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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


What is it with Arab leaders and Grecian 2000? That thought crosses my mind every time I see Saddam Hussein's hair on TV, and of course our own beloved King Abdullah's mustache and beard. How does he avoid getting it on his lovely white thobe? What induces him to trim his beard to look like a rear view of an overweight black cat, and then apply a mixture of Propylene Glycol, Mineral Oil, Stearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Sulfur, Panthenol, Lead Acetate, and Acetic Acid (better known as vinegar)? These are questions that trouble me, but suspect I will never learn the answer to.

Perhaps he is frustrated by the ravages that time has wrought on him, as it does on us all. We all get frustrated for a variety of reasons. I get frustrated by the slow - no, by the stationary - rate of progress in Saudi Arabia. Does this so-called "Modernizing King" also get frustrated, because he certainly hasn't modernized anything yet?

Well, apparently, he doesn't want to. In fact, he wants to wind the clock back further, if that is possible. As we learn from this CNN report (Thanks, "Angie")....

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, under pressure from Islamists to curb reforms, has warned local media against showing pictures of Saudi women, ....at a meeting with newspaper editors late on Monday.

What sort of pictures are getting him all worked up? Surely not "girly pictures", we don't have those, do we?

Newspapers have broken with tradition and have more frequently begun printing photographs of Saudi women beside stories, usually with hair covered but faces showing,

Oh! The horror! But seriously, who could possibly be so stupid as to object to a woman's face, peering out from under a scarf?

.....which many Wahhabi Islamists consider morally wrong....

Oh yes, they could possibly be so stupid. In fact they certainly are that stupid. But what about our "Modernizing King"?

"There are photographs published in some newspapers ... and one needs to think if he would want his daughter, sister or wife to appear like that. Of course, no one would"

Aaaaggghhh! How do we begin to unpick the layers of stupidity, prejudice, and sheer ignorance out of that? We are talking about women showing their scarfed faces in newspapers, as they already do on the TV News! And the implicit assumption that it's all down to the men, and how they feel about it! Who cares how they feel about it? Why don't you ask the women what they feel, it's their faces we are talking about. In fact - Shock! Horror! - why not let them decide? And don't say "Of course, no one would" as if you speak for everybody, including me, because you don't!

Then it gets even worse.

Young people are driven by emotion and the spirit, but the spirit can go astray.

What is he saying here? That our young men are going to be driven into such a frenzy of lust by the sight of newspaper photos of women's faces, that they are going to disappear into quiet corners with a copy of Al Riyadh, and commit dark solitary acts of self-abuse?

The spirit can go astray, alright. It can go astray out of sexual frustration. It is no coincidence that sexual frustration means that our country is notorious for its sexual predators, once abroad. Not that we are alone. Unfulfilled sexual curiosity, whether active or passive, is endemic in the more extreme Islamic and Arabic countries.

Thanks to "Martin" for pointing this out to me. Sabbah's Blog has an interesting analysis, showing who is using Google to search for particular words. And if we select the word Sex, then we see the countries whose inhabitants most often search for it. Well-represented are the "Usual Suspects" of countries where women are repressed and the men are frustrated. I was a little disappointed to see that Saudi Arabia was only the seventh country in the list. However if we select instead the F*ck word, we jump to fourth! Well done, lads!

It's similarly interesting to see the searchers' language. Sex is not an Arabic word, but it seems to be our favorite! (For some reason the Vietnamese also have problems; however this is not a Vietnamese blog and I can't worry about them as well).

So this is what our society has achieved. Starved of female company, or even newspaper photos, our men trawl the internet in search of virtual outlets for their frustration. And we are world leaders at it. If only we might perform as well in the World Cup as we do Googleing for Sex.

However, once we get married, it seems to get no better. There are two problems.

One. Because lots of marriages are arranged, quite often they turn out to be loveless. There are approximately two million divorced women in the Kingdom, and no doubt even more locked in desperately unhappy situations.

Two. Because many fathers are getting increasingly greedy, they are demanding larger and larger dowries for their daughters, and pricing them out of the market. The result is that there are approximately one and a half million unmarried women of marriageable age.

Here is frustration multipled a million-fold. However, with the apparent connivance of our religious authorities, we have come up with a new and legal solution to these problems.

New for us, that is. Western society discovered it several centuries ago and has effectively discarded it in the last century. It is, of course, The Mistress.

Here is the famous painting by Holman Hunt, the pre-Raphaelite artist, known as "The Awakening Conscience". According to London's Tate Gallery, "the still small voice [of conscience] speaks to a human soul in the turmoil of life’. A kept woman, realising the error of her ways, rises suddenly from the lap of her lover, inspired by the light pouring through the window from the garden."

The guy in the photo likes the idea of having a mistress, because he can get away from his good-but-joyless "society marriage", he can come here to the warm embrace of this young lady, play the piano, have a few drinks, you can guess the rest, and then, when his frustration has been satisfied, return to the patient wife who does his washing, cooks his meals, cleans his house, and brings up his children.

Meanwhile, it's not so good for her. It's a comfortable existence for a poor girl, but it's hours and days of lonely boredom doing her crochet work, until Mr Whiskers here suddenly turns up at the door unannounced with all the finesse of a randy Labrador. So finally she's had enough, and she's off. Whether it is "realising the error of her ways", I don't know, because while that's all very well, it doesn't pay the rent. I prefer to think that she has met some poor-but-honest artisan out in the East End of London who is going to make "an honest woman" out of her and raise a brood of poor-but-honest children, but I'm a sentimental so-and-so and I can feel the tears welling up already.

Meanwhile, back in Saudi Arabia, we have legalized The Mistress. It does help, of course, if you already allow multiple marriages for men. We call the arrangement the Misyar Marriage

Misyar marriage is a legal alternative marital arrangement more Saudi men and women are using to offset prohibitive marriage costs and the stigma unmarried women face.
In a misyar marriage the woman waives some of the rights she would enjoy in a normal marriage. Most misyar brides don’t change their residences but pursue marriage on a visitation basis. ....
Most of the women opting for misyar either are divorced, widowed or beyond the customary marriage age. The majority of men who take part in such marital arrangements are already married.

So how do men feel about it?

The reasons men gave for favoring misyar most often related to cost, with some asking “why not?” “I get to maintain all my rights, but I don’t have to take care of her financially and don’t even have to provide a house for her,” said 25-year-old Rayan Abdullah, an unmarried medical student at the city university. “It’s a great solution — isn’t it? It costs less than having a girlfriend — doesn’t it?”

“What are the things most of us married men complain about?” asked Ghazi Ahmad, a 38-year-old husband and father of three children. “Don’t all of us constantly complain about the financial burdens, the lack of personal freedom — the routine patterns? Then this is the best marriage ever as far as I’m concerned. Married but not married — perfect.”

And the women?

More than 86 percent of the women 20-40 would not even consider such a marriage for themselves. Only four women — all in the over-40 category — would consider such marriages for themselves or relatives. Most of the women respondents called it “legal prostitution” or objected to the lack of women’s rights in misyar marriages.

In Victorian England, the wives were usually more understanding than Saudi wives. Even when The Mistress got pregnant

“My second misyar marriage was doing fine despite my hawk of a first wife,” said Abu Abdul Rahman. “But that was only until my second wife got pregnant, and then the real nightmare began. She wanted to announce our relationship publicly because it put her in bad situations societally — you can’t be single and pregnant. I had to tell my family and my wife, and all hell broke loose. Now both marriages are on the rocks.”

And of course our Policemen friends have to stick their big noses in.

“I’d been married misyarically for almost a year when members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice paid me a terrible visit accusing me of prostitution,” said a 35-year old divorcee and mother of two who chose to call herself Warda. “They wanted to drag me to the police station even though I kept shoving the marriage contract in their faces. I had to call my brother — with whom I wasn’t on speaking terms. It was terrible.

So, there we are. Frustrated people look for quick and easy solutions for their frustration. Misyar marriages are just that. And there's nothing quick and easy about a proper marriage. I'll leave the final (sensible) words to a marriage official.

“Unfortunately, misyar marriage has made it easier for irresponsible, immature individuals to enter a relationship that is supposed to be based on credibility, reliability and respect,” said Abu Zaid, an elderly marriage official. “This isn’t the case. It’s treated as a temporary solution for lust. That’s not what marriage is all about. In regular polygamy all wives have exactly the same rights over the husband, be it financial, be it regarding time spent together or being public. Women think that misyar marriage is for their benefit when in fact on a long-term basis, they pay the price and not just from their pockets but from their emotions, as well.”

Postscript Wednesday 17th May

More GoogleTrends fun. Thanks to "Ayman" for pointing this out to me. The league table for searches on "Islam" has Saudi Arabia, land of the Two Holy Mosques, down in 9th place, and way below countries like Indonesia in absolute numbers of searches. Do we get so much Islam rammed down our throats every day that we feel no need to go searching for it on the internet?

But that's not all. Search for "Gay Sex", and we Saudis feel very smug because, confirming our prejudices, at the Number 1 spot is the Philippines! So who is second? It's ah...um....

Saudi Arabia!

Yes, Saudi Arabia is the second country in the entire world for searching Google for "Gay Sex"! And, along with the Philippines, way out ahead in absolute numbers. I am amazed!

Or am I? My own observation is that Saudi Arabia is no different from anywhere else in its proportion of gay men, i.e. those who believe themselves to be naturally homosexual. But when heterosexual urges do not find an outlet, are our men turning to perhaps more available alternatives? Is this the ultimate sign of Frustration?

And there's more! My friend from Cerebral Waste has written to point out that you can get very interesting results from the following searches:

Google Trends: shawarma In Ecuador??!?

Google Trends: Usama bin Laden A clue as to his address?

Google Trends: anal sex Uh Oh! Guess who is Numero Uno again! Although the top countries also have large populations of sheep or goats, which is an interesting correlation. But we are up there at Number One! The ultimate sign of Frustration?

Well, perhaps not quite. Please excuse me a few moments of vulgarity, as I recount this little ditty I learnt at school in England.

If wine and women bring no joys,
Try bottled beer and little boys.
If these should still be of no use,
It's lemonade and self abuse.

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