Category Archives: Life related stuff

Bros and Their Toes


Do you know what’s really freaking me out in tarawīh at the moment? Bros and their toes!

If there’s someone in my visual range in the row in front of me with anything untoward down there, it starts to unnerve me and I find my concentration will wander.

Like recently I’ve had a couple of bros who’re missing toes and you find yourself checking back every now and then just to make sure you counted correctly.

Then today there was this bro whose “little toe” was bigger than at least the two toes immediately next to it.

But the most off putting was this guy, actually wait let me explain a bit first.

You know that thing that people (normally dads) do where they drum their fingers in sequence on a table to simulate a kind of horse galloping sound?

Well, this guy was drumming his toes during the whole tarawīh. Both feet – simultaneously!

In addition, he kept doing this thing where he’d put his big toe over the one next to it and slide it off really quickly, like he was trying to make a ‘snap’ sound.

Sure, it’d be handy if you were wearing sandals in a restaurant and you needed to summon the waiter really quickly but I hope I’m not alone in feeling it was a tad out of place in salāh.

I could only take four rak’ah’s worth before I had to change my place for both my khushū’ and sanity. Although I’m not sure how much of either I salvaged.

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Another reason to try and improve my Arabic

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There’s nothing quite like a swim after tarāwīh

I slipped gently into the pool and began treading water, looking around for a direction to swim in. One of the Saudi youth was looking at me intently and splashing away to himself in his own unique way.

I find it a little awkward when I don’t understand what someone’s saying and so when he addressed me with words that were completely lost on me, I decided to politely nod and said “Yes, hello. How are you?”

He ducked under the water, only to pop back up shortly after.

This time I managed to isolate the phrase “Yā shabāb!” from the rest of the incoherent speech that he directed towards me before he reverted to his disappearing and re-appearing trick.

I decided to focus on his yellow goggles and matching nose clip and reflected on how they softened the look of urgency on his face that would have otherwise been very decipherable.

He surfaced once more and I started to get the impression that he wanted to tell me something much more than merely to welcome me to the pool. My eyes narrowed as I scanned my phrasal memory for clues as to what it could possibly be.

I think he must’ve understood that I was trying, however hopelessly, to engage with him as he held out his hand to me and managed to say “Ay…” before disappearing beneath the water again.

With each resurface I detected a greater desire to be understood on his face.

I took a wild stab in the dark and cautiously asked “I’m sorry, but uh… are you… perhaps, drowning?”

I held out an arm to him realising that this gesture might be better understood that any oral inquisition. He immediately grabbed on to me and having confirmed my suspicion I pulled him to the edge of the pool; where he, in between coughing up water and spitting, managed to smile and looked generally grateful.

I have a friend, who although not a regular swimmer, related that he’s seen two near drownings in pools this past year.

I’d have to say that health and safety in general doesn’t appear very high on the list of priorities in any Saudi Arabian work ethos that I’ve ever come across. I think that swimming pools are a good enough example of the lackadaisical approach here as any.

There doesn’t appear to be a “life guard” per-se. Sure, there’s a guy wearing heavy army boots and a security uniform complete with a matching hat, sitting near the pool (most of the time). But his job appears more to be collecting a fee from the swimming public (and playing with his phone in between completing such a task), more than to jump into the pool and rescue drowning people.

Even the design of the pool doesn’t really seem to have had novice swimmers in mind. For example, you have the deep end and then there’s the deeper end.

I’ll never forget the first time I went swimming when first arriving here.

We went after ‘īshā` and having swam for about an hour there must have been about twenty of us left in the pool when the lights suddenly, and without warning, all went out. I was left with about as much visual comprehension of my whereabouts in relation to the rest of the world, as you have when you wake in the middle of the night and only have the faint glow of a digital alarm clock to guide to the bedroom door.

My naive British nature had me waiting expectantly for an announcement to be broadcast across a tannoy system informing us all to stay calm as there’d been a power outage in the building, but no!

“They must be closing for the night” my friend informed me.

But we’re still in the pool?! Surely they could have forewarned us or at least provided us with enough light to swim to the edge of the pool. Wouldn’t it also be helpful for the staff to have sufficient lighting to check for any bodies floating face-down before they look towards locking the gates at night?

I suppose it is true that, even in the dark, swimming in any direction (bar downwards) will eventually bring you into contact with the pool-edge and thereby provides a means of exit. But putting this simple truth aside aren’t there easier ways to empty a pool than just switching all the lights off?

Aren’t there things like whistles here or an Arabic equivalent to “Everybody out! I want to go home!” Well, apparently not.

Anyway, I’ve made a mental note to myself to research some elementary Arabic phrases that I can use in any future visits to a KSA pool.

Simple phrases like “Can I help?”, “Are you drowning?” and “Brother, are you sure those Speedo trunks that you’re wearing are halāl?”

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Hittin’ the Books

I’ll shortly be leaving for the UK to take a quick break before the next academic year begins.

I’m also enrolled on an intensive study course over the next month or so and everyone that I know who’s done the same course tells me that you have to eat, sleep and breathe the course just to get through it.

This being the case I’ll have to forgo my internet tom foolery until my planned return to Saudi in early to mid Ramadhan, insha’ Allah.

So don’t be expecting any/much activity here for the duration.

If I’ve got my dates correct, my home internet card is due to expire within the hour and so I’d better get this post up now, lest I find myself having to sit in one of the various smoky and seedy internet cafes tomorrow to make this announcement.

All the best to everyone and a Ramadhan mubarak in advance.

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Somebody moved my chair!

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al-Hamdu lillāh I’m now able to stand and make rukū‘ in salāh. Sujūd is still a bit difficult though, I pray with a chair nearby so that I can approximate prostration from a seated position.

I’ve also abandoned my crutches, leg brace and have felt confident enough to venture back into salāh in the jama’ah.

One thing that never occurred to me prior to getting injured was the nervousness that a person who needs a chair feels whilst making their way to the masjid.

Why so?

Well, sometimes you arrive only to find that all the chairs are in use and you’re immediately thrown into a dilemma as to what to do next.

The first time it happened to me I thought to myself that as I can make qiyām and rukū‘ I just wouldn’t feel comfortable about sitting on the floor for the entire salāh and so I opted to “have a go” at sujūd to see how difficult it really was.

It probably looked more like someone searching for a lost contact lense than your regular sajdah. I survived but I decided afterwards that it was way too early to be reintroducing this motion onto my “things I can do” list.

So now I try to make sure that I leave early enough to be able secure a chair for myself.

Another chair related decision that people like me face when attending the jama’ah is where exactly do you position your chair?

I’m totally unaware of any scholastic insight into this issue but will happily read any “Chapter: How to align your chair with the row” that anyone can link me to.

To my mind I’d previously decided that it’s best to align the chair’s back-legs with the ankles of those on either side of me and I decided this for a number of reasons:

1) When we’re sitting for the tashāhud all of our backs will be neatly in a straight line.

2) I figured that my chair’s hind legs being directly underneath my back when I sit, were analogous to my own legs and hence should be aligned with the feet of those in my row.

3) If I chose to move my chair behind the row that I’m a part of it would encroach upon the guy in the row behind me’s prostration space.

Anyway, I’d always assumed that this was an individual’s prerogative to decide and felt that my particular chosen method would have the least impact upon others in the masjid.

Then today I’d just risen from the second sajdah of the first rak’ah of maghrib and I sensed movement behind me as I stood up. Suddenly the brother to my right started pulling at my arm, dragging me backwards.

“What’s he doing?!” I exclaimed internally. Has he..? I can’t believe this – he’s moved my chair and is now insisting that I move backwards to align my chest with the rest of the row.

(Which is admittedly the downside of having your chair aligned with the feet of others; you’re chest is consequently out of line in qiyām.)

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Now as much as I’d have loved to turn to him and ask “What on earth do you think you’re doing mate?!” I realised that talking would break my salāh and so I decided to soldier on in my newly enforced position.

Not being able to turn around and check (as I was in salāh), I was now petrified that the guy may have moved my chair back so far that I’ll fall when I try to sit on it later; and even if it’s not that far back then surely anybody who joins the row immediately behind mine will innocently decide that there’s a chair in his way and move it to one side before he begins.

I mean jazāhu Allāhu khayran to the brother for his dedication and zeal in ensuring that the chests of the musallīn are aligned but seriously, could he not have waited until after the salāh to try and convince me that his fiqh al-Kursī is the most accurate one out there?

I was left with my concentration totally gone out of the window due to a combination of worrying about falling on my backside whilst attempting to sit on a chair that’s not there (*sigh, reminisces about school day pranks*) and trying to suppress my outrage at his intervention.

al-Hamdu lillāh, I managed to finish my prayer without any further event but now it’s putting me off going back to that particular masjid lest it happen again.

I went back for ‘ishā’ but it was still playing on my mind and any kind of movement from those around me had me thinking “They’re going to take my chair again, I just know it!”

The brother even left before I made taslīm (we both missed the first rukū) and so I was deprived of being able to turn to him afterwards and soulfully ask “Laysh (why)?!” and thereby get some kind of closure to the whole incident.

So I’m basically looking for any suggestions that you have as to how to deal with the possibility of a reoccurrence (until I’ve made a 100% recovery, inshā’ Allāh) that doesn’t involve handcuffing my chair legs to my ankles.

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First jumu’ah

It’s been some weeks since my knee injury and al-hamdu lillāh my leg is getting a lot stronger. So today I decided to crutch my way along to my very first jumu’ah in ages.

I had an M.R.I. scan earlier this week and the results came back much better than I’d expected.

I’ve apparently only got a mild synovitis, which basically means that my knee is swollen.

Which is kind of amazing when you think about it!

I mean, it took a machine the size of small petroleum tanker to tell me that my knee is swollen when I could have probably come to the same conclusion by merely lifting up my trouser leg.

But I suppose it did help rule out the ligament tear that I’d previously been diagnosed with and so I’ll not totally abandon modern medicine just yet.

Has anyone else ever had an M.R.I. scan before?

It wasn’t anything like having an x-ray done and hence not at all what I was expecting.

You’re locked into this trolley (well, I was at least) and told not to move for the duration. Then you’re gently inserted into this huge machine and subjected to 15 minutes of, what I can only describe as, being forced to listen to a rave version of chopsticks.

If you don’t know what chopsticks is then just say al-hamdu lillāh. But if you really need to know, it’s the tune that Tom Hanks plays on the giant keyboard in the toy store scene of the film Big.

So I’m lying there listening to this huge metallic donut clunking, whirring and generally going EuGh! EuGh! Eaw! GnAa! GnAa! thinking is it making this noise because no-one has managed to build a machine capable of scanning a body part without the side effect of this aural bombardment, or does this noise actually serve a purpose? I asked the doctor afterwards and it’s apparently the latter.

But I got off lightly I suppose, as I was only inserted into the machine feet first.

Depending on what’s being scanned you’re often meant to go in head first; which is probably analogous to being placed into a closed steel coffin whilst the funeral director bangs on the side repeatedly with a big spoon.

I found this insightful cartoon when I was searching for information about M.R.I.’s so I guess I’m not alone in feeling that there are better ways to spend 15 minutes of your life.

Which brings me to another point. Can I just quite categorically state that CartoonStock.com is nauseatingly unfunny?

It doesn’t seem to matter what keyword I search for in google images but some duff cartoon from their site seems to pop up in the results.

Now whilst a caricature or exaggerated drawing of something is technically a cartoon, I’ve always been lead to believe that a cartoon was supposed to have some undertone of comedy in it. Rather than the junk that they regularly spew out and seem to be expecting someone to pay for.

Oh and I didn’t get the above one from there though, I just felt like venting.

And lastly, apologies to anyone who was expecting this post to lead somewhere or for there to be a punch line at the end but “I write ‘em like I see ‘em.”

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