Sunday, January 31, 2010

Habaytak Bisayf

Fayrooz, possibly the most famous Lebanese singer of all time, singing her most famous song, Habaytak Bisayf [ha-bay-tik bee-safe]:

When she played in Bahrain two years ago the tickets sold out in 5 minutes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh to Visit Bahrain, now that Winter's here

Today's blog posting is taken directly from Saturday's Gulf Daily News, the English language newspaper in Bahrain:

"Royal Caribbean International, a leading company in cruise tourism, has expressed dissatisfaction as its largest cruise ship, Brilliance of the Seas, docked at the Khalifa bin Salman Port yesterday.

Royal Caribbean officials said there was a big melee as taxi drivers rushed madly upon tourists as they reached the port's main gate. They demanded exorbitant fares ranging between $300 and $400 ~it takes 10 minutes~ to take them to Manama for shopping, reports Akhbar Al Khaleej.

Company administrative director Abdulaziz Al Oshban said more than 50 tourists went back to the ship and refused to visit Manama for fear of being exploited.

Bahrain-based company agent Ali Al Qaidi said the incident had created a bad impression about Bahrain, particularly after the captain and crew were denied entry to Bahrain like tourists, a common practice in all Gulf countries the ship had visited.

What made things worse was the way Culture and Information Ministry's Tourism Sector Under-Secretary Ahmed Al Nawakhida welcomed the management of the world's largest cruise tourism company, dressed casually in jeans and T-shirt, reflecting carelessness and indifference, adds Akhbar Al Khaleej.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nothing to pay on the Phone Bill this Month

This month, January 2010, it seems there will be no telephone bills issued in Saudi Arabia. The government had removed the previous IT co-ordinating company and apparently before they left a bug was planted in to the system.

People whose bills were normally about US$ 50 a month received bills of US$ 800 and those with bills of US$ 800 recieved bills for US$ 50. This applies to an entire country with 20 million mobile lines, (2007 figures); and 3 million land lines, (2002 figures).

To sort out the mess, no telephone bills will be issued for January 2010 and apparently the entire nation is sending each other endless video text messages for free.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Multiple Marriages

Islam permits a man to marry up to four wives. This custom still occurs and (as a generalisation) many families will have at least one man who has two or more wives.

This practice is endorsed by the Koran (4:2 & 4:3) which says,
“Give orphans the property which belongs to them. Do not exchange their valuables of worthless things or cheat them of their possessions; for this would surely be a great sin. If you fear that you cannot treat orphan (girls) with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you; two, three or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry one only or any slave-girls you may own. This will make it easier for you to avoid injustice.”

I remember watching one man who had two wives being shuttled between the two houses and feeling sorry for him; I couldn't imagine what it must be like to have no where he could call his own home. That was my European perspective on his situation, he seemed genuinely happy with the situation ...

The following poetry quote is about the difficulty of taking more than one wife and comes from, ‘The Perfumed Garden’. This is an Arabic erotic book which is thought to have been written in the 1500’s and translated into English by the explorer Richard Burton in the late 1800’s.

“By reason of my ignorance I have married two wives - and why do you complain, O husband of two wives?  I said to myself, I shall be like a lamb between them; I shall take my pleasure upon the bosoms of my two sheep, and I have become like a ram between two female jackals, days follow upon days, and nights upon nights, and their yoke bears me down during both days and nights.  If I am kind to one, the other gets vexed.  And so I cannot escape from these two furies.  If you want to live well and with a free heart, and with your hands unclenched, then do not marry.  If you must wed, then marry one wife only: One alone is enough to satisfy two armies.”

Urban Legend
Two Saudi women married to the same man and living in the same house, lived next door to another couple and had become friends with the wife. When next door neighbour died the woman begged their husband to marry the neighbour’s widow. After some discussion and thought their husband agreed and so did the widow next door and now all three live together in one house.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Find a Marriage Partner

Within the Arab world there are at least five different methods of finding a marriage partner; arranged, search, dial-a-bride, hourly and love.

Having written about the hourly /daily/weekly/monthly marriages in an earlier post {see wgaw blog archive: misiyar} this post describes four other ways of finding a partner.

1. Arranged Marriages
An arranged marriage occurs when the parents of the bride and groom decide their offspring are old enough to get married. With this system the children have no say in the process what-so-ever and it is precisely this lack of choice which makes it an arranged marriage.

Should the bride or groom be asked what they want, or who they want, then it’s no longer an arranged marriage. The Arabic saying [as s-qoot al-a-mat al il-red-ha] translates as, ‘your silence is a symbol of your acceptance’ comes from the expectation a girl will remain quiet if she decides she wants to marry the man offered to her by her family.

2. Search Marriages
Search marriages occur when someone decides they want to get married and enlist the help of their parents, or a matchmaking friend, to help search for a suitable partner.

The person wanting to get married announces they are ready to get married and are looking for someone. This is quite a common place event and I’ve often been asked if I know of anyone. It is at this point that the matchmakers start looking in earnest for a suitable person.

The matchmakers all have a network of people they use to find a possible match and this will include relatives and friends, their friend’s friends, and their friend’s friend’s friends. Once someone suitable has been found the couple start to get to know each, often over the telephone and this part serves as a useful catch all, even if the person is approved by all, it allows for a ‘spark’ to occur.

Whilst the couple are getting to know each other each family will be asking lots of questions about the other person’s family, the person themselves, their job and their aims and objectives in life. In many cases the person wanting to get married will reject three or four candidates before an acceptable mate is found.

3 – Dial-a-Bride
The dial-a-bride service is a recent innovation to the Gulf and started in Saudi a couple of years ago. It seems to be growing in popularity and this example below outlines the process someone goes through if they choose to take up dial-a-bride services;

“A new dial-a-bride service has been launched for the first time in Bahrain. It allows couples to find their match over the telephone. The service, called Marriage Line, will be supervised by Shari’a judges and clergymen. Users will be given a choice of partners - either a, b or c - and a meeting will be arranged by a committee. If the couple gets along they will be married according to normal procedures.

"This service will allow us to use new technology while abiding by Islamic rules and regulations. Everyone has the right to leave if not satisfied with their choice when they meet. No-one is forced to marry."

4. Love Marriages
Love marriages, those things we think of as marriage in the west, usually happen through the bride and groom meeting at work, or through studies at university.

Urban Legend
Two Saudi women married to the same man and living in the same house, lived next door to another couple and had become friends with the wife. When next door neighbour died the woman begged their husband to marry the neighbour’s widow. After some discussion and thought their husband agreed and so did the widow next door and now all three live together in one house.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mr Smooth

Meet Gulzar, the infamous traffic attendant at Bahrain City Centre. Previously a member of the Pakistani army, he now directs traffic with a, 'Gulzar Bow' and a smile:

Update: 18th January, 2010
Having just returned from visiting Japan and China, Gulzar's bows now seem a wee bit tame. We saw various policemen and women, at many of the large junctions, carrying out what could only be described as a, 'dance form' whilst directing the traffic.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hussain al Jasmi

Hussain al Jasmi, a Saudi national, often releases singles and at discos when his songs come on, the dance floor always fills up.

Love, love, love this:

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Friday, January 1, 2010

F1 & an Aeroplane

This feels like a great Youtube video for the start of a new year:

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