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.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


That's a lazy title. I've got a mountain of work to get thru this weekend, so I'm going to post two articles that more or less speak for themselves, with the very tenuous connection of the title, and let you get on reading them for yourself.

When Edward Lear wrote his nonsense poems, he obviously had Saudi Arabia in mind when he spoke of the "Land where the Bong Tree grows". But how about the "Land where the Jumblies live"?

A clue - I very rarely write about it, although it's often whackier than the Magic Kingdom.

Another clue - it's run by someone with a name like "A Mad Dinner Jacket"

That's right! The Islamic Republic of Iran! And what are their wacky, fun-loving politicos and religious types up to?

Thanks to "Brian" and "Howard" for this. Apparently they have become jealous of the only two countries in the world with a national uniform, us and North Korea, and want their own. Not only that, but instead of wearing the colors of their favorite team, they get to wear the color of their religion! How cool is that?

A colour code for Iran's 'infidels'

The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress. It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).

Isn't that nice? And aren't they doing wonders for the image of Muslims, worldwide? But have they anything special lined up for the Jooos?

Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes.

Yellow! How thoughtful! How retro! I'll leave you to read the rest.

Update Sunday 21st May 2006. It looks like I, together with a load of newspapers and bloggers around the world, have been "had". Iranian emigrees spreading nonsense, similar to some of the emigree stories pre-Iraq-invasion. Like Bush and Blair, we swallowed it because we thought it was completely possible. Humble pie, humble pie. Thanks, "Brian" and others.

Jewish MP denies Iran badge plan

Update Tuesday 23 May 2006. For those who would like more background on this "hoax", but a hoax that I personally find about as funny as the "Protocols", here are a couple of sources

Who Started the Iranian Badge Story?

Another Fraud on Iran: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities

Thanks, "Timewarp".

Back to clothes.....

Thanks to "Anne" and "momlls" and "kschoening" and "Ayman" for this. It's the tricky subject of Saudi women and fitness. We, and this of course includes men as well, do start at a disadvantage with our climate. Nobody wants to go jogging, cycling, or even walking, in 100 to 130-plus temperatures. But they have a similar problem in Arizona, for example, and there are enough indoor and outdoor facilities for everyone to get fit, if they so choose. Whereas in Saudi Arabia, there is no such thing even as a public swimming pool. The nearest we get are the men-only pools in the big hotels or resters, or the compound pools that can only be used by expats. But then we add our own little complications. There are some roads that have pavements wide enough for walking, but we then get the youth in cars beeping their horns and shouting , and even the muttawa telling single women to go indoors. In fact, the only public place that I can think of where women are generally OK by themselves, is the Corniche in Jeddah.

The problem starts in school. The "Poodle Parliament" did discuss the idea of girls' schools having exercise sessions, but it was voted down. So no girl soccer teams.

Exercise a Challenge for Saudi Women

Under their modest flowing robes, two-thirds of Saudi women are too fat. They can try dieting, but you won't find many in aerobics classes or power-walking along this city's walking trails. And very few of their daughters attend schools that have physical education classes.
There are no laws against women exercising outside their homes, but in this conservative society many are influenced by scholars and clerics who argue against it.
In Riyadh, hotel gyms and pools are off limits to women. Along the city's walking trails, where the women walk covered in the mandatory black cloaks, they are sometimes harassed by the muttawa.

Again, you should look at it yourself, it's an excellent article.

One particular section did catch my eye. Apparently there is a booklet written by a Muhammad al-Habdan on the subject, in which he warns against exercise for girls in school. And here is the tenuous clothing connection. Apparently:

....if girls' schools began P.E., Saudi girls would have to change into workout gear — and good girls should not disrobe outside their homes. Changing in a locker room might cause them to lose the shyness that is the hallmark of good morals, the booklet warned. It went on to say that the girls might become attracted to each other after seeing their classmates in tight leotards and tops.

All I can say, Muhammad, is that you're watching the wrong sort of DVD. You're getting entirely the wrong idea about female sexuality, and you're going to end up growing hair on the palms of your hands.

Update 23 May 2006

For westerners who are tempted to get some exercise out in the desert, perhaps as one of the "Hash" running and walking groups, a fresh warning that it may make them especially vulnerable:

Thanks, "Down in Dhahran"

Warden Message #04A/2006

Embassy of the United States of America

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


May 21, 2006

The Embassy requests that wardens pass the following message in its entirety to members of the American Community:

The Department of State continues to remind Americans living in or traveling to Saudi Arabia that the security environment in that country remains unsettled. The Embassy has received recent information that terrorists may be targeting diplomats and foreigners who may be camping or exercising on the outskirts of the city of Riyadh and farther out into the desert. Based on this information, the Embassy is barring official Americans from participation in such activities for the immediate future. We strongly advise all members of the American community against exercising in public places on the periphery of the city, pursuing recreational activities such as group runs in isolated areas, or congregating with large groups of readily identifiable expatriates. We urge all citizens to remain alert to their surroundings, vary their times and routes, and actively cultivate good personal security practices.

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