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.

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.

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.

The Commission Does Good

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog – my only excuse has been that I have been really busy at work and not that the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness – the infamous C-Men) have been quiet. They haven’t. As is usual here they have been screwing up peoples lives and getting between people and God in an unholy fashion. Their latest episodes generally involve high-speed car chases and accidents that kill the suspects at the end of the chase (something that they are not allowed under law to do) as well as the usual flaunting of the courts and such.

However, occasionally the C-Men do some good and it seems they managed to recently in Makkah. Seems that yesterday the C-Men in Makkah

closed down … a pharmacy for running a confidence racket. The commission said the man running the shop, a Pakistani national, was offering “black magic” services to customers.

Vice police raided the store, which was disguised as a pharmacy, and confiscated amulets and other tools of the trade. The suspect said people were coming to him asking for magical cures because they were unsatisfied with the services they were receiving at area hospitals.

So, some good from the C-Men. The Arab News also reported that in

an unrelated event, a Saudi man was arrested yesterday for running a similar scam from his home. The man was caught after a woman came to him hoping for a magical cure that would prevent her husband from leaving her. After the young woman’s husband left her, she informed her father that she tried a magical cure; the father then informed the moral police.

I recall a while back that they also removed amulets and things that had been thrown off the coast here and disposed of them. Black Magic seems to be alive and well in this country – even when one of the most popular TV shows is Charmed – must be the Power of Three 🙂

Mind you, being a conman here is a bit risky as

the authorities treat confidence rackets as a religious crime, and suspects are often arrested and charged outright with being sorcerers and witches (rather than shysters) for offering various services to people who believe in magical cures and curses. Penalties for such crimes are often quite stiff, even resulting in the death penalty.

Now where did I hide my four-leaf clover? Oh yes – it’s with the rabbit’s foot.