The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Young, gifted and Saudi...and... 

Here's one of those little snippets from the "Saudi Gazette" that regularly gets me choking over my coffee. It displays the worst of our country in a totally innocent and oblivious way.


Thirty-nine gifted Saudi students coming from all over the Kingdom, between 15-16 years old, completed month-long live-together and study-together intensive courses in robotics and electronics at the King Abdul Aziz University (KAAU) Center for the Gifted Students.
The training involved basics in the fundamentals of robotic and electronic designs, subjects in which most of the students did not have prior background, execution of projects in these fields, and finally competition among the completed projects, said Dr. Ibrahim Olwi, director general of the Center for the Gifted Students.

Great. 39 gifted students from all over the country, brought together for some intensive training, to develop and build robots. So what could be wrong with that?

Well, closer examination of the photo and the article reveals the answer. Not one of the gifted students is female. The 39 most gifted students are, by one of those freaks of statistics, all male. Isn't that strange? When God was handing out the intelligence genes, didn't the girls get any? Or are these genes exclusively attached to the male y-chromosome? Or is it just that, as always, we totally ignore the abilities and talents of 50% of our population?

God help this country if it ever becomes possible to buy embryo screening at the pharmacy. There'll be a 99% male birth-rate, and then we'll puzzle why the population is in terminal decline.

Rant over. It makes me splutter my coffee all over myself, I'm starting to look like a Muttawa. Let's change the subject. I was bemused at the choice of some robots.

Muhaidib and his team had assembled a toy car that does somersaults, which they entered into the competition. We were all excited and graded excellent, he said.

Not very impressive. We have real cars that do that, no problem. You get a Toyota Landcruiser, fill it with a family comprising father, third wife, mother, Filipino maid, and nine children, none wearing seatbelts. Place small child on knee of driver, to cushion any impact against steering wheel. Open windows because a/c a bit dodgy, children can put heads out, it keeps them amused. Give father shawarma to eat while driving. Set off down Dammam Highway, comfortably exceeding speed limit, in so-called "emergency lane" next to concrete central reservation. Father gets call on mobile phone, which he is compelled to answer, even though it's in pocket of trousers awkwardly covered by outer thobe and small child. Result? Car hits central reservation, somersaults, family scattered over six lanes. No problem.

I met great people who like me have the passion to study science, said
16-year old Saad Al-Shehri from Abha. He said his robotic project of a sumo wrestler is one of the best achievements of his life.

A robot of a sumo wrestler? The mind boggles. Presumably it's spherical, and rolls all over the place scattering salt.

There is in the UK a TV program called something like "Robot Wars". Teams build remote-controlled robots and get them to fight against each other. They use weapons like minature pickaxes or hammers or even circular saws. The young A's think it's great. I pretend its a bit beneath me, but watch stealthily from behind a newspaper. It's best when one robot's steering mechanism self-destructs in flames and and the immobile victim is helplessly cut in two by the opponent. Cool.

So is that what our young students did with their robots? Highly unlikely. That would constitute FUN, and as you will appreciate by now, FUN is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Our version of Islam was invented by Mr Wahabbi, whose motto was:

"Sin may sometimes be fun, but fun is invariably sin. God commands you to be miserable"

or something like that. So the sumo wrestler will never get to beat the crap out of the toy car. Shame.

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