Friday, September 30, 2011

Definitely not Riyadh...welcome to Cairo

Nope...not in Riyadh anymore. Veeds of Arabia has now turned into Veeds of D'Nial, located in Cairo, Egypt.

Those of you who have followed me from Phoenix to Riyadh in hopes of learning something about the process of getting a visa and entering the Magic Kingdom are free to drop out. Or, you can follow me over to the new blog at:

I had a fascinating two years in Saudi Arabia and I hope that you were either entertained or informed by the blog.

Or both.

I ended up with visitors from 84 countries including 330 cities outside the US and 214 cities in the US -- figures which I suppose are of monumental non-interest to anyone except my mother and myself, and, frankly, what she mainly cares about is whether I'm getting enough vitamins.

But if you're a reader from one of those countries and you didn't stop by just because you saw the word 'Kardashian' in one of my tags (and who would stoop so low as to pander to readers using such an obviously sleazy tactic!), I'd be delighted to see your smiling IP address on my stats page.

Here's a little taste of what you'll find in the first post about the sights and sounds of un-Pyramided Cairo.

I really need to get out and see some of the famous local attractions.
See ya in the souk.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Something tells me we're not in Riyadh anymore

Veeds of Arabia is currently on vacation in the US. I suppose this slide-o-rama will be of no interest to anyone interested in the Magic Kingdom, but at least you're getting a break from my usual whining, moaning and kvetching. These shots were taken in and around Erie, PA

Note the vacant look (at right) after a hard afternoon's work relaxing in the sun, inspecting the contents of my mom's refrigerator and supervising the hummingbirds.

Sometimes one needs to go incognito

Public dock, Erie, PA.

My mom got her cheekbones from me.


Monday, July 4, 2011

A hot time in the old town


Who says you can't

have a hot night

out in Riyadh?


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who are you...who who who who?

I like to check my blog stats from time to time just to see where visitors are coming from and whether anyone is actually reading my hopeful drolleries.

Not to worry that I might trace you or stalk you...all that the stats tell me, location-wise, are the country and usually the city, but often neither.

Of course there are blogs that have literally hundreds of countries represented and reams of comments attached to each post. I'm lucky if I get one comment. [insert frownie face of your choice here].

But in the last week I started noticing an awful lot of activity and about 75% of it can be tracked to two cities: Bremen, Germany and Cambridge, Minnesota USA.

As Butch Cassidy says: "Who are these guys?"

As The Who say: "I really wanna know."

And as Homer Simpson says: "Doh."

It's true that I can identify some visitors by their city, if it's Erie PA, for example, I know it's a family member or high school buddy who's on my e-mail list. If it's Covington KY it's got to be my sister.

So you persons from Bremen and Cambridge...I'm very curious who you are. (I'm not complaining of course.)

You couldn't be the same reader unless you are a time traveler. Have you mined some particular nugget of interest and want to see what other shiny objects might have emerged ? Are you planning to visit Saudi Arabia? Are you enthralled with my dollops of Arabicana and need another hit? Do you want to go get some coffee sometime?

Don't be afraid. I'm just wondering what brings you to the Veeds of Arabia blog 5 or 6 times a day.

For anyone who wants to say hi, I can be reached directly via the e-mail address over at the left under "About the photos."


Friday, June 3, 2011

5 modest proposals for Saudi Arabia

As a thought experiment, I’ve been toying with several ideas -- completely unsolicited by anyone of authority in the Kingdom, of course -- that could just possibly make life in Saudi Arabia better for everyone. And by “everyone” of course I mean “me.”

As I thought about this and asked colleagues, I decided on two basic ground rules:

a) changes or improvements could not violate any Islamic rules or principles, and

b) implementing them would not cost a fortune.

This eliminates all the questions about women driving, keeping stores open during prayer times, devising an efficient mass transit system, promoting tourism, making Saudi Arabian Airlines a less unpleasant experience or trying to get people to understand the concept of a queue.

So, whattya think?

1. Sidewalks. You literally cannot go more than 20 or 30 steps in most Riyadh neighborhoods without having to detour into the street. In fact, there’s no point even in using a sidewalk because the street is the real pedestrian path. This is true even on fancy streets like Olaya.

Here is a partial list of things a walker will find to obstruct his path: trees, dumpsters, open unmarked excavations, giant piles of dirt, parked cars, torn up concrete, more parked cars, building utility boxes, telecom company utility boxes and possibly some more parked cars.

So how about a program of building sidewalks, or requiring sidewalks, perhaps even on just one side of a street?

2. Building addresses. Try calling a cab to pick you up, inviting a friend over, giving directions or just having hot schwarmas delivered without a street address. Fire or police emergency? Forget it. Moreover, businesses shipping you goods hate delivering to a P.O. box.

So how about a program of putting addresses on buildings (and telling residents what they are while we’re at it)? I’m guessing there are, technically, addresses for most or all buildings that are known only in the most super-secret interior lock boxes of the Ministry of Addresses. I even heard mine one time. You might as well put an address on a schwarma for all the good it does.

3. Street names.
While we’re dealing with streets, maybe we could simplify or at least coordinate the spelling of street names. Typically one just says to a driver “Go to Malaz Siteen and turn right at the McDonalds” or “Pepsi Road near the Tamimi.” That’s because no one wants to deal with tongue twisters like “Al Amir Muhammad Ibn Abdulaziz Rd.” or “Al Amir Muhammad Ibn Abdulaziz St.” or “Al Amir Abdulaziz Ibn Musa Id Ibn Jalawi St.” or “Al Amir Turki Ibn Abdulaziz Rd.” or “Al Amir Sa’ad Ibn Abdulaziz” or “Al Imam Abdulaziz Ibn Muhammad Ibn Saud.” (all spellings taken from the standard Farsi map.) And then there’s the Good Ship Lollipop which simply lists itself as being on Prince Mohammad Bin Abdul Aziz St. (Thalia St).” Or the Turkish restaurant at “Olaya-Prince Sultan St. Old 30.” (These were taken verbatim from actual business cards.)
4. Normalize spelling of Saudi names. Students ask why I try to get them to spell their names the same way all the time. I want them to come to a consistent transliteration based on how the tribe wants the name to sound (though I don’t explain it that way). Within the KSA it probably doesn’t matter (except to teachers who are trying to figure out if the Al Qatani on the exam is the same as the alqetani or the al-Ketaani on the attendance roster).

The reason I give is that anyone traveling outside the Kingdom will have a much easier time of things if he or she doesn’t have to explain why their name doesn’t match whatever list or form the airport guy, the college admissions officer, the bank officer or the police officer is using.

Several years ago, Cecil Taylor of The Straight Dope column came up with 12 ways to spell Qadhafi. The official U.S. Library of Congress rundown gives 32 different spellings.

The basic problem of course is that there is no generally accepted authority for Westernizing Arabic names, mostly because Arabic contains several sounds that have no equivalent in English. And many exquisite subtleties of Arabic pronunciation are mooshed together into a single character when the name gets romanized.

But perhaps the tribes could at least talk amongst themselves and decide if they want to be Al Anazi, Al Enazi, Al Anzi, Aal Anazi or Al Anazy.

Among the things that I include under “normalization” (that is, creating a consistent “norm” for names) would be what to do with the “al” – should it be Al Ghamdi, Al-Ghamdi, alghamdi or al-Ghamdi?

It all makes a difference in how names get alphabetized, which like it or not, helps society keep things in order and find you when you are lost.

5. Littering fines. This may be a losing battle but wouldn’t it be nice to walk down a street or visit a beautiful desert landmark without seeing a mountain of empty water bottles, used tissues, juice containers, tea bags, blue bags, half-eaten schwarmas, cigarette butts, empty cigarette packs, Barbican bottles, dead butane lighters, tin cans, torn up bits of paper and…of course, the ubiquitous 10 SR STC phone card?

Naturally, it does no good to simply put up a sign saying “No littering.” You might as well put up a sign saying “No ants!” at your next desert kabsa BBQ.

No, an anti-littering ordinance would have to have serious consquences, much like the photo radar cameras that have struck fear into the hearts of red-light runners and speeders…well some of them anyway.

So there we have ‘em. Five fairly reasonable ideas that won’t cause major disruptions in the social fabric but could just make your life (and by “your” I mean “my”) a little more civilized.

Got your own ideas? Remember the two conditions.

The Ministry of Pretty Good Ideas awaits your input.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Saudi Arabia bans "chirpers"

VOA NEWSWIRE - Riyadh, April 1, 2011 -- As part of his program to move forward with progressive reforms in the kingdom, and some pundits say, consolidate his base of support, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah today announced that all car alarm “chirpers”—the high-pitched screeching devices that sound off whenever a vehicle is jostled or a heavy truck rumbles by—are hereby outlawed.

Click here to listen to a typical chirper.

The new law goes into effect immediately though enforcement will not begin for another two weeks to give owners time to disable the devices.

A 150 SAR fine will be levied for every violation and offenders will receive notification at their next ATM transaction, just like any traffic fine.

“These things are un-Islamic, useless and just plain annoying, annoying jedn,” (very annoying) a spokesman for the King said. We’re pretty sure no one in the 7th century had one for his camels and we certainly don’t need them now.”

Imams throughout the kingdom applauded the ruling.

“People don’t mind getting up for the dawn Fajr prayer, but they don’t need the annoyance of these devices going off at all hours, disturbing their sleep and disrupting domestic tranquility just because car washers are trying to make a few riyals at 5am,” said Al Rajhi Mosque imam Abdullah Abdulrahman ibn Abdulmajid ibn Abdulkareem. “The harsh chirping or squeaking noises can be heard for blocks away and the resulting lack of sleep causes the faithful to lose concentration during prayers.”

It is expected that chirping remote keyless entry devices will be added to the ban shortly.

“What? They’re not content to just have flashing lights! They have to hear where their SUV is too?” added a highly placed interior ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It's really a quality of life issue" said a leading political observer in Riyadh who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The 135 SR billion ($36 billion US) in social benefits just announced were a bit abstract for the average Saudi to fully get on board with. This new law hits home where it the bedroom."

According to the New York City Police Department, car alarms are actually making the crime problem worse because false alarms are so common that people simply ignore them. And the director of the criminology center at the University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence Sherman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "No study has demonstrated that they reduce auto theft."

"Get your chirping out of your system now," warned an unidentified highly placed official in the Ministry of SUVs, "because it'll be kalaboush for offenders by the next new moon."