Sunday, November 28, 2010

Children's Day Care in Jeddah

Children's day care is not that easy to find here in Saudi Arabia. Many families employ foreign domestic help as maids or nannies, and not that many women work here - so there is not the demand for day care here like there is in the states where both parents often work. There are usually child care facilities available in Western compounds where working expats live or at schools where a large percentage of employed women work.



Mommy Deb's Day Care is a new business that opened in Jeddah recently. It is centrally located in Salamah District, close to Madina Road and near the Casablanca Hotel. The normal daycare hours are from 7am until 3pm every day except Friday, with additional care and services available into the evenings. The facility provides care for children of all ages, including infants.

Other services provided are tutoring and English conversation classes for school age kids and adult women with flexible hours daily after school and into the evening. Children can enjoy activities such as reading, painting, singing, dress-up, building blocks, or other imaginitive play.

Mommy Deb has lived in Jeddah on and off for the past 30 years, but steadily for the last 14 years. She has raised six children of her own and has babysat since she was a teenager.

Mommy Deb also has lots of teaching experience too, having taught Kindgarten through 12th grades throughout the years. Aside from her natural motherly instincts, she has also taken a training course to become a certified daycare provider in the states.

For rates or more information, please contact Mommy Deb at 059-167-7161 or email her at: MommyDeb'sDayCareIS@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hajj 2010 - The Big Picture by Boston.com

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Don't miss these amazing and interesting photos of Hajj 2010, which is happening right now in Saudi Arabia. The sheer masses of religious pilgrims is overwhelming.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF HAJJ 2010 - The Big Picture - Boston.com

All Aboard!

Photo Credit: Arab News

This year many of the religious pilgrims performing Hajj are using the brand new Makkah Metro rail system. Although in this its inaugural year, only 170,000 pilgrims will be transported via the system, in the future it is expected to be able to transport 2 million pilgrims during Hajj, covering a distance totaling 18 km and traveling at speeds from 80 to 120 km per hour. This rail, also known as the Mashair Railway, will greatly alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems, in addition to minimizing pollution and reducing accidents. It is being hailed as a major improvement in the efficiency of the Hajj experience in convenience, safety, comfort, and time.





The rail links Makkah with three different Islamic holy sites in the area that play a major role in performing the rites of Hajj. The total cost is estimated to be 6.5 billion Saudi riyals ($1.73 billion in US dollars) and should be able to accommodate 72,000 pilgrims each hour as they complete the various required steps in the Hajj process. About 20 per cent of the passengers at full capacity will be able to sit while being transported, while the rest will stand. The railway system is expected to be completed and fully operational by the next Hajj season in 2011.



Photo Credit: Arab NewsThere have been some issues and controversies that have come up in the process of building this new railway system. A British firm is claiming that the plans for the Makkah Metro were designed by them and were subsequently stolen and used for the project by a Chinese firm that was awarded the construction contract. Several non-Muslim Chinese engineers were deported after being caught in the holy city of Makkah, renowned for being a place that only Muslims are allowed to enter. Criticism also comes from some Muslims who feel that the railway system takes away much of the personal effort that pilgrims used to be required to make to perform Hajj, that limiting its use this first year to only Arab Muslims (Saudis and other GCC countries only) is unfair and discriminatory, and also that the cost of the fare – 250 SR ($66 US) for the entire four days of Hajj – is a rip-off considering the short distances traveled on the rail.



Photo Credit: Arab NewsA much bigger railway project, called the Haramain High Speed Rail (also referred to as the Western Railway), is also underway in Saudi Arabia and in the future it is expected to revolutionize travel between the two holiest cities of Islam – Makkah and Medina. The bustling seaport of Jeddah has always been the main point at which most pilgrims enter the country due to its close location to both Makkah and Medina. The Western Railway will also connect to Jeddah’s airport, tremendously easing the transportation of millions of religious pilgrims every year between the holy cities. The total distance to be covered by the project will be 444 km (276 miles) and will offer high speed electric trains traveling at 320 km an hour. It is projected to accommodate 3 million travelers each year, eliminating the need for the use of tens of thousands of busses and other vehicles that currently carry the pilgrims to and fro.



Photo Credit: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty ImagesThe new railway system, along with the construction this past year of the magnificent gigantic Makkah Clock Tower and the development of many new high-rise luxury hotels and apartments which have sprung up surrounding the famous Kaaba Stone, ushers in a new era of comfort, lavishness, and effortlessness for Muslims fulfilling their religious obligation of performing Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Never before have Muslims had such a wide spectrum of modern options and conveniences available to them which might make their Hajj encounter more comparable to the atmosphere of a trip to Disneyland rather than the somber and physically grueling religious rituals of centuries past.


Here are some related articles to the Makkah Metro and Hajj:
1. Mecca Makeover: How the Hajj Has Become Big Business for Saudi Arabia
2. Mashair Railway Set For Historic Opening
3. Test Ride on Makkah Metro on Aug. 1
4. Pilgrim transportation geared like well-oiled machine: Prince Khaled
5. Returning Hajis find Makkah a city transformed
6. Makkah Metro Carries 66,000 Pilgrims on First Day

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Her Eyes Are Too Sexy!

Photo Credit: The Daily Telegraph
Saudi Woman wrote a post about a disturbing incident that happened a few days ago in Ha'il, a very conservative agricultural province in Saudi Arabia:
"The Commision for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, (PVPV), has done it again. On Thursday in Ha’il, a region North West of Riyadh, a PVPV member was scouting this very conservative area for vice to prevent. He saw a woman shopping with a man and felt that her eyes (the only part of her that was showing) were too seductive and starting shouting orders at her to cover her eyes. According to her husband, he says that he heard this muttawa behind him shouting and paid him no mind until he realized that the PVPV member was addressing his wife. He turned around and told him to mind his own business. Then insults were exchanged until the PVPV member pulled out a knife and slashed the husband’s arm and stabbed him in the back, puncturing his lungs. So far, so terrible but we could at least say that this PVPV member would be rejected and held at arms length by the commission. First day the report came out, the spokesperson, sheikh Mutlaq Al Nabit claimed that they still don’t have the details of what happened except that there was an attack on the PVPV and that was followed by an altercation and the PVPV member has not admitted that he had stabbed the citizen. The next day another report came out from the same spokesperson, Shiekh Al Nabit claiming that PVPV members have every right to order women to cover their eyes if they are seductive, seditious and could push a man to sin. He also denied that the commission gave permission to the PVPV member to get into a fight and carry a weapon and claimed that all PVPV members are responsible and deserving of trust."


The more I stew about this incident, the madder I get. Women here in KSA must wear black tents when they appear in public, and their hair and necks are also covered. The only visible parts of a female allowed in public here are the face and the hands. A high percentage of Saudi women also wear a veil over their faces, and some even add black gloves. But even at that, some men here don't seem to be able to control themselves, and it is always the women's fault for that. There has even been discussion about women covering one eye and only having one eye visible because seeing two eyes peeking out from behind a black veil is too much for some men to bear - and apparently this PVPV guy is one of them. Believe me, it's hard enough navigating my way around wearing a big full length tent - you have no idea how many times I have stepped on the hem and tripped going up stairs while carrying groceries! If I had to cover one eye too, forget it!

Another thing is that in public, both men and women are supposed to lower their gazes and not look directly at a member of the opposite sex - so why was this guy looking at her in the first place? He still finds a married woman's eyes too sexy when she is minding her own business, wearing a veil and a tent, AND accompanied by her husband? This guy is really sick - and out of control!
Credit: Polyp Cartoon
But I tried discussing this with my husband and got even further distressed. He was of the opinion that the husband in this case should have told his wife to cover her eyes and cooperate with the outlandish order of the religious police guy. My hubby told me that if we were ever in that situation, he would tell me to cover and we would then immediately remove ourselves from the situation. He feels that he is old and feeble now since his heart surgery and doesn't want to get into any fights, no matter how unfair the situation is. Ok, I understand that, especially if you don't know that the erratic psycho has a hidden knife and is chomping at the bit to stab someone who is unarmed and innocent. But my feeling is that this would be letting this unreasonable, irrational, sex-obsessed bully win - and this would only give him the green light to continue intimidating law abiding people this way.

When in the world are Saudi men ever going to be held responsible for their actions and control themselves around women, instead of blaming and punishing women for every little nasty thought they have? And when is the PVPV going to stop making excuses for their out-of-control employees who are no more than sex-crazed thugs who like to exert and abuse whatever authority they are given? I am totally disgusted.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is There Halloween in Saudi Arabia?


For the vast majority of the country, the answer to that question would have to be NO! Halloween would be seen as having evil roots, the work of the devil, plus the fact that frivilous and fun activities seem to be forbidden or at least frowned upon here. Western holidays are not celebrated, and there are only two holidays recognized here at all - and both of them, not surprisingly, are religious. I haven't actually heard or read that Halloween is technically banned here though, not like Valentine's Day is - which I have written about before.

I'm sure there are Halloween parties and possibly even trick-or-treating within the confines of the residential compounds for foreign workers here. And until this year, I didn't think it was a holiday that was celebrated among Saudis. But it seems that through the wonders of the internet, some Saudis have learned about Halloween and want to dress up in costumes, celebrate, and have their own parties.

I was recently invited to tag along with H (one of my SIL's) to a party at her relative's house, but I had no idea it was going to be a costume party until H and her 6-year-old son got into our car and I saw that the boy was dressed up in a Sponge Bob costume. When we arrived at the party, the villa's gates were decorated with spider webs, witches, pumpkins, and big spiders, and inside there were balloons, bats, and ghosts and other elaborate orange and black Halloween decorations.

The party guests were mostly fun-loving teenage girls and a few were younger, about 30 in all. There were also maybe three little boys, under age 10. They were dressed up in costumes from princesses to punk rockers to puppies. One of my favorites was a girl of about 10 dressed up like a Saudi man in the white thobe and red and white checkered scarf - she had a black beard and moustache painted onto her face plus her eyebrows were heavily painted into a big unibrow. I thought she was adorable.

But the absolute best costume was worn by my hilarious SIL H. After we arrived, she went into the bathroom to change. She put on a loose pink housedress with big brown polka dots all over it and wrapped her head up in a white scarf. Then she put on these thick Coke bottle glasses with round black plastic frames, gnarly rotten fake teeth protruded from her mouth, and she had tucked large bulbous sprigs of some type of fragrant green herb into the arms of the eyeglasses which stuck out on each side of her head - apparently this is something traditional that old Yemenese women do to smell good, but it looks rather odd. As the finishing touch, she added a huge balloon under the skirt of her dress in the back - it was one of the funniest costumes I have ever seen.

There was a female DJ who played dance music ranging from Western hip hop to current Middle Eastern hits and the girls had a blast dancing in the large living room turned into a dance floor where the furniture had been mostly removed. The adult women spent most of the time upstairs chatting and laughing and smoking sheesha. I was asked about Halloween traditions so I told them everything I could think of. Next year I'm going to make them a Haunted House and have them bobbing for apples!