Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I found one of these little critters in my bath yesterday:

Image taken from: www.kabbalahzen.blogspot.com

Whilst I was having a shower I looked down and saw him, or maybe her, happily sitting by the plug hole.  I had no idea what it was and could only imagine it was a large eary-wig.  So we stood looking at each other for a long minute and then it dawned on me it might ~excitingly~ be a real live scorpion.

I was all fingers and thumbs and simply wanted to move it back down the plug hole.  As I moved the shower head over its head the tail came up, just like in the movies, and it stung its neck ~quite amazing stuff~

So I'm naked in the shower thinking how wonderful nature is and husband is running around the house looking for a murder weapon shouting, "DON'T TOUCH IT, IT WILL KILL YOU.  DOOOO NOOOT TOOOUCH  ITTTTTTTT"

Because I know so little about scorpions or their lifestyle I'll let the Sharjah Breeding Centre describe a bit more:

"Arabian thick-tailed scorpion, also known as 'Androctonus Crassicauda' is commonly found in sandy desert areas with some plant cover. It is one of the larger species of scorpion with an adult measuring 10-15 cm in length (from the head to the tip of the tail).

One characteristic of this scorpion is the tail being thicker than the pincers. This is also an indication that a scorpion has a more toxic venom than species where the tail is proportionately thinner than the pincers (Scorpionidae). The scorpion's venom, although seldom fatal, can be very painful and requires medical attention.

The species is nocturnal and emerges from its burrow at dusk to hunt for food. They are attracted to light and areas with higher humidity. When threatened, the tail with the sting presented will be held above the abdomen, but the scorpion will only strike if agitated as the production of venom takes a lot of energy. The scorpion will generally take flight if disturbed and will only attack if provoked.

It goes without saying, all bites and stings should be treated as soon as possible, and where necessary, medical attention must be sought. If possible, the animal that has inflicted the bite or sting should be collected for identification purposes."

By the way ...
In Arabic, the word scorpion [agg-rraab] is used as an insult {see wgaw insults} and means 'a tricky person who plays games behind my back.'

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rachid al Majid

My husband's four year old neice loves 'Rachid al Majid' and will announce he's about to sing, as soon as the first note of any one of his songs are sounded on MTV.

The product of a Bahraini/Saudi marriage, RaM is one of those artists who is always played at Arabic weddings and Henna nights; I defy anyone with a sense of rhythm not to dance to these YouTube videos, love 'em to bits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Shoe Matrix

I had wanted to fill the month of Ramadan with blog posts only about Ramadan and Ramadan activities.  It seemed to be one way of explaining the length of time people fast for, as well attempting to highlight the importance of the month within the Arab and Islamic world.

Now it's over it feels like time to post a few of the more light-hearted blogposts recieved during the past month. First up is President George Bush in the new matrix shoe movie:

For a full explanation of what shoe throwing means in the Arab world see wgaw archive: SHOE THROWING

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eid al Fitr & Eid Mubrak

Eid al Fitr [‘eed ul fit-terr] is the name of the holiday which follows the month of fasting during Ramadan; the first day for a month where you can eat and drink during daylight hours. It's also the first day of the 10th lunar month of the Arabic calendar.

The word 'Eid' means happiness/ festivity whilst F’tr means 'to break'. For me Eid at F’tr is unique among festivals world wide, I can't think of another one which appears to be purely about personal achievement. It's also a time to be with the family.

Arabs will greet each other with the words Eid Mubarak [‘eed moo-ba-rrak] or, 'holiday congratulations'.

In Saudi Arabia a nine day national holiday always occurs at Eid al f’tr, which translates into two weeks off work.  In the rest of the Gulf, three days is the norm.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ramadan day 29 - Laylat Jaiza

Laylat Jizra/ Lailatul Jaiza [lay-lat jiz-rra] or the 'Night before Eid' is known in English as the 'Night of Reward'. 

The following example of writing, which explains the meaning of this particular night, has been endlessly copied throughout the blogging world and the websphere.  I'm doing the same for this particular post; copy and paste but have removed some parts with the aim of making it easier to understand for non-Muslims:

“It had been the practice of the Prophet that he would not sleep in the night preceding the day of Eid-ul-fitr. This night has been named as the Night of Reward. Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari'ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted.

The Prophet is reported to have said:
Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)

To benefit from this opportunity one should perform as much worship in this night as he can, and should pray for all his needs and desires."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ramadan day 27 - Laylat al Qadr

Laylat al Qadr [lay-lat al kaa-der] or, the 'Night of Power', 'Night of Decree' or 'Night of Measures' is the night on which the Koran or Qur'an is said to have first been revealed to the Prophet Mohammed, in a cave near Mecca and where the Qur'an describes itself as,  "better than a thousand months."

Image taken from:  www.muftisays.com

It is thought the night occured on the 27th night of the month of Ramadan, but no one is quite sure and in general it's thought it fell during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan. 

Religious ceremonies will take place at Mosques (for Sunnis) and Matams (for shias).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ramadan Driving

The trauma of driving on the roads in Ramadan has to be experienced to be believed.

The Middle East already has one of the highest death rates in the world for driving {see wgaw: CAR ACCIDENTS}  but during Ramadan, at the hour before breaking fast, the traffic goes wild. I used to think it was me being paranoid but newspaper articles started to appear about it during 2004 and Arab friends who live in Kuwait now refuse to drive in the half hour before sunset.

Taken from YouTube, music by Amr Diab

Here's an article from a local UAE newspaper ARAB NEWS which attempts to explain Ramadan driving:

“People behave like animals. There is nothing that we can do to control traffic before iftar,” said a local police officer in despair. Shaking his head, he summed up the driving in the half hour before iftar.

“In the whole year I have not had a single accident. In Ramadan and particularly before iftar, I had seven accidents in one month last year alone, and one accident so far this Ramadan,” said Rami Abdulaziz, a Lebanese resident. He believed that more were coming. Two days ago, Rami Abdulaziz, a Lebanese resident, saw an old man hit by a speeding car because the driver was in a hurry to get home. The driver, instead of slowing down, accelerated and sounded his horn to clear the way.
“The man saw him too late and there was an accident. It is ridiculous that a man is killed just so the driver can reach the dinner table on time.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ramadan Tents - Gabgah

Image Taken from: Ghabga press-release

Years ago a group of friends, say 20 or so people, were likely to arrange to eat together for the month of Ramadan. To prevent one person taking responsiblity for all the buying, cooking and cleaning the group would spend each night in a different house.  Iftar {wgaw blog archive: iftar} would be eaten, then the prayer would be completed and then it would be time to go visiting family and friends. At the time just before sunrise, sahoor (the meal eaten before the fast re-starts), the group of friends would return to the house for

Today this doesn't happen in quite the same way, today families tend to eat together. However, the idea of eating in a group with friends started a trend; at some point during Ramadan a group of friends will meet with a group of friends in a tent [kay-mah]or go to a hotel to break fast.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ramadan day 19 - Marrat Iman Ali

Marrat Iman Ali is not a night for celebration, but a night of remembrance.

It was on this night in AD 663 Imam Ali bin Abi Talib was murdered with a strike to the head by a poisonous sword in Kufa, Iraq.   He died two days later.

Imam Ali is a very important figure in the Shi’ite/ Shia religion for the following reasons:

1. he was the fourth Islamic Caliph
2. he was a son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed
3. he was the only person to have been born inside the Ka’aba in Mecca.

The Kaa'ba.  Image taken from: http://cache.virtualtourist.com/3240436-the_kaaba-Mecca.jpg

The inside of the Kaa'ba.  Image taken from:  http://z.about.com/d/atheism/1/0/M/f/KaabaInterior.jpg  

On this day Shi'ites will hold remembrance services and/or processions marking his death.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ramadan Hours

During Ramadan life changes completely, night becomes day and day becomes night, or so it feels.  In reality many Muslims in the GCC will switch round their daily timetable and follow times similar to the ones shown below:

Ramadan Hours, an Example

Sahour/ sahoor/ suhoor [ass-sa-hoorr] last meal before day's fast



Wake up for work

Go to work

Come home



Wake up

Break fast – eat iftar [if-tarr] meal and pray, or pray and then break fast.  Shiites break fast 10 minutes later than Sunnis

Visit Mosque, or pray at home

Eat meal, visit friends, go shopping

24:00 - 02:00
Return home, Pray, Sleep

Prayer Times
With Muslims praying five times a day and the timings being different depending on your location in the world, many people refer to printed documents for the exact timings for prayer:  to find out the time in your location, click here

Interesting to note if you're living in Christchurch in New Zealand and Ramadan is in December (your summer), you'd be expected to fast from 02:00 - 23:00. Alternatively, if you live in the town of  Yellowknife, Canada and Ramadan falls in June, (again the height of your summer) you'd be expected to fast from 02:00 - 01:00 each day.

Working Hours
Working hour change for Ramadan to ensure no one works at the time of breaking fast.  Each company will decide upon the working hours which suit them and their business best and consequently every business is likely to have different working hours from other businessess (except in shopping centres where working hours for the year 2009 are approximately, 10:00 - 14:00 and then 19:00 - 02:00).

Here's a copy of a internal circular announcing Ramadan working hours:

"The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to start the day after tomorrow.  In due course, the government announcement will confirm the date.

During Ramadan all Muslim staff will work a total of six hours per day as under:
Saturday to Wednesday 7:30 am to 13:30pm
Thursday 7:30am to 12:30 pm

Non-Muslim staff working hours during Ramadan will be:
Saturday to Wednesday 7:30 – 14:30pm
Thursday 7:30 – 13:00pm

The above working hours will not apply to those departments/staff who are under shift or special working hours. Those staff will be informed about their working hours directly by their respective managers. All non-Muslim staff should avoid taking refreshments/smoking in public, or at work premises.

The management takes the opportunity to extend their greeting to all the staff and their families on the occasion of Ramadan."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ramadan Day 14 - Gargoan

Gargoan also spelt Gaagowan/ Gagowaan/ Garrgawan/ Gagoon/ Garrgowaan/ Qarqowan/ Qarkaan, etc., but all said in the same manner [garr-gaow-wann] occurs half way through the month of Ramadan, on the 14th night when the moon is full.

It's a tradition very similar to the Halloween 'Trick or Treat' and pre-pubescent children dress up in traditional Arabic costumes and go from door to door asking for sweets and nuts from their neighbours. Sometimes they will be given money, but usually they will return home with a mixture of wrapped sweets, dried figs and peanuts.

Image taken from: www.mepeace.org

Supermarkets sell mixed bags in their fruit and veg section for adults to decant into smaller bags for the young visitors. All children taking part in gargaon will carry a bag in which to put the treats they will be given. It is very similar system to Halloween.

One tradition that the children carry out is that they sing the following song at each door:

Gar-go-an Gar-go-an
Aa’raa-dat ar-lee-kom ya al sigh-yim
Sa-laam wa el-de-hom yah-allah
Wa-khl-la lan-ma ya-allah
Ay-yet al maa-kee-dah ya-allah 
Ya sh-fee-agh aa-lee-ma

Gargoan, Gargoan
Give us what God gave you,
God bless you,
to God’s house may you go,
and may poverty never know its way to your door

Image taken from: Loredana Mantello

Here's what one of the Saudi Newspapers Wrote about Qarkaan
“During the afternoon hours children go out with their bag, skipping from house to house, through the alleys and neighborhoods collecting all sorts of treats like money, sweets and nuts as they sing traditional songs. Families prepare their streets for the festive occasion with decorations and by hanging lights on their houses.  Streets, patios and neighborhood squares fill with people.

In Qatif young men hang palm tree leaves and bows of colored lights and other decorations over the street furniture. They stop passing cars to sprinkle their drivers and passengers with rose water, wafting them with incense and offering them sweets and cold drinks. Car drivers find themselves delayed by barriers of festive crowds and barrages of loudspeakers calling to the merrymakers and welcoming them.”

Taken from: arabnews.com