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, August 31, 2005

Whoops there goes another.... 

....historic monument. This time it's the Hijaz Railway Bridge in Madinah.

Meanwhile, having read the story in the London "Independent" about Saudi Arabia's destruction of monuments, the Saudi Ambassador to London, HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, wrote to the "Independent" to say

What rubbish.

Oh, dear, he hasn't quite got the nuances of English usage here. "Rubbish" is what Soccer playes say in tabloids like the "Sun", when they're accused of a torrid night's passion with a female supporter in some cheap hotel. The "Independent" and its readership is much more up-market, they prefer phrases like "factually incorrect".

But then what would you expect if you use two completely unreliable sources: Ali Al-Ahmed, a disgruntled one man ‘organisation', whose modus operandi is to spew out anti Saudi material of any kind (its basis on fact being fairly irrelevant) and Sami Angawi, the equally disgruntled former director of the Pilgrimage Research Centre who was fired for the mismanagement of affairs and wants to attack all those that now have responsibility for the Two Holy Places.

That's what's called an "ad hominem" attack. Or, if you prefer the Soccer theme, it's kicking the man, not the ball. Why doesn't he start talking about the subject?

Perhaps your readers would be interested in what is really happening. Every artefact discovered has been preserved and protected and will be displayed in new museums in Makkah and Madinah - indeed some artefacts are already on display. In all, more than $19 billion has been spent on preserving and maintaining these two Holy sites.

Well, that'll be news to the residents. And where exactly are these "museums"? I've never seen any sign of them. And $19 bn? You've got to be joking. Perhaps that sum has been spent on tent cities for pilgrims and multi-story parking lots, and new tunnels and overpasses so that pilgrims can get crushed to death in a different place each year, but on archeological preservation? Gimme a break!

Perhaps the Ambassador should read the newspapers back home. Or just look at the headlines. How about

Madinah Municipality Razes Hijaz Railway Bridge

That's in today's "Arab News", amongst others.

Historians and Madinah residents are outraged with the municipality’s decision to raze a section of the well-known Hijaz Railway, which was constructed in 1900 by the Ottomans.

Therein may lie the problem. Some monuments are a reminder of a time when "Arabia" was just that, before it became the personal fiefdom of the Saud family. There are three "issues" with this railway.

So I'll be very surprised to see any parts of this railway preserved as part of some mythical $19bn program. When you come on your "Vacation of a Lifetime" to Sunny Saudi Arabia, don't expect the Hijaz Railway Preservation Society to be offering "Murder Mystery Dinner Train" specials!

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