The romance of Valentine in Saudi Arabia

Valentines day, the day dedicated to the celebration of love, is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, even for married couples. In Saudi Arabia any kind of interaction between people of opposite sex are forbidden, even just talking. Any public display of affection is taboo.

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Religious police ”Anti Valentine patrols” roam the malls and shops, they confiscate any red or heart shaped items days before the infidel ‘V-day”.
All this makes Valentines day especially romantic in Saudi. Imagine the dangers, trials and tribulations, not to mention he enormous costs your loved one has gone through to get you that contraband red rose, and heart shaped box of chocolates!

valentine

From AFP Friday 14 2014

Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine’s gifts and defy the religious police.

Florist Hussein came up with a simple solution to a ban on red tokens of love: he filled his window with white roses, orange irises and violet hydrangeas.
“I’ve hidden everything red in the shop, so when a religious police patrol comes along, they find nothing to complain about,” he said.
Hussein’s shop window may be blooming with white, orange and violet, but he still has the real thing — red roses — out the back.
“I’ve sold at least 350 red roses at 20 riyals ($5, 3.90 euros) a pop. Many women call us on the phone to order roses, because they fear the religious police.”

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Kumar, another florist, was persuaded by a Muttawa visit not even to consider flouting the Valentine’s Day ban. However: “We’re going to sell these to a chocolate shop,” he said, pointing to bouquets of red flowers in a back room of his store.

Confectioners do have chocolate hearts for discreet sale, but only to the right people. “Of course we have them, but the religious police came by and warned us against selling them,” said one chocolate shop owner who asked not to be identified. “We hid them because we don’t want any problems,” he added, smiling, indicating that an illicit transaction involving the chocolate contraband would be more than acceptable.

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This year in Jeddah, a city more open and relaxed than most of the rest of Saudi Arabia, some florists have been openly selling red roses, and are unafraid to give their names.
“The religious police didn’t come. We’re doing nothing wrong anyway,” said Abu Zakaria, who runs a flower shop in the north of the city.

Another man, Thamer Hussein, said some people with romantic yearnings marked the Valentine’s festival a day in advance, to ensure the experience was hassle-free. “Some young people celebrated St Valentine’s Day on Wednesday evening, with small parties and exchanges of gifts,” he said.

Read more:

 Ahram online

To veil or to die, that’s the question

niqab-4

Yesterday a student at the women only campus of a Riyad university collapsed and died of a heart attack. Allegedly the male paramedics had to wait for an hour before they were admitted due to ”modesty concerns”

The student, now identified as Amna Bawazir was known to suffer from heart problems.

Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.

king saud university

However, the university’s rector, Badran al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of Amna.

Professors at King Saud University are demanding an investigation. “We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say,” said Professor Aziza Youssef.
One staff member, who witnessed the situation, said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.

Al-Omar said the staff called campus health officials within minutes of Amna Bawazeer collapsing and that about 25 minutes later they called paramedics.

The students insisted that the officials who refused to allow the medical team into the college on the pretext they were men should be held accountable for the incident.
”Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” some of the students told the daily. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Amna Bawazir’s death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident.  Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom’s strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Amna Bawazeer.

In 2002, a fire broke out at a girl’s school in Mecca, killing at least 15
girls. The religious police would not allow the girls to escape, actually chased them back into the burning school, because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas.

Petition: Save my life, then my Modesty
Read more:

Al Arabiya

ABC news

Gulf News

No Woman No Drive

Bad luck for three women who have won the weekly raffle draw of two luxury cars, the prime attraction at the popular “Hayya Jeddah Shopping Festival.”

They may have won the cars, but being women they are not allowed to drive them!

There are six more cars to be won, now if they would only include a foreign driver with those cars won by women…

Read more:

Maktoob News

Old Mecca and the kaaba

Very little is left of the ancient city that is Mecca, and more is making way for modern buildings every year. Mecca used to be like a romantic dream city, full of beautiful elegant buildings.

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Far fewer people could make the actual journey to Mecca, so the area around the Kaaba was much smaller.

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mecca-4

Flash floods occurred from time to time, about every two years

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The Gold embroidered black cloth, Kiswa, which drapes the Kaaba is renewed every year,

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The kiswa used to be made in Egypt,

the departure from Egypt.mecca departure from Egypt

The kiswa on a photo from the early 20th century, in front the crescent shaped wall, the hateem

Mecca8

Suspension of text messages when women leave Saudi Arabia

The automatic text message service where a text message is send to a man to inform him that one of his ”dependants” is leaving the country is being suspended for the time being. Pending adjustment. So it’s not going away, but adjusted. Maybe they will be going back to men having to sign up for this service instead of all men being warned automatically.

saudi woman

In Saudi Arabia women and children are considered dependants. So if a woman or children, or household personnel, is at the airport in order to leave the country, the husband/father/employer gets a text message that ”dependants are leaving the country”. Now any man would be aware anyway that his ”dependants” are leaving the country because women and children also need a ”yellow paper”, a form signed by the husband/father/son/grandson/any related male, confirming that he allows them to leave the country.

Sometimes the form is not enough, especially if it is a Western woman with children, and the man has to go to the airport to give his consent personally on the spot. Even a very old woman needs male permission, if necessary from a young grandson.

So now the text service, which was made an automatic one in 2012, is suspended. “The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Laheedan, spokesperson of the Passports Department in comments published on Monday. He indicated that the system could be reintroduced, adding new options.

Many women rejoice of course. And there are a lot of Saudi men who do not like the system either. But most interesting is the reactions on twitter, blogs and in the comments on Arab News. Read the comments in the link provided below!

Reactions are very diverse:

  • Sabria S. Jawhar  ”The notification process should have never been introduced in the first place because it is humiliating for women. It is demeaning to women and restricts their freedom.”
  • ”Without such a system, a woman or a child would be free to come and go and travel abroad without her or his family knowing about it. If such is the case, we will find many of our women and children going abroad without our knowledge.
  • Salwa, another blogger, said that since the aim of the notification system is to provide a good service for families, men should also be included to augment the advantages. “I am sure that many problems would be solved if women were aware of their husbands’ cross-border movements as well,” Salwa said. “In fact, women would benefit from the system much more than men. So please include men and alert their wives about their international departures and arrivals,” she said.
  • ”What is the big issue? As a muslim women we shouldnt be travelling without a mahram anyway except for necessity and if your guardian has already given you permission then whats the big deal that he gets a text
    message?”

What do you think?

read more:

Arab News

Saudi Arabia: Women are to blame for rise of harrassment

niqab-3

From a survey conducted by the King Abdul Aziz centre for National Dialogue it seems that Saudi  men believe women are to blame for the rising cases involving molestation of females on the grounds they are seduced by women’s excessive make up.
The findings were included in a survey conducted by the Riyadh-based King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue and involved 992 males and females.

The survey, carried by Saudi newspapers, found that 86.5 per cent of the men polled believe that women’s exaggeration in wearing make-up is the main cause of the rise in molestation cases in public places.

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Although women are forced to be fully covered in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region is also known for the fashion of a more ”expressive” style of make-up. Especially at weddings women indulge in very strong make-up styles. All humans, in all times and places, even our pre-homo sapiens ancestors, felt the need to express themselves with beads, shells and colour. This is actually the first manifestation of human artistic creativity.

Cave Painting, South Algeria
It is therefore only to be expected that when people are allowed no part of themselves to be visible except the eyes, then the human need to express oneself will be concentrated on the eyes.

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

About 80 per cent of the persons polled believe lack of deterrent penalties and the absence of specific anti-molestation laws are also to blame for the phenomenon
The report also said 91 per cent of the respondents, all aged above 19, believe another key factor is the “poor religious sentiment” while nearly 75 per cent said the problem is caused by lack of awareness campaigns and warning notices at most public places.

Emirates 24/7 News

Saudi Arabia: American Bedu’s Quiet Secret

Dear readers and friends of Carol, here you find Carol’s last article, which she had scheduled a long time in the future. This article illustrates Carol’s great capacity for love and forgiveness.

We miss you Carol.

After careful thought and deliberation I have decided to come out with something I have danced around and never discussed outright.  Why?  Because of my own inner conflicts on the issue.  However, I realize that to be fair to the memory of the man with whom I shared the best times of my life and to his family and heritage, I should speak out.  This may not put me in the most favored of light but as the saying goes, it is what it is. It is part of who I am and my life I had shared with my late husband, Abdullah.

When I first met Abdullah back in the late 1990’s I was under the belief he was separated and in the process of divorce.  After all, we met in Pakistan, he was there alone and if asked, he did not acknowledge that he was married.  Truthfully I also made it very difficult for him to be candid as I was brash and vocal on my views on men who had more than wife.  Besides, at that time, I never imagined we’d have a life or future together.  Yet as time went on and I got to know this kind, caring and compassionate man, I gave him my heart with no holds barred.

Time passed and we discussed marriage.  He chose to be less than direct on the topic of marriage other than he had children with a good woman and whom he respected highly.  The implication was that a divorce had taken place but he would do whatever he could for his children and their mother.  I admired his integrity and loyalty.

It was not until we had been married for more than three years that I learned he had never divorced his first wife.  From a western and emotional perspective I felt abandoned and betrayed.  Yet at the same time, Abdullah was always true to his words and actions.  He never made me feel incomplete or less than loved or his only love for that matter.  He had a relationship similar to many around the world of couples who were divorced and had children in common.  He never spoke against the fine woman who was his first wife.  It was my own insecurities that would make this subject an issue.  Yes; like a whining banshee I would feel some periods of self pity and fear.  Oh how silly I was.

As more time passed I like to say that my eyes opened wider and wiser.  I became aware of intimate family details and especially so how a Saudi woman can lose so much of herself and her own opportunities if there is perceived abandonment or divorce.  Abdullah, showcasing his honor, would never place a woman in such a position.  He wanted her to always have the protection of his name, integrity and family.  She raised his children and raised them so well.

She and I never met, never talked.  There was no need.  Over time I came to realize there was no need for me to feel threatened or insecure.  If anything, one could say I was in the stronger position since I was the one recognized and known as Abdullah’s wife to whom he openly gave his heart and was willing to sacrifice his position in order to merge a life together.

I only have all the more admiration for Abdullah.  He was a man caught in tradition and heritage.  Like me, he never dreamed he’d also find that ‘once in a lifetime love.’  He did not want to lose me and chose to hold back from me until I asked him point blank directly about his marital status.  Even when I did confront him all those years ago, I still see the fear and concern which etched over his face.  He was ready for me to let him go because of my strong abhorrence against the concept of multiple wives in Islam.  But all it took was for me to see his face, his fear, his love and yes, his fear to hope.  I knew… I could not let this man go.  We would move forward and move forward even stronger.  We would learn to dissolve the time which had been lost by my own fears and insecurities.

Don’t say it can’t happen to you.  It can.  It does.  It happened to me.  Don’t be quick to judge or point fingers either.  Don’t blame him.  Don’t blame me.  Don’t blame her.  We all may find ourselves in circumstances beyond which imagined.

My late husband taught me an invaluable life lesson on compassion, honor, integrity and how to accept compromises for less hurt, great gain and immeasurable love.

Ramadan and the lunar calendar

moon_phases_diagram

This year the Ramadan starts on the 9th of July. The month of Ramadan is a month of partial fasting and extra prayers. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, and that includes not drinking. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the months migrate through the seasons, moving forward every year by 11 to 12 days. A Lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the lunar phase. Twelve lunar months make up 354,37 days.

Ramadan dates can vary in different countries depending on whether one goes with the calculated time of the new moon, or the actual sighting of the new moon. All countries on the planet will see the new moon within a 24 hour period, starting from the first sighting in the east

The lunar calendar with twelve months, the Hijri Qamari, is the official calendar in Saudi Arabia. Other lunar calendars may include the addition of extra months to synchronise them to the solar calendar and make them better linked to the seasons, and are in fact ”lunarsolar” calendars. Most calendars used in antiquity had some adjustment to bring it in synchronisation with the solar year.

In the hijri lunar calendar it takes about 33 years and five days for the month of Ramadan to migrate through the solar year and end up where it started.

Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed. We know it moves up 11 to 12 days every year, and that it takes 33 years and five days to make the cycle through the solar year, so we could calculate when exactly the Quran was revealed on the Gregorian calendar.
Anybody like to try? Please share the result!

AA

Read more:

The lunisolar calendar

The lunar calendar

Saudi Arabia changes weekend

business

The weekend in Saudi Arabia used to be Thursday and Friday, and this is now to change to Friday and Saturday. Friday is the Muslim holy day,  when men are supposed to go to the mosque for communal prayer. Friday prayer is the big prayer, there is usually a sermon as well.

This will be a great improvement for Saudis international trade, since they now overlap 4 days with large parts of the world instead of only three days, and they will have the same working week schedule with other GCC countries, which adopted this scheme earlier.

Mohammed al-Sheikh, chairman of the Capital Market Authority, said in a separate statement that the weekend shift will fulfil the needs of the Saudi economy, especially as the kingdom is a member of the Group of 20 nations.
“The weekend shift will unify trading days with the region’s markets and will reduce the gap with global markets to one day, which will lead to greater convergence with global markets,” al-Sheikh said.

The conservatives have been fighting this change of the official weekend. The change overrides years of objections from religious conservatives that Saudi Arabia, home of the most important two sites of Islam, should keep a weekend distinct from that of the West.
“We will be copying the Jews and the Christians,” prominent Saudi businessman Abdul Rahman Al Jeraisy said in 2007, when the king’s Shura advisory council considered the change.
The debate has been going on since 2007.

The kingdom’s new Shoura Council started in April to consider a shift in the weekend.
The change is now happening on June 29.  By royal decree.

AA

read more:

Al Arabiya

The Guardian

Gulf News

‘Saudi Arabian liberals’ website founder detained since one year

Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi

Amnesty International urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally a website founder who is still detained and on trial one year after his arrest for expressing his views online.

After founding “Saudi Arabian Liberals” – an online forum for political and social debate – Raif Badawi, 29, was charged last June with “setting up a website that undermines public security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures. The prosecution had on the basis of this called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
He has been detained for the past year in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah, after being arrested on 17 June 2012.

“One year on, Raif Badawi remains behind bars as his trial continues for the ‘crime’ of encouraging social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“His detention shows the authorities’ contempt for online expression, and serves as a warning to the third of the Saudi Arabian population who are resorting to social media to express themselves, particularly if they are thinking of airing dissenting views.”

The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine’s Day for which he is accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

One of his articles concluded:
“Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise.”

The charges against the website founder also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one that insinuates that Al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become “a den for terrorists”.

“Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience and therefore calls for him to be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther.

His trial began in June 2012 in the District Court in Jeddah, and was marred by irregularities there. According to his lawyer, the original trial judge was replaced by a judge who had advocated that Raif Badawi be punished for “apostasy”. His lawyer contested the judge’s impartiality in the case.

On 17 December, the District Court referred the case to the General Court in Jeddah, which five days later made Raif Badawi sign documents to enable his trial for “apostasy” to proceed.
Conflicting views over which court had jurisdiction over the case, relating in part to the judge at the District Court insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” – something only the General Court can do – resulted in the case being shuffled between several courts. Most recently on 8 June the District Court sent the case back to the appeal court once again insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” despite the appeal court not considering that he be tried on that charge.

“Raif Badawi’s trial has been an attempt to intimidate him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives,” said Philip Luther.
Over the past two years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested several others for expressing online views deemed to be contrary to Islam.
Hamza Kashgari remains detained without charge or trial since he was extradited from Malaysia in February 2012, where he had fled after he wrote about the Prophet Muhammed on the social network Twitter.
The prominent writer and academic Turki al-Hamad was reportedly released without charge on 5 June after he was detained in December 2012 for tweets also deemed contrary to Islam.

Bloggers, critics and activists have been increasingly singled out for their online activism in the Gulf kingdom.

On 9 March 2013, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) was required to shut down its social media accounts and disband. Two of ACPRA’s founders, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment respectively. They submitted appeals against their sentences on 28 May.

From: Amnesty International

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