Category Archives: Saudi

Working Around a Problem

There are times when I get a hearty laugh at the stalwartly work ethic that I come across here.

I referred to this ingenious approach to road repairs some years back when I first arrived but having recently witnessed another couple of belters, I thought to comment on it once more.

What would you, as a hypothetical workman (or work woman), do when confronted with a parked/abandoned car in an area that you need to build/dig?

Well, you could call the council and have them tow it away or maybe throw a brick through the driver’s window and release the handbrake yourself.

But… let’s not be too hasty here, has hypothetical you properly considered the innovative alternative of just leaving it where it is and building around it?

Now don’t dismiss this idea straight away. I mean, you haven’t actually started building yet. So who’s to say that a big car in the middle of your project’s going to look out of place?

I mean take this outstanding achievement as a for instance. You have about a mile and a bit of a seven lane road completely closed off and dug up so that you can heave out an underpass to deftly redirect city traffic. Do you really need to move those last few cars parked at the side? Or could you just leave them as a form of adornment for generations to come.

Alternatively, imagine you’re working on a new building, would it really be that hard to adjust your plans to incorporate an abandoned car into one of the main support walls?

I’m actually kind of hoping that this will eventually turn out to be a restaurant. That way they can put the salad bar on the bonnet/hood and I can sound the horn every time someone tries to sneak in a second plateful.


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Spray before you’re sprayed upon

bad manner

I like this sign not so much because of the incorrect usage of the indefinite article (a), for me it’s more the concept (or perhaps, delusional hope) that by pointing out that something is bad manners you can bring about its end.

Contrast this with how the UK authorities have dealt with graffiti.

It’s regularly pegged as being “vandalism”, “destruction of private property”, “a prosecutable offence”, “criminal damage” and altogether “illegal!”. Certainly a linguistically stronger approach than the Saudis have taken.

Even if you look at the fencing next to those stretches of the London Underground in the UK that are above ground; you’ll see signs warning potential graf artists that the British Transport Police have helicopters on patrol looking for individuals that they can arrest and invariably ASBO into submission.

And yet no-one in the UK has thus far tried to simply point out that it’s a faux pas (social blunder) to spray your name onto the back wall of the local bingo hall.

Can you imagine where we’d be if someone had taken Banksy to one side early in his career and said “I say old bean, but don’t you think that it’s rather rude to be spraying that there?”

Yes, probably exactly still where we are now; which is why I’m inclined to be a little sceptical of the Saudi approach.

There is agreeably a growing problem with the shabāb tagging the walls in their areas or near their schools. And amusingly for me most taggers use kunyā‘s and possess poor grammatical skills. Such that “Kilroy woz ere” becomes “Abu Khalid am here.”

It’s also sad to relate but a lot of graffiti involves Saudis spraying the names of the few Western rap artists that they’ve heard of; I was dismayed to see “Tupac” and “50 Cent” staring back at me in bright letters from local buildings when I first arrived.

Not that I’m suggesting that we need to Arab-ise this Western culture and come up with our own “50 Halālas” or “Ithnayn-bac.” As an actual fan of graffiti art (not so much tagging, the real artistic stuff), it’d be nice to see the two worlds (Islam and graffiti) collide more over here. Like some colourful nasīha making it onto the walls, that says “Pray before you’re prayed upon!” all written in wildstyle . Kind of like what Mohammed Ali does.

Instead what you find are desperate attempts at gaining attention as you note the lonely spraying email addresses onto walls, or you witness worryingly badly drawn genitalia on the more profane pieces that you spot (one inappropriate drawing I witnessed had me wondering whether or not the writer needed to urgently see a doctor as his anatomical reproduction in paint seem to have some additional bits that other human beings don’t normally have).

And indeed, that last trend in wall decorating that I referred to certainly is an example of “a bad manner.”


Filed under Saudi, Signage

What’s in the box?

Is this the end of Saudi Arabia as we know it?

the box

I was truly astonished when I noticed the installation of parking meters in downtown Khobar.


Traffic management is a rudimentary concept to the Western world but the shock to me here is this is being introduced amongst a people who have no qualms, and indeed often feel no shame, at parking like this…

parking specialist

And that’s not someone photographed mid three-point-turn or parked precariously for five minutes while he quickly nips to the shop. This is overnight parking!

In fact the word “park” isn’t appropriate here at all.

The verb “to park” contains shades of meaning that suggests that the action is “out of the way” or “to one side.” A more accurate verb that describes what I witness on a daily basis would be “to stop.”

It is more a process of discontinuing the car’s motion, removing the keys and subsequently walking away from it. With little, or often no, attempt to position the car so that it is not causing an obstacle to other vehicles or pedestrians.

In England I witnessed double-parking; here I see triple-parking and don’t even blink owing the familiarity that it possesses. And to describe a street close to a masjid on jumu’ah would require the usage of words like quintuple or larger.

I’m trying to picture the scene of the first local who’s confronted by a Traffic Warden.

“Excuse me, but you can’t park like that!”


“Your car needs to be straight and off the road, parked within these lines *points*”

“Lines? Ish hatha, lines? Lines, ish?”

“And you need to pay too!”

“Bay, ish bay?”

“You know? Give money to leave your car here!”

La, La, La! Ana Fulan bin Fulan Al-Fulani… *wanders off to collect his thobes from the dry cleaners*”


Filed under Saudi, The World Through My Eyes

Are the Saudi public ready for female drivers?

The owner of this bumper sticker seems to think not.


Filed under Saudi

You can’t make this stuff up.

I was in a bookshop in search of a specific English textbook that I had in mind for an evening class that I was teaching.

Not holding much hope that I’d find it, I started to wander around the other aisles in case it’d been misfiled or maybe something else might just catch my eye.

Into the “Computing” section, glancing briefly over the titles: “Networks”, “Excel”, “Word Processing.”; Nope, nothing of interest here!

Into “Management”, definitely nothing here.

“Science”, over my head.

What’s this next shelf?

“Women.” Hmm?

I wonder what they’re pushing the women of this ummah to read?

What kind of mind expanding topics do they think ladies are capable of learning and bringing the rest of us  advancements in?

What texts with unfathomable depths of complexity do they think that the female mind can grasp.


Apparently, this shop thinks that women are best intellectually satisfied with shelves full of…

I assume there must be a disclaimer somewhere:

Warning: These books may overwhelm you!

Please ask your husband/father/brother/son for assistance.”


Filed under Saudi, The World Through My Eyes

The planned expansion of the haram.

This is an artist’s impression of how the planned expansion of the Haram in Makkah will finally look.

No comments involving the word “dominoes” please.


Filed under Saudi

Rabbits lay eggs

Resolve: There’s something amiss with female education in Saudi Arabia.

I will take the affirmative.


Now putting aside for a moment the commonly known fact that girls don’t partake in physical education at school. (I assume that obesity will one day be overcome by an initiative to force “drivers” to park further away from mall exits.)

There are other indications that led me to the conclude that there exists a skew towards educating the male over female in the classroom.

I’m not referring to the numerous mixed schools that litter the kingdom (nor am I pro-mix by the way, I’m happy with gender division as a concept) but to those schools which offer separate education for the two sexes both in terms of their buildings and it would appear in their academic content.

My interaction with a girls’ school led me to gather that females apparently require much longer school holidays than their male counterparts, less teaching periods in a week, earlier close of the school year (and often of the day) and more lessons involving such enlightening topics as “Let’s clean and tidy our classroom.”

And if all this isn’t enough to convince you of the strength of my side of the debate, then please reflect upon the fact that I took the title of this post from a science lesson my daughter was given.


Filed under Saudi