Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Retiring the oldest working Jawal in KSA

Saudis are obsessed with having the newest and coolest mobiles. Some of my Saudi friends get a new mobile every few months in order to be seen holding only the latest models. Seven months ago, my really cool mobile from England got ruined by water. This isn't hard to do with 3 kids in the house! I quickly had to find something, ANYTHING to put my SIM card into so I wouldn't lose touch with life. Since we didn't have the funds to go out and by a brand spankin new mobile right away, around SR 1,000 ($260) for a reasonably accessorized mobile (which is the only type I like), I dug out an old mobile that hadn't been used in years:
By Saudi standards, being seen with this phone in public is the same as carrying around this phone:

I bought this phone, already discounted, the first year we were in England in the summer of 2001. This was before color monitors were widely used, before there were cameras, multimedia and video on mobiles, and there's not even a polyphonic ring tone let alone an MP3 player! Simply put, it's simple. I could place and receive calls and type out a simple text message.

Six years is the equivalent of a century in technology years and the very next year after this relic was purchased, we'd already moved on to nicer and more advanced mobiles as we did every year after that thanks to new mobile contracts with free new phones included:) This mobile was then destined for a dusty life the junk drawer, never to see the light of day again until we packed up our household for the return trip to Saudia. Before leaving, we gathered all of our mobiles acquired through the years and decided which mobile would go to which family member upon our return to Saudia with this particular mobile reserved for my technologically-challenged mother-in-law. Since we don't have the same deals on phones with new contracts as is available in England and the US, you have to pay for the full price of any new phone outright. This can hurt.

We came back from England bearing gifts of mobile technology for our kinfolk like some sort of Saudi Santa's. My mother-in-law, who can barely manage to dial her home phone and frequently has one of her kids do it for her, accepted her mobile with relief. All her friends had one and now she could be reached when her ride comes to pick her up from weddings and social gatherings. Her happiness lasted exactly two days. Upon going out to the next gathering and proudly displaying that she too now had a mobile like everyone else, the grim truth was revealed to her in a conversation such as this:

"That' a really old model", her friends told her.

"What ever do you mean?", my mother-in-law replies, having previously been blissfully ignorant of advances in mobile technology.

"Well, look at mine. Mine is in color, and I can take pictures, and I changed the color of it and hung these cute little dingly-dangly thingies off of it. Noooooobody carries around old ones like that anymore (said with a disdainful glance at the painfully unflashy old mobile). Have your son buy you a new one since he must be rolling in lots of money now that he's just finished his PhD two months ago."

Rejected and scorned by a woman who doesn't even know what the hell SMS is, this mobile was one again fated to a existence without purpose and a return to the junk drawer. There the phone languished until it came time for me to work in a university here. All of the students had to turn in their phones with cameras into the office and I wasn't allowed to take mine into lectures either for fear someone may take pictures of all these uncovered young ladies. In order to stay connected, I got out the only mobile still around without a camera in it. I grudgingly carried it around the university, constantly having to reassure people who poked fun at my unfashionable phone that it was only used inside the cool phone's in my office.

Upon the death of my cool phone for which I mourn to this day, seven months later, I was forced to once again use the rejected mobile. Even it's name in Arabic is unattractive*, "Al-Aaneed" "العنيد" or stubborn/persistent, because apparently it's to stubborn to die. Every month there was something else that sucked up the salary, making it impossible to buy a new mobile.

Having a cool mobile is crucial here, and even the poorest are clamoring to have nice phones. The line was drawn when I noticed that domestic workers were coming into the country with nicer phones than what I was carrying! Even DesertFlower offered for me to use her phone when out shopping with me one day instead of face the embarrassment of being seen with me while I dialed my eye-sore of a mobile (I know she was just poking fun at me:). Once, upon finishing a nice conversation with one lady doctor in a hospital, I tried to explain that my phone was too old and I didn't have enough battery to record her number in it in order to call her and chat again. She took it as a snub and a hint that I didn't want to be friends with her and left very abruptly, obviously offended.

Al-humdulillah...Finally, since last night, I can return the "stubborn" mobile to the depths of the junk drawer and talk in public without shame:

And since it has a 3 mega pixel camera on it, I no longer have to lug my camera around with me in order to capture visual jewels from around town to display on my blog.

First thing I did was put my WeeMee as the wall paper:
*jawal-colloquial for mobile/cell phone

* many mobiles are given names by the general public according to characteristics that particular mobile embodies.


hema said...

oh i love your weemee! i'm going to go check out the site after this
my students hate me having the latest phone. i think it decreases the "cool" factor if your teacher has the same phone as you.
you know my car is fallign to pieces. it just baout gets me from A to B , but i don't care as long as i have a nice phone! yours is pretty:) mubarak on the new phone lol, a 3 mega pixel is very impressive. mine ony has 2:(
at the moment i really want the internet on my phone. will probably never use it, but i just want the wow factor of it! xx

Cairogal said...

When I first arrived in Dubai in 2002, I brought w/ me a mobile I had purchased in Spain, took to Egypt, and it kept on ticking (Alcatel). I loved that phone-you could drop kick it, and it kept going. I got into a taxi, and he said, "Oh we have the same phone. I love this phone, but all my friends make fun of me." If the taxi driver tells me it's old school, I gotta listen.

Anonymous said...

Heya, I've been visiting your blog everyday for absolutely ages, its great you've been posting so much up recently. I can't wait for more!

Desert Flower said...

I can't say that I remember the incident you're talking about. Am I that big of a snob??

But you sure where in need of a new phone so congrats!

I created my own wee me you gotta stop by and see it.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Hema- I made a weefamily!The girls wanted their own weemees too, I'll have to post those later:)I still haven't worked out how to use my camera well. Everything is still a bit blurry and the pic I took of myself made my average-sized nose look ENORMOUS!

Cairogal- apparently you're not into bling either:)

Anon- Thanks so much for bearing with me...having said that I'm expecting another blogging draught soon when home-life becomes too taxing.

DF- even though you don't remember, I do...I'm emotionally scarred:P

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

Oh - where to start with this topic? Well, that's a nice one you have now, masha'allah, and insha'allah it will stay "cool" enough to last a while.

Personally, I am not one for talking on the phone, so I don't want people calling me 24 hours a day, no matter where I am. I finally got a mobile a couple of years ago (well, my husband bought a new one and gave me his old one), but it's almost always turned off. I carry it when I go out without my husband, just in case I have an emergency. It does come in handy sometimes, I have to admit - and not just for emergencies.

I sent my first SMS message only a few months ago, although I do like that function.

My kids don't have mobiles, although every other kid around seems to have at least one. My oldest (12 years) is going with a group to Makkah and Madinah in a couple of weeks, and since he'll be gone about 10 days, I think it would be a good idea for him to take one. I think I'll just let him take mine, though, instead of actually getting him one.

But you know, I was at a party the other night, and I was thinking that I really don't like the fact that EVERYONE has a camera, and they're using them all the time. I wasn't wearing my hijab and was always making sure that they didn't get me in the pictures... if any of these women lost ther mobiles, or even set them down for a minute, someone could see a lot of women who weren't supposed to have been seen...

(It was funny reading about your MIL, though! My MIL got one recently - not a stylish one either. She doesn't read or write, but she knows the numbers, so she has this notebook with the phone numbers of her sons and daughters, etc. The numbers are written about an inch high... I'm not sure how she knows which one is which, though. I told my husband he should put a picture of each one, next to their phone number.)

And I love your weemee, too!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain... I recently sold my cell phone and inherited my husband's old ghetto phone. Oh well, it gets the job done.

You're right, Saudis are crazy for cell phones. To live in KSA, you have to be "in the know" as to what is fashionable at all times. God forbid you have a phone that just came out 6 months ago :). I thought the craze for the new iphone in the States was crazy.

Have you noticed that restaurants are also a trend? Casper and Gambini's just opened in the Eastern Region (Khobar Cornishe) and its the place to be seen at. Its rockin' all the time. I don't quite get into the trendiness of it all.


أبو سنان said...

Manal and I recently replaced our phones. We got nice ones, but we arent too obssesed with it.

My wife's old one went when Sinan decided he was going to suck on it for a while and make it the new toy. That was that.

Mine went previously because I have a habit of dropping them, hitting and banging them so I break screens, cases, you name it.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Ann- I've worked for two telecommunications companies so I gotta gave good stuff! Saudis don't believe in an "honor" system for camera phones and they're outright banned at most weddings and you have to turn them in at the door. And I can't believe your MIL has the same notebook!!! It's actually not for her to use, it's for her kids to use when dialing the phone for her. The closest friends and relatives' numbers have been memorized by pattern. It must be an Ayjooza Khalijiyya thing:)

Nonnie11- thanks for the heads up on those two places so I can avoid them like the plague. I hate "trendy" places...mostly due to my stinginess, and always feel like I'm getting ripped off for overrated crap!

أبو سنان -Mobiles in our house have suffered many different kinds of deaths. There's been death by toilet swirly, death by drool like yours, and death by button-pushing amongst other types. And just think, by the time our kids are grown and we can get nice stuff again, it'll be time for the grandkids to break stuff:)

hema said...

i have a weeme too!
it was fun
i can't wait to see your family ones. is your husband going to be dressed like a dork? (am i allowed to say that or is just you:)

Anonymous said...

I am not a *cellular* person and neither is my husband. I have one so that pple back home can send me a text if they can't give me a call. Now, back home(, pple would rather have a cellphone than eat! 1 out of 3 pple owns a cellphone. When I went to visit, pple thought I was so *backward* coz I wasn't into them :( sf

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

hema- although I'm sure there's a sweater-vest and/or pocket protector, I opted to put him in white stuff to look like a Saudi thobe. And apparently I'm a blogging trendsetter amongst my friends:)

sf- when I went to Eastern Europe, no one had home phones...just mobiles despite still being so poor they couldn't get one for they're house!

Anonymous said...

Actually in most of the 3rd world, the home phone is more expensive than the cell-phone. Back home, you buy your own phone maybe around $80 and you just fill it up as you go. With the home phones it's more expensive and they have become *extinct*. Thus in one home with 7 pple, 5 of them would have a cell-phone. What a headache!!! sf

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

Here's something for you mobile phone lovers - or haters!

See a guy destroy an i-phone in his heavy duty blender.

Lalla Mona said...


Umm Adam said...

That's my dh's phone. He has had several of them. He got his first one used in Bahrain over 5 years ago. He is like Abu inan and will destroy a phone and has found that those are the most durable. I bought him a new motorla not too long ago when I finally caved in and bought my first cam phone. He broke his the first day he used it and went out and bought another used old nokia.

Anonymous said...

This obsession has become widespread in many countries as shown in the following link.

One American revert Muslim named Umar Lee has considered this
"...............a kind of a global crap culture based on materialism and secularism.

All of those things that make humanity beautiful, our diversity and uniqueness, are thrown to the side in favor of this kind of global culture.

In America this means they go to clubs playing techno ( hip-hop beats for the rhythmically challenged) , buy European luxury clothing brands, yap on cell phones that can order an air strike or open a bank vault, the men tend to act a little bit on the Queer Eye side even if they are straight, drive European cars, drink expensive wines, etc. For this crowd religion, traditional values, their ethnic or national uniqueness are out and in are mindless Hollywood films, delayed or no marriage, a move away from the family, and the like.

This is the group that the authors of the book ‘The Cult of the Luxury Brand in Asia” are speaking of when they talk about 94% of Japanese women owning a specific kind of designer bag that the vast majority of Western women do not have. The same is going on in places like India and China as well, but to a lesser extent as the majority are still poor, when you have single women who live at home with their parents who can buy thousands of dollars of clothes and shoes a year ( and the report even told of one secretary, not a rich women, who
had $100,000 in purses) and the conformist cultures they come from turning into consumer cultures where it is mandatory for everyone to have the same brand.

This happens in America as well, but most people frown on this, but with the conformist nature of Asian societies they may rapidly turn into secular consumer societies of the West. One woman interviewed on the BBC for this report states that she was not that concered about quality or anything else she just wanted the brand name to be visible so people knew she could afford to buy such a thing.

This is a culture that has been made possible by corporations making a killing on one hand and culturally liberals on the other hand.

The same can be said for America and this crowd here; if you are in the South they don’t speak with Southern accents and if you are in the Northeast they are not speaking with their local accent. It is conformity to some kind of a vision they seen on MTV, Bravo or the like. Like their British, Japanese, and Indian counterparts the men are feminizing themselves into this global culture and the women are being celebrated as the greater sex as they shop like teenage girls with dads credit card well into their upper ages choosing shoes and handbags over kids. "

For further insight, please visit the following links.

Anonymous said...

#########links of the above post #############



Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sf- that explains it.

Ann- LOL!

lallamona- :)

Um Adam- I'm still not getting rid of that old one...just keeping it for when my "cool" one gets a toilet swirly!

Anon- thanks for those links. Many things were so true. I can see many from the younger generation of Saudis are so label conscious and can't understand why I'm not. I can see they've being bamboozled.

HM said...

Interesting discussion. But Why "Stepford wife " ? You seems to be deceived by the dark forces. Check the following links.


Feminism is a grotesque fraud perpetrated on society by its governing elite. It is designed to weaken the American social and cultural fabric in order to introduce a friendly fascist New World Order. Its advocates are sanctimonious charlatans who have grown rich and powerful from it. They include a whole class of liars and moral cripples who work for the elite in various capacities: government, education and the media. These imposters ought to be exposed and ridiculed.

Observer said...


I can see they've being bamboozled.


Well, how can we save the kids from such artful bamboozlement ? One good soulution is to show a better vision to the kids. This perspective is better illustrated in the following story taken from this link.

Mulla Nafs-e-Zakiya Says:
June 27th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

Sallam Alykum!

Some years ago, on a trip back to USA from Saudia I was sitting with two suited booted Saudi doctors, while I was wearing my shalwar kameez. One of the young doctors asked me bluntly why I was wearing my shalwar kameez while on route to USA. This question of theirs sparked all what you have said in your article. The bottom line answer which I was able to deliver was, human nature is to “associate” or “identify” with something “higher” or “better”…If my “mind” tells me that “to use Arabic words” is “honorable” and to look like “white people” is “honorable” I will do such, without even thinking. Thats why I was wearing my dress cause I felt honor in it. They did not like my answers.

the concept of “honor” in others is the basis of all this “change”. during my education, a poem at the end of Bang e Dira, Allam iqbals collections talks about a quick short conversation between a Mule and a Lion. When Lion asks about the background of the Mule…the Mule forgets to mention his dad and instead points towards his mother side uncle who is a horse.

Another observation is that all nations after colonization worked on their “self esteem” for many years, unlike the Desi crowd which worked on God knows what!

so it all lies in the manner of “honor”…a white American or even a African American does not don a lungi when he goes to Bangladesh cause he does not see “honor” in that, while a Muslim when he travels to west makes best effort to look like the westerners, cause he “sees” honor”…

If muslims would see honor in sunnah they will keep them….they just don’t see it!

So you see, we need to encourage people to find honor in Sunnah. Only then the brand-obsession will vanish.

brnaeem said...

Salaam SSW,

LOL!!! I've had the 'aneed ever since I came here 4 years ago and it has served me sooooo well...can't count the number of times I dropped it. Other pretty-boy phones would have died, but not my lil' sirree...its still kickin' :-)

Of course, my wife is extremely embarrassed when I pull it out in public, but I can handle that. I know it'll be time for a new phone when my young kids start feeling ashamed of it. hehehe

I think all us loyal users of the 'aneed should start some sort of fanclub...any takers???

Thanks for the enjoyable post!


Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

hm- I respect your right to your opinions but don't necessarily agree with your assessment of what feminism is as represented on your blog.

Observer- some great examples, many true things, and you caught my grammar at its best too:) I remember at the company I worked at in England, I made sure to wear my jilbaab and color-coordinated hijab to the interview so no one had any mistaken ideas about the way I'd be dressing for work everyday. I never had anything said to me but another woman I worked with was so worried she wouldn't be allowed to wear her shalwar khameez. For the first month she only wore "western" clothes till she saw other Asians wearing theirs.

Naeem- There's no way my 'aneed's life is's just waiting in the wing for another mobile catastrophe. We'll have to make this post a kind of ego-boosting forum for 'aneed users everywhere in the Kingdom:) And did you ever notice, no matter where you are when your battery runs out, there's always someone with a compatible charger cord to use. Now if that's not big bonus points for our poor, uncool phone I don't know what is!

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