Category Archives: Fun

Burka Woman

I love the part where he’s (not) pushing her on the swings. LOL!

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Falafoul

I was asked by Fadil Al Nassar from Middle East Franchising to try out a new concept, traditional Arab food as a fast food chain. Being a person who loves food, I could not turn him down. The place is called Falafoul and it revolves around the traditional Arab dish falafel which is fried patties of fava beans and chickpeas.  If you’ve never tried falafel, trust me you are missing out. So off I went to the first restaurant of which four more are planned to be opened this year all across Riyadh.

I liked the place and my falafel sandwich was seriously tasty and had just the right amount of salad and tahina. I especially liked the fact that it was closer to a Saudi shawerma rather than those overwhelming big and overstuffed falafel sandwiches you get at other places. The menu is a vegetarian’s paradise, so many yummy options based on meat-less and yet meat-like Arab dishes. The place itself, as in furnishing and more importantly cleanliness, I would rate as high standards. If you would like to try it out, it’s located at the intersection of King Abdullah Street and Inkas.

My main issue with the place is that it does not have a family section i.e. women are not allowed inside. However Mr. Al Nassar informed me that two out of the five planned for Riyadh will accommodate women customers who want to have their meal on location instead of take-out.

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Muttawa Raid

Ok I took a break and I learned something about myself. I’m a polygamist, I’ve married this blog over the father of my children and now I’m attached to it and cannot stay away too long from my spoiled second husband, let alone two months. If I try, I just miss it more. I knew it all along but I had to give it a try.

Now that’s out of the way, I have to tell you what I was up to last night. My very dear friend Tine has finished her time here in Saudi and is leaving soon. Unfortunately, being cooped up in expat compounds; she has never had a chance to see muttawas in action. These lions of Saudi morality are a staple mark of life here so I couldn’t let her leave without the experience. That’s why we went on a muttawa safari. We headed to their natural habitat, shopping malls. And we weren’t disappointed. At Riyadh Gallery, a mall that opened about a couple of years ago, they had the World Cup match on this humongous TV screen that you can watch a mile away. I’m not exaggerating; people on all three floors were watching the same screen. There were about three hundred people there.. Halfway through the match the muttawa came in and ordered the TV off. There were two muttawas and one police officer escorting them. They strolled around this crowd searching for men without women. Because it is illegal for single men to go to a shopping mall. They have to be accompanying a wife, mother or sister. Every once in a while they would stop young Saudi men and ask them where their women were. One guy they didn’t believe had to drag a little girl over to the muttawas so she could verify that he was related to the group of women he pointed at.

Before the muttawas came in it was noisy and men and women stood next to each other looking up at the screen. At every highlighted moment in the match there was either a collective roar or groan. The atmosphere was electric. Then the muttawas came and everyone knew that these three men had come in long before seeing them stroll by. Even Tine remarked on how these muttawas must be feeling this power they had over the people. No one objected to having the match turned off. Women went scurrying off to find seats in segregated areas. Teenagers headed the opposite direction that the muttawas were coming from for fear that they would be stopped because of their hairstyles and low worn jeans. Everyone was silently glancing around, looking for the muttawas and guessing who their victims might be.

We decided to follow them, albeit from afar to see who would they take. They focused their energy on young Saudi men. They even went into the bathrooms looking for hiding offenders. Before we lost them, we had witnessed them apprehend two men. They made the two offenders come along as they continued with their morality raid.

Both Tine and I were angered by how passive people were. It’s as if they really believed that they were guilty of something. Hundreds of people shaking in fear of a couple of bearded men. No wonder that things remain the way they are. People believe they deserve to be treated this way. It took the muttawas about twenty minutes to finish their raid and just like when they came in, you knew that they left. The match was turned back on and everyone relaxed and became noisy again.

Before they left, I took Tine outside to show her how arrogant muttawas are even in the way they park. And sure enough, their jeep was parked on the pavement right next to the automatic doors. You would think they were an ambulance.

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Doll

Doll is a short film that premiered in Saudi Arabia last night. I was lucky enough to get a chance to not only see it but also to meet the director, Reem al Bayyat. It was first shown at the Gulf Film Festival in the UAE.  The movie is about six minutes long and is about child marriages in Saudi Arabia. The technique that Ms.Bayyat employed was particularly intriguing as all the shots were still but the film flipped through them like you would with the corner of a notebook to show a stickman cartoon. And yet the sound fitted perfectly. The final product had an eeriness too it that’s not easily forgotten.

Of course the topic, child marriages, is always good to bring up regardless of the medium. That’s the only way that we can address thought processes that advocate child marriages. And last night was no exception. After the movie, the audience was allowed to ask the director questions. Some questioned, and some remarked, but what was most interesting was a question posed by a young well-dressed man who was Arab but I’m not sure which nationality as he spoke in clear English. He asked the director  why is it considered such a big deal while in the West it’s ok for a 13 or 16 year old girl to have a boyfriend, such a question not from a bearded muttawa or an illiterate old man, but from this guy. Ms. Al Bayyat handled it beautifully. She said that whether a girl has a boyfriend or not is a cultural issue but what she is addressing is the responsibility, pregnancy, servitude that is part and package of child marriages and the issue of legal pedophilia, when a much older man is allowed to rape a child under the pretense of marriage. Pedophilia exists everywhere but only here is it legal. The man who posed the question did not argue the issue further but another woman did remark that the laws will not change because many decision makers still believe that there is nothing wrong with legally giving a fifty year old pedophile an 11 year old “bride”.

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Ten most beautiful Saudis

10- Dahi al Ali

Designer with his own line called Kalima.

9- Samar Al Moqren

A controversial novelist and opinion writer.

8- Shiekh Mohamed Al Arefe

Although I might not agree with him, there’s no denying that this sheikh is handsome and charismatic.

7- Raja Al Sanea

So fresh-faced and young, no one could have ever expected that she could have produced the book Girls of Riyadh that was initially banned within Saudi Arabia.

6- Yaser Al qahtani

Famous soccer player with numerous endorsement deals including Gillette, Head and Shoulders and Pepsi.

5- Hisham Abdulrahman

Presenter and game show host with a fantastic sense of humor.

4- Saud Al Dosari

Interviewer and radio show host who just gets better with age.

3- Ebtihal Al Mubarack

Bold journalist and women’s rights activist.

2- Muna Abu Sulaiman

TV personality, past Goodwill Ambassador and currently works for HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal.

1- HRH Princess Amira Al Taweel

The wife of HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal.

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The Invisible Evil

The Invisible Evil is a newly produced Saudi horror movie. The movie was produced by Dr. Fahad Ghazooli and written by Bandar Bajabgh. And it is planned to be shown at the Dubai movie festival starting tomorrow. I haven’t seen it but it is about a haunted house that gets a series of renters who flee or disappear (I’m not sure) until a family with a young man move in and solve the mystery. Apparently the real estate agent who has been renting it is involved in the evil. This is the movie’s trailor:

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Al Tahlia on Thursdays

Al Tahlia is a street in the middle of Riyadh, lined on both sides with restaurants, coffee shops and a few boutiques and specialty shops. Last Thursday, February 11th, I went out to dinner with my sisters and afterwards, we decided to pass by Al Tahlia because we heard it gets crazy every Thursday. Our Thursdays are like Saturdays for the West. It’s the first day of the weekend. So my sister Fatten and I wanted to check it out especially since I had my camera handy and we weren’t disappointed. Keep in my mind that:

1-     Alcohol is illegal and inaccessible to the majority.

2-     These photos were all taken after midnight.

This one is just to show how crowded it really was. And those lighted poles on the left are palm trees with their trunks decorated with tiny yellow lights

And the police were out too. In full force, they had a bus parked onto one side and you can see police cars and police on foot bringing young men to the bus.

Here you can see men being led to the bus.

But that didn’t stop people (men actually) from making a ruckus, pointlessly hanging out of the windows of their cars and playing their music loud.

When they saw me with my camera they started to call out to me to take their picture. This one guy was especially persistent, that even the driver told me to take his photo! When he got the camera pointed at him he went back down into the car to get a sign on which he had painted his cell phone number. I blacked out his eyes and his number.

All over the street, they wanted to get their picture taken and posed for the camera. At one stop light a car full of kids actually ignored the red light so that they could get into the camera’s field of view. Some would even drive up to our windows to get a picture taken.

And it wasn’t only cars. motorcycles were aplenty. These guys didn’t mind having their photo taken as long as I gave them time to cover their faces with bandannas and scarves.

Restaurants too were packed. These photos were taken at 12:30 am.

The police blocked the crossroads in the middle of al Tahlia street so that the cars would have to disperse left and right.

Some say that the police were right to do so. This is an area in the middle of the city and by behaving this way, these men are causing traffic issues. There is an area just outside Riyadh, Al Mounisiya, next to King Fahad stadium where there is a cluster of sheesha (hookah) shops and restaurants. Also that area is famous for its  isterhas (weekend houses) which are available for nightly rent. So you can’t say that they have no place to go.

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