Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Soak up the Sun

Me and the family spent the last weekend in a Jeddah resort enjoying the 3 S's; Sun, Surf, and being Steamed alive by the summer humidity! And to give it all a nice conclusion we rented a fishing boat and went for a little cruise around the Ubhur creek. I took the opportunity to flex my (unfortunately) atrophied photography muscles and put my expensive digital SLR camera to some real use. The boat's captain kindly gave us an exciting experience by going at high speed. An Exhilarating experience, but bumpy which made my attempts at immortalizing the moment in digital form a bit hard. So I did that thing with the multiple captures that I always see the pros do (*snap* yes beautiful *snap* *snap* gorgeous *snap* keep that pose *snap* *snap* flick those waves babe *snap* *snap* aaaaand I'm spent...). While I was browsing my catch I came upon this little pic above which I don't remember actually framing. Possibly the best pic I took all day, and I didn't even know about it. Makes you appreciate all those small little moments that makes life so beautiful, and gives you a bitter-sweet punch in the gut to know that except for a few chance photographs or mementos those moments live solely in your memory.

Cherish those moments. Cherish the memories and hope they live there forever. After all, you might not always get lucky and have a camera nearby.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Finally Finished Franchise

It's finally here!!

I was at Jarir yesterday, and sure enough the seventh (and final) installment in J. K. Rowling's super mega hit series was on offer. Seeing that the worldwide release was the day before, Jarir had outdone themselves. I had learned long ago to trust them to make the latest Harry Potter available as quickly as possible. Something I learned the hard way, much to my discomfort. They have also promised me a 20 riyal gift certificate (part of the promo) as soon as they become available. Well, they have my phone number.

I've been reading these books ever since the release of the fourth book "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and the huge crowds it generated made the news. Book 4 was a huge book, especially in children literature standards, and I thought "any book that kids want to read despite the intimidating size must be good". So I bought all four, and I was instantly hooked. I flew through the first two (admitedly much smaller) books on the first day. I was a fan. A Pothead!

As soon as book five was announced I pre-ordered it on Amazon.com, and I had it in my greedt little hands a couple of weeks after its actual release. I glowed with pride that I had the book before everybody else, even though Jarir supplied the books not long after. Sure the difference was a week or so, but that's what separates the fans from muggles.

Then book six was announced. Confident in the power of my web browser/credit card combo I pre-ordered. This time Jarir gave me the ole' rabbit punch. Book six was available only a few days after the worldwide release. I had to wait for a whole week while my copy crawled through the trails of snail mail to get to me, all the while I had to fight the growing temptation to just buy the damned book and be over with.

This time I knew better.

Excuse me. I have a huge book to read.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Saudi's Racial Divide

I was reading some of the comments on my previous entry on racial stereotyping when I realized that though I may have taken the lighter side of the issue I've never actually spoken of the ugly side. The side we see every day. The side that spouts this kind of ugliness (Crossroads Arabia).

For the benefit of any foreign visitors (Hellooooo? Anybody out there?) let me paint you the racial landscape around here. You can take a piece of chalk and draw a very clear line between the two major racial groupings here in Saudi Arabia. On one side we have Saudi Arabia's original inhabitants; the various Saudi tribes, collectively known by the un-PC term "Bedouins" due to their nomadic past. On the other side you have the "Hadar" (city dwellers), mostly descendants (though not entirely) of non indigenous people from all over the Islamic world.

The two sides loathe each other.

Most of this is just plain old human-pack-mentality invoked response (yes, I do believe that racism is a natural impulse), but its more than that. Like many things, economics play a vital role.

Before we discovered we had this expensive smelly black liquid running under our sands the playing field was mostly even here in Saudi Arabia. The professions market was more or less neatly divided between the two groups. The Bedouins, being either nomads or dwellers of agricultural areas, were mostly herders or farmers. The Hadar, being city born, were mostly merchants and craftsmen. Then came the oil drills and everything changed. Suddenly there was all this money floating around. Trade boomed. And as in all economic surges it was the merchants who benefited most. The Hadar became richer, and as a consequence their children got better education and later held all the important positions. The Bedouins took several generations to catch up.

Money is the root of all problems, they say.

Although most of the old merchant families are still Hadar, the economic divide is long gone. Yet old prejudices are hard to kill. If you believe the stereotypes then Saudis are either uncouth covetous barbarians or immoral thieving money bags. I don't know about you, but barbarians are definitely not exclusive to one side or the other and I seem to have misplaced my hoard of stolen gold. We (Saudis) either pretend that these tensions don't exist, or we play the finger pointing game and try to lay the blame at others' door steps. When in reality we should be pointing the accusing finger at ourselves. Both sides are equally to blame for prolonging the long standing hatred. Both sides have contributed equally into making this hatred ingrained in our sub-conscious.

As a child I was warned against playing with those naughty Bedouin children. A dear friend of mine has been taught by his elders that those sinful Hadar have stolen his legacy.

Do you have any idea what kind of an effect this sort of talk has on a growing child?

Yet I still see this invisible indoctrination happening all the time.

I would love to see the culture of tolerance (both racial and religious) being taught in schools. I would love to see a Bedouin marrying a Hadar without any eyebrows being raised. I would love for all the surnames, stereotypes, racial slurs, and blind prejudice be part of a history book that future generations would laugh at.

But first, let's start with ourselves.