Packard for the supply of PCs to government schools, it gave a clear signal that the education department was determined to revise the curriculum and meet modern-day needs.

Under Saudi law, Saudi students cannot attend international schools but can join private schools. Many affluent parents send their children to private Saudi schools because they feel present-day needs are not met in state schools. Some even enrol their children in schools in Bahrain.

Since fees at private schools are high, not everyone can afford to send their children there, but state education up to high school level is free.

Private Saudi schools have been selling themselves on the strength of their English and computer lessons, the quality of their lessons, their well-qualified teachers, and a “conducive and healthy environment.” A private education for their children over the years became a status symbol for affluent Saudis. Today it is not just the quality of education that matters but the reputation of the school and its social standing as well.

Another factor which gives private schools the edge over state schools is the school buildings. Many parents feel that some state school buildings are not safe and cite the Makkah school fire as an example. Many say that if the dilapidated school buildings were renovated and better safety standards were followed then they would be willing to put their children in state schools. “Why should I pay exorbitant fee to these private schools,” asked Fahd Al-Qahtani, a Dammam resident.

According to statistics from the education department, private Saudi schools have a growth rate of 6 percent and nearly 45 new private schools are opening in the Kingdom every year. The figures revealed that there were some 1,000 private schools in the country in 2003 where 139,000 students were enrolled, nearly 78 percent of them Saudis.

It has also been found that more students from private schools in terms of ratio reach higher education levels like postgraduation and professional courses like medicine and engineering than students from the government schools.

Educationists have for some time been advocating reforms in education to meet in particular the demands of the job market. They have stressed the need for schools to keep abreast of international standards in education. Computer use and English in particular are seen as essential in this process.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Employees’ Honesty Rewarded

Honesty pays

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Saudis consider nuclear bomb

Will they hand the job over to contractors?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Too Many Donkeys in Gaza

The London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat carries a long interview with Abd Al-Rahim Abu Al-Qambaz, Director of Health and Environment in the Municipality of Gaza, on the problem of donkeys in the city. Al-Qambaz complained there were too many donkeys in the city-3,000 in all for a population of 1.2 million-the highest ratio of donkeys to people in the world.

While the donkey is used to transport people and goods it is also a source of traffic and environmental hazards because of braying, animal waste, and the habits of locals to shampoo and wash donkeys on the beaches of Gaza.

The donkeys are also the source of conflict among neighbors concerning braying and food. When Al-Qambaz was asked whether there was a special station to deal with donkey-related conflicts he replied: "Man! Sharon has not left us a space to even think of ourselves..."

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Barbie banned (again)

Saudi religious police declare Barbie doll taboo

Interesting story but not entirely true. Every toyshop I have visited here has Barbie on sale and quite cheap as well.

The Beardies may well have banned Barbie but Saudis obviously ignore them. Things are not quite as they seem here.

Working Working

Arab News Newspaper

F. from Alkhobar Please explain the legality of the following: 1) We are forced to work 56 hours a week without any overtime pay. 2) We are forced to pay for our iqama and related charges. 3) We are forced to pay SR10 monthly into a welfare fund. 4) Only 10 percent of our medical expenses is paid by the management and 90 percent by us.

1) By law a worker must not work more than 48 hours a week and must not work more that five hours without a break. All breaks are on the worker’s time, such as lunch or prayers.

Any extra hours of work must be paid to the worker at one and a half times his usual hourly rate. As a condition to being paid overtime, overtime work must be done on instructions of the employer. If you already have these instructions you may claim overtime. If not, you must ask your employer to give you written instructions according to the law. In this way you can prove that you were instructed and did not do the work as a volunteer. But even volunteer work is subject to certain conditions of emergency. If more is done and is proven, it earns overtime. 2) Paying iqama and renewal fees as tickets is by law on the employer, but it can be agreed differently.

If you have not explicitly agreed in writing to pay for these items, your employer is bound to pay for them. 3) Any kind of welfare, like any other sums burdening the worker, need to have the explicit agreement in writing of the worker, otherwise he cannot be made to pay them. 4) As to medical treatment, this is governed by your contract and the company regulations and article 134 of the Labor Law. Your employer is not bound to pay for your medical expenses unless he has specifically agreed to do it in writing, or if the employer has at least 50 workers in a single location or town, or within a radius of fifteen kilometers. Then he must supply ordinary medical services and medicine free of charge. If the number exceeds 100 workers, there will be added to this, medical treatment requiring specialists and surgery.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

A comprehensive list of all things Saudi.

Arab Gateway

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Reply from Riyadh

It'd be interesting to know the full story, from everyone's point of view. I have a theory that the Saudi's at first were convinced they had a booze ring, later accepted otherwise but were too embarrassed to back down. Normally when there's an accident or somethng like that here, the first thing they do is pay a visit to one's residence, and most probably these guys each had in their houses a couple of tubs on the boil. Your average Saudi won't believe that 2 gallons can possibly be for one person, and if they found a similar story each house it's easy to imagine them thinking they were on to something big. It's just a thought. Now all I want is for Steveiu Gerrard to get a yellow tonight and to miss the Turkey game - gotta have your club's ineterests at heart, say I.


Reply from Al-Khobar

Morning Friend,

on the security issue I've just listened to an interview with one of those unfortunates who spent 2 years in a Saudi jail. Sounds horrendous what they suffered. The guy was describing how he was beaten with pieces of wood and 'interrogated' with a hood on his head. He sounded like a typical old timer ex-pat you meet here. He 'confessed' because they threatened his wife and kid.

I did smile though 'cos the guard's idea of being nice to him was to let him sleep. Kip being very important in the Magic Kingdom!

I'm off to a Filipino dinner / dance the morrow. Should be fun :-)

Careful as you go

News from Riyadh


We weren't at work yesterday after a security scare on Monday night - some geezer tried to get his car in the building (that's as much as we know at the moment...), so Tuesday was called off. Had a good 10-hour kip, and the weekend begins later today! Just the job.


I've heard that working for the armed forces here can be stressful so the Air Force has decided to only employ teachers who have officially 'lost it' although the perks seem nice.


We will have one opening in December for an experienced, qualified teacher.

Successful applicant will be:
American or Canadian

Previous experience (especially in Saudi Arabia) preferred.

Benefits include competitive salary, paid vacation, in-Kingdom healthcare, housing on a secure Western compound, signing bonus, cheesecake on arrival (specify blueberry or chocolate).
Interview in Colorado.

Send a short form of your resume and a list of references (who will be called).

Job Posting - Dave's ESL Cafe

I read this when I first came here nearly two years ago. It's an opinion from a discussion board about life in the Magic Kingdom. The guy is attacking ex-pats who whinge all the time about their lives here and about how 'it isn't like home.' Never a truer word was spoken.

View 1

I've never bothered to write on this sort of forum before, but I must respond to some of the rubbish I've read about Saudi on this web page. I've divided my opinions into four areas which are probably the most relevant to teachers who are going to teach in Saudi.

1. Teaching

Saudis are great students. You will never have to raise your voice, they will always do what they are told and they love conversing. The only teachers who have problems here are people who can't respect Islam. I'm an athiest, but I don't have a problem with people who want to pray to God five times a day, refrain from eating pork and make women wear bags on their heads. If you can't handle this, then don't bring it up in the classroom. Any discussion on these subjects will lead to your dismissal.

2. Drinking

I'm a single man living with a Saudi family, but I've managed to find lots of things going on here. You don't have to live on a compound to have a social life. I've been to bars in Jeddah, Riyadh, Yanbu and Jubail - you just need to know which door to knock on. How do know where to go? Ask around. Most westerners will know where to get hammered at the weekend. If you can't find a bar, then it's pretty easy to make your own. A teaspoonful of yeast, 20 litres of grape juice and a couple of kilos of sugar should point you in the right direction.

3. Sex

As a heterosexual man, it's not difficult to get laid out here. There are loads of nurses who are well up for it. You might need to lower your standards a bit, but generally the women are gagging for it. I sometimes wish I were gay, because there are loads of batty boys at it. I've never seen so many bandits in my life.

4. Culture

Most westerners, in my opinion, are very disrespectful to Saudis. Quite a common view is "the only good Muslim is a dead one." Personally, I quite like Saudis and I've found them very friendly and helpful. I've actually been to a couple of Saudi weddings and been alienated by westerners for it. Read "A passage to India" by E.M.Forster if you want to know what I'm getting at.

Basically, Saudi is easy money. Have you ever worked in China for 7 dollars a day? Have you ever done a 40-hour teaching week? Have you ever worked your butt off without any recogition of your hard work? This won't happen here. You'll get fantastic money, you'll do at most 20 hours a week in the classroom and the students will respect you. If you can't enjoy yourself in Saudi, then you're a very sad man and you shouldn't have conme here in the first place.

Dave's ESL Cafe

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

This is an example of the advice we got from the British Foreign Office before the attack on Iraq.


The Embassy would like to draw your attention to a change in Travel Advice for Saudi Arabia issued on 19 March. A copy of the text is attached; it is also available on the FCO’s website.

Since that notice has issued, military action in Iraq has commenced. The threat to British nationals and organisations in the region, including Saudi Arabia, is high. This includes terrorist attacks, whether by disaffected individuals or by members of organised terrorist groups which could involve the use by them of chemical and biological materials. You will find in the text of the travel advice a new link to separate advice on chemical and biological agents; in Saudi Arabia the emergency number for the Civil Defence Agency is 998.

We continue to advise against all non-essential travel, including holiday travel, to Saudi Arabia, and to encourage those here to consider whether their presence and that of their dependants is essential. Meanwhile you should maintain a high level of vigilance. It will be particularly important in the coming period that you adopt a low profile, minimise in-country travel, practise sensible security precautions and observe the advice on personal and vehicle security we have issued regularly in the past.

Some practical suggestions for the next few days might include the following:

•Make only essential car journeys

•Don’t draw attention to yourself. Dress modestly, speak quietly, be aware of your situation and, if you feel uncomfortable, move to a safe place

•Drive sensibly; always lock your car, have the mobile phone to hand and on, pre-programmed with useful numbers and check the ring tone is discreet

•Leave nothing in the car that indicates which nationality you are

•If you think that you are being followed, drive calmly to a safe area (compound, police station or a friend’s house)

At times such as these, numerous reports circulate about incidents affecting the British or wider expatriate community. While we always welcome such information, the overwhelming majority are rumours with no factual basis. If there are confirmed incidents which could affect the security of the community, we will tell you promptly of them and offer any appropriate advice.

Finally, it would help us considerably if you were able to let us know of British nationals, dependants or otherwise, who have left or are leaving Saudi Arabia.

Shopping and hanging around in shopping malls is a major pastime in the Magic Kingdom. It's a bit like this.

Ilsa is wandering round the Souk in Casablanca while Rick finishes his business with Señor Ferrari in the Blue Parrot. The stall holder offers Ilsa a ‘bargain’ for 700 Francs but she is not interested. Rick approaches from behind and the stall holder realizes he is a friend of Ilsa’s and offers a discount – 200 Francs. Still Ilsa does not bite. The stall holder recognizes there is something between the two old flames – “Ah for special friends of Rick’s we have a special discount. 100 Francs.” Ilsa says she is not interested and walks away from the stall with a sad look on her face.

Shopping in Al Khobar I know how she feels. The first price the stall holder quoted was 700 Francs and he finally went down to 100. Ilsa is sad because she knows the stall holder was prepared to cheat her out of 600 Francs. Shopping in Al Khobar is not so different. In this city I know the price(s) of everything but I am never quite sure of the real value.

Shopping in Al Khobar has ceased to be a pleasure as I never know if I have been ripped off or got a fantastic bargain. Shopping should be fun but how can you enjoy it when you fear you are being over charged all the time just because of your nationality?

Consider the case of Irish Johnny who really needed a bag. We wandered round the Yemeni Souks. Every stall holder offered him their wares and “special” discounts. Eventually Johnny found a bag he liked and negotiated down to “best price.” He handed over SR 40 and was well pleased he had played by the rules yet was still able to get something he liked and even better it felt like a bargain. For shoppers that feels the same as scoring a beautiful goal in football.

We sat down for a well deserved Turkish coffee and Johnny’s eyes fixed on a shop full of bags. I warned him not to go and look but curiosity got the better of him. In the window he saw a better quality bag. He could not believe the price tag. It was SR 10 cheaper than the bag he had just bought. You should have seen the look of disappointment on his face.

“Why can’t they just put price tags on everything and let us choose what we want?” Johnny complained. His warm feeling of contentment had changed to one of bitterness. I know that every time Johnny uses that bag in Ireland he will have a pang of regret that he lost SR 10 on the deal.

Shopkeepers to a man will say, “What’s SR10 here or there to an ex-pat. They can afford it!” I do not think it is the amount of money “gained” in each transaction that is the question. It is the bad taste left in the mouth of the customer when they find out that the “best price” they paid was in fact the “worst price.”

The problem is two fold. Many ex-pats think they are being ripped off at every turn. Obviously they are not. Haggling is part of the culture here and you have to get used to it.
However many shop keepers think that all ex-pats are made of money and will pay over the odds without complaint.

What shopkeepers gain with one hand they lose with the other. For every disappointed shopper like Irish Johnny they lose a potential loyal customer for the future that will not spend money in the shop again or tell his friends to go there.

I am convinced that if shops in Al Khobar put a sign in the window – “WE DISPLAY PRICETAGS,” they would see a significant increase in business.

Unlike Ilsa we cannot all be special friends of Mr. Rick and we have to fend for ourselves when shopping. For you here are some Golden rules when shopping in Al Khobar.

1.Learn the food prices in the large super markets before you go to a market. That way you will recognize a bargain when you see it.

2.Buy household goods in “Everything for SR10.” Some goods might be worth less while others are worth more. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts.

3.If you see something you like in a shop without a price tag, ask the owner why he does not put price tags on his goods. If he gives you a sly smile indicating you have found out his little secret go to a shop which displays price tags. It usually is cheaper.

4.Say you are not American when you are negotiating “best price.”

5.Go shopping with a Saudi friend.

6.Shop in Damman. With or without price tags it is much cheaper than Al Khobar and an all round much better shopping experience.

Arab News answers reader's questions about Islam. People ask about everything under the sun including what to do if one farts during prayers. Here's an interesting question about silk ties.

Wearing a silk tie
Edited by Adil Salahi, Arab News Staff
Published on 25 November 2002

Q. I am aware of the fact that silk was prohibited by the Prophet for Muslim men, but may I ask to what extent does this prohibition apply? Is wearing a silk tie also forbidden, when most ties all over the world state that they are made of pure silk. Surely today wearing a silk tie is accessible to people in all social strata. Please comment.

R. Sanai, Jeddah

A. Holding silk in one hand and gold in the other hand, the Prophet said: “These two are forbidden for the men of my community, permissible for women.” As he did not give us the reason for these two verdicts, the prohibition applies in all situations and for all time. We certainly can make some assumptions or venture some explanations for these rulings, but we will then be liable to make an error. When a ruling is not explained by the Prophet as based on a particular cause, that ruling remains valid for all time in all situations. This is the case in this Hadith which forbids gold and silk for Muslim men.

We need to know, however, that the prohibition applies to pure, natural silk. If the textile industry is able to produce a type of material which is very much like silk, but is manufactured by machines, then this is not the silk God has forbidden. It is lawful to use by men.

Scholars have also said that it is permissible to use silk at the bottom of one’s robes or clothes, so that a robe becomes more suitable for heavy duty. They mention that it should be close to the breadth of a man’s hand. Some scholars today apply this concession to the necktie and suggest that it is permissible to wear a necktie. The analogy seems appropriate, although not all scholars agree with it. I personally feel that it is infinitely better to steer away from it, as much as one can. There are excellent neckties made of ordinary material. We should always prefer these.

Arab News

I saw this article earlier in the year. No comment necessary really.

Yemeni Woman Butchers Husband in Cold Blood

Taher Hazim, Special to Arab News

SANAA, 23 February 2003 — Fann Saeed Ghanem, a 26-year-old Yemeni, has made history by killing her husband in cold blood.

Fann was forced into three nightmarish marriages, and moved from place to place to escape from ill-treatment at the hands of all three husbands. After divorcing from the first, she was forced into a turbulent second marriage. She divorced him as well after three years, and her third marriage was to last just three months.

In prison pending trial, Fann spoke to Al-Jadeeda, a sister publication of Arab News.

“My second husband and third husband were work colleagues,” she says. “When my second husband came to pick up my third husband, he would insult me in front of him. There was no one to defend me or show compassion,” she recalled.

“Even my colleagues at the hospital where I worked would make fun of me, calling me ‘Afann’ (rotten), not Fann.”

“When my third husband made it clear that he would divorce me and marry someone else, and that he had married me without taking account of my feelings, I decided to kill him.”

One day he complained of a headache.

“I told him I was going to give him something for his pain and injected him with a sedative. When he was unconscious, I tied his hands and feet with a rope and then I cut his head off. I was thinking of cutting his whole body into pieces, but I didn’t want so much blood on the floor. I went to the police and turned myself in, but they didn’t believe me until they came and saw the decapitated body.”

She says that she did not have an accomplice in the crime, and did not intend to return to her second husband.

“They were birds of a feather,” she explained. “They beat me a lot, and for all I care they can both go to hell.”

Asked if, as has been alleged, she tried to kill her second husband as well, she says: “I’m not as evil as people think.”

Many people are also saying she is insane.

“I do not know if I am crazy or not,” she asserts. “When I killed my husband, I thought I was dreaming. I don’t know what drove me to do what I did.”

However, “when I remember how I was living in hell, I don’t regret a thing.”

She adds she is a lot happier in prison.

“My fellow inmates never make fun of me, and they understand my situation,” she says.

It is possible that she will be condemned to death.

“Then I will blame the judge, society and police for not understanding the misery I lived in,” she claims. “I will ask them to take care of my children and I will tell society that no one kills without a reason.”

A lawyer, who volunteered to defend her, is planning to enter a plea of insanity on Fann’s behalf. “Everybody knows she is ill,” he told Al-Jadeeda. “I am going to tell the court that she was in hospital for four months.”

“Several witnesses will testify that she once burned her clothes because she didn’t receive her salary,” he adds. “This is clearly evidence that she is not all there.”

Arab News

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. This is what I see and hear in the land of sand and black gold.

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