Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gangnam Style

Found here:, at Riyadh Bureau.

1 Comment

Filed under arab, arabist, music, Saudi Arabia

When Can Saudi Women Drive Already?

Saudi Arabia promised in January of 2008 that women would be allowed to drive within the year. Story from 2008 here: (I’m sorry that WordPress has altered my ability to make hyperlinks work).

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian, Saudi Arabia

The Museum of Science and Technology in Islam

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia has an awesome museum, the Museum of Science and Technology in Islam (MOSTI). Here’s their home page.

Take a look at the exhibit on the Elephant Water Clock. Way cool.

An old illustration of said elephant water clock:

There are very many other cool things there. Nice website, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian, arabist, Saudi Arabia

This and That

1-President Obama has thrown his first gay Arabic linguist out of the Army, Lt. Dan Choi.

2-Early reports said that the Pope and several other people walked out on a speech by Taysir Tamimi, the Qadi of Jerusalem. But this Guardian UK article says the Pope stayed put. I haven’t been able to find the text of the speech that they found objectionable. It may be just that the Pope wasn’t in the mood to hear facts during his public relations tours of the Middle East. Also, Tamimi wasn’t scheduled to speak at all.
Israelis are also unhappy with the Pope, who they feel didn’t make a big enough deal about the Holocaust.

3-Saudi Arabia promised in January of 2008 that women would be allowed to drive within the year. It hasn’t happened yet. In fact, a woman was arrested for driving this March.

4-The Emirati prince caught on tape torturing a man has been detained. That’s probably somewhat different from being arrested.

5-One of our own former detainees, who was tortured and consequently gave false information that the Bush administration used to rush the country into invading Iraq, has apparently killed himself while in Libyan prison. What’s interesting to me is that the WaPo doesn’t know that al-Libi is not a real last name, that it just means “the Libyan,” and that Ibn al-Sheikh is just one name. So they essentially reported on one Buster from Libya.

When President George W. Bush ordered the 2006 transfer to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of high-value detainees previously held in CIA custody, Libi was pointedly missing. Human rights groups had long suspected that Libi was instead transferred to Libya, but the CIA had never confirmed where he was sent.

“I would speculate that he was missing because he was such an embarrassment to the Bush administration,” said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. “He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war.”

6-There was some speculation (admittedly on the part of nutters) that the soldier who shot and killed five fellow soldiers in Iraq must be an Arab and/or a Muslim. He isn’t, but he is a Texan.

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian, arabic, arabist, Saudi Arabia

A Piece of Trivia

So the other day I was chatting with a colleague about humidity, and how for some reason the weather reports out here never give the humidity, etc. So we looked at the weather report, and my colleague told me that the dew point was the thing to look it, and I had never paid any attention to the dew point before, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

The dew point is the temperature to which a given parcel of air must be cooled, at constant barometric pressure, for water vapor to condense into water. The condensed water is called dew. The dew point is a saturation point.

The dew point is associated with relative humidity. A high relative humidity indicates that the dew point is closer to the current air temperature. Relative humidity of 100% indicates that the dew point is equal to the current temperature (and the air is maximally saturated with water).

And on this Wikipedia page I found a really interesting piece of information:

A dew point of 35 °C (95 °F) was reported in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia at 3 p.m. July 8, 2003. The temperature was 42 °C (108 °F), resulting in an apparent temperature or heat index of 80 °C (176 °F).[2]


Leave a comment

Filed under miscellaneous, Saudi Arabia

What a Character

A Saudi scholar expressed his disapproval at the insidious anthropomorphism of unclean animals.

The article has great fun with it, but it boils down to the scholar’s saying that the mouse is an unclean animal in the Muslim (as it is in the Jewish and Christian) faith and that cartoons with winsome murine protagonists lead children to believe that real-life mice are probably pretty cool, too.

See? This seems reasonable:

“According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature. How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry?

“Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice.

Also from the article:

The cleric, a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington DC, said that under Sharia, both household mice and their cartoon counterparts must be killed.

Hmm, one wonders how you kill a cartoon counterpart. Perhaps this is a roundabout way to justify the televised beating death of Farfur, a costumed Mickey Mouse lookalike who was on a Palestinian children’s show until he met his dreadful end.

But hold on a second. First off, just because an animal is “unclean” doesn’t mean you have to kill them on sight. Secondly, mice are cute.

While we’re talking about sheikh Munajid,

Last month Mr Munajid condemned the Beijing Olympics as the “bikini Olympics”, claiming that nothing made Satan happier than seeing females athletes dressed in skimpy outfits.

So he’s not completely wrong.

Anyhow, for comparison’s sake, let’s drag out this news story from 1999:

[…] the Teletubbies have made the Rev Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, hot under the collar. He decided to “out” Tinky Winky in the February edition of his National Liberty Journal.

In an article called Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet, he says: “He is purple – the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol.”

He said the “subtle depictions” of gay sexuality are intentional and later issued a statement that read: “As a Christian I feel that role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children.”

And he was no minor character, rather

He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Liberty University in 1971 and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.


Filed under animals, movies and shows, Salafism, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Off the Hook for 9/11

It’s good to be king.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, four princes and other Saudi entities are immune from a lawsuit filed by victims of the September 11 attacks and their families alleging they gave material support to al Qaeda, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey dismissing a claim against Saudi Arabia, a Saudi charity, four princes and a Saudi banker of providing material support to al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks.

The victims and their families argued that because the defendants gave money to Muslim charities that in turn gave money to al Qaeda, they should be held responsible for helping to finance the attacks.

The appeals court found that the defendants are protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The court also noted that exceptions to the immunity rule do not apply because Saudi Arabia has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

That’s the whole text of the article.

Actually, I would have thought they could come up with a better rationale than “they gave money to charities.” Most everyone donates to charities. And you have no control over what the charity does with it afterwards. Not everyone has the foresight to investigate thoroughly when they think they’re donating to a worthwhile charity. A better reason would be, for example, the Saudi school system and textbooks.

From a 2006 WaPo article:

A 2004 Saudi royal study group recognized the need for reform after finding that the kingdom’s religious studies curriculum “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other.’ “

Since then, the Saudi government has claimed repeatedly that it has revised its educational texts.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, has worked aggressively to spread this message.

“Not only have we eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system, we have implemented a comprehensive internal revision and modernization plan.”

A year ago, an embassy spokesman declared: “We have reviewed our educational curriculums. We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths.”

The problem is: These claims are not true.

A review of a sample of official Saudi textbooks for Islamic studies used during the current academic year reveals that, despite the Saudi government’s statements to the contrary, an ideology of hatred toward Christians and Jews and Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine remains in this area of the public school system.

It’s a long article, so I’m just posting some highlights.

In November 2005, a Saudi teacher who made positive statements about Jews and the New Testament was fired and sentenced to 750 lashes and a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned after public and international protests.)

I kind of suspect there’s more to this story. I’ll try and do some research on this, but there’s not much to go on.

From a tenth grade Saudi textbook (revised):

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a “free Muslim male.” Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim’s heirs for murder or injury:

“Blood money for a free infidel. [Its quantity] is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is ‘of the book’ or not ‘of the book’ (such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.).

“Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.”

But I suppose taking that up in court would be rough.

Leave a comment

Filed under Salafism, Saudi Arabia

Will Kuwaiti Royal be Executed?

Smuggling drugs in the Gulf is a high-risk enterprise, with frequent death sentences for dealers and mules. It is possible Sheikh Talal Nasser al-Sabah believed that being a relative of Kuwait’s rulers would protect him.

Now, with a death sentence hanging over the sheikh for drug trafficking, the oil-rich emirate is waiting to see whether the strict rule of law or the kinship ties of the ruling family will prevail.

The sheikh, who is in his fifties, was caught by Kuwaiti police with 10kg (22lb) of cocaine and 165lb of hashish. When sentencing him to death, Judge Humoud al-Mutwatah said that he had “willingly walked the path of evil” and deserved no mercy.

It was the first time that a member of a Gulf royal family had been condemned to death by a court, and is widely seen as a test case for the impartiality of the law in a country where the convict’s relative, the Emir, could pardon his wayward kinsman. The sheikh was the nephew of a previous Emir of Kuwait, Jaber al-Sabah, who died in 2006, and is one of hundreds of members of the huge ruling family. Lawyers at the time hailed the sentence as a sign of the impartiality of the law. Najib al-Wugayyan, a prominent criminal lawyer, called the verdict “a magnificent indication to all that nobody is above the law”.

And isn’t this interesting? A similar case involving a Saudi royal:

Strict as the laws are, they are not as harsh as those in Saudi Arabia, where smugglers convicted of trafficking marijuana have been beheaded. Even there, however, a member of the Royal Family, Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, has been caught up in drug trafficking.

Last year a French court sentenced the Prince in absentia to ten years in jail and a $100 million (£50 million) fine for his part in a plot to smuggle two tonnes of cocaine from Colombia to an airport outside Paris in 1999, using a private aircraft and diplomatic immunity to move the drugs. Since Saudi Arabia has no extradition treaty with France or the US, the Prince was not jailed.

But back to Kuwait

The conviction was not Sheikh al-Sabah’s first run-in with the law. In 1991 he was arrested by Egyptian police and charged with smuggling heroin, although he said at the time that it was all for personal use.

Sheikh al-Sabah continues to deny that he is a drug dealer and said that he has left his fate to the Emir. “I am drug-addicted and I am getting cured. I don’t deal,” he told the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jareeda from his jail cell. “I don’t know whether Kuwaiti society is satisfied with the ruling of the judiciary or not. But it is in the hands of the Emir.”

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian, Saudi Arabia

“No Reservations” Show in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia

As I was perusing the Muslimah Media Watch blog, which is in my blogroll over there, I found this YouTube clip of Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. This YouTube clip I’m posting here is just the first segment; if you go to YouTube I think you can find the rest.

I’m no expert on Saudi Arabia, but from what I’ve read, this freedom that Mr Bourdain and his Saudi guide enjoy to eat and socialize in public freely (the guide is a woman) doesn’t exist in Riyadh. If you had to go to Saudi Arabia, Jiddah would be the place to go.

1 Comment

Filed under arab, arabist, movies and shows, Saudi Arabia

Soap Opera Has Powerful Effect in Arab World

CAIRO, Egypt – A relative newcomer to Arab TV, the Turkish soap opera “Noor” has helped narrow the gender gap between men and women across the Middle East.
Women see the lead female character – the independent, aspiring fashion designer Noor — as a role model. Meantime, her husband on the show — the blue-eyed former model and athlete Mohannad — has become the region’s first pin-up boy.

The nightly soap opera has mainly female viewers glued to their TV sets not only because Mohannad is a cuter version of Justin Timberlake, but because he offers something many lack in their lives: romance, tenderness and a supportive partner to his independent wife. Mohannad has become the standard against which many Arab men are being judged, much to their chagrin.

Saudi society abounds with Mohannad jokes such as this one: A Saudi woman was touring Turkey with her husband and son when her husband went missing. As she described him to the police, her son shouted, “But that’s not what Daddy looks like.” “Be quiet,” she whispers, “They might just give me Mohannad.”

“Mohannad” and “Noor” are now the hottest babies’ names in Saudi – even though the religious establishment has condemned the show. A top Saudi cleric forbade viewers from watching the “malicious” soap operas that “corrupt and spread vice” and has also declared that any TV station airing them is against God. This has put Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC), which airs the show three times a day, at loggerheads with Saudi religious leaders.

Saudi clerics may have an uphill battle: The Turkish serial has so wooed Saudis with its scenic backdrops of the Bosporus, and green, clean vistas of Istanbul that Turkish tourism officials say it has caused Saudi tourism to the country to more than double.

The series has not only made Saudi women aware of the failings of their partners, but the advantages engendered by a more liberal, tolerant Islamic society such as Turkey.

For many women, the show has opened a whole new world and a lot of men aren’t happy about it. “Men feel threatened. It is the first time women have a role model for male beauty and passion and can compare him with their husbands,” said Abu Khalid. “It is the first time they found out their husbands are not nice, that they are not being treated the way they should be, and that there is an option outside.”

Reem, a young Saudi businesswoman who prefers to use her first name only, was introduced to the show by her nieces, ages seven and eight. Reem explained the show’s allure. “Romance is not here, living in a dry desert. Saudi women are missing something in their lives, in the treatment in the family, the wife with her husband and the husband with his wife. What I see from my female customers is that they are attracted by the love and romance and the way the man is treating the woman.”

No romance in the dry desert? She’s not familiar with the sheikh genre of romance novels. I actually recently gave in to curiosity about these and am reading Burning Love. For research purposes.

Speaking of Soap Operas, an American one, As the World Turns, has had an Iraqi character on it for a while now, Ameera, who is married to a gay, American man. If I could stand soap operas anymore, I’d watch. Muslimah Media Watch reports on it from time to time.

Back to the story at hand: here is the actor’s Facebook page so you can see what all the fuss is about:

And so you don’t have to wait, here are photos:

It\'s a little too warm for this jacket

It's a little too warm for this jacket

I smoulder

I smoulder


Filed under movies and shows, Saudi Arabia