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, May 08, 2006


Following my earlier post featuring this airplane, where I asked the question "Would you entrust your life to something called the Flying Camel?", one of the commenters replied that they would, if I would. Which was very kind of them, because then I would have a companion to reassure me, and a forearm to grab tight hold of whilst keeping my eyes closed and reciting a continuous prayer.

In modern planes I am not that bad, it's just that I believe in gravity. And I believe in gravity more than I believe in the Bernoulli principle, which seems to my high-school Physics knowledge to be a flawed explanation of how a wing works. So I regard flight as a temporary triumph of flawed theoretical physics over practical common sense. Or the unshakeable faith of knowledgeable pilots temporarily overcoming my ignorant scepticism.

Either way, I still think it's asking for trouble to call an airplane "The Flying Camel". Much as I love camels, they were built as a very functional design to survive in dry places, and the last thing that God had in mind at the time was aerodynamics.

So I was fascinated to get this email from a reader, who has asked to remain anonymous, with an intriguing bit of oral history.

Funny you should ask "Would you entrust your life to something called the Flying Camel?"

I was one of those who went out to Arabia in the '50's, only I was just a child at the time. We arrived in Dhahran on the Flying Camel in 1955. I think we had flown it all the way from New York, with a lot of stops. It had bunks in a separate section so you could get decent sleep, nothing flash mind you, sort of like the beds on trains.

....and the reader adds....

There were also the Flying Gazelle and the Flying Oryx.

No problem with those names. Aerodynamic animals, you see. And then a bit of information I never knew.

This plane (the Flying Camel) was sold to the UN and was the plane on which Dag Hammarskjöld (Secretary-General of the United Nations) was killed when it crashed in Ndola in 1961.

What a tragic end for both of them. And sadly, I feel it proves my point.

Meanwhile, the unforgiving pull of gravity still tugs at the Saudi Stock Market.

The Saudi stock market has lost more than 40 percent of its value in the correction, driven by concerns about overvaluation. It has dragged down regional markets, with Saudi investors selling in other bourses to meet margin calls at home.

Two signs in these situations that gravity is having its wicked way, and no-one has a clue what to do. The first is that they start using euphemisms like "correction", when anyone else would call it a "collapse". The second is that we start to blame....

A number of Saudi stock market experts blamed speculators for the recurrent decline of the index in recent weeks.

And those are supposed to be the "experts". God help us. Speculators buy and push markets up, then sell around the top. They don't sell two months after the collapse, by that time they're long gone. Blaming speculators for the situation is like when we used to blame the Djinns for our goats catching fever.

However, in the Ministry of Finance, they are analyzing the situation with a more clinical detachment. Ibrahim, the manager, is looking at a computer screen. It's either showing the Saudi Stock Exchange Index, or the Downhill Slalom at the Winter Olympics. Not that he could tell the difference, and they both look the same anyway. All he knows is that a 40% drop is Bad News, because Very Senior Royals keep ringing him up and telling him it is. He looks terminally depressed. AbdulAziz, the young nephew of a Senior Prince, and MBA graduate, looks pensive. Saeed, as is normal for a Bedu during the day, looks asleep. The only person who looks happy is the invisible Indian cleaner, polishing the tastelessly-showy heavy mahogany-and-gilt furniture so beloved of Saudi senior managers. The recent gas price cut means that he can send more money home to his family. However, nobody gives a damn about him.

Ibrahim looks at AbdulAziz with barely-concealed annoyance, and decides to try sarcasm. "Well, your last idea for a minimum $26,000 deposit for expat investors worked really well, didn't it?"

Sadly, the sarcasm was wasted. AbduAziz looked up pleased, and, if he had had a tail, would have wagged it. "Well thanks Sheikh! And you know what they say, quality is better than quantity. Better one sleazy-Lebanesy car salesman with more money than sense, than a hundred ragged-assed Third World cleaners"

Only a feeling of well-being brought on by a gas price cut, and a well-founded fear of the Saudi "Justice" system as applied to darker persons, prevented AbdulAziz from getting a face full of lavender-scented wax aerosol. Not that he noticed.

"Anyway", he continued, in his best MBA-speak, "I've been applying some more thoughtware to blue-skying how we can further leverage the Stock Market value-chain paradigm holistically, and I've envisaged how we can operationalize a quantum market-space increment!"

Saeed yawned, pulled out a stick of Miswak *, and started to poke it around in his mouth. Ibrahim wished he were sitting in the Men's Room (an interesting name, seeing that there are of course no women or Women's Rooms in Saudi offices) with a copy of today's Al Riyadh.

"Yes", he pressed on, "my idea is to take a company's shares and divide them in two to get twice the number at half the price. That way, they'll seem more affordable, everyone will buy them, and the market will go back up again!"

Ibrahim groaned to himself. Saeed removed his Miswak, flicked a bit of unchewed Zatar Bread* from the end, and observed, "That makes as much sense as chopping goats in half and selling each end at half price".

"And I know which end you'd go for each time, Bedu-boy!" AbdulAziz was tempted to say, reflecting the city-dwellers' prejudice about night-time recreations out in the desert, but he kept the thought to himself. Instead he smiled benignly, as befits someone of Royal Breeding.

And so it came to pass....

Saudi Arabia will allow listed firms to split their shares five for one to make them more affordable and help pull the market out of a steep decline.

And the result?

RIYADH/KUWAIT, 8 May 2006 — Gulf stock markets dived on Sunday as volatility in the Saudi Arabian bourse panicked investors and battered sentiment across the region. Saudi stocks plunged more than 9.5 percent in early trade, following a 9.6 percent drop on Saturday, the sharpest daily fall on record.

Gravity. Perhaps we ought to send for Mr Bernoulli.

* Miswak. The twig of a certain bush, chewed until frayed at the end, used both as a toothbrush and dental floss. Saudis (apart from the Muttawa), generally have very white teeth and excellent gums.

* Zatar Bread. A bit like a French Croissant wrapped round some savory spices

Anyway, this last item is plunging to rock-bottom with all the force that gravity can muster. I normally only reference newspaper articles or similar sources, and very rarely blogs, simply because they are so difficult to verify. However I have no reason to doubt this female Saudi Blogger's authenticity, and so reproduce this story in full.

I Thought Muttawas Didn't Even *Like* Camera Phones..

Today I scarred myself emotionally.
I will forever suffer the psychological consequences.
Or atleast for the next couple of days I will.
It all started when my idiot little mind made my idiot little mouth ask a friend to show me the video of the Muttawa (member of the religious police) raping a girl.
I hate when I get all "I-won't-believe-it-till-I-see-it" on people.
Ya3ny ("you know") she told you it existed, ubergirl... Why, why must you doubt!?
Because I'm "curious". That's why.
"Curious" my ass. Malgoofa ("Nosy") is more like it.
It was horrible.
He had a beard and everything.
He was scolding her while doing it.
Who know they were kinky, eh? Shut up! You were thinking it too!
It wasn't exactly rape, though.
Apparently they had "caught" her doing something, and she was trading sex for freedom.
She was obviously okay with the whole.. Err.. Thing.
Not only was the tape horrible enough on it's own, it made me ask myself: "You mean they're not really "religious"?

Like I said, Rock-bottom. A Religious Policeman getting sex in exchange for "leniency" from some "charge". The "charge" being either trumped-up or "real", but not for a crime in any accepted sense of the word, but a religious or social violation. Such rapes are much rumored on many occasions, sadly, but possibly captured for the first time on a cameraphone.

This is of course rape. Rape is all about power, and policemen of whatever flavor, have power. So it's using power to overpower a woman, however willing she may appear, because I don't really think she'll have decided to date one of them. Now policemen the world over rape women (and perhaps occasionally men) from time to time.. But only in Saudi Arabia can you get raped by a Religious Policeman, a member of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Allah's own policemen. There's something for us to be really proud of.

That's all. Don't hang about waiting for him to be prosecuted.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?