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.


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



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


mecca4 mecca6

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


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


Ramadan and the lunar calendar


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!


Read more:

The lunisolar calendar

The lunar calendar

Saudi Arabia: Would the Grand Mosque (Haram) Have Been Separated?

divided mosque



Just when you think you heard it all, a Saudi national, identified only as Abu Khaled, called in to a program hosted by Sheik Al-Mutlaq and hosted on the Al-Majd satellite channel.  Abu Khaled had a problem.  In his view the foreign (expatriate) Muslims who prayed in the mosques in Saudi Arabia were a disturbance.  They had dirty clothes and smelled bad.  Abu Khaled’s suggestion, more in the line of a request, was for separate mosques for the non-Saudi Muslims.  Can you imagine that?  It’s like a reminder of when the United States had segregation between those with white skin or black skin color.

Thankfully, Sheik Al-Mutlaq not only disagreed strongly with Abu Khaled’s suggestion, but put a stop to such nonsense.  Sheikh Al-Mutlaq told the questioner that his description of foreign workers reminded him of the condition of Saudi citizens at a time when the country did not know soap or shampoo. He told him that the dirty foreign workers might be closer to God than him. American Bedu agrees with Sheik Al-Mutlaq.

Just think, if another Sheik had not been so reasonable, future pilgrims might have been performing umrah or hajj in a divided Haram.

Saudi Arabia’s food supply

Saudi Arabia has a very hot climate and very little arable land. Yet it is home to 16 million citizens and about 9 million ex-pat workers. Where do they get their food?

Saudi Arabia grows some of it’s own food, and it has farms for poultry and cows, but most of the food is imported. Saudi Arabia spends about 6 billion a year on imported food. And food for the poultry, sheep and cows is also imported.

saudi milkproduction

Keeping cows in the desert is a very expensive project.
The Afu-Safi diary farm in Saudi Arabia originated in the 1970’s. It was modelled on a dairy farm in California, but is twice the size holding 38,000 cows. Each cow requires 30 gallons of water per day for drinking and cooling. Oil drilling technology was used to reach aquifers beneath the desert.

There is also a growing ”outsourcing” of the food supply. Saudi Arabia’s Hail Agricultural Development Company, Hadco, stopped producing wheat in 2008 and is purchasing land abroad. Hadco has already purchased 9,239 hectares of land in Sudan, and is considering purchasing another 32,755 hectares in Sudan within the next five years to grow wheat, corn and other crops to be used for feeding livestock. In January 2009 Saudi Arabia received the first batch of rice produced abroad.


Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, and Asian states, have purchased a total of over 20,230,000 hectares of land suitable for arable crops in Africa in the past years, about ten per cent of the farmed land in Africa. This would secure food supply and stable prices for the wealthy importing countries. The likely outcomes for exporting countries like Sudan, which are unable to feed their own people, appear less favourable

saudi sheep

A Naijdi sheep costs twice as much as an imported sheep.

Saudi Arabia has indigenous sheep, but at least 75% of the sheep consumed are imported.
Saudi Arabia imports close to 18 million sheep and goats per year. More than a million sheep are imported for Hajj and eid alone.
To feed all these sheep Saudi Arabia also imports enormous amounts of Barley, mostly from Russia and the Ukraine.
One reason why barley imports in Saudi Arabia are so high are subsidies. The Saudi Government encourages a sheep fattening industry. Economically it makes more sense to import lamb and feed it on subsidized barley than importing grown up sheep.
This industry is mostly located in Jeddah and other coastal cities, not in traditional livestock rearing areas.
Beside this industry barley subsidies are also important to feed the camel and sheep of Bedouin in rural areas and ensure tribal loyalty there.


Animal activists complain about the horrible treatment of animals sent on ships to the middle east, a yearly loss of 2 million animals is considered a sustainable risk by the companies who deal in them. Many animal lovers also complain about the way these animals are slaughtered, which is considered animal abuse.

With an ever increasing population and no chance to ever be able to grow enough food to be selfsufficient Saudi Arabia is in a very dangerous position. One could imagine when the oil dries up, and no other industry of note there would be nothing which could keep the Saudi population alive. They would have to either mass emigrate, or die of starvation.



Saudi Gazette

Oil for food

Arabian gazette

Saudi Arabia/World: Hajj Mubarak



American Bedu takes joy in wishing all Muslims around the world “Hajj Mubarak.”

Saudi Arabia received 1.75 million foreign Muslims from 189 countries who performed this year’s Hajj.  The number of Saudi citizens or Muslim expatriates who performed Hajj this year are not yet known.

More than 80,000 pilgrims were denied entry to Makkah due to holding fake permits.  Hajj is carefully regulated by the Saudi government for security and safety purposes.

According to the Interior Minister, the number of foreign pilgrims who performed Hajj dropped by 4 per cent as compared to last year.

In 2011, according to the Saudi Central Department of Statistics and Information, the total number of people who performed Hajj was 2,927,717 (2.93 million), of which 1,828,195 pilgrims (1.828 million) had arrived from outside the Kingdom.


Not fewer than 1,099,522 pilgrims for the 2011 Hajj had come from within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, having a population of around 27 million, including nine million expatriates.


Saudi Arabia was host to 57,255 Hajj pilgrims in 1921, 56,319 in 1922, 1,080,465 (1.080 million) in 1996, 1,168,591 (1.169 million) in 1997, 1,132,344 (1.132 million) in 1998, 1,363,992 (1.364 million) in 2001, 1,534,759 (1.535 million) in 2005, 1,654,407 (1.654 million) in 2006, 1,707,814 (1.708 million) in 2007, 1,729,841 (1.730 million) in 2008, 1,613,000 (1.613 million) in 2009, 1,799,601 (around 1.8 million) in 2010 and 1,828,195 (1.828 million) last year in 2011.

Saudi Arabia: Hajj – Let’s Keep it Safe and Healthy


Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah, is considered as one of the most important duties of a Muslim.  Hajj 2012 is closely approaching and will take place between 24 – 29 October.  During this period millions of Muslims from around the world and within Saudi Arabia will flock to Makkah (and Medinah) to perform their pilgrimage.

The city of Makkah has to be prepared to house, transport, feed, provide water and have the millions of pilgrims positioned at the appropriate place of their Hajj journey at the right time.  It is a masterful feat of logistics.

In addition, due to the number of pilgrims coming to the Kingdom from all over the world, there is also a concern of disease or illness.  Each pilgrim must undergo a medical examination and have certain inoculations prior to arrival in the Kingdom for Hajj.  As a preventive measure against all epidemic diseases for Hajj 2012, the Ministry of Health has deployed officials at all 14 ports of entry to monitor the health condition of pilgrims.

King Abdullah specifically directed the Ministry of Health to oversee Hajj health and medical emergency operations.  The special Ministry team is comprised of 105 doctors and 242 paramedics who will be dispersed in various locations for the provision of medical services to pilgrims. In addition, the ministry recruited more than 20,000 people from various medical, technical and administrative categories for Hajj. There are 441 medics in rare medical disciplines including intensive care, breathing catheter and treatment as well as nursing intensive care and emergencies.

Saudi Arabia: The Scramble for Domestic Help

Ramadan 2012 will begin on or about 19 July 2012.  Many families are already beginning their Ramadan preparations.  Among many Muslim women in the Kingdom, a first priority may be engaging additional domestic help.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world will fast without food or water from sunrise to sunset for a full month.  As a result, the two meals which take place respectively prior to the fast of the day and breaking the fast of the day are important.  

Prior to starting the fast and before the sun rises, Muslims will have “suhoor.”    This is the meal which must sustain them throughout the day while they fast.  “Iftar” is the meal during which the fast of the day is broken.  These meals are special occasions and it is not uncommon for large families and friends to gather and have these meals together.  Ramadan is also after all, a time of celebration of all Muslims.

During the last two weeks of Ramadan schools, businesses, banks, government offices and other organizations all close down until Ramadan and its subsequent celebration, Eid al Fitr, are over.  Families will generally gather at the home of the patriarch (or matriarch if the father is deceased) to spend the remaining two weeks of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr.  It is not uncommon to have 50 or more men, women and children at each suhoor and iftar.  My late husband was one of ten siblings who in turn were all married with children, plus some of the children were already married with children.  We had well over 100 family members together during Ramadan!

     Therefore, it is not surprising that Saudi women and other Muslim women in the Kingdom engage additional domestic help during Ramadan.  Family members who have housemaids will bring their own housemaid to wherever the family gathers to help out. Usually one or more housemaids are hired for a six to eight week period to accommodate the extra preparations for food and taking care of the home.

This is the time of year when an “independent” housemaid can double if not triple her monthly salary because there are usually not enough available housemaids for the demand.

Presently the going monthly rate for domestic help in the Kingdom is between SR 1300 – 1800   (US$345.92 –  478.97).  At Ramadan it is not unusual for a housemaid to receive SR 3000 – 3500  (US$798.29 – 931.33) per month.  The rates will vary depending on the nationality of the housemaid, her experience and whether she has a valid iqama.

Yes, many runaway housemaids or umrah visa overstayers (female) will seek positions as a housemaid.  This is not legal but continues to happen.  Of course anyone found harboring or supporting an illegal will face charges.  Yet Ramadan is a popular time for these women to find additional employment opportunities.


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