Saudi Arabia: Rise of Homeless

As this Arab News article extols, homelessness of Saudis is on the rise in the Kingdom and very noticeable in Makkah.  Many of the homeless were observed as mentally unstable.

The article attempts to uncover exactly which agencies are responsible for the plight of the homeless in the Kingdom.  While I applaud efforts for seeking governmental aid for the individuals, it does not need to stop there.

I see helping a homeless person to change their status in life as a great CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project that many businesses and organizations could take on.  Simply providing food and clean clothes can make a homeless person feel better about themselves.

This would also be a good opportunity for school children to practice the art of giving.  I am not suggesting or condoning that anyone other than a professional should go near a homeless person who is suffering from a mental condition though.

Perhaps a homeless man who is not mentally ill could be given a job as a “tea boy” or something similar which does not require a large or specialized skill set.  This could be the start of independence and rebuilding a better life.

The article mentions that some of the homeless are not alone in that they have families but for whatever reason are estranged.  If a person’s family member is living on the streets and looking in garbage bins for food, shame on that family!  The article should have published the names of the families who have abandoned one of their own flesh and blood.  Shame on that family!!

Saudi Arabia: Is Too Much Emphasis Placed on the Commercialism of Makkah?

The Holy city of Makkah has already undergone a significant facelift with the construction of the Makkah clock tower as well as expansion of the Haram to accommodate more pilgrims.  Many Saudis would not recognize the Makkah of today as compared to the simplistic Makkah of the past.

Now Makkah is starting to become a high rise city like Jeddah.  What has remained of the old Makkah near the Haram is going to be razed and destroyed to make way for the new commercialized Makkah.

7000 properties are scheduled to be destroyed of which 4000 of the properties are residential housing.  These properties are to be destroyed for further expansion and accommodation of pilgrims.  But what about the people, the families, who are forced to give up their homes?  Yes; they will be compensated but monetary compensation does not necessarily make up for the memories and the proximity families enjoyed to the Haram.  Besides, it is not easy to relocate where there is no choice.  Even properties on the outer borders of Makkah are not cheap and have risen in cost over the years with the ongoing expansions. 

“Seasonal accommodation for pilgrims constituted about 70 percent of business for 35 to 40 percent of investors who were from outside Makkah.”  Is this fair to the old time residents of Makkah?  How truly necessary is further expansion?

Saudi Arabia: What is Makkah Like?

A non-Muslim will not be allowed to go inside the Haram boundaries of Makkah.  Therefore I’ve put together some videos that can give readers a glimpse of inside Makkah.

The first video is an individual driving around Makkah.  The video starts with the outskirts of Makkah which brought back many personal memories for me as I have family who live in one of the neighborhoods passed.  The driver then arrives into the city of Makkah.  The large busses which are seen are all busses for transporting pilgrims.

I’d also like to point out that one can clearly see from the video that Makkah is not a flat city built upon the desert.  Instead the area is quite hilly and mountainous in places.

The next video gives readers a tour of the malls of Makkah.  Not all of the malls are shown in this video but it gives an indication of the wide selection of shops and variety that is available in Makkah.  This video was taken during Hajj and readers will see many pilgrims with their shaved heads and wearing the traditional dress for hajj in this video.

This next video was taken last year during Ramadan at the Haram.  In addition to excellent footage of the Haram it also shows the Makkah clock tower.

During Ramadan Muslims observe the Taraweeh prayer.  This video is the Taraweeh prayer which was said at the Haram on the first night of Ramadan.  In Saudi Arabia if a Muslim is not in Makkah or does not go to a local mosque for the Taraweeh prayer, the prayer will be observed on television where it is broadcast live on Saudi Arabian television.  During Ramadan and especially the Taraweeh prayer more women will come to local mosques.

Taraweeh prayers are prayed in pairs of two and can be prayed in at least 20 raka‘āt according to the two major schools (Hanafis, Shafi’i) of Islam. Some believe that 8, 12 or 20 can be read. Malikis say that it is 36. Due to varying numbers, the number of prayers performed is broad in scope. This prayer is performed only during Ramadan of the Islamic calendar after Salāt of Isha’a. Muslims believe it is customary to attempt a khatm “complete recitation” of the Qur’an in Ramadan by reciting at least one juz’ per night in tarawih. Tarawih prayers are considered optional, not mandatory.

Saudi Arabia/Germany: Quotas Research on Ability to Reliably Receive Mail in the Kingdom From Abroad

American Bedu has been apprached by the German company, Quotas, for assistance in seeking individuals located in the Saudi cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah to assist in a pro-active survey on receipt of correspondence.  If you are interested and like to participate, the full details are provided in the paragraphs below.

 

International postal measurement Saudi Arabia

 

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

 

Quotas is a quality research company from Hamburg, Germany. For many years, our team has been carrying out domestic and international measurements of postal services on behalf of various postal operators e.g. Royal Mail, Post Danmark, Deutsche Post, La Poste France and Posta Slovenije.

 

Supported by worldwide 2,500 survey participants the results of our measurements are used to improve the quality of service for the benefit of all postal customers.

 

For a new project on behalf of the Universal Postal Union – the UPU – we are looking for panellists living in the following cities:

 

-      RIYADH

-      JEDDAH

-      MAKKAH

 

Your survey task:

 

  • You receive on average 3-4 test letters (with real stamps) per week, sent to your P.O. Box address
  • You enter all dates of receipt of your test mail on our website
  • You empty the P.O. Box on every possible delivery day

 

For your activity, you will receive a monthly reward of 20 USD. You can choose between:

 

  • an Amazon gift voucher (www.amazon.com)
  • or payment on a registered account with Moneybookers (www.moneybookers.com)
  • or we donate your award to the international humanitarian medical aid agency “Doctors without borders” (www.msf.org)

 

If you want to take part in this measurement, please kindly register on our website www.world-mail-panel.com (survey code “GMS- a.bedu”) or contact us by email at panel@quotas.de.

 

We are looking forward to your assistance!

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Kind regards from Hamburg,

Your Quotas Team

 

 

*) More information about Quotas you will find on our website http://www.quotas.de

 

Saudi Arabia: Ramadan is Coming – Keep the Toilets Clean

I have always enjoyed traveling by car for the opportunities to see more and especially in Saudi Arabia which was a new territory for me.  However the first trip between Riyadh and Makkah I discovered that toilet facilities were abysmal.  I did not go further than the doorway at the toilet facilities provided by gas stations due to the stench emanating from inside.  Rest areas with private resting rooms where one can pay and have a room with a private toilet did not guarantee cleanliness either.  The other option was to use the toilet at the mosque which is always adjacent to a rest area.  Sadly even the toilet where one is to prepare themselves for absolution before prayers was probably among the worse.  I found in all public toilets that there would be inches of dirty water on the floor.  The “two stepper” toilets themselves would be covered with fecal matter, paper, sanitary napkins and sometimes dirty diapers.  A person is expected to situate themselves around this debris and conduct their private business.  Even the washing area for cleaning up afterwards would have dirty diapers floating atop the water.

After a few experiences of encountering such disgusting toilets I would have my husband stop in a more deserted area on the road with some privacy so I could go and relieve myself in the desert where it was much cleaner.  Either he or one of my stepdaughters would shield me from sight with a large blanket.  I was much more comfortable and less fearful of catching some kind of disease using the public toilets.

Arab news had a recent article also discussing the poor condition of the toilets at public washrooms during travel.  The article also includes the condition of toilets at shopping malls, train stations, airlines and on board flights.  It is true that the conditions of these toilets are just as deplorable.  I’m certain that individuals do not allow the toilets in their own room to be in such a condition so why do they overlook etiquette and cleanliness during travel?

Ramadan will be coming soon and there will be an influx of travelers to Makkah to perform umrah.  To keep down the risk of germs and disease the people should be cognizant and make an effort to clean up after themselves.  It would also be prudent to have attendants on hand whose duty is to ensure the washrooms are clean and usable.  The condition of the toilets does not enhance the image of Saudi Arabia.

 

Saudi Arabia: An Introduction to Desert Publisher

It  gives American Bedu joy to share with readers that one of her favorite publishers specializing exclusively in photo books of Saudi Arabia is now online – Desert Publisher.  The books produced by Desert Publisher are exclusive photo books with illustrations featuring the Hidden Treasures and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  These books are ideal for anyone who is planning to come to the Kingdom and wants to capture the essence of the culture, traditions and customs before arrival.  The books also make the perfect gift for expatriates and Saudis alike.  Noone should be without their own edition of Desert Publisher books.

Presently one can purchase Desert Publisher books about:

  •  Janadriah – Saudis annual cultural festival which showcases the diverse crafts, art, music and traditions throughout the Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

  •  Mada’in Saleh – Mada’in Saleh is the “Little Petra” found in Saudi Arabia’s Hijaz region where the ancient Nabateans had made a home in the Kingdom.  Mada’in Saleh is known for its tombs, the origin of the Hijaz Railway and historic Al Ula.  The book is full of captivating photos and narrative to match. (available in English, Arabic, French, Dutch and Spanish)
  • Saudi Arabia:  This is an exclusive table top book filled with breathtaking photos giving one an introduction to all corners of the majestic Kingdom.  It provides contrasts between the modern cities and beudion villages, the sea and the desert, it’s cultural history and use of high technology.  This book breaks the barriers of pre-existing stereotypes propagated by media.  (Available in English, French, German, Spanish, Asian languages, Arabic and Russian)
  •  Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) – This book is one of American Bedu’s personal favorites.  The Empty Quarter is generally believed to be a lifeless stretch of desert however this book shatters those beliefs with the photos that show an Empty Quarter bursting with life and activity.  One of the most magnificent photos of a herd of Ibyx can be seen in this magnificent book.

 

 

  •  Sand Whispers – This small book is packed with special photos and accompanied by Arab proverbs and classic poetry.  (Available in English, German and French)

 

 

 

 

  •  Windows – The types of windows installed in various homes throughout the Kingdom over the years tell a history unto themselves.  This book showcases and illustrates some of the unique windows found in buildings and homes throughout the Kingdom.  (Available in English, German and French)

 

 

  •  Doors – If only a door could talk about the residents who lived in a house or visited through the doors, imagine how much more we could learn about the history of Saudi Arabia.  Doors, as the title implies, are a compilation of photos of the many different types of doors one will see on homes and buildings in the Kingdom.  Many of these doors have lasted for centuries due to the unique way they were crafted.  Illustrations accompany each photo to give the reader greater understanding for the type of door, structure and area in which it is located.  (Available in English, German and French)
  •  Visitors Guide to Maidan Saleh – This guide is a must-have for anyone planning to travel to the history area of Maidan Saleh, whether unaccompanied or with a tour group.  This guide walks a visitor step-by-step on what to see and do and bring with them on their trip.  This guide will enhance ones trip to Maidan Saleh.

 

 

  •  Facts about Swine Flu (H1N1) – Since millions of pilgrims converge from around the world each year to Makkah for the Hajj pilgrimage, this book is an extensive book about the threat and precautions of H1N1.  (Arabic only)

 

 

 

  •  Maid’an Saleh Post Cards – Twenty of the finest photographs from Maid’an Saleh have been incorporated into post cards making this a lovely keepsake or special card to send greetings from Saudi Arabia.

 

 

  •  Holy Mosque Post Cards – Twenty of the finest photographs taken of the Holy Mosque during the annual pilgrimage of Hajj making this collection a special keepsake.

 

 

  •  Saudi Arabia Post Cards – Twenty of the finest photographs showcasing the Hidden Treasures across the Magical Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Ideal as a special memento or to send from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: Begging in Makkah

 

It was not unusual to see children and women begging in Makkah.  Usually they were from African countries.  The women would sit outside of a Makkah supermarket in their abaya and niqab with their head down and hand out.  Many times the woman would hold a young baby in her arms.  Saudis and non-Saudis generally stopped and gave her a riyal.  The children would typically be at a busy intersection or near the Haram (Grand Mosque).  The children might try to sell bottles of water or just reach out to passers-by holding out their cupped hands.

 

As Ramadan approaches the number of beggars will likely increase.  They know that during Ramadan people want to be even more charitable and will likely give even more.

 

Most of the beggars and especially the children beggars have become professional beggars.  This recent article in Arab News describes in detail how expatriates from poorer countries have made their way to Saudi Arabia and teach their young children how to become professional beggars.  The children are also coached by their mother or father what to say if they are questioned by the authorities.  Sadly, many of the parents would rather “sell out” their child if the child is apprehended by the authorities rather than come forward and claim their child.  Not surprisingly many of the child beggars feel trapped and grow resentful of their parents.  These children are not stupid; they can see that their parents are using them.

 

Instead of a life with laughter and innocence these children have become slaves to their parents and are oftentimes abused in other ways as well.

 

I’d like to see the parents deported and the children placed in an orphanage until he or she could be adopted by a loving family.  That would also be a wonderful way to show zakat and a true spirit of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia: It is Okay to Deface Makkah but Don’t Let Women Drive

When you ask a Saudi about Makkah many will talk about the way Makkah was…before the day of the Clocktower.  I used to believe that the Clocktower in Makkah was a welcoming beacon but I have changed my view.  I now see it as part of the ‘extreme commercialism’ that keeps gaining momentum in Makkah.  Only last week Marriott Corporation announced that by 2014 three new hotels will be built in Makkah adding more than 1500 rooms.  These hotels will also overlook the Haram.  Among these three hotels will be a landmark J W Marriott which is described as “…unique environments, spacious guest rooms with luxurious amenities, imaginative dining experiences and an overall heightened level of sophistication without pretense.”  Sophistication without pretense?  Is this necessary for a hotel at the Haram where the majority of visitors come for Umrah or Hajj?

Then the Makkah Hilton which is where the Makkah Clocktower is located advertises on its web site that guests can “Pray with views over the Holy Haram in the 2 air-conditioned and carpeted 10,000-seater prayer halls.”  As early as 10 years ago there were no such luxury facilities available which want to encourage its visitors to stay in rather than follow the footsteps of so many millions before them.

These luxury facilities do not come without a price to the people of Makkah.  In order to make room for the “luxury hajj and umrah” facilities, residents have been displaced and small businesses have had to relocate.  Such expansion has also resulted in rising costs for those who either live in or visit Makkah.  Is Hajj or umrah becoming cost prohibitive because of these ‘luxury enhancements?’

Performing Hajj or Umrah has always been about simplicity.  All who enter the Haram (Grand Mosque) are dressed the same and perform the same ritual.  They follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH).

I am surprised that the religious police, the muttaween, have not spoken out about the “defacing of Makkah” yet en masse they have denounced and arrested Saudi woman, Manal Al-Sherif, for daring to drive.

Saudi Arabia: Who are the REAL Muslims?

An earlier post I wrote about the perceptions of Muslims in America continues to generate a dialogue of conflicting and emotional discussion.  What the comments from that post have highlighted is that there is not only fear, confusion and disagreement about Muslims in America but there is a lack of consensus or agreement on the definition of a Muslim!  The definition of a Muslim is not to be confused with a definition of Islam.

From Wikipedia a Muslim is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Qur’an, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. “Muslim” is the Arabic term for “one who submits to God”.

According to TurntoIslam a Muslim is someone who submits to Allah’s will. A person upon true monotheism, who worships God alone without associating any partners with him. A Muslim is someone who Bears witness that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. A Muslim can be of any background, race, country and gender.

Ask.com identifies a Muslim as a person who believes in and consciously follows Islam is called a Muslim, also from the same root word. So, the religion is called “Islam,” and a person who believes in and follows it is a “Muslim.”

So in the most “generic” of terms a Muslim is a follower of Islam and submits to Allah (God).  Most Muslims will likely agree that a Muslim believes Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah (God).  The disagreements begin when sects and/or categories are applied to Muslims.

The majority of Muslims are either Sunni or Shiia.  Sunni Muslims are further broken down and categorized by which school of law is followed. The four most popular schools are:

Hanafi:  followed by Muslims of Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Muslim areas of Southern Russia, the Caucasus, most of the Muslim areas of the Balkans and Turkey and parts of Iraq, all follow this school of jurisprudence. It is also the dominant school of Muslims in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Maliki: adopted by most North African and West African countries like Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria and others except Egypt, Horn of Africa and Sudan. Also, the Maliki madhab is the official state madhhab of Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Shafi’i: Muslims in Indonesia, Lower Egypt, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Coastal Maharashtra/Konkan and Kerala in India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Palestine, Yemen and Kurds in the Kurdish regions follow the Shafi’i school.

Hanbali: This school of jurisprudence is followed predominantly in the Arabian Peninsula.

Shia majority countries are Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.[64] They also constitute 36.3% of entire local population and 38.6% of local Muslim population of Middle East.[65]

 

There are other minority Muslim groups known as Sufi, Ahmadi, Salafi or Submitters.  A Sufi, Ahmadi, Salafi or Submitter considers himself/herself a Muslim the same as a Sunni or Shiia.

The purpose of this post is to identify the definition of Muslim and some of the ancillary names/groups associated in conjunction with a Muslim.  Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam’s two holiest sites and each year issues millions of visas for Muslims to perform the rites of Umrah and Hajj.  Are any Muslims turned away or prohibited from performing these pillars?

Saudi Arabia/USA: Muslims in America, The Perception


American Muslims who have immigrated to the United States and became citizens have come to America for the same reasons as many immigrants from around the world before them.  They come for the opportunities and the freedoms.  Just like many other immigrants they have come to America and retained their faith.  Within their home and community they also retain their customs – just like many other immigrants.  At the same time, they also adapt and embrace their new country and gift of citizenship.

The following words were not written by me.  They are controversial and insulting.  Yet they are a perspective that has reverberated among many Americans in the United States.  How do WE, yes, all of us, rebut and change the remarks of individuals who are biased, ignorant and/or afraid? When I read the words I see pieces and/or fragments of truth when twisted together create a “slanted” story.  I see much fear targeted at Muslims because of a lack of understanding about them or Islam. I challenge American Bedu readers to take each statement and respond.


Subject: Can Muslims Be Good Americans???

Is anybody listening?

This is very interesting and we all need to read it from start to finish.  And send it on to everyone.  Maybe this is why our American Muslims are so quiet and not speaking out about any atrocities.

Can a good Muslim be a good American?

This question was forwarded to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The following is his reply:

Theologically – no… Because his allegiance is to Allah, The moon god of Arabia .

Religiously – no… Because no other religion is accepted by His Allah except Islam. (Quran, 2:256)(Koran)

Scripturally – no… Because his allegiance is to the five Pillars of Islam and the Quran.

Geographically – no… Because his allegiance is to Mecca , to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially – no… Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically – no…. Because he must submit to the mullahs (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America , the great Satan.

Domestically – no… Because he is instructed to marry four Women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him. (Quran 4:34 )

Intellectually – no… Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

Philosophically – no…. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran does not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually – no… Because when we declare ‘one nation under God,’ The Christian’s God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as Heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran’s 99 excellent names.

Therefore, after much study and deliberation… Perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. – - – They obviously cannot be both ‘good’ Muslims and ‘good’ Americans.  Call it what you wish it’s still the truth.. You had better believe it. The more who understand this, the better it  will be for our country and our future.
The religious war is bigger than we know or understand!

Footnote: The Muslims have said they will destroy us from within.

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