Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Microlighting in Jeddah

A group of my friends recently enjoyed microlighting along the Red Sea coastline. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go along, but they all had a fabulous time, soaring into the sky, feeling the wind against their faces, and soaking up the amazing views of the city of Jeddah and the Red Sea from up there.

Here is a short video called "Microlighting Over Jeddah" from their excursion. You can really get the feel for the experience itself by watching it. Because of the size of the group, the individual flights were shortened to about 10-13 minutes each.

Microlighting in Jeddah has been around for over a decade now. And guess what? Women are not barred from participating in this delightful adventure! This is one outdoor activity, though, that is definitely not for those with a fear of heights or a fear of flying.

Jeddah is the perfect place for ultralight aircraft because of several factors – the weather is consistently warm, the land is flat along the sea coastline and there are relatively low winds.

There are many companies that produce their own version of an ultralight aircraft, but basically it is like a hang glider with an engine similar to a lawn mower engine. Micrlight aircraft accommodate one or two persons, are inexpensive to own, and are mostly used for joyriding. The earliest versions of ultralight aircraft used to be called “flying clotheslines” because they were completely open.

Knowing the take-off weight is extremely important to have a successful flight, with careful consideration given to the weight of the aircraft itself and the one or two people who will be taking flight. The flying altitudes over Jeddah are about 500-700 feet.

Microlighting expeditions can be arranged in Jeddah through the Jeddah Aviation Club and take off is at the Western Region Aviation School, which is off of Al Malek Road, directly across the street from the Red Sea Mall’s Gate #2. The cost is about 200-250 SR per hour, with special negotiable deals for groups. But of course, with groups, the flying time is shorter in order to accommodate everyone. A trained and qualified pilot accompanies each flight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saudi Boys Allowed to Run Amok

I was shocked when I read an article in Arab News about high school boys here in Saudi Arabia who pull "pranks" every year when school is let out for the summer.  What really floored me was that the students who were interviewed apparently had no qualms about their full names being published in the newspaper in an article which confirms their participation in destructive and illegal activities.  It was as if they felt like their disgusting behavior was normal and that they were proud of coming up with a variety of ways to damage or ruin teachers' vehicles or to destroy school textbooks. 

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“My friends and I usually shred our school books into small pieces to celebrate the ending of the school year and finishing a certain subject.  This is a way to express the end of having to lock ourselves in our rooms to study and stress over school subjects.”
Mohammed Omar, a high school student at a private school in Jeddah

“We pour sugar in the car’s tank because this would cause the teacher to change the whole engine of the car or even damage its whole operating system.  We sometimes throw eggs on the car so it would damage the paint and make a hole on it. Another way is to pour vinegar on the glass and wait for 10 minutes and then throw rocks on it and it would completely break.”
Tariq Jihad, a high school student at a private school in Jeddah

And a quote from a public school supervisor had such a defeatist attitude that this behavior was apparently expected and impossible to stop, I just couldn't believe what I was reading:

“We expect the chaos and we prepare for it around this time of the year because we have been dealing with it for a really long time now and we know this will never change.  We tried telling the students many times that the only people who suffer are the cleaners because they have to pick up the pieces of paper that are scattered around the school yard.”
Khalid Al-Jehani, public school supervisor

Like everywhere, teachers in Saudi Arabia are undervalued and overworked. Knowing that some teachers are also being disrespected and abused by their students makes matters much worse. What these juvenile delinquents are being allowed to do should not be expected or tolerated as normal behavior that cannot be prevented.  The school system and the police force are enabling and condoning these thugs to continue to commit these crimes year after year without consequences.   WTF? 

I want to know what the parents of these hoodlums think about their sons' actions and confessions to these crimes. This is not typical "boys will be boys" behavior.  Where is the discipline? Why aren't the parents of these children/thugs teaching them to respect teachers and their property?

I find this situation to be deeply disturbing.  If Saudi Arabia doesn't wake up and smell the coffee, this new generation is headed for real trouble.

To read the Arab News article in its entirety, CLICK HERE. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

American Bedu: The True Story of an American Spy

My friend Carol Fleming (American Bedu) is the subject of a documentary film. Her story is one that needs to be told - she was an American spy for the CIA when she met and fell in love with a Saudi diplomat. They were only married for 7 short years when he succumbed to cancer while at the same time, she herself was battling breast cancer - a fight she continues to this day.

They are in need of funding for this project. Can you help?

To make a donation, CLICK HERE.