Saudi Departures

Apparently it has been 1567 days since I left Saudi Arabia, and about 1567 days since I last really thought about the Muttawa, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness).

My how time flies.

So I miss Saudi Arabia … only really when I eat Aloo Palek.

Er, and it has only been 870 days since I thought about the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness) – see How to shoot your mouth off … Stupidly.

Ian Winbolt

One of the searches I mentioned in the post Needing to Write and Paint on 24 November 2009 was the term “Ian Winbolt”. This had a familiar ring to it but I could not place the reference (well, there was more familiarity than just the name “Ian”). Today I determined to work out where I’d heard the name before.

It was here.

Yep, Thomo is suitably embarrassed for having forgotten the reference. Back on 9 March 2007 when I was in Jeddah lamenting the lack of any (let alone a decent) Fish and Chip shop in the post No Harry Ramsden’s in Jeddah, Ian Winbolt was the gentleman who commented on the post noting on 19 October 2008 that he:

had the pleasure of eating at Harry Ramsdens Jeddah in 2003, I was in Jeddah recently (summer 2008) and found the building, it is just a shell i.e no walls or windows!! , if you call enquires you can get a number that rings and rings!!

Mystery solved and the search for Ian Winbolt must have been Mr Winbolt himself looking for the Harry Ramsden post.

How to shoot your mouth off … stupidly

From time to time I stop in and have a read of one of my favourite newspapers, the Arab News. In what has to be one of the best examples of stupidly shooting one’s mouth off a Saudi by the name of Mazen Abdul Jawad who works for Saudi Airlines and lives in Jeddah (my old stamping ground) appeared on Lebanese Television’s (LBC) “Red Line” and was boasting about his sexual conquests.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Doubly dumb as the program goes to air in Saudi Arabia. This was reported last week in a piece, Bragging on TV about sex lands Saudi in hot water in which Jawad was reported as saying:

It all starts with turning my Bluetooth on while cruising around in my car

Not only was he bragging, but he was also identified on the TV show.

So now my favourite Commission, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness) is calling for his punishment under Shariah as is a fair number of the residents of Jeddah. Personally, I think the guy is a boob as well – and probably deserves to be punished if for nothing else, then at least for stupidity.

Anyway, it seems that one week later the guy is still out of gaol as today the Arab News reported that the Sex bragger not jailed yet.

I shall watch this with interest.

With the Cameliers in Palestine

And I know, “Cameliers” should be spelled “Cameleers” but hey, it is the English of 1938 and there were not too many spellings of Cameleers in New Zealand at the time, unlike in Australia where we had and continue to have a reasonable population of the beasts.

Anyway, the point of this post is not the misspelling of a word on the title of the book With the Cameliers in Palestine by John Robertson ((Robertson was formerly of the Fourth battalion of the Imperial Camel Brigade, temporary Major of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Assistant-Director of Education to the New Zealand Mounted Brigade in Egypt)) but rather to highlight an online resource provided by the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand called the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. This is a wonderful resource with some fine research material available, especially for World War 1 and World War 2 and the role of New Zealand in those conflicts. The resource centre has placed books online as well as making some of them available as downloads in XML format or Microsoft eReader format. As an example, two excerpts from With Cameliers in Palestine which writes about the Imperial Camel Corps (I.C.C.) are below:

During a part of 1916 and 1917, an Australian detachment of the I.C.C. patrolled the Oases of Baharia, Dakhla, and Kharga, which are situated west of the River Nile, and some two hundred, and three hundred and seventy miles from its mouth. They are a part of the Great Sahara Desert that extends across the whole of Africa to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It was across this country that Cambyses, the Persian conqueror of Egypt, in 525 b.c. sent an army of fifty thousand men to try to capture Siwa. The whole force disappeared into the desert waste, and from that day to this no trace of it has ever been discovered. The desert as well as the ocean can keep its secrets. The Persians were either overwhelmed by a violent sandstorm, or lost their way and died of hunger and thirst in the desert.

Some of the Australians came up to the I.C.C. Detail Camp at Abbassia in March, 1917, after having been on desert patrols for some months, during which time they had very few opportunities of drawing or spending their pay. Their clothes and equipment were faded and worn out; they were dying with thirst, and the joys of Cairo awaited them. The camp wet canteen ran dry in an hour or two, and then they adjourned to the city. A double guard had to be put on the guardroom that night in the camp, and the accommodation was taxed to its utmost before morning. In a short time the camp authorities decided it would be best for all concerned if these troops once more adjourned to the silent wastes, and the Cameliers moved off into the unknown.

This sort of fits well with the reputation of the Australian troops in the conflict. A further note in this work that ties back to the exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra earlier this year about Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse:

Another detachment of the I.C.C., consisting of fifty Australians with two machine-guns, made an interesting reconnaissance to Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai) in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, while in July, 1918, two British companies, three hundred strong under Colonel Buxton, marched across the Sinai Peninsula to Akaba on the eastern branch of the end of the Red Sea. There they joined up with Colonel Lawrence and his Arab forces, and trekked north parallel with the Hedjaz railway to the neighbourhood of Amman, and from there made their way back to Beersheba in the south of Palestine.

So, a site well worth visiting. Tomorrow’s lunch reading will be The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915 by Stephen John Smith.

Enjoy the reading!

Airport Oxymorons

Whilst waiting for a flight at the KLIA LCCT I did hear one of the great airport oxymorons:

This is a final call for passengers on flight XY123 to Bangkok, please go to gate 3 now.

This was then followed 10 minutes later by:

Again, this is a final call for passengers on flight XY123 to Bangkok, please go to gate 3 now.

Yep – and you guessed it, 5 minutes later we hear:

Once again, this is a final call for passengers on flight XY123 to Bangkok, please go to gate 3 now.

This “final call” happened a total of 6 times – only one of them was really final 😆

Hi Pete!

OK – it happened – for the first time ever. I was sitting at my usual table for breakfast this morning with Kas (well, we’ve been staying here for nearly 2 years now so we have a regular table), munching on toast, chicken loaf and cheese, when a man walks past, looks in my direction, stops, looks at me again, then comes back to the table and says,

“excuse me, are you Thomo?”

To which the only reply can be,


This was Pete from Europe, who has been in Jeddah for a week. He recognised me from the photo of me on my blog and it turns out he has me bookmarked and reads the blog from time to time.

How rare is that? According to Technorati, in December 2007 they were tracking around 112,000,000 blogs in the blogosphere. Given that I am not staying at one of the largest hotels in Jeddah and that I am not a super-blogger, what is the chance of bumping into a reader of your blog at a hotel in Saudi Arabia?

It was great.

Pete left today heading back home so safe home Pete – it was nice to meet you.

SMH Late With The News – Ten-Year-Old Granted Divorce in Yemen

So today the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece with the title of Ten-year-old granted divorce from abusive marriage which they had taken from the L A Times. Mostly the information seemed accurate (well, except for the age of the girl and one or two other things). The silliest was that this is old news. It was reported in the Arab News and the Yemen Times (and I think the Australian Press as well) back on the 18th of April 2008 – nearly two full months ago. I even mentioned it in Eight Year Old Girl’s Divorce Is Finalised

Well done SMH – take it from the L A Times … but two months late! Even the L A Times published the story back on 11 April 2008.

Jeddah’s Lake

I’ve been here in Jeddah for about 20 months now and apart from watching the shenanigans of the evil buffoons, the C-Men, I have not really got around all that much, apart from visiting the odd shopping mall. Really, it has been hotel, eat, office, eat, hotel, eat, sleep and repeat. This could, of course, explain my weight increase 😦

The Jeddah LakeHowever, one place I have seen a fair bit is the lake at Jeddah (well, it’s really a bay or an inlet). On the edges of it are a hotel, the Head Office of the National Commercial Bank, the mosque that serves as “chop-chop square” on Friday’s and a few older buildings.

When I first arrived here this lake smelled and was filthy. Then the local council started to take action to clean it up, putting aerators in the lake area to increase the oxygen level in the water and make the whole thing cleaner.

We watched the lake clear up over time. We started to see fish, first fry then larger, return to the lake. We also saw crabs. We saw the bottom of the lake through the water. The smell disappeared.

The lake's appearance However, since that time, the lake has deteriorated again. Plastic bags and bottles can be seen in it and it has gone a rather unpleasant brown colour. The bottom no longer can be seen and the smell is returning.

One can only imagine what is emptying into the lake again now – perhaps it is best not to think about it.

Saudi and UAE Advertising Standards

Tonight I was watching MBC 4 here and a commercial appeared for KFC. A mother and her toddler are sitting at a table. The toddler is whining and complaining whilst the mother is trying to eat some KFC. The mother then gives some KFC to the child who is then quiet.

Goodness – would an Australian, or UK, or New Zealand or even US advertising agency dare to try that content in an advertisement in those markets?

Woman Wins Saudi Achievement Award for 2008

The Arab News reported yesterday that a woman had won the Arabian Business Magazine’s Saudi Achievement Award for 2008. They then went on to note:

There was only one small problem: Al-Dossary is a woman.

Yep. Nadia Al-Dossary, the Saudi Achievement Award winner for 2008 heads an Alkhobar-based scrap metal group. The annual turnover of this group is SAR 500 million. Seems she’s been profiled in the Washington Post and the Financial Times has rated her one of the most influential women in the Middle East. None of this matters one iota as when she arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh to attend the awards ceremony,

she was turned away due to social restrictions (enforced by the religious police) prohibiting unrelated men and women from mixing, even in public.

Yes folks, those evil buffoons from the Commission etc etc (you know who I mean – Licentious, Lascivious – the C-Men) will not allow unrelated men and women to mix even in public. I guess they are worried that she may have suggested immoral things to an auditorium full of men for something to do in her spare time when she is not running a 500,000,000 Riyal organisation.