Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Not "Lady-Like!"

n investigation is underway regarding a shocking and controversial sporting competition that was held recently here in Jeddah. Shocking? Yes - because the event was for females (for shame!) and the event organizers failed to obtain prior approval from the Ministry of Education. Which begs the question: Are male sporting events subject to the same restrictions? Somehow I doubt it. Female sports here in Saudi Arabia are practically non-existent because girls’ athletics are frowned upon by religious clerics and many old-fashioned Saudi men as being “unlady-like,” among other ridiculous reasons.

The illegal and contentious sporting event – thought to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom - was held on December 8th at Effat University and included competition in such unlady-like sports such as swimming, basketball, and badminton for some 200 young high school women representing six different Jeddah girls’ schools.

In the aftermath of the tournament, a member of the Board of Directors of one of the participating schools claims they had received more than 60 “anonymous” complaints about girls participating in sports.

All this commotion comes at the heels of another report out of Iran where a Muslim cleric condemned women’s sports and forbade Iranian females from participating in the Asian Games. He was quoted as saying that women’s sports are a product of the West’s “dirty” culture and should be shunned. I want to know, exactly what is “dirty” about women’s sports?

This is 2010, almost 2011. It is common knowledge in this day and age that regular exercise promotes good health, weight control, and a sense of well-being. Yet for the girls and women of the kingdom, these facts don’t matter and aren’t considered important.

Last year I wrote about how the government cracked down on women’s gyms across Saudi Arabia, closing down countless women’s facilities if they were not properly licensed and if they were not affiliated with a hospital, while there are no such restrictions placed on men’s gyms. The closing of these facilities drove up membership costs and made it impossible for many Saudi women to be able to afford going to a gym. And it’s already hard enough for women to try to exercise in this country as it is. Women here are forbidden from swimming (well they can, if they are fully covered), riding bicycles (too provocative as it reveals the female's behind), or playing sports in public. Saudi Arabia has been long criticized for denying Saudi women from particpating in the Olympics and other sporting events.

Physical Education classes in girls’ schools are a very low priority. You won’t believe some of the ludicrous reasons given for why girls shouldn’t be allowed to participate in sports or exercise in school: The female hymen might break during exercise so the girl wouldn’t be considered a virgin anymore. “Good girls” would never disrobe outside their own home, not even to change into gym clothes at school. If girls did disrobe in front of other girls at school, they might get turned on and have nasty thoughts that they may want to act upon. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

All this craziness aside, women’s obesity is becoming a major health crisis here in Saudi Arabia, evident in the dramatic increases in diabetes, hypertension, depression, and other weight-related health issues. For the most part, women here lead a very sedentary lifestyle – many don’t even do any physical household chores because they have maids.

This antiquated mindset of restricting women from exercise and sports places Saudi Arabia way behind the times in promoting women’s health and well-being.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trust in Business

The other evening, my husband and I went out just to walk around at a small local mall here in Jeddah. I like to look at the traditional long dresses that many women wear here, so we went into one of the small dress shops in the mall so I could take a look. Many of the traditional dresses are embroidered, or embellished with beading.

I found three that I liked - and you've heard me complain about this before - but generally there are no dressing rooms here for women to try on clothing.

I've been given many excuses for why there are no dressing rooms for women in clothing shops here in this country, ranging from the problem with women shoplifting clothing by just putting it on underneath their big black abayas, to the potential problem of men sales clerks molesting women who are undressed in the dressing rooms. FYI - there ARE no women sales clerks allowed in Saudi Arabia - don't get me started! Suffice it to say that this country is big on "prevention" when it comes to the matter of women and sex, no matter how remote the possibility of whatever it is that might occur.

Anyway, back to my story... I guess business was rather slow that night, so I figure that this shopkeeper was anxious to make a sale.

What he did next almost floored me.

He took the three dresses off the hangers, folded them nicely and put them in a bag for me. In Arabic he told my husband, "Take the dresses home and let your wife try them on. Keep what she likes and bring back what she doesn't want. Then you just pay me for what you keep."

He took no money.
He didn't ask for my husband's name or phone number.
He didn't make a note of the merchandise that we walked out of the store with.
He didn't request that we bring the money or the items back by any particular date.

I'm still shocked.

Would a scenario like this ever happen where YOU live?

(NOTE: The dresses shown in this post are from

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Life of a Camel Herder

Just a few minutes by car from the busy seaport city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are many outposts where the native one-hump dromedary camels live, herded in by rickety barbed wire corrals. Fresh and frothy warm camel’s milk is available for sale (about $5 US per gallon), and for very special occasions, one can also buy whole camels for their lean meat as well (about $1000 US).

However some camels can fetch a much higher price for their great beauty – earlier this year at the famous King Abdul Aziz Festival, the camel beauty contest offered prizes totaling 70 million Saudi Riyals (that’s 14 million Euros).

But this story is about Hussan. He is from Sudan and he is a camel herder. He is a content man with simple needs, not many worries, and very limited means. His cheeks are freshly shaven and his graying mustache and beard are neatly trimmed. He has beautiful white teeth and a ready smile. I have to admit that not all the camel herders I have seen here are as clean and well kempt as Hussan.

Hussan and several other men from Sudan take care of a herd of probably more than a hundred camels altogether. They feed and water the camels every day and milk them on the spot when a customer comes by and requests fresh camel milk, which is arguably a healthier alternative to cow's milk. It is very nutritious, and compared to cow's milk, is higher is Vitamin C and is more easily digested, which makes it better for those who are lactose intolerant. Another interesting fact about camel's milk is that is doesn't curdle! It also has wonderful health benefits, such as controlling diabetes due to its high concentration of insulin and being great for one's skin because its content is so high in fatty acids like lanolin. Camel milk is an important dietary staple for many people in the world.

The camel herders live out in the scorching desert heat with the camels that they tend, in very primitive and simple living arrangements.

Not far from the stately luxurious palaces and the spacious tiled villas of Jeddah is where Hussan and the others live on the outskirts of the city. It is just a few feet from where the camels sleep in their barbed wire corrals. The camel herders’ shelter is built from odd and ends of discarded wood, plastic and canvas tarps, and several large old prayer rugs. If you look closely, you can just barely see part of an old Saudi style bed frame where he sleeps. I saw at least one more bed inside, and there might even be a third. The beds are elevated from the desert sand floor and are covered with old bedding.

The harsh climate of Hussan's humble desert abode must be brutal for him to tolerate especially in summer’s hottest months, yet his warm smile and polite demeanor always greet his customers unfailingly. I saw large water jugs about, but I'm not sure how or where he and the others bathe. I also noticed a large white tent nearby that might possibly be used for their toiletry needs, and there were buildings off in the distance, including a mosque, not too far of a walk away.

Several of these makeshift shaded bunks where the camel herders nap were here and there, crudely built of old pieces of wood and draped with various fabrics and bedding. You can click on the photos to enlarge them, and in this one you can see one of the guys actually napping inside the shaded bunk.

I also saw in the surrounding desert area several pieces of dusty old discarded furniture that the camel herders could use for resting. It's common to see old furniture outside apartment buildings and businesses in the city, where the building caretakers can sit.

The life of a camel herder must be very tough and physically grueling, but from all outward appearances, they all seem very happy to me. There is something to be said for their non-materialistic simple lifestyle without the pressures and trappings of a modern-day existence.

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 opened in Jeddah in 2010. It is centrally located in An Nahda District.  The normal daycare hours are from 8 - 5 week days only.  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 about 40 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 via email at:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hajj 2010 - The Big Picture by

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 -

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!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pink Ribbon Earns KSA Place in History

Photo Credit Rania Rezek

Women in Saudi Arabia made history last night, shattering the existing Guinness Book of World Records in the formation of the largest human pink ribbon chain emphasizing global awareness in the battle against breast cancer.

I don't know if the rest of the world actually realizes or appreciates what a seemingly impossible feat this really was to achieve in such a deeply cultured, strictly religious, and male-dominated society like Saudi Arabia where women are hidden behind black drapes when out in public. KSA has a reputation for being known as a place where women should not be seen or heard from, where women must have a legal male guardian all their lives, and where the rights of women are seen by the rest of the world as being limited, antiquated, and oppressed.

Logistically speaking, the odds were against us. Since females are prohibited from driving here in the "Magic Kingdom," what that means is that every single woman who participated in the event - except those who may have been close enough to walk to the site - was driven to the venue by a man.

Organizing and pulling off a stunt like this was a daunting task in a country where mass gatherings are discouraged and where men and women mingling together in public places is strictly forbidden. There were no men allowed inside the Ministry of Education Sports Stadium, which had never before been used to host an event for women. In fact I was told by an event organizer that the management of the stadium had initially refused to open the stadium for women. A call from higher powers quickly corrected that issue and the management was on board. Other male protesters in law enforcement and city government who voiced their objections were also quashed, and their objections turned into offers of assistance and support.

I also learned that the religious authorities were in a tizzy (no surprise here) over the fact that women would be gathering together like this en masse. However, at every turn the objectors were overruled. The event's organizers had gone through all the proper channels, followed protocol, received approvals and official documents from every required governmental agency, and had the full support of the government to proceed with this monumental occasion. In fact, if it weren't for the major clout backing this event, women in Saudi Arabia would likely have never been able to pull it off. The clout I'm speaking of responsible for the conception and implementation of this ground-breaking event was Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan and the Zahra Breast Cancer Association of which she is a founding member.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting Princess Reema at the event last night and was taken aback when she thanked me for the post I had written announcing this event and told me she reads my blog! I awkwardly apologized for sometimes complaining about things here in KSA and lamely joked with her that there wasn't much else for me to do here. She was very gracious, charming and regal, while at the same time being so very normal and approachable - exactly the way I imagine a princess should be.

We arrived at the stadium shortly after 5pm, when the gates were opened. There was already quite a large crowd of women, with more and more arriving with every passing minute. Once inside the gate, there was a table where we had to obtain ticket stubs in order to then go to another table to get our pink hooded ponchos which were provided free of charge to all attendees. Because of the enormous crowd of women, this process took at least half an hour. There were also a variety of booths for sponsors, including Zahra Breast Cancer Association, Al Bidayah Breastfeeding Resource and Women's Awareness Center, and Avon. Free bottled water was also available.

For weeks beforehand, the old stadium was readied for the event. The bathrooms were renovated and the hole-in-the-ground toilets were replaced with regular seated toilets. I'm guessing that there are only men's toilets at the facility since women had historically never been allowed to attend any events held there before this because of this society's strict gender segregation policies. The grassy field was watered and tended to and was perfectly manicured. I can't recall ever seeing that much grass in one place here in Saudi Arabia since I've been here! The VIP section in the center was furnished with nice padded chairs for special guests (including me!), and there were beautiful large throne-like chairs where the princesses in attendance were seated.

The daytime temperature had reached an irritable and stifling 100F (37C) and the humidity was a muggy 70%. Needless to say, that stadium was packed with a lot of uncomfortable sweaty women who were anxious and excited to come together for a common cause despite the weather conditions. Every single woman had to be counted by the Guinness representative before she was allowed to do the Avon Walk for the Cure on the track around the grassy field, which had been carefully marked into the pattern shaped into the large breast cancer awareness ribbon. I was part of the first group of 100 to be counted and to begin the journey around the track. As we passed the grandstands where thousands of women were seated, waiting for their turns to be counted, the women began cheering and waving and singing the Saudi national anthem. Excitement was in the air - it was phenomenal and very uplifting.

Estimates were that there were about 6000 women total in attendance, however some were unable to stay the entire time due to transportation issues. The crowd was made up of not just Saudi women, but included expats from many countries around the world including the USA, England, Europe, and many Asian and African countries. I met young women from at least two local international schools who were tranported there by the busfuls. I also met women who had flown in from Riyadh just for this event and others who had driven from Mecca and Taif. Even in the sweltering heat and in the midst of only females, some of the women who came still felt compelled to wear their face veils because of all the cameras around.

There were also hundreds of volunteers who assisted in so many ways to make the event a success. It took well over an hour for the ribbon formation to take shape and be filled in. Those of us who were first on the field began to sit on the grass. We were already all hot, sticky, and sweaty anyway, so it wasn't like we were concerned about getting a little grass, insects, or dirt on us at that point! And actually sitting on the grass made me cool down a little bit. Slowly the sea of women dressed in pink ponchos united for a cause became the symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness. The exact official count has not yet been released by Guinness, however it is clear that Saudi Arabia exceeded the German record of 3640 participants set in 2007.

The heat, the humidity, the crowds, the pushing, the waiting, the standing, the discomfort, the sweating - was it all worth it? YES!!!

This was an historic achievement in so many ways for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I think it shows that Saudi Arabia wants to be an active and integral part of the modern global community. I also feel that it indicates that Saudi Arabia doesn't want to be perceived as that strange and oppressive country that many people around the world fear or criticize because it has always been such a mystery. I think this event also shows that the royal family and many people of Saudi Arabia want the country to progress and are not afraid of change if it's for the good of the country. I hope I'm right!

At any rate, I am proud to say that I was there; I was part of it.

Arab News article "Saudi Pink Ribbon Breaks Guinness Record."

Saudi Gazette article "Kingdom Breaks World Record."

Click here for the Guinness Website article and awesome photos about another breast cancer awareness record that was broken on October 1st.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cleaning Up Jeddah

I know I've done my fair share of complaining about how dirty, unkempt, full of rubble, and run-down parts of Jeddah can be, so a couple of days ago I decided to put my money where my mouth is and joined in with a group of Jeddah's youth to clean up a beach here. The event was organized by Jeddah's Young Initiative Group (YIG), which evaluates where there are needs in the community and then seeks to help or make improvements.

My husband thought I was nuts for going out in the late afternoon heat (it's still hitting the low 100s here), and I was probably the oldest person there helping, but he did drive me there, since I cannot drive in this country simply because I am a woman. This two-hour clean-up campaign covered a stretch of sandy beach along the Corniche on the Red Sea where there are swings for children and not much of anything else. The beach was littered with soda cans and pop tops, plastic eating utensils, paper, plastic bags, shards of broken glass, cardboard boxes, straws, and other various types of debris. The water's edge was afloat with lots of seaweed, which was also removed by our group.

Participating men and women were divided into small work groups and were assigned to work in separate segregated areas, so that there would be no hanky panky happening while we were all there working and sweating, plus there were several police patrol cars on hand to ensure there was no gender mixing. My group had a couple of female medical students from Batterjee Medical College, a reporter from the Saudi Gazette and her sister who was a teacher, and an adorable 7 year old who had volunteered to help along with her older brother. We were all provided with plastic gloves and large garbage bags. There were also a few rakes on hand for those brave souls who waded into the water to collect the seaweed.

Luckily there was a slight breeze which staved off the heat, but that breeze also caused us all to be lightly dusted in a coating of fine sand which then clung to my sweaty face. Nice and gritty!

As someone who has witnessed firsthand how many of Jeddah's residents litter as if someone else will come along and pick up after them, I think educating the residents, young and old, to this problem is key. When I first moved here three years ago, I was appalled at the filth and litter here. I remember sitting in a car in a parking lot and seeing a young boy get out of the back seat of a huge GMC Yukon. The front window rolled down and the boy's mother handed him a load of garbage (McDonald's fast food), which he then proceeded to just throw on the ground in front of our car! I was shocked and disgusted. And there was a garbage can sitting on the sidewalk about ten feet away! This kid's mother is the problem for not teaching her son about taking pride in his city and keeping our planet clean.

At over 400 members and growing, YIG has been instrumental in filling in the gaps in this community where there may not be social causes or government organizations actively solving the many problems and issues of this city. "Cleaning the Streets of Jeddah" is one of their ongoing programs, along with "Emergency Medical Help Assistance," "Fixing Under-Privileged People's Homes," "Teaching Orphans," and "Distributing Essential Home Appliances."

If you are interested and able to offer your help by volunteering your time or donating equipment or money for any of these worthwhile projects, you can find YIG's contact information on this page.

Here is the link to an Arab News article about the Anti-Litter Clean-Up event I participated in, and here is a link to the Saudi Gazette article about it as well.