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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Where would we be without optimists? It was optimists who made the airplane, and pessimists who made the parachute. Most Saudis are fatalists; "inshallah", a common phrase, means "If God wills it". Some, like me, are pessimists, although we would describe ourselves as realists. However, we should be grateful for the rays of sunshine coming from our home-grown optimists. Here are two:

The first is the Manager of a Car Saleroom in Jeddah. When he heard the King say, regarding the possibility of women driving in Saudi Arabia....

I believe the day will come when women will drive. I believe it will be possible and I believe patience is a virtue.

....he took the optimistic view that "the day" was less than two years hence....

We are positive that in the coming two years women will drive, said salesman who asked not to be identified at a well-known car company in Jeddah, adding that his manager has signed an SR800,000 agreement ordering new cars....

....and not only that, he was optimistic that women would want to drive about in "girlie" colors.

....in baby shades of blue, yellow and pink. We want to have cars that are attractive to women, he said.

As Mrs A quite rightly pointed out to me, assuming that women do get to drive, the last thing they will want to do is to be so conspicuous. Saudi roads are dangerous enough at the best of times; they are like Formula 1 tracks, but without the skill, and you get kids as young as 14 driving Daddy's Merc, weaving from lane to lane at high speed, racing another child who is doing exactly the same thing. Meanwhile there is an old Bedu in from the desert who hasn't a clue what those white lines along the road are supposed to mean, but who guesses that he is supposed to straddle one of them, although he can't quite make up his mind which one, perhaps he'll give them all a go in turn. And no woman is going to go tootling along in a baby-yellow car, because that'll just say "Hey look, I'm one of those modern progressive liberated women who's just been allowed to drive and whose husband doesn't mind, so yaa boo sucks to all you religious long-beards and you young kids who think you own the road!". And only a suicidal woman would drive north up into the ultra-conservative Qaseem region in a baby-pink VW Beetle, that would be a one-way trip for sure.

Still, the guy is convinced....

Many companies are doing this because ladies are going to be running wild as soon as the government announces it and its going to be very soon, he said.
....Imagine how much the car companies will make when women start driving. It s going to be a fortune, I assure you, he stated.

Ladies "running wild" in Saudi Arabia, there's a prospect only an optimist could dream up. Anyway, it's the latest get-rich-quick scheme. My advice, hang on to your money, and in two years time, do a search on eBay for "Pink Beetle". You'll get a bargain. But then, I'm a pessimist.

Our next optimists aren't looking to make any money, they are teachers looking out for the health of their young charges. You see, we are not good on providing recreation areas or swimming pools for our children. Drive around any town or city, and you literally won't see any. The nearest we get to a recreation area is the sort of "recreation park" where they have rides and boats on lakes, like this one just opened by Prince Salman and his groupies in downtown Riyadh....

....which is hardly the sort of exercise that is going to get the muscles and the heart working. And apart from major hotels, there are no swimming pools, so very few Saudi children ever get the opportunity to swim. That probably explains why these fat-assed royals are looking so uncomfortable and nervous.

Typically Girls' schools do not even have gymnasia. Don't ask me why, it's not as if anyone from outside could see into them. So some optimist tried to get that changed.

A few public girls’ schools in Jeddah submitted requests to have gymnasiums built....

You can guess what's coming next...


In Saudi Arabia, there's always a "but"...

their hopes for introducing physical education classes were dashed after the Ministry of Education announced that physical education for girls would not be allowed.

No surprises there. But what's the problem? Are the authorities afraid that if enough girls might get fit, they may take on the Saudi national soccer team and beat them? Or if their husbands start smacking them around for their disobedience, they might beat them? However, the answer is obvious, when you think about it.

“Religious men have a great influence on our education and the ministry listens only to those with certain views about women and their role and place in society,” said a source at the Education Administration of Makkah region.

So the civil servants from the Ministry of Education called in the appropriate experts for their opinion. And what better way to become an expert on child developmental health, than spending years studying the Quran?

Why be an optimist in Saudi Arabia? There's no future in it.

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