The twin towels.

1400 years ago Mecca was the home of Islam. In 2014, however, during the turmoil in Syria, Iraq and now Libya, it seems that Muslims are being split more and more, even in the only place they might actually agree on. I recently had the opportunity to visit Mecca; the home of Allah.

Recent work has changed the scenery since my last visit, which was in 2012. As if the constant commercialization of Haj (pilgrimage) and Umra weren’t enough, it seemed that the Saudi Arabian Kingdom decided that early Islamic sites were no longer relevant in comparison to the vast amounts of Muslims flooding for Haj and Umra.

While Medina had three of the world’s oldest mosques destroyed in the name of expansion, Mecca’s population had been paid, evacuated, and had their houses along with Islamic historical and archaeological heritage destroyed. Along with the constant destruction of physical Islam, tensions were high in Masjid al-Haram; where the Kaaba (big black cube) is located.

Muslims have multiple sects, namely; Shi’ites and Sunnis. While I personally have no preference, it seems that the growth of ISIS counts completely on the fact that they are fighting for Sunni rights; while Hezbollah is demonized as the Shi’i sect that has Islam misconstrued and uses it for the devil’s intentions. The divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites is nothing new, it has been around since the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

However, all these divides were generally put aside when both sects would come into contact in Mecca; not this time. It seemed that the divide wasn’t of importance, if anything, it was an insult to God all together. I went with my family. Personally, I decided to drape my towel on both shoulders, rather than just one. While Sunni people consider this to nullify my Umrah, the Shi’ites would disagree. As I did my Tawaf (Walking around the Kaaba 7 times), I found myself being inappropriately undressed, as I hadn’t been following the rules that the person behind me believed in. However, undressing people is not merely a habit of Sunnis it seems, my father, who had draped his towel on one shoulder, was also inappropriately dressed by another man, who disagreed with the way my father’s towel hung. As if we were in the ghettos of California where the way a piece of cloth hung off our bodies would signify which gang we belonged to, we were automatically categorized and hated/respected accordingly. I found those actions to undermine God, and minimize Him to the pettiness of man.

As if God is a child with a magnifying glass growing angrier at the mere thought that a man’s shoulder showed or not. I fear this divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites will only grow as the clashes continue and the growth of extremism in Islam continues. As long as petty things such as towels divide Muslims, governments and corporations will continue to undermine the very home of God and destroy all things that link us to the original ideals of Islam. tl;dr Muslims will fight about towels.

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The rusted golden age.

Art has no place in Saudi Arabia. It seems that we as Saudis have missed the chance to indicate our struggles, emotions and endeavours in a manner that is unique to us. “We do have a culture. It is Islam” is the answer I mostly get when I asked about that situation, however, reality cannot be farther. Saudi culture seemed to have taken a break and never recovered at the Bedwen days, while Islamic culture had been distorted, destroyed and left to rot in an alleyway occupied by cats. Throughout my stay in multiple metropolitan cities, I’ve realized that the voice of the unheard maintained its presence on the walls of their homes, and the homes of those who they might even hate. Graffiti and street art is an integral part of the rebellious youth’s culture in most parts of the civilized world. However, in Saudi Arabia, graffiti lacks a voice, it is simply names written in a kindergarten student’s handwriting, and blackberry pins, in the hopes of getting a ninja to present herself and show her ankles. This lack of inspiration, even in violent acts against society, is partially blamed on the canvas; a bleak rectangular wall, accompanied by more hopeless rectangular walls with no character. Architecture is lacking to say the least. Buildings are simply tall boxes with windows, and homes are more boxes with no character. True Saudi architecture seems to have halted at tents. It is important for one to revere their heritage, however, it is even more important to expand upon it. It seems like Saudi’s are more willing to imitate than innovate, as if all cultures have a certain charm to them that they lack. Some say Islamic culture is the one and only culture that Saudi’s can accept, however, it seems that they say that out of conviction rather than experience, and the experience is not one that they will be living through any time soon.

Illusion of racism and superiority.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that racism in itself is an illusion of superiority, obviously, that’s what everyone believes it is, but the reality is it’s the opposite of empowering to the racist party itself. The “White power” movement is very strong in certain areas of the world, and the most common type of propaganda perpetrated by them is against people of African origins, though, not limited to them. I’ve realized that in and out of itself being racist against a certain group shows a certain insecurity to one’s own race, as most of the propaganda shows black people with large penises and unrealistic level of idiocy. Much like a bully on the playground, this hatred might present itself as a form of dominance, but is a rather an insecure and sort of tribute to the perpetrator’s respect towards the people they “hate”. However, on the other end of the spectrum, as I’ve witnessed in Australia is a much more destructive and systematic form of racism. Aborigines in Australia are allowed a certain degree of leniency based on their race and right to ownership of the country in the sense that they receive welfare and certain superiority in the eyes of the law. This in itself, I believe, is a very destructive mentality, allowing them to be lazy and live a life of their own choosing with little to no repercussions. The larger portion of society would jump at a chance of a life where they have to do little to no work, and simply enjoy their life on a daily basis, resulting in a strong form of societal oppression, as they have no need for the institutionalized means to achieve their own cultural goals, completely disconnecting them from the majority of society, creating a minority on the basis of race. To truly achieve equality of any sense, I think both modes of racism should be made clear to the societies they are in. Direct, physical and ideological racism is the lesser devil, especially since the direct harms are obvious in the actions and can be limited by society and/or the Law. But when the Law itself creates a more racist and biased form of destruction that works on a slow and steady route, there is little that can be done by society to fight against it, especially if it creates the illusion of superiority towards the minority that is being subjugated.

The land of god and the god complex.

Renting out an apartment is a complex mixture of social dynamics, barter, charisma and language. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries where selling, buying and renting is written in the genetic code of the culture. Today, a future prospect of a tenant was provided to us by the man that washes our car, along with many others to make a living; a Bengali middle aged man trying to make a living. The man wishing to rent was a Pakistani family man. As per normal, I extended my hand to shake theirs, only to be returned with a limp hand and a surprised look on their face. I felt as if I had made a mistake shaking hands with them, as if the culture calls for something other than a hand shake in these situations. While showing them around the apartment I realized that I hadn’t made a mistake, rather an act of kindness in their eyes. After finishing, I shook hands with them once again, this time however, the future tenant had a firm handshake, while the broker was still surprised by the act. After a talk with my father about what I had seen, it was made apparent to me, that Saudi’s in general do not shake hands with expats, seeing them as lesser men. This came as no shock to me, but it made it no less disgusting. I’m happy knowing I showed a man that he is no lesser than I am because of my country of birth, or my birth parents. It makes sense knowing that people who do not touch, are bound to have a gap in their understanding of each other. I must add that this is not racism, maybe not even culturalism, rather classism at it’s best. It’s a truly sad thought, knowing that in 2014 we still maintain the mentality someone can be better than another person simply because of their heritage and amounts of money they are capable of making due to their racial and geographical background.

Tl;dr Saudi’s don’t shake hands with expats, they’re better than that.

Eid, Pray, Hat.

Eid is around the corner, and there’s no time like now to understand just why the festivities taylor the needs of young, preppy, snot-nosed, cunt teenagers.  While shopping could very well be the number one hobby for women in Saudi Arabia (Not from the lack of originality, rather from the lack of freedom to do anything), men are also involved in the shopping sprees to come this festive season. Along with the Eid prayer, good food, money in the hands of children, fireworks and family get togethers, dressing up is a tradition during Eid. No matter how much clothes may be laying in your closet, you haven’t fulfilled your religious and consumerist duty unless you go out and shop shop shop for new clothes, shoes, hats, socks and the occasional pearl necklace. I hypothesize the reason people need new clothes on Eid is because of the sedentary lifestyle and immense amounts of food they scarfed during the month before. While going around the outlet mall I realized that people use shopping carts to fulfill their shopping needs. Yes, shopping carts. School’s out, Eid is coming and the shops are open, which really means one thing and one thing only; on the force expenditure side of those carts are teenagers. Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against teenagers, not more than your average 20-something year old at least, however, I do have something against wool hats in the 40 degree heat. I understand completely how a rastafarian hat symbolizes oneness with mother earth and nature, especially while it’s inside a hummer, but what is beyond me is how they handle it in that heat, and I really do wonder; is it part of his Eid costume this year? 

 

Tl;dr: Eid is still a hallmark holiday, and Saudi teenagers are just the same as any other teenagers… With wool hats.

3 ton privilege PT. 3

Day 3: The final exam

The exam was very straight forward, all the applicants raced to the testing field in a generic Saudi manner, slippers kissing the ground as they propel their wearers into a 0.5 second head start over their peers. Starting off in a crowded room (Number 7) with a broken air conditioning system, everyone was called by name and told of their designated testing room. I was sent to room 2, where the air conditioning worked and the test takers just hit puberty. After making my way through the crowd to enter one of the testing cars, I was very nervous. Seatbelt, check, mirrors, check, glasses, check. I was ready to go. I was told to make one sharp left turn, and a backwards right sharp turn. During everyone of those turns, my instructor took the liberty of taking them for me, practically taking the exam for me; I only had my hands on the steering wheel, he did most of the turning. He signed my papers and I was ready to go take my theoretical exam. The theoretical exam was the most respectable part of this whole charade, it was straight forward and computerized. 15/20 correct answers were enough to pass, after the day before’s lesson I remembered the location of the answers, rather than the answers themselves and why. I proceeded to pick up my license 2 days after passing my exams.

 

An average of 17 Saudi Arabian residents die on the country’s roads each day, a report by the Kingdom’s General Directorate of Traffic has revealed. The news comes after the World Health Organization found Saudi Arabia to have the world’s highest number of deaths from road accidents, which now make up the country’s principal cause of death in adult males aged 16 to 36. First reported by the Saudi daily Arab News, the study found that 6,485 people had died and more than 36,000 were injured in over 485,000 traffic accidents during 2008 and 2009. (See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/03/saudi-arabia-death-toll-driving/#sthash.DbRz7C2V.dpuf) . After finding out what it took to get a driver’s license, it was no longer shocking, rather expected.

 

Tl;Dr: Get your shit together driving schools.

3 ton Privilege pt 2.

 

Day 2: Intensive course

Much like an excited child I went to my class, only to wait in line. Have no fear, segregation is here! Saudi citizens of course, got preferential treatment and entered first(Any non-Saudi’s in the class were applying to a public license, allowing them to drive Taxi’s etc..) . The class had a relatively excited and fun instructor, that did nothing other than control the crowd. Instead of teaching us anything, he simply put on a video of all the questions that might come on the exam in all the languages that were available. Don’t speak Arabic? Tough luck, you’ll have to sit through it in silence and waste your time. Even if your language had passed, you weren’t even allowed to leave the class for a breath of fresh air, we all had to sit in a small room, breathing each other’s breath for 2 hours before the instructor asked us to go out with him to the field. Standing in the field, exposed to the 12pm sun in the 45° C heat, the instructor entered his cooled car and showed us what the exam procedure was. Parallel parking, sharp turns, 2 roundabouts connected to each other and a cross terrain, it all seemed so unnerving and I felt like I would finally have the exam that is required to let me know that it’s not as simple as I thought it would be. We all returned to the class, people literally running to get the good seats, hell to get seats in general, seeing that the class was so full some people had to stand. A few minutes later, the instructor entered with stacks of papers that had the names and which days the exams were to be taken at. The first names were pretty much all expats, with dates as far as a month later. When it came to the Saudi applicants, the instructor simply asked “Would you like to do it tomorrow?”, naturally everyone wants to finish as fast as possible and everyone nodded in agreeance, myself included.