Monthly Archives: May 2012

Obligatory cat

Today, Crossraod Arabia describes the new regulations to curb journalism, which they define as including Facebook and blogs. I found myself snapping, “Ridiculous. The purpose of a blog is to post pictures of your cat.”

Then I realized I haven’t posted any cat pictures.  In fact, I don’t even have a cat. So here is the best I can do, a street cat that I posted on FaceBook with the title “double o seven”.


Abha’s mud houses

A typical old house style in the mountainous south-western province of Aseer. “Aseer” means “difficult”, sort of like the way we would find a region named the “badlands” if it was historically hard to travel through.

The houses are made of mud reinforced with camel hair. The upper areas have a local flat stone between the bricks. Plaster has been applied to the outside of the building, and is coming off.

The lower areas of this building are stone, with smaller flat stones wedged into the chinks. Cooking smells emanate from the closed window: this place is definitely occupied.

The name on the wall in English letters is “Waleed”, meaning “boy”, a common boy’s name in the Arabic language.

Someone lives here, for sure.

In a different area, up on a hill, I found this building. Garage?

And satellite dish.

The back has been updated with modern brick. Probably the lady of the house wanted a little privacy so she could go outside to hang up laundry without putting on an abaya, the black polyester floor length coat women are required to wear in public.

Between the layers of mudbrick they use a local flat gray stone that looks like slate.

Behind a wall you can see where someone has made a pile of the flat gray stone.

Just for curiosity, this is a building on one of the main streets. An apartment building? It looks like it’s only about one room wide.

Tea with links

What I’m reading with my afternoon tea.

Tunisian censorship

The image is composed of avatars of Tunisian Twitter users.

The joyful stories about Tunisia “throw[ing] off the censor’s shackles” have largely been replaced by stories warning of religiously motivated book bans. Tunisia Live’s report quotes Al Kitab bookstore worker Adel Hajji as saying, “Now, it is a religion-based type of censorship.”

[Source: via Arabic Literature (in English) and Global Voices.

M.I.A ‘s Bad Girls video
The song, which portrays women doing Saudi-style driving stunts, has been making waves in Saudi. Filmed in Morocco.  The YouTube is here.

German protest against 25,000 Euro Saudi tank deal

The weapons producer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann was contracted to deliver 270 of its Leopard 2 A7+ tanks. This model is specifically designed for use in urban areas. The Center for Political Beauty produced a video which illustrates the use of this tank to suppress protests [de]….

Some haunting photos, taken by Hend AbduAllah in Yemen.

Herfy: no welcome for women

This hamburger chain has the welcome sign out, …

…but, on closer inspection, the welcome is only for men.

Because “mingling” is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, that is, men and women cannot talk to each other in this country, many restaurants have two sections: one section for the single men and one section for families. Men can only enter the family section with a female family member. It is more expensive to build a restaurant with two sections, so many restaurants are for men only. In these restaurants, women can order takeout from a separate window where they will not come in contact with the men (or the air conditioning). Sometimes you see women and children eating on benches outside next to the dumpster.

Most fast food franchises — McDonald’s, Kudu, Subway, Burger King — have both a single section for men and a family section for women and families, as well as a drive-thru window. Single women are welcome in these places, and you sometimes see women going into the family section with their children. They are certainly not required to be on the leash to a male keeper.

Coincidently, the CEO of Herfy, Ahmed Al-Saied, just this week gave an interview where he said “The society that ignores women is like someone who is trying to walk on one leg.” He also referred to the recent intention of the King to allow Saudi women to vote for the first time: “King Abdullah opened these doors for women…”

But at this Herfy at least, the door remains firmly closed.

Dagger souq

For several weeks I have been trying to find this local dagger market, where they make and sell the traditional Yemeni-style daggers. Last night I finally found it, and took what pictures I could in the low light emanating from the shops.

The market is not just for daggers, they sell a variety of traditional goods. These are sheepskins fitted with plastic screw caps on the top and metal spigots on the bottom. The water slowly oozes through the leather, evaporates, and keeps the water cold. The rubber tire thingy is for watering animals, mostly camels.

The dagger market also sells daggers. These are belted over a white robe for formal occasions like weddings.

The shopkeeper is showing unroasted coffee beans. The shallow pan with the long handle underneath is for roasting them on the fire. Above are tassels from a leather bag for holding coffee beans, now some of the women use them to keep money. In the scoop, raisins. Below the counter, aluminum (?) adze for planting, and some round bladed aluminum (?)  axes of various sizes; not sure what they plant. In the background and under the coffee paraphernalia, leather baby carriers with dark brown lacing; they still use these to keep track of baby, hang it up where they are working.


I never get tired of the way the sun sets here.