Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's the point?

My husband's friend was in an eyeglass shop chatting with the guy behind the counter when a veiled woman entered by herself. Completely disregarding the fact that there had been a customer there before her she proceeded to thrust a broken pair of glasses at the Indian man behind the counter.
"Fix them", she demanded
"I'm not able to sister", the man says politely.
"Thor int? (Are you an idiot?)", she growls.
"They can't be fixed sister, you'll have to pick out another pair of frames", the poor guy pleads.

The 'veiled threat' then proceeds to angrily rummage through the various frames on display. After a few moments she locates a pair and puts them on over her face veil. She turns to my husbands friend and asks:

"Heloo? (Do they look nice?)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Top 10 ways you know summer has hit in Saudia…

(David Letterman style)

10. If you use the bathroom any time after 10am, the water is so hot after running for 3 seconds that if you don’t wash in that amount of time, you will literally burn you’re a** off.

9. You turn off the water heater to create a reservoir of cool water. Thus, the “cold” tap is used for hot water and the “hot” tap for cold.

8. You can guess a person’s heritage by the B.O. bouquet they leave behind them from the food they eat. And don’t get all uppity and insulted in the comments, in 40C+ weather (120F) EVERYONE stinks despite O.D.’ing on perfume! The stink is universal, just the nuances of an individuals parfum differs from group to group. Examples:
· Egyptians, Levantines, and many Hijazis-garlic
· Najdis-onions
· Indonesian-Indomie and chilli
· Indians-curry
· E.P.’s-Fried fish with onion
· Me- all of the above (I’m just guessing since I eat all those foods. It’s hard to smell your own B.O. unless your Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL-that’s for u DF)

7. You add at least one additional shower to your daily routine and afterwards apply so much powder, your entire torso becomes white in an effort to stave off above mentioned B.O. for a while.

6. You shave your cat thus, completely freaking out your child who thinks some kind of monstrous rat has invaded the house.

5. Life is evident in city streets just after the crack of dawn or around sunset. The rest of the time, the city is dead.

4. Before driving you don’t let the car run to warm it up, you turn it on ahead of leaving to cool it down.

3. Cotton! Oh wonderful, hideous, shapeless, cotton kamees- how I love thee!

2. You can wring out your burga after removing it.

1. And the number one way you know summer has hit in Saudia….(drumroll please)

You’re making reservations to be anywhere other than Saudia!

Since we don't have an oil well in our backyard and lack funds to's how we're keeping cool.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My mangled cat

Due to the high heat, we need to shave my Maine Coon every summer. If we don't, she turns into a matted, miserable mess. Since we lack grooming facilities and veterinarian services are limited to medical care, I have to take matters into my own hands. It's a good thing my cat doesn't look in the mirror !

Update: Apparently my cat is so hideous looking in real-life, my 6 year-old is completely freaked out by her. When she woke up the next morning and my cat streaked past her, she had a hand-flapping, jumping, screaming, crying, heart-pounding FIT! It's now the second day and she still can't look at her without panic! I never expected's just a really bad hair-cut.
Before the carnage


Note the whiskers lost while trying to bite me while the clippers were on her neck. She may look ridiculous but I guarantee she's happy to get rid of her winter coat.

New Racial Sensitivity Rules for commenters on my blog

In light of the reactions to another post, I’ve discovered that I’m obviously much too blasé about comments regarding my own social/economic/ethnic identity. I’ve decided that I will, from this point on, throw hissy fits in reaction to any type of racial/social/etc. reference that could be applicable to blood relatives of mine unless the commenter fits neatly within said social or racial group.

1. No Arab references of any kind unless you are a Saudi Sunni Arab, and are from Al-Hassa.
2. No project/ghetto references,- my sister lives in the projects, has a “ghetto” name, and calls her daughter the ‘project princess’
3. No redneck/hillbilly/hick/Podunk jokes, this includes using redneck names or somehow insinuating hick-ness in anyway.
4. No mafia, Goodfellow, or Godfather references, I have an Italian-Americans in the family and an association may be implied
5. No Nazi references- I have a German-American half-sister and could construe a linkage between her and Nazi misdeeds and would therefore, be offended.
6. No trailer trash references, my mom’s half-sister lives in a trailer-park and I spent some summers at her place.
7. Do I have to say no terrorist references?
8. No truck driver jokes- got some truck-driving cousins and a half-brother who just took up the career.
9. No ESL, or non-English speaker references, I have another half-brother who doesn’t know even two English words along with countless cousins, aunts, and uncles, nieces, and nephews.
10. No run-for-the border references- No habla espanol but we watch a lot of “Dora the Explorer”, “Diego”, and “Mind of Mencia” since we acquired a couple of Mexicans.
11. No insinuating construction workers have bad manners, we owned a contracting company.
12. No saying Geronimo- You guessed it, Native American roots also.
13. No eastern-Europeans as prostitutes references-I have family living in Eastern Europe. I even went to visit the “old country”.
14. No plumbers crack jokes- got a plumber in the family
15. No nerd/geek/dork references-my husband may get his feelings hurt.
16. No inferring that accountants are socially inept, pencil pushing, boring bureaucrats.
17. No Irish jokes- too many “Mc” names in the family to count. This includes alcoholic references too as this is commonly associated with Irish.

…I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. And if any of you actually thought I was serious and you considered trying to follow these rules…..GO AWAY FROM MY BLOG NEVER TO RETURN because you obviously don’t get my sense of humor.

The only things my family is still missing is a Jew and an Asian. Seeing as how we never stick “with our own kind”, I have a feeling the youngest generation will take care of these missing delegates of our own little U.N. Maybe Saudi Jawa could engage my Hispanic niece if he’s willing to wait about 20+ years. I’d suggest my daughter’s, but they already have waiting lists and would need to refuse a few dozen potential suitors to get to the bottom of it.

How did my family get to be like this? Well, obviously we have a lot of tolerance for other cultures and groups and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Also, we have too many divorces and re-marriages resulting in a spectrum of half-siblings who repeat the cycle.

Man, my kids are a tribal Saudis worst nightmare to have marry into their family!

Choosing a Nom de Plume

I can’t go around calling myself only SSW but I’m not willing to confess neither my, nor my children’s, names. Although my real name is common in Saudia (There’s a popular Saudi TV show presenter with my name) it was hard growing up in the states in a non-“ethnic” area with that name. I always dreaded the first day of school and knew when the teacher reached my name on the attendance list due to the long pause and contemplation over pronunciation. I didn’t meet anyone else with my name till I was 19 and bumped into a like-named Jordanian woman in a Masjid in America! My sister had a similar issue, she grew up in a white neighborhood with a ghetto name. This issue has since been resolved as she now lives in the projects:P

My Aunt Teddy (her nickname not her real name) tried to encourage me to choose an “American” nickname for myself when I was young. My name is too “foreign” and she thought that if I chose a more “American” sounding name to use, it would make people more comfortable. When I was a child, I cursed my name as it made me more different from my peers than I already was. I longed to be named Jenny or Amy. I now love my real name and hate the fact that there are so many others with that name here in Saudia.

Choosing a nickname is a kind of family tradition on my grandpa’s side of the family (my mom’s dad). The other branches of the family, both foreign and domestic, have normal names that reflect their paternal social/ethnic backgrounds and at best, shorten them to find a nickname. My grandpa was the only stick-in-the mud who didn’t choose a nickname out of his four siblings and the majority of that generation went by very imaginative nicknames. I feel like continuing the tradition in my efforts to blog-name myself and children. Seeing as how some of my grandpa’s family’s names (both real and nicknames) are very southern sounding, I went to the red-neck name generator on the internet. For some strange reason it was blocked! I didn’t know red-neck names were morally dangerous to Saudis! This strengthened my resolve to find redneck names for us. I want to pick a name that both Americans and non-English speakers could say seeing as how the name might just stick! For example, I thought of nick-naming my son “Cooter” until I pictured his Saudi cousins and my dad trying to say it! After doing a bit of research, recalling old family names and asking my children their opinion, I’ve narrowed it down to the following choices:

Myself: Daisy
My oldest daughter: Maryjo
My middle daughter: EttaMae
My son: Bud(dy) -must be said like Rudy Huxtable from"Cosby" or alternatively like Pauly Shore

My oldest daughter already has a nickname from soon after her birth that agrees with all ethnic aspects of my family. I had to change that for my blog because she’s only called by her nickname now so it may reveal her identity! I’ve been searching for one for my son since his birth and I think Buddy may stick. Anyone got any suggestions? Remember to try and pronounce it with a foreign accent and if it sounds way too weird, don’t bother.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Al-Hassa's screwy weather

For those of you living in tornado ally or in the path of future hurricanes, you won't blink an eye at the following picture. We live with the hottest weather on planet earth, that's our lot in life. It's miserably hot but, predictable down to the week every year, the same thing. This year has been a bit different. There's been more rain at times there's usually not rain and the other night, a wind storm that tore pieces of the city and threw them.

This is in one of the poorer neighborhood's, Salhiyah

You would think that this fell from the house that it's leaning against but your wrong...It came from 3 houses over to the left of the picture! We'll see how long it takes to get cleared and by whom.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Abazons

The Amazons were an ancient nation of female warriors.

It has been noted that until the 20th century, Amazons were typically depicted in literature as an alien adversary that threatened the masculinity of heroes. As such, the typical goal of the heroes has been to defeat and humiliate them as a way of reasserting their own, masculine superiority.

In the 20th century, Amazons were depicted with increasing sympathy. Today, the typical depiction of the characters is as an isolated community of powerful and beautiful warriors whose respect and cooperation the male heroes are challenged to earn.

Abazon- An abaya-clad Amazon who, as their literary counterparts in the past, threaten the masculinity of most Saudi men. As such, the typical goal of the Saudi man has been to defeat and humiliate them as a way of reasserting their own, masculine superiority.

Abazons differ from their Amazonian cousins in that the term Abazon doesn’t strictly denote a warrior-woman although does not exclude that notion either. It can be applied to any Muslim woman who struggles , either publicly or silently, against unfair treatment of women, who steps forward to claim the rights granted to her in the Quran and Sunnah, and asserts her God given authority within her society.

I think I'll patent the term Abazon....remember folks, you heard it here first.

Do you think we'll achieve our rights faster if we look like the Abazon above?

Boo Ya!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cultural Crap

As a Saudi citizen, I’m a stakeholder in the future of this country. Unlike some critics who criticize this country from an outsider’s perspective, change- or rather lack thereof- directly affects my family’s lives. Many things I try to point out in my blog are things that some Saudis have become complacent about and don't question the logic or the why's behind it-they just go along with it. That's not OK with me. Having grown up outside of the culture, I'm able to distinguish between cultural Islam and real Islam immediately. No one can pull a fast one on me by giving me the answer "haram" and I consider my culture-free insight into our religion a blessing. I’m not the only one with issues about this topic; what is Islamic and what is Saudi- they’re not the same after all. The Saudi blogs are full of people, some more constructive intentions than others, with similar issues (read comments too). Many of us (not all of course) criticize because we want our country to improve so it can realize its glorious potential, as a truly Islamic nation.

Whether or not I can go to the fruit market may seem insignificant in comparison to the issue of forced divorces…but it’s one of those small cultural issues I’m faced with on a daily basis which add up and build up. Another example from many, some try to argue that riding 4wheelers isn't something that girls should do. They say ridiculous things like "maybe the wind will blow her veil or abaya and she'll be uncovered" or my favorite, "it's undignified". Oh, for God's sake get over yourselves. No, riding a 4wheeler isn’t a necessity of life but, why not? Was it a necessity of life for our Prophet (PBUH) to have a footrace with his young wife Aisha (RAA) or a food fight with his wives? Fun’s a part of Islam too.

I’ve seen women on TV in Iran, covered properly, doing everything from sliding down enormous inflated slides to engaging in sporting activities. Iranian women really seem to be go-getters and I want to know more about them. It may just be a faulty observation by a Sunnia, but it looks like Shia women don’t have as much cultural BS to deal with as we Sunnis do. They appear to have more freedom of movement and go about their business normally. I need to ask my Shia friends about this. Comparing notes is a favorite activity between me and a Shia lady from Qatif. What we’ve found is there are more similarities than differences, and the differences are not so important to cause the huge divide that exists between the two groups in this country….but that’s another post. They’re usually the only ones I see out on their own and in places I can’t go because it’s a ‘shame’. You go Shia girls!

The funny thing is it’s not just the men, women too are limiting our activities with similar arguments. I went 4 wheeling with several of my teenage nieces, my sister-in-law, and my two daughters at a popular spot on the edge of the city. We went when it was almost dark and to a location which wasn’t full of men and during the work week when there wasn’t a lot of people gathered there. We had a great time and I’m glad my husband isn’t of the ‘stick-in-the-mud’ variety of men who would dismiss our desire to go and play. We all remained covered, our laughter was unheard by any men, and my husband was the only male in the bunch. What did my mother-in-law have to say about our activity, “qalilat il adab! (we don’t have good manners)”. There was a whole piece in one of the Arabic newspapers here about women 4wheeling last year- I can’t remember which one though. The gist was when men were interviewed and asked whether it was OK for women to go 4wheeling, many of them responded “yes”. Then the interviewer asked if it was OK for their sisters, mom, wife, etc to go and almost all of them said “NO”. hmmmmmm.

It's amazing how almost everything fun here that involves outside your house has to be an issue of indecency. They have no religious basis for most of it, it’s a tool of repression used by feeble men who aren't respected outside their own households so they have to lord their 'authority' over their womenfolk.

Real men are willing to challenge the status quo if something isn't right and especially if it means standing up for someone other than themselves. If it were only African Americans and women standing up for their rights, their rights would have never been granted to them. It's because people outside those groups could recognize the unfairness of their treatment and joined the bandwagon. One must pick one's battles carefully. Even if men aren't willing to challenge the status quo head on, they must be willing to at least consider the prevailing opinion's absurdity. We’re not to the point that my husband is willing to take us 4 wheeling on the busiest days with a lot of men passing by us in cars but, he’s willing to take us. That speaks volumes here.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Forbidden Fruit

There are some places here where it’s just not OK for a woman to go. But the fruit market, come on!

What are they worried about, someone man-handling my melons or pinching my peaches?

My husband, the Dork of the Desert (DD), hasn’t a clue how to pick out what I need. The result- him walking back and forth a couple of times to and from the car when I don’t approve of his choices or need to remind him of items he’s forgotten. There are some old women there, some foreigners, but even my husband is a bit uneasy with me being there in the car.

I know a household of women, real do-it-yourselfers, who go fruit shopping anyway. The father died not long before I met them and their only brother was living overseas. Their solution: the oldest daughter (in her ‘30’s) put on her old lady abaya (styles differ between the generations) and went and did whatever she needed to, including the fruit market.

The Thursday market is another no-go zone for the estrogen-endowed. One man told me he wouldn’t even take his infant daughter to the bird market there, it’s such a shame. Once again, the few women there are Bedouin or Shia, and only some of the oldest Sunni women. My mothers in law’s requests for transport to the Thursday market are met with all her 5 sons refusing to take her. I’ve convinced my husband to take me on a few occasions but only descended from the car once, after he took a good look around to see who’s watching.

Another strange place that I can’t go is the Islamic shop where there are various books, cassettes, and religious paraphernalia for sale. This one I couldn’t fathom why. I wanted to buy some Islamic nasheed (a cappella songs without musical instruments) tapes for myself and my children. Once again, I can’t go in because “it’s just not done”. DD has to go in and communicate with me walkie- talkie style on our mobiles for my approval as I sat in the car outside.

There isn’t a law forbidding us to go any of these places, as I’ve mentioned there are some women there. Unfortunately, our men don’t want other men seeing them take their women to these places. I have a feeling that with the influx of Qataris this will soon change, if it hasn’t started already- I haven’t gone for quite awhile. Unaware that fruit shopping is a shame, Qatari women, who are similar to us in appearance, will freely peruse the markets. I hope the Saudi fruit sellers can endure the sight of these women all fondling their fruits and caressing their cucumbers.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Women can't drive if she wears a veil....Bull!

Food for thought for those naysayers that think we must discard our veil in order to drive:
Personally, I've driven veiled in the east and in the west (I've even driven in SAUDIA- Shhhh!). If you have enough of an IQ to operate a motor vehicle, you have enough brains to arrange your veil so it doesn't interfere with your peripheral vision. Now, let's discuss the topic of long hair blowing in the wind, impeding it's possessors vision.