Pets Banned in Saudi Arabia Because Used as Lure to Attract Women

When I saw this news article I could not help but write a spontaneous post on the topic matter. Basically the yahoo newslink advises that the Kingdom has placed a ban on selling cats or dogs as pets in pet shops because some men are using these pets to attract women. I believe there are much more serious issues that need to be focused and acted upon instead of the impact pets may have on bringing the opposite sex together.

The Madrid Dialogue and Impact on Saudi Arabia

In mid-July, King Abdullah initiated and hosted the National Dialogue from Madrid Spain.  During this three day event 300 religious, political and cultural leaders from 50 different countries came to Madrid.  These individuals were from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist faiths.  According to King Abdullah,  he linked societal roles and the impact of these roles on terrorism, racism, crime, drug abuse and breakdown of family due to losing touch with religion.  The aims and themes which King Abdullah identified as critical for this gathering are as follows:

·         Religion is an important factor in human societies.

·         Analyze the success and failures of past dialogues to learn and grow for the future.

·         Study and analyze obstacles which can prevent goals from being met.

·         Coordinate international efforts to counteract challenges which can negate from objectives being met.

·         Strengthen moral values and social practices.

·         Resist tendencies which promote conflicts and misunderstandings.

It seems that this dialogue, while a positive initiative, is viewed with caution.  It is debatable on whether attendees expect concrete gains and forward movements from this dialogue.  However I believe it is significant that such an initiative was taken by Saudi Arabia and that Jews were invited to the event.  It is good that there is such a close relationship between Saudi Arabia and Spain in order to have the event hosted where all these representatives of diverse faiths can peacefully gather.

Now in my view towards showing intent and forward progress, if as King Abdullah has acknowledged that religion is an important factor in human societies, towards reinforcing this belief, Saudi Arabia must begin to open up and show greater tolerance and understanding for those in the Kingdom who may not be practicing muslims.  It just seems contradictory to me to bring together key individuals from the world’s different faiths and yet remain so closed on the topic of religion.  I know that the conservatives in the Kingdom would react strongly to such change and this is a serious consideration that needs to be addressed in order to move forward and fulfill all of the objectives of the Madrid Dialogue.  It is also going to be key to have continued monitoring and a road map for clear progress, even if just baby steps in the beginning.  This will further ensure to the world the intent of all concerned for obtaining success and fulfillment of goals and objectives.

Reactions on a Brief Respite Outside of Saudi Arabia

A dear friend of mine who has been working in the Kingdom for the past 10 years is presently on holidays outside. I found her initial comments on arriving at her holiday destination interesting for this is an individual who is very adaptable but at the same time, illustrates how one can eventually feel frustrated and boxed in within KSA when having been accustomed to a different culture and tradition:

“Well, I´d have to say that coming back here was a fantastic idea on my part. It´s only been a few days and already I feel so much better. Less stressed, frustrated and more able to do things for myself. It feels WONDERFUL! I can drive me to where ever i wish to go. I do not have to wait on some driver and then on his schedule for the day. I can eat in any cafe I wish to an d not be told to sit in some box section with curtains because I am a woman. No one tells me to cover my head. Nor do I have to wear a black bin liner when I go out. How strange….the men here all seem able to control and contain their sexual drives in public regardless what the Spanish women or girls wear and trust me, some of the outfits are eye catching in their conservative coverage. Places don´t shut down five times a day while the male population is sent off to pray. I´ve not seen one abbaya and the lack of them has been wonderful. I can walk where ever I want and the pleasure from exercising in a normal way simply can´t be explained unless you live where I do.

Walking the beach at sunset has been a joy. The sun sets are beautiful to watch as the sun goes down over the Bay of Cadiz. Shopping is wonderful with all of the glorious Spanish fashion shops in the towns, And it is sale season…what more could a woman want? The food has been so, so good. Great seafood…today we stopped at a cafe and had fresh shrimp with vino-tinto. Just peel and eat while feeling the breeze from the bay. .

I hate the thought of leaving but I am so glad that I came. This place always makes me feel good. I laughed so hard last evening on the beach I was crying. I can´t think when the last time I laughed like that was. Here life just feels good. Laid back, friendly people, fabulous food and wines and simply a love of living. And perhaps as good as it gets for some of us.”

Breast Cancer – Who Should Treat Me in Saudi Arabia?

There are many qualified doctors in Saudi Arabia and one should be confident of the care received in the Kingdom.  However today’s posting will be a bit more personal in that I will share my own experience in my battle against breast cancer and the doctor(s) who treated me.  Fortunately by being an employee of National Guard Health Affairs (NGHA) I am entitled to free care and treatment.  And in my view I believe that NGHA is one of the best health care facilities in the Kingdom.  During my battle with breast cancer I was fortunate to receive care and treatment from an incredible team.


Leading this team is Dr. Manal Al Zaid (Dr. Manal).  Dr. Manal is a Saudi and she specialized in oncology/breast cancer.  She was trained in Canada and the USA before returning to the Kingdom and practicing at NGHA.  This petite sprite woman has a no-nonsense approach and professional, competent manner.  She does not believe in speculation.  She is thorough in treating her patients and deals with the facts of individual cases.


In my case I was referred to her when I initially discovered a lump in my breast although after a mammogram and ultrasound other areas of the breast were of greater concern due to the configuration and clusters of suspicious cells.  Dr. Manal first had me undergo two differing types of biopsies, one of which she performed herself.  Concurrently she also informed me that the lump in my breast and tissue samples from the areas with the suspicious cells would need to be removed via a lumpectomy for further analysis.  A lumpectomy in my case was an outpatient procedure although it did involve my being put to sleep under anesthesia while Doctor Manal and her team performed the procedure.  The lumpectomy results in a small (less than two inch) incision on my breast and did not evade the nipple area at all.  Unfortunately the results of the pathology report which analyzed the tissue samples confirmed the findings of cancer which meant I had to undergo another surgery in an attempt to remove the cancer and cancerous cells.  Dr. Manal recommended that I have a mastectomy which is removal of the breast.


Prior to initiating the actions for the mastectomy I chose to obtain a second opinion from breast cancer specialist, Dr. Osama Al Malik.  Dr. Al Malik is a Saudi physician who is known throughout the Kingdom and GCC region for his expertise in breast cancer.  He is a practicing physician at King Faisal Specialist Hospital cancer center and also holds a private clinic through Kingdom Hospital.  Dr. Al Malik confirmed and concurred with Dr. Manal’s diagnosis.


At this juncture I needed to make some decisions in regards to the mastectomy.  Dr. Manal explained that she would perform a skin-saving mastectomy which meant the upper portion of the breast would be sliced and removed allowing her to get inside and remove all the cancerous tissue and cells.  Now my choices post-mastectomy were to either have an artificial prosthesis (artificial breast) which is removable and I could wear which gives the shape of a breast or I could choose two other options which involved breast reconstruction.  One option of breast reconstruction involved silicon gel implants to build up a shape of a breast again and the other, although also a major surgery, involved taking tissue and muscle from my stomach area and shaping and connecting it to my breast area, basically creating a new breast using my own skin and tissue.  I decided to opt for reconstruction using skin and tissue from my stomach area as I liked the idea of not having anything artificial and at the same time, a natural breast.  As a result, when I went for my mastectomy surgery, I did not have only a mastectomy but other procedures performed as well.


By choosing breast reconstruction this involved selecting a plastic surgeon.  Dr. Manal without hesitation told me I wanted Dr. Al Thunayan who is the head of plastic surgery at NGHA.  I had a consultation and examination with him and he made me feel immediately at ease.  Dr. Al Thunayan is a Saudi doctor dedicated to the specialty of plastic surgery.  He explained in detail to me what it would mean to use skin and tissue from my stomach area to reconstruct a breast.  Little did I know initially that by using the stomach area I would also get a free tummy tuck in the bargain!  Dr. Al Thunayan explained he would need to make an incision clear across my stomach area and remove equal amounts of skin and tissue so the area remained even.  This is also the same procedure for those who choose to get a tummy tuck.


So the team was now in place with Dr. Manal and Dr. Thunayan taking the lead.  They were each assisted by their own chosen colleagues.  The first procedure which was performed on me (after I was put to sleep by anesthesia) was injection of a radiation die which in turn provided Dr. Manal with a “road map” illuminating the lymph nodes of my body.  She chose to remove five lymph nodes from around the breast and armpit area for additional analysis to ensure these nodes were free from cancer cells.  After that procedure was performed she segued immediately into the mastectomy.  Once she finished the mastectomy, Dr. Al Thunayan and his team, who were also in the operating room, took over.  They performed the “tummy tuck” while simultaneously rebuilt my breast.  The day before my surgery Dr. Al Thunayan took precise measurements and made markings on my body which assisted him in rebuilding the breast to be identical in shape, size and contour to the existing breast.  The whole procedure(s) took six hours.


The first two days were the most difficult in recovery for me as I was pretty much immobile and unable to lift or raise my body by myself.  I have a high tolerance for pain but found myself feeling the effects of the anesthesia.  Anesthesia made my whole body feel groggy, heavy and nauseated.  By the second day it was very important for me to begin walking for very small periods and with assistance to overcome the effects of anesthesia and reduce the risk of blood clots from poor circulation.  I was checked upon several times a day by members of the plastic surgery team as well as from oncology.  Within seven days I was released from the hospital where I continue my recovery from home.


Prior to being released I was very nervous and apprehensive in waiting for the pathology results.  For if the cancer had entered the lymph nodes then it would mean continued treatments of radiation, chemotherapy or both.  I am sure you can all imagine my relief when I was told the pathology report was clean and no further treatment would be necessary.  Dr. Manal assured me she captured and removed all the cancer from the “infected” breast and took aggressive measures so that cancer could not spread from the bad breast to the clean breast.  While no further treatment will be necessary, I will have to take aggressive cancer-fighting drugs for at least the next two years as well as frequent checkups which will include mammograms.


I’m now on a six week at-home recovery with weekly visits either to the plastic surgery or oncology clinic.  Because of the surgery around the stomach area I must wear a binder or corsette like device 24/7 around my waist/stomach area for at least the next month.  This is to make sure the area remains tight and heals tight.  Due to the mastectomy I must wear a sport-bra for the next month 24/7 and will eventually be able to segue back to any bra of my choice and style.  While recovering I find that again due to some lingering effects of anesthesia I tire out more quickly but will slowly regain my full strength.  For the next several weeks I am not allowed to lift or carry items as my arm which is on the same side the lymph nodes were removed is now extra sore and sensitive.  I’m also instructed not to cook or clean.  (Thank goodness I am recovering in an area where housemaids are a typical part of the culture so I have a built in support mechanism).  As my stomach area heals it is typical to have some fluid drainage seep out.  When this first happened it frightened me a lot and resulted in a trip to the Emergency room due to the amount and flow of seepage.  Fortunately I was quickly stabilized and seem to be back on track now.


I have chosen to share such a personal post with you today to hopefully help allay concerns anyone might have on needing major surgery while in the Kingdom, highlight the professionalism and expertise of the Saudi doctors as well as help allay and inform any woman who may find herself in my shoes.  Breast cancer is not a closed closet disease which should not be discussed.  It is one of the most curable of cancers as long as detection and treatment is taken while it is in its early stages.  Annual mammograms are a must.

Siamese Twins and Separation: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom of Humanity

I am very proud to work at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences which is also part of the National Guard Health Affairs (NGHA).  For those who are not aware, NGHA is known worldwide for its efforts of separating Siamese twins.  The majority of these separations are performed by His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, who is both an orthopedic surgeon and Chief Executive Officer of NGHA.  And furthermore, these complex separations performed on Siamese twins who come to NGHA from all over the world are performed as humanitarian acts with no costs to the families.


Presently about 15 sets of conjoined twins have been successfully separated.  It is very exciting when such a surgery occurs and often employees of NGHA can view parts of the actual surgery taking place via closed circuit tv.


So exactly what does it mean when someone makes reference to Siamese twins?  While there are dozens of types of conjoined twins, doctors generally divide the types into more common variations such as:


Craniopagus:  Dorsal or rear union at the head.  Separation is possible but brain damage is common.

Rachipagus:  Dorsal or rear union at the spine.  Very rare incidence.

Parapagus:  Lateral or side union with variety with third and fourth limbs.  Separation is possible although a life with artificial limbs is the result.

Pyopagus:  Dorsal or rear union at pelvis.  The incidence of these twins is rare but the survival and outlook is good.

Cephalopagus:  Ventral or frontal union including the head and chest.  The two faces on the opposite side of the head characterize the union.  These twins do not survive.

Ischiopagus:  Ventral or frontal union at the pelvis often with shared intestines, bladders, genitals and kidneys.  Separation survival rate is good although excretion and sexual functions can be impaired.

Omphalopagus:  Ventral or frontal union at the abdomen.  Often with shared liver tissue.  This type of twins has the highest survival rate.  Liver tissue is the only body organ that can regenerate itself, making separation of the liver possible.

Thoracopagus:  Ventral or front union at the chest, often with a shared heart.  This type of twins does not survive, although separation has been attempted.

Parasitic:  Additional limbs or torsos or heads, believed to be caused by the death of one twin in utero.


The above information was collected from


According to undated information from NGHA on the incidence of conjoined twins in Saudi Arabia there have been 19 cases as compared to other countries in the region and with these twins seen at NGHA:


Sudan – 6

Yemen – 2

Egypt – 2

Malaysia – 1

Phillipines – 1

Poland – 1

Morocco – 2

Iraq – 1


15 of the above cases involved Thoracopagus conjoined twins.  Again, according to the undated material, NGHA has successfully separated 13 sets of conjoined twins.  20 sets were evaluated but not separated.  1 set was attempted to be separated without success and the operation was aborted.  The 20 cases which were not operated on were due to the following factors:  sharing a single heart; major communicating hearts; major anomalies.


Due to the Kingdom’s reputation for breakthroughs and innovations in the separate of conjoined twins, physicians and researches from all around the world seek the opportunity to come to National Guard Health Affairs for the opportunity to work and study under Dr. Al Rabeeah and his surgical team.


While well known in international medical circles these ongoing acts of humanity in the separation of conjoined twins is not as widely known outside of the Kingdom as one would expect.  Therefore I hope this post has helped inform and educate you as a reader of this blog of one of the Kingdom’s incredible ongoing endeavors.

Saudi Girls and the Prince-a$$ Syndrome

I have a feeling this post will probably not make me very popular but at the same time, my regular readers know that I call it as I see it without mincing or softening words.  There is a phenomenon here in the Kingdom which I will refer to as the Prince-a$$ syndrome.  In the States one may make references to “beating or one-upping the Joneses’” whereas here so many young women want to be viewed like Princesses.  What does this mean?  In many cases these are young women who have no idea about learning values and responsibility.  Their main goal in life is to look beautiful, be perfectly groomed and wearing the latest fashions as well as sporting the recent trend in mobiles, handbags and other accessories.  Now there is certainly nothing wrong in this if a parent is able to afford it.  However what I object to is where I see families who should be allocating resources towards more necessary and needed items instead ensuring that their daughters (and the family) are saving face by having the young women maintain the image of wealth and prosperity.  These same young women usually have little to no chores to perform and therefore not learning responsibility or values.  When not with their friends they spend their spare time primping, playing on the internet usually with MSN messenger or watching music videos or Lebanese or Egyptian soap operas.


I feel like the culture makes these young women mature too quickly; mature too quickly in the sense they are allowed to wear clothes which are advanced for their age.  These are typically clothes which highlight and accentuate cleavage and normally accompanied by tight fitted jeans.  Of course the young women will also put on full make up, nail polish and perfume.  The “natural carefree” look of simply jeans and a t-shirt or other casual top is not adapted here.  It is unlikely one of the Prince-a$$ girls would be seen in such a look.


Part of where I have a conflict with this aspect of the culture is that I feel the look which is portrayed is contradictory to Islam as well.  Throughout the Quran, Islam promotes modesty.  It does not say a woman should be unattractive; in fact she is encouraged to be attractive to her husband and family.  But I wonder if the Prince-a$$ girls pass muster here?

Should Obama’s Overseas Tour Have Included Riyadh?

During the week of 20 July Barack Obama took his Presidential campaign oversees visiting Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Germany and Britain.  By all accounts he seemed to be well-received at each destination and this tour boosted his image, creditability and capability as a potential Commandeer-in-Chief who can conduct himself with global leaders on foreign policy issues.  However could he have made an error in judgment in not including Saudi Arabia on his agenda?  Should his tour have included Saudi Arabia?  By not stopping or at least requesting to stop and hold meetings in Saudi Arabia, does this minimize the importance of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia?  While Obama visited key western allies such as Germany and Britain and included a stop in Israel to show unity and alliance, I think as a significant Middle Eastern partner and ally, and with the global attention on oil prices, Saudi Arabia should have been part of the agenda.


I will state that I do indeed plan to vote for Obama as I believe he is the best of the candidates.  But I also wish he would have had Saudi Arabia on his overseas tour agenda.


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