Friday, January 24, 2014

Jeddah Art Week February 1-6, 2014

2014 Jeddah Art Week promotion - photo by: Susie of Arabia
 Jeddah Art Week begins in just a few days, and the above photo is one that I took that is being used for all the promotions and announcements of the Art Week events.  The splash of yellow paint was manipulated into the photo by an artist.  I first published this photo without the coloring manipulation on this blog in June 2013.  I was thrilled to be contacted by an outfit in London asking for permission to use some of my photos for promoting Jeddah Art Week.

Untitled - by Sylvestre Monnier
The opening ceremony for Jeddah Art Week will be held at the new open air sculpture museum at the Middle Corniche Park near Al-Anani Mosque.  This park is the new home of many of the priceless sculptures that Jeddah is famous for. 

Balance in the Air - by Victor Vasarely
Yesterday morning my husband drove me down to the new sculpture park and I took over 400 photos of the area, some of which you see here.

The Eye - by Cesar Baldaccini
Thanks to the dedication and efforts of the Jeddah Restoration Project and the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives organization, many of Jeddah's amazing public works of art have been refurbished and repaired and have now been relocated to this lovely park setting along the Corniche.

Three Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 - by Henry Moore
Enormous bronze pieces by world renowned artist like Henry Moore, Joan Miro, and Cesar Baldaccini now grace the seaside sculpture park.

Personage II - by Joan Miro
If you are in Jeddah, I hope you will try to attend the opening ceremony on Saturday, February 1st near Al- Anani Mosque. 

Al-Anani Mosque along Jeddah's Corniche

Below is the calendar of events for Jeddah Art Week.  The public is welcome at any of the events.  Hope to see you there!  Click here for a map guide to the events. 





Monday, January 20, 2014

Sometimes I Feel Like I'm Still in High School ...


Like many people, all my life I have always had feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, exacerbated by meanies and bullies.  While I was smart enough in high school to be inducted into the National Honor Society, I wasn’t quite popular enough or pretty enough or thin enough to be invited to join the exclusive sorority type girls’ club that had a Greek sounding 3-word name.  I hope to god that that club either doesn’t exist anymore or was forced long ago to open up their membership to all girls equally.  While many of my friends were good enough to be asked to join, I was excluded – and that hurt. 

Me, in high school
I had also tried out for cheerleader in high school and was good enough to make it to the list of potential candidates.  But at that time, the final selection for cheerleaders was done by popular vote of the student body - and again I wasn’t quite pretty enough or popular enough to be voted in.  I got enough votes to be 2nd alternate, but that meant nothing - and I never got onto the team, while the lucky girl who was voted in as first alternate did.  By this point in time, I would hope that this process of selecting cheerleaders at my old alma mater has been replaced with a method either based on ability or opened up to all girls wishing to participate - because the way it was done back then, based on popular vote, hurt those who didn’t make it and made us "losers" feel inferior or not good enough.   

In college and as an adult, I blossomed into my own and I have learned exactly how unimportant high school disappointments like those really are in the big scheme of things.  I excelled in my profession and was recognized and honored for my achievements.  And then six years ago, I moved to Saudi Arabia.  And sometimes I feel like I am back in high school all over again. 

One would think that women like me who are married to Saudis, who have given up everything to come here, would understand and be sympathetic to one another – because we are all in the same boat. The sacrifices we have made to be with our husbands are unimaginable to most people.  There are major cultural and religious differences to contend with, separation from our families and friends, feelings of isolation, and on top of all that, there is a tremendous loss of freedom.  It's extremely difficult for us freedom-loving western women to adapt to the much more restricted lifestyle of women here.  

Now don’t get me wrong: many of us “Saudi wives” are understanding and sympathetic.  But being here definitely affects some women’s psyche.  I know of many women who have needed professional help or medication coping with life here. There are others who have become a little whacky and haven’t gotten the help they need.  I’ve noticed that there are certain cliques here among women, and they like to play with other women’s lives. There are bullies.  There is jealousy.  Some women here are miserable and want to make everyone else just as miserable as they are.  And while we are lucky to have Facebook to keep us all connected, I also see it being used as a tool to make others feel bad, inadequate, or full of self-doubt.  Have you "unfriended" anyone lately?

During my first year in Saudi Arabia, I was befriended by “A and B,” a couple of American women who are married to Saudis like me.  I was just so happy to have a couple of friends because I really didn’t know any other women here at the time.  After some time “A and B” dropped me and treated me like a pariah.  And it hurt.  But then I thought, if they don’t want me as a friend, why would I even want to be their friend in the first place?  I picked up the pieces and moved on and have made some wonderful real friends here since then.  Sure, it’s uncomfortable seeing them in social situations but nothing I can’t handle.  Later, one of my very good friends (who has lived in KSA for over 40 years) told me that she had become close with “A,” who then abruptly cut off ties with her one day because “B” was jealous of their friendship.  Just like high school…   
  
I know these things can happen just about anywhere, but here in the Magic Kingdom, these problems just seem more pronounced.  I am in my 60s now and I like to think I am beyond this type of petty stuff.  I don’t want or need drama in my life.  But I have friends here who are younger (and don't have the wisdom of my years yet!) who have been very hurt by the actions of the mean bullies and cliques here.  I try to make them feel better and tell them that they don’t need “friends” like this, but it’s hard to see them be continually hurt by bullies, so I thought this post was called for.  I just hate bullies. Will they ever stop?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - but NOT in Saudi Arabia!

Many times I have felt that just having good clean fun is forbidden here in Saudi Arabia.  And once again, my feelings have been justified.

This photo of the religious police warning women has gone viral. These two members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV for short) told these fully covered women to stop swinging on the swings in a public park in broad daylight because it might prove too tempting for men passing by and that the women might open themselves up to harassment or attacks by men.  

Twitter is ablaze with the photo and funny taglines, like "Screw driving.  In Saudi Arabia women can't even swing!" or "Watch out! Swinging makes you slutty in KSA." or "...because it affects the ovaries?"

Sadly, this action on the part of the religious police doesn't really surprise me anymore.  But what does surprise me is the feedback from some people in response to this incident - supporting, commending, even applauding the actions of the religious police that certainly the warnings were given in the best interest of the women.

Don't these people realize that there is something seriously wrong with a country when a woman cannot feel safe from men bothering her when she is doing something as innocent as swinging in a public park in broad daylight?   

If one woman were alone by herself at night, okay - then maybe I might understand - a word to the wise.  But when they are with a group of five or six women, they should be afraid of being attacked?  In broad daylight?  In a place like Saudi Arabia?

This is, after all, the Land of Islam, where men are supposedly taught from a young age to respect and protect women, not to harass or hurt women.  Why can't the men of this country be held to this standard, be held responsible for their actions, and simply be expected to behave themselves and leave women alone? 

These women who are in a group, fully covered in black from head to toe, are outside, merely trying to enjoy the cooler weather and get some fresh air.  Heaven knows, most of the year is too darn hot for women dressed up like nuns to enjoy being outdoors because of the oppressive heat!  These women are not out looking to tempt men or trying to attract unwanted attention.  These girls just wanna have a little fun!  What is wrong with that?

Women cannot drive vehicles in Saudi Arabia.  Women cannot ride bikes in public here.  Women are discouraged from participating in sports here.  Women cannot travel without the permission of her legal male guardian, who can control her every move all of her life – or go to school, or seek medical attention, or – shall I go on?  

And NOW, women are not supposed to use swings because men cannot be expected to control themselves at the sight of a woman on a swing?  Puh-lease!!!

I personally refuse to live my life in fear here.  And I hope these women refuse to live their lives in fear here.   Hold Saudi men accountable!!!

I’m going out to find me some swings!  Ladies - join me?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Saudi Arabia: Blaming the Victim



Many other parts of the world have come a long way since the days of blaming a rape victim for the attack because of the way she was dressed, or because of the way she was acting, forever implying that “she was asking for it.” 

Not so in Saudi Arabia.  Women are routinely blamed and punished for crimes of a sexual nature committed against them.  In rape cases, the woman is nearly always faulted, no matter what her age or what she was wearing.  More than likely she was dressed in the all too familiar Saudi female’s uniform of a black cloak from head to toe, but even then, she is considered too sexy for men to be expected to control themselves around her. 

So it should come as no surprise that in a recent poll, morethan 86% of men blamed women’s eye makeup as the leading reason for the increase in the number of cases of men molesting women.  This, despite the fact that in Islam men are required to “lower their gaze” and not to look at women, so as not to be tempted.  The articles I read didn’t say what the women polled thought about this eye makeup issue. 

AFP Photo / by Amir Hilabi


The survey was conducted by the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue and queried almost one thousand Saudi men and women.   

Another high ranking reason thought to be responsible for the rise in attacks on women was the lack of accountability and punishment.  Eighty per cent of the respondents felt that men can simply get away with behaving badly because, in this society, they can!   There is no fear of recrimination for their actions and no consequences.   I believe that this has always been a valid reason since men here are rarely held responsible for their actions against women and are not expected to be able to control themselves around them.  However, this doesn’t account for a rise in the number of cases of harassment of women as nothing has really changed within the law or the punishment. 

When are the people and the government of Saudi Arabia going to get with the program and stop blaming the victim?   

Saudi men, you need to accept responsibility for your actions, learn how to control yourselves around women, and stop blaming women when you harass them. Sheesh!