Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Ayjooza* News Network: Faster and More Accurate Than Al-Jazeera?

Before leaving America to come and live in Saudia, I met a woman from my husband's neighborhood in Al-Hassa who'd come as a travelling companion for a Saudi princess. During a pizza party with the princess, we chatted for a bit. This woman from the other side of world already knew all my business before she'd even stepped on the plane. At this point, I hadn't yet met my in-laws in person and this woman wasn't even related to my husband's family nor was she a friend of a family member and hadn't known in advance that she'd be meeting me. So, how on earth did she already know so much about me?!

You know you're a Hasawia (female Hasawi) when you know who your new neighbor is, what their dirty laundry is, and any and all gossip associated with them before they've even moved in.

Information passes through old Hasawi neighborhoods at a dizzying speed. This may be the reason that basic DSL connections are still under 1mg in the country…old women's wagging tongues far exceed the download speed of even the most modernized server so, why upgrade? Every weekday, there's a long-standing social tradition in the older neighborhoods. Old ladies file out of their houses after 'Asr prayer, sometimes armed with plastic baskets holding vacuum thermoses of hot tea and coffee and a few jingling glass tea cups as they walk to visit other old ladies in the neighborhood. The reason I say "old ladies" is because this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generation in newer neighborhoods.

Cities have expanded and completely new neighborhoods have sprung up in the deserts uprooting people from their old familiar neighborhoods and regrouping them into new, unfamiliar, constructed neighborhoods. Houses are bigger and further apart than in the old neighborhoods making it hard to get to know you neighbors. It's also harder to hear the arguments in the houses next door and you can't casually see their comings or goings without staking them out from your window either. All of the sudden, privacy reigns in the newer neighborhoods. Unlike in the older neighborhoods, you now need to announce your visit well in advance if you plan on visiting anyone to avoid majorly inconveniencing them.

Back in the old neighborhood after 'Asr, the old ladies knock on an open front door or clap their hands to announce their entrance to the residents inside. In many older houses, the magellat, or women's parlor, is located off of the family's living room. This means that the guest/intruder gets to see who's kept up house well, who's kids aren't cleaned up, and whether or not your hair was brushed upon stepping in the door. In order to keep up appearances, many women I know who live in these old neighborhoods sleep until noon then, cook lunch, eat, then rush to make fresh tea and coffee and promptly clean up and shower before the 'Asr prayer hits. If she's running a bit behind schedule, she risks un-announced guests arriving to see her and her house looking all torn up…what gossip fodder that is!

Ladies take a seat in the magellat in front of the a/c and are given a cup of water as they cool off a bit. Not having yet caught their breath and still wiping the perspiration from their faces with the inside of their now flipped-open face-veils, the Ayjoozat begin the day's gossip session with an exchange of pre-determined pleasantries to be said AT each other not TO each in a swift, simultaneous, robotic exchange without an obvious ounce of true concern to their demeanor:

"How are you…how's it going…how's your health…how's the family, good?…how's your parent's?'s your mom's uncle's wife's father's cousin twice-removed's daughter doing?" (Ok, so I embellished a bit… but that's how it feels sometimes!)

Wedding invitations are like gold to these old women, there's really not much else to do around town. Anyone who receives an invitation with a +1 on it is everyones best friend. Many animated conversations revolve around events at these weddings and filling in the blanks for any non-attendees:

"Oh my God, there was this girl in a half-there purple dress! She was shaking her thang like this and her boobs were hoisted up like that (complete with actual booty shaking and boob-hoisting motions)"

"Ya, but the bride's mom, NO shame! Her hair's cut so short and she's wearing a sleeveless dress like this, at her age! And how's her stomach so flat?"

"Gurl, I heard she had a tummy-tuck and lipo just for the wedding"

"I heard they paid XXXX amount of money for the dress and they got it from Jeddah. And the tagagat** cost them XXX per hour and they were brought in from Kuwait.

"I saw so-and-so. I heard she's hired a lawyer to get a divorce from her husband"

And the beat goes on…

In one afternoon, sometimes 3 or 4 women visit my MIL's house. After sitting at her house for a bit and exchanging gossip, the women leave and many times go on to different houses to visit other friends in the neighborhood. Now it's math time:

4 women visit my MIL's house each bringing with them one piece of gossip to add to my MIL's gossip. After the exchange of gossip, each woman who'd originally had one piece of gossip leaves my MIL's house with 4 new pieces of gossip totaling 5 juicy tidbits. Then, each woman goes on her separate way once leaving my MIL's house and goes to another friend's house with her 5 bits of information where she meets 4 more women at the next house. She then spreads her 5 juicy tidbits to the 4 new women at her other friends house while acquiring at least 4 more juicy tidbits, at least one news bite from each woman totaling 9 interesting news bits for the day (I think). But if this is the second or third house the women at the other friend's house had visited that day, each woman may have more than one juicy tidbit to pass on!

Who from my readers is good at logarithms? LOL!

*Ayjooza= old woman

**Tagagat= female drum players/singers at weddings and parties (hired band)


Cairogal said...

LoL-I think this general tradition is dying out all around the world. Great post, D!

Anonymous said...

I think that generation still lives on where I come from. We are from Yemeni descent but have relocated to So we still have the same *traditions*hehehehe. They don't the net to know anything, they just know! People just go to homes and start *networking*. I remember when my sister had a baby and she complained to my mom that she couldn't nap coz *those* women would come just to *chit-chat*. Most of these women are not working and my opinion is that they are simply bored. And true,when there's a wedding, OMG,it's all they talk about. :) sf

Anonymous said...

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy hat gesagt:
"consider yourself bitch-slapped...I can delete all day so no more comments from you."

I can give the mutaween your IP address (yes I have it now... you should learn how html works) and see if they can connect it to your true address. I don't know if they would like or not like what you write (it's not terrible... you're not a true feminist... but you're not truely a completely good female either).

If you want to play that game this is...

Achtung :)

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Desert Flower said...

I've been waiting for you to post on this topic!

However I don't think this gossip is limited to the older women. My sister in-law knew all about me before we even meet. Her neighbor apparently had a relative who worked with me {although I had no idea who this relative was} so the relative told the neighbor and the neighbor told my sister in-law.

This gossip is very damaging though as it makes the women worry to much about what others think and will say. So instead of being themselves they put on a show of how they want others to see them.

I think this is one of the things besides the culture and language barrier that alienates me from the women here as I am private by nature and don't spill my business or any one else's and I am genuine and don't feel the need to put on a show nor do I care what others think of me. I am who I am and if they don't like it well that is their problems not mine.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Cairogal- now we visit through our keyboards.

sf- oh, the post-baby visitors. My MIL suckered me into that after EttaMae's birth. I had to stay at her house for her to "take care" of me. THis meant fielding the hoard of old ladies coming to gawk every day.

anon- if I were truly that worried about "getting caught" I would have used a proxy server from the beginning. Your assuming the Mutawwa are some nasty thugs looking to pick a fight and the reality is so different from the perception.

DF- oh God no, gossip isn't just limited to the younger women. It's just that older women "network" with astounding proficiency without IT whereas the younger ones text each other.

Sprite said...

I miss girly gossip sessions! Though I don't believe in segregation of the sexes as much as they do in Saudi Arabia, it is kind of nice in some ways, having women only spaces. It makes being a woman feel more special, somehow.

Anonymous said...

There shouldn't be women only spaces, only men only spaces... like science academys.

Anonymous said...

Since when are the mutaween not thugs? Did saudia import new ones? Most mutaween are excons.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sprite- I've found out through my husband that the men are just as guilty of gossip as women, just in a slightly more macho way.

anon- the only reason men have traditionally outnumbered women in "science academies" and other such institutions is because in order for women to obtain an education and pursue careers, we have to do double duty both at home and away while you guys get to concentrate on your own pursuits as well as fighting against preconceived notions of inferiority. This means any woman who does make it within the inner sanctums of these traditionally male institutions are worth twice as much as her male counterparts.

As far as your accusation of Mutawwa being ex-cons...
Most Mutawwa are very decent, God-fearing,well-meaning family-men who have only the best intentions in their heart. But just like all the western tv shows and movies depicting dirty cops and corruption within police depts, Muttawa are subject to similar issues. One wouldn't say all western cops are bad because some within the organization were proven to abuse their power and/or disregard regulations but they're the ones who get all the news publicity.

Are there power-drunk, misogynistic Muttawa?
-you're damn right there is!
Are they the minority? -definitely.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Oh, and husband, several of his friends, and some members of the religious establishment who are friends of ours do already read my blog and think it's hilarious.
I blog anonymously not because of fear of Mutawwa, but because I don't feel like fielding knocks on my door to answer for my opinions nor do I want my husband to have to answer for me. It's a small enough town that I'm not hard to find if I were to publish my name. Anyone with any issues can say so in my comments section.

Anonymous said...

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy:

What do you think of all the german at the end of anon's post?

Anonymous said...

"Are there power-drunk, misogynistic Muttawa?
-you're damn right there is!
Are they the minority? -definitely."

This is most unfortunate. Looks like there's no alternative to anti-women's rights revolution.

PS: Saudia is known as "gay heaven".

Anonymous said...

"This means any woman who does make it within the inner sanctums of these traditionally male institutions are worth twice as much as her male counterparts."

Worth is measured in discovery, not in the obtainment of stature.

The thoughts you expressed here is the reason why feminist women need to be killed: they brainwash the generations into believing stature is worth something. Only discovery has merit. Running a mile is worth nothing: it has been done before.

Sprite said...

To the latest 'anonymous' - are you sure you are entirely sane?

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

anon1- it's just an automated message saying it may take a moment for the comment to oaths to Hitler or anything:) Sometimes my blogger comes up in Portuguese!

Anon2&3(aka mikee)- go lurk around on someone else's blog. I only indulged you previously to be a good sport and keep the spirit of open dialogue on my blog.

Sprite- ditto

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Tiffany said...

Who is writing this nonsense? Bleh to him/her/it! You are a gifted writer. Entertaining, intelligent and I for one read all the posts.
Salaams to you sis!

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Tiffany- was alaikum salam:-)thanks sweetie.

s said...

Now, there comes the *bad eye*,keep on writing sista! sf

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sf- hasawis are famous for their "strong eyes" too:P

Muneeb Saeed said...

OMG that was hilarious
I love watching old men sitting w/ their beads n talking [some time with those hookah things]
but always wondered what DO the old women do..
now i know :P

His Sweetheart said...

That is one od the most amazing realist blogs I have ever read!!

I swear I could see all your characters chitchatting and gossiping!! I know the people you are talking about very well. True many changed have happened but their good intentions haven't been affected yet!!