Tag Archive: saudi arabia


When it rains, it pours.

Riyadh Rain - Logo by Ahmed Al Haddad

Designed by: Ahmed Al Haddad (@cdes). Shows the two famous skyscrapers in Riyadh drowning.

My post on the Jeddah floods of November 2009 is long overdue and it has always been on my list of posts to be written. But an opportunity came knocking when a similar rain hit Riyadh earlier today and caused similar damages, if not as strong as Jeddah, to the infrastructure of the city.

The Jeddah floods helped in unveiling a lot of infrastructural defects and bad town planning by the Jeddah municipality over a period of decades. It arose a lot of questions by the citizens which led to the king calling for an official investigation. It led to the arrest of many officials at the Jeddah Mayoralty and un-covered the not-so-hidden cases of corruption and bribery by them. What really saddens me is that, even though the investigation hasn’t reached anywhere yet, the end result of their actions led to the death of 120+ people (unofficially: 500+) and damage to even the latest road and bridge projects across the city.

I really hope that the devastation in Riyadh is not that serious and pray for the well-being of everyone there. The presence of a number of geeks in Riyadh didn’t go wasted either as a new website was launched within hours of the rain : RiyadhRain.com

The website gathers all the tweets from all the users of Twitter in and around Riyadh that puts the tag #RiyadhRain. It also has a collection of videos uploaded on YouTube by hundreds of users that also shows how the humanitarian efforts are being carried out by the citizens, which is worth another post that I hope to be writing very soon.


Call of Adhaan – Modern Wonder 2

One of the things that I really miss while living in this cold/windy/frigid/ ehm… /nice/magnificent country is hearing the adhan (the call to prayer) summoned from the mosques five times a day. Listening to the various (upto 20) muezzins (callers of the adhan) with different tones but all at the same time is truly a blessed 2-3mts experience that you will have.

Especially having lived in a country like Saudi Arabia where there is a mosque every 2-3 blocks, I and many others used (and some still are) to complain about how everything comes to a complete stand-still during prayer times. Everything from the small baqala (grocery shop) to the largest of the largest supermarket chains (UPDATE: Bigger supermarkets are open during prayer time, but the counters are closed); the smallest start-up company to the biggest banks; and err… an online newspaper as well. There are even times when the traffic is at an all-time low during prayers. More about this can be read here.

And now I can really put the pieces together and get an idea of the complete picture. Getting those time-offs just so that you can pray on time is really something everyone should cherish. An excerpt from “Susie of Arabia”:

Another thing that struck me on this drive was the sheer number of mosques we passed along the way. I know that in Jeddah, there seems to be mosques every few blocks in every direction. But out in the middle of nowhere, it felt that even in extremely remote and sparsely populated areas, mosques stood every couple of miles or so. Some were very minimalist, with a floor, walls, a roof, and of course a minaret, and just bare openings without actual doors or windows affixed. Even very small villages seemed to have numerous mosques within their boundaries. When Muslims are traveling, they can delay saying their prayers until they arrive at their destination, but with mosques conveniently located every few miles, delaying prayer times is not really necessary.

What really made me write this post was this video that I stumbled upon. A British journalist for the BBC, Kate Humble, was in Jeddah(as part of the documentary, The Frankincense Trail) with the film crew where she was taken on top of a building in Balad (downtown Jeddah) during maghrib(sunset prayer). She was so over whelmed by the dozens of adhans that she breaks into tears.

I would like to end this post with this beautiful adhan from a mosque in Malaysia:

PS: For those of you who are wondering what the title of the post is all about, I was trying to make it sound similar to the latest game “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2” that hit the stores a few days back.

What’s Obama upto in Riyadh?

Well, yeah, I know, its here, there and everywhere. The whole thing about Obama’s visit to the Kingdom. Some of the preps in Riyadh before his visit:

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I was wondering, what he really is up to for a few hours in Riyadh before he leaves for Cairo for his keynote speech to the Islamic world. If you are looking for what he really is up to, then I’d suggest you to look at the articles here.

 

 

Dear President Obama,

Welcome to Riyadh, the capital of “Kingdom” of Saudi Arabia, where the temperature is currently around 45degrees Celsius. We hope you can cope with the temperature even though the peak summer of 60 degrees is expected in the following months.

Also you might notice how Saudi Arabia is a big, and I mean BIG, market for General Motors. Yes, the same General Motors that you and your administration tried to save by turning it into a Government Motors. You can also notice how big the market for Hummer is in Saudi. The same brand that you sold to the Chinese a few days back. At least you could have delayed that till after your trip so that you wont have to face the grumpy faces of the people who own Hummer in Riyadh. On June 01, 2009 – They own an American gas-guzzling-mean-machine. Come 2nd June, they own a Chinese vehicle. How worse can it be!

Hope you have a nice few hours drinking the Arabic coffee and enjoying good conversation with the translators.

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Yours truly,
A motor enthusiast (duh!)

“It’s not only for men…”

By HishMaj

 

 

“I don’t like the back seat”

 

 

“70% of car buyers are women – Let them drive their own cars!”

 

 

“I want to drive because my Mom needs milk for coffee”

 

 

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These are not the answers by primary students to the question “Why do you want to drive?”. In fact it’s just the demand from women who are very desperate to drive in the Saudi Arabia. A new campaign, “N7nu Drive” has been brainstormed by a Saudi woman studying in the US because she felt guilty of her dad, who had to tackle his post-retirement time in chauffeuring her mom and 3 sisters.

 

Campaigns such as these are plenty in number, but the desired outcome? None.

 

Looking at the current condition of traffic and accidents, I just don’t see any room for more cars and mishaps. Even with men-only drivers driving around cities, the roads have become more or less a death bed for scores. What’s the reason behind it? It is clearly the way how we are taught driving there.

 

Last year, I was another victim of the infamous driving school “Dallah”, the one and only school authorised to teach and issue driving licenses, for men of course, throughout the Kingdom. That school is another bureaucratic failure where they make sure that anyone who enters the premises to register/renew a license has the longest and most miserable time of their life.

A place where you see applicants queuing outside the building even before the officials get up from their bed.

 

A place where there are 200 people waiting to meet the “official” behind the counter that has got more higher priorities which includes and does not limit to answering every call on his mobile and making sure that every family member of the caller,  including his 4 wives, are doing fine.

 

The 5 day mandatory days of classes that every new applicant has to attend, is another story on its own. The classes last 6 hours, which include waiting 4 hours for driving 200m around the track and another hour for prayer break. All the driving classes and lessons are taken by Egyptians (Don’t ask me what’s wrong with Egyptians). Egyptians that think they know all languages including Arabic, English, Tagalog, Bengali and Urdu and have got enough knowledge of cars and rules of the road to educate other new drivers.

In fact the only thing that we are taught in those 5 days is how to pass the final driving test.

 

The final driving test includes driving in the presence of a Saudi traffic authority who is busy talking on the phone with his 3rd wife. He is so generous that he asks us not to waste time by putting seatbelts. If we insist on wearing the seatbelt so as to get that extra mark, you will be able to see the other side of that generous person. You will also feel more pity for the person who he is talking to on the phone.

 

When we finally get that driving license that all 17 year olds are anticipating for, we end up learning nothing. In a country that produces what could probably be described as the “world’s worst drivers”, do we want more of such drivers? Though I fully support the cause of the campaign, I still think there are lots of things to clear up before cleaning those roads for the women-folk.