Monthly Digest September


I bet Harry Potter can't do that.


- For some, its a God, and for others, its another place to go nude. Read more here
- and ever wondered about the arab states that are most corrupt? This article says it all.


How to humiliate your clients? an Iranian bank is posing its new challenge with this ATM.

Blogosphere World:
I delayed writing this issue as much as possible, minutes before starting the next month, in hope of finding a post to surpass the post I have in mind. Unfortunately, I didn't. I am obliged by my blogging duties to give the award this month to Kinan for his post "chronicles from land where time stops: Part 2". Akh I hate him.

Ramadan's Programme

Ramadan is famous for its many attractive TV series. But I don't like the quality of the TV programmes offered this year. Don't tell me it is "tash ma tash" or "khaled bin waleed" or "bab el-harra" or even "king farouk".
The best program this year is "Khawater 3". Khawater is a social, cultural, religious program that views social aspects from a new prespective. He discussed the irrationality behind some countries fasting ramadan in one day, while others in the day after. He demonstrated scientific evidence of the moon motion around Earth and how the date of Ramadan is known for all the years ahead. The host of the program is organising a campaign around the islamic world of "one nation, one moon"

He also discusses how BEGGING is such a damaging phenomena to our socieites. In fact, with the help of make up designers, the host impersonated the role of a begger. The program showed us how people are such good hearted and how he managed to make 30 riyals in 15 minutes. Doing the calculations of working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, a begger can make up to 28750 riyal every month. That's some high class business.

He also discusses the wrong myths implanted in the minds of some Islamic preachers and sheikhs regarding the treatment of non- muslims. He despises the Sheikhs who make duaa against the Jews and the Christians with prayers like "destroy their economy, kill their parents, quake the earth under them, eradicate them" etc. and how such prayers are damaging to relationship with non-muslims and that such a hostile treatment is not accepted in Islam.
He also mentioned that there is nothing in Islam that says we should NOT congratulate (our non-muslim friends or colleagues with their holidays like Christmas or Easter and how Islam is a religion of peace and is a religion that was never hostile to non-muslims.

The programme is scheduled daily before maghrib prayer KSA time. It is at 3:00 GMT on MBC. Its just a 10 minute program. You can watch some of the episodes on or on MBC website. I strongly recommend tuning to it.

Hamzatizing Moment:

Ramadan is never better anywhere in the world. I spend my best ramadans here in Jeddah. You feel its the season where sheikhs compete with each other in attracting people to pray. There are 6 famous mosques distributed equally around the city; each attracts at least 2000 people. It is always a tough choice to choose where to pray as each sheikh has his own unique reading style, and a heartbreaking duaa that will involuntary make your tears fall.

So this is how I spend my ramadan. Work, home then mosque. Nothing else, and I am enjoying the spiritually I feel with the enchants that revitalize my soul.

What's even great is that Mecca is just 80 kms away. Any time I want, I take my car or a bus and in an hour time, I am there. I guess this alone is an assetthat many people long for.

In addition to that, if things works out, I might go to Madina this weekend. It'll be another chance to utilize those holy days.

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I wonder...

I wonder...


2 days ago was Saudi Arabia's National day


2 days ago was the eleventh of Ramadan


Ramadan is the ninth month in the Hijri year


Conclusion : Saudi Arabia's National day is on the 9/11


Bin Laden is not a madman after all


I wonder....

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My first Mission (Part II)


Just make a statement to the press that despite the political instabilities in Darfur that there are some developmental projects in the area like your project and talk a bit about it

So, I blabbed something that I don’t remember what it was that aired on the local tv stations. My colleagues joined me and spoke more about our role there and that we hope it will invite other organisations to finance projects in Darfur. I understood later the significance of such a press conference in trying to negate the media propaganda about Darfur. Personally, I am very content that this trip corrected the wrong image I had about this highly unappreciated region in the world. However, I am still clueless about the true motives of those external parties who are behind this unjust media propaganda. The only reason being iterated by some is that the Darfur region is one of the three largest deposits of high purity uranium in the world.

After the official reception was over, it was time to rest in one of their so called hotels – specifically “Ferdos Hotel” (means paradise hotel). But I can assure you that this place could be anything BUT paradise. Moreover, I think that they missed an “S” in because a 12 room place is more of a hoStel rather than a hotel.. I had my own air-conditioned room and I was sleeping on an old antique bed that creaks at each movement. It is very similar to the room of our house guard or maybe a bit worse. The washroom is a scene from a horror movie with its yellow basin and smelly “Arabic” toilet. It was in Darfur that I’ve spent the longest time not showering – 3 days and that’s because of another problem; water cuts off very frequently and the same was for electricity. But overall, it is better than I expected. I was expecting to share a room with 4 others and sleep on the floor.

At night, there is not much to do other than be invited for dinner in the outskirts of the town under the gaze of gigantic trees where you eat your food with one hand and shake off flies with the other. That’s how much flies are out there. In Darfur, I have seen species of flies that are most probably not documented by biologists. I’ve seen the “doban il azra2” (blue flies), astonishingly large-sized flies that are around the size of your thumb, and mutated red-eyed flies with abnormally long legs.

After dinner, we go back to the “hotel” where I spend a couple of hours entertaining myself in the most bizarre ways ever. I am so gonna miss my “how many insects are on the floor?” self-created game.

I guess a number.....7...I look at the floor. Oh, there are 2 cockroaches, 2 lizards and one beatle. That’s 5 in total. Less than 7. Leave them in peace.

Half an hour later, I guess 4..I look. Oh no 6 are there..THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP....and after running mindlessly in my room for 20 minutes, my biggest THWUMP was for our friend down there. Mr. Grasshopper-who remained there as a souvenir reminding me of how savage I am.

Other than that, our 2 day workshop was very satisfactory. The 2 other things that were interesting was our visit to Darfur museum and a site visit to one of the schools there. And what a great feeling it was to sit there and admire those 6 to 7 year old children singing and doing their cultural dances, showing us how they use first aid kit, showing us their knitted fabrics, their small artistic artifacts build purely from clay, their cooking and housekeeping skills, and many more. I bow for the hard-working efforts of the School’s Principle for the achievements she did with her limited resources and funding in a school that’s only the size of an average 3 bed roomed apartment.

By end of 4th day, it was time to go back to Khartoum to commence working and following up on our other projects. We gave our farewell and sincere thanks to Government of Darfur for their generous hospitality and thanked them for the exceptional souvenirs of the culture of Darfur; including a gallon of pure honey. :D

As usual, the plane arrived late but all I cared about is getting back to the hotel to cleanse myself from the filth that accumulated. I hadn’t excreted in 2 days and I felt my intestines are about to explode. I was so disgusted with myself that I felt like burning all the clothes I wore there. I didn’t do anything that night as I spent at least 4 hours in the washroom. Shower, bubble bath, and another shower. It felt so good to be clean again.

5th day was another long day for me as our next project was in a city called Madani – 2 car hours away from Khartoum. We woke up at dawn and left at 6 a.m. sharp. It was the only time in my stay in Sudan that people were punctual.

One of the hilarious things about that journey is the names of the towns we passed by on our way. There is a town called “arbej” ---which means “sit down” , another called “galleb” ---which means “lie on your side” and another called “kammel nomak” ---which means “keep on sleeping”. That’s another proof that the stereotype of Sudanese people being lazy is not so wrong after all.

We arrived there. Attended a small presentation and spend the day doing site visits to the different colleges and university campuses spread around the city as our project is mainly about expanding the university. I was astonished by the Cancer Research & treatment Center that is considered one of the focal points for Cancer treatment in Africa. It was funded by the UN and it is very well-equipped and is filled with world-class calibre doctors who serve patients coming from all over Africa.

I was also shocked by the medical college there. Despite the fact that their labs are very outdated, underequipped with facilities that are nearly zilch, the college managed to get least 4 awards for being the best medical college in the arab world in 2002 from different organisations. It shows you the persistence and determination of the college to maximize on their existing limited resources.

At lunch time, we ate at a hotel that was hosting the MAREEKH team (Sudan’s famous soccer team). Apparently, they were having a local match in the Sudanese league in the city. The hotel was “internet-equipped”. It gave me the glimpse of hope of accessing that urgent email I am expecting from work. My hopes diminished when I discovered that the internet access has been down at COUNTRY level for at least a week.

We concluded our work sessions by 6 before we headed back to Khartoum. It was nice to see the sun rise and sun set on the same road.

6th day was nothing special at all. First day of Ramadan but it didn’t feel like Ramadan at all. We did some project follow-up. I swam in the afternoon and worked on my back to office report.

Friday was our last day. And it is at Friday that my stomach gave up and decided to breakdown. I spent most of the time in bed before forcing myself to dress to attend an iftar invitation.. My memory is vivid of that day as I didn’t eat anything and I spent most of it in the washroom puking. I could recall watching a stand-up Sudanese comedy but I barely understood the jokes because most of the time I either couldn’t understand the accent or it was related some insider Sudanese joke.

My suffering was not over as we have been informed that our 11 p.m. flight was delayed till 6 a.m. which means that we cannot check out the hotel and that we need to stay one more night. The problem is that our travel allowance given to us is not enough for one more night. And unfortunately, because of government regulation, VISA & American Express card transactions are not accepted. The same problem was for my other 2 colleagues. Our combined cash reserves can accommodate the 3 of us one room only. But i had an idea. My colleague’s room is adjacent to mine and they are both connected with one door. I opened the joint door before I left and I checked out my room. We booked my colleague’s room for a further night with our combined reserve money. And I went back through my colleague’s room and slept in my room. I was gambling on the fact that they do room service in the morning of next day and that they won’t give the room to anybody. Oh, I love cheating the system.

By 5 a.m in the morning, we were on our way to the airport going back to Jeddah after an unforgettable thrilling 7 day trip.

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My First Mission (part I)

So I am back. I've made it. I am still a little bit sick. Been vomiting all day yesterday but overall, my trip was unique in every single aspect of it.

I've been to Sudan for 7 days and specifically to Darfur for 3 days. Yep Darfur my friends and I am here to tell you all about it.

Let me tell you the general things I've noticed in my whole trip

  • Country has its own distinctive smell. You only smell it in Sudan and whenever you smell it, you know it belongs to a Sudanese person
  • You feel you are in a black and white country. All people are black and most of the guys wear their official white dress.
  • I don't know why Sudan is considered a poor country. For 5 days, I was having meat for breakfast, meat for lunch and meat for dinner. And this is normal for them. In fact, if meat is not offered at breakfast, then you have dishonored your guests

I spent my first day in Khartoum. I noticed that the airport was full of small aero planes from UNICEF, UNISCO and other non-profitable organizations that provide aids to poor countries. Even the hotel that we stayed in have exceeded my expectations and it was full of foreigners most probably work for those agencies.

Sudan airport is like any other small congested airport you see in the arab world; with the exception of having to get used to women breastfeeding their children in public.

Part of my first day involved coordinating with the Ministry of Finance I managed to see the Aid supplies being provided and how the road to the Ministry was crowded with all those poor families looking to get their share.

The rest of the day went fine till the night time arrived. I insisted to go out to watch the Italy-france game somewhere. After asking around for a while, I managed to get a cab that drove me to some ghetto cafe. I got a bit anxious as I have discovered that Khartoum streets are not illuminated. In whole of Khartoum, there is only one highway that is illuminated. You got to imagine my feeling at 12 o'clock after the game finished with all the streets are deserted and no sign of car flashlights anywhere soon. To top it all, I had no way to contact any person as I discovered that my roaming cell phone does not work in Sudan. The only signs of life are in the form of two Asian guys sitting by the corner of a closed down store and unfortunately they only spoke French. Alas, that's it. I am learning French this year.

2nd day. The first thing I did is buy a SIM card. It was half a working day for us. We checked out of the hotel and by 1 o'clock we were in Khartoum airport waiting for our plane to depart to Neyala (the capital of southern Darfur)

So let me tell you more about all the things that you never hear because of the media propaganda. Darfur is basically a large region in sudan that is almost the same size as France. It is basically divided into 3 states; northern Darfur, southern Darfur (where we stayed) and western Darfur (where all the trouble is). In fact, we were 300 kms away from the nearest conflict region. So we were in a pretty safe city.

Or at least this is what I kept telling myself as I was trying to be optimistic as much as possible.

So finally the plane arrives after a 3 hour delay. We were greeted as VIP guests and had our own transportation vehicles. So I hop in the front seat but I wasn't comfortable. I felt something bumpy under the seat that was poking my butt.

"Sorry, could you move for a second? are sitting on my Kalashnikov" ..said the driver.


"you know…security procedures"


We drove for 20 minutes. I kept enjoying the view of the green landscape that filled the horizon in my sight till we reached an isolated lounge in the middle of nowhere dedicated for hosting Government guests. We sat there for another half an hour or an hour waiting for the Minister of Education, Governor of State and rest of other Darfur Officials to show up. I was still shaking off the last traces of that restless sleep I had on the plane when a guy approached me saying:

"Mr. Hamza, could you please hold a press conference with us?"

(to be continued)

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Graduates’ Dilemma

"So what are you up to?"

"I just finished university and I am looking for a job. I don't know where I shall look."

This was a typical answer that I've heard on more than one occasion from the fresh graduates I've met this summer. I admit that I was in their same shoes 15 months ago and it was one of the major and toughest decisions I had to make in my life.

Unless you have a Wasta and connections, graduates in general don't have a clue on where they shall start their career because of the many crucial factors that will directly affect your life.

  1. "Origin of your university degree" - If you've studied in your home country, then most probably you target yourself to work in your home country or gulf region. If you've studied in western world (US/UK/Canada), then your chances of working in the western world is higher
  2. "How close are you to family" – how dependent are your family on you? Do you think that your family are constraining you from enjoying an expected level of freedom? Many graduates irrationally rush to be expats before they realize that they were closely tied to their families or dependent on them
  3. "How adaptive you are" – especially when it comes to relocating from West to Middle East region or vice versa. Leaving all the people you know to start a new life somewhere else takes alot of courage and tolerance when you have a cultural shock in terms of the lifestyle, people and society.
  4. "Money" – let's face it. Nothing beats the gulf region (with the exception of Dubai I think) when it comes to making money and saving. Cars are cheap, fuel is cheap. And thanks to the Chinese industry, you can always find clothes, accessories, furniture that is a very good replica of the originals and at quarter or even less the original prices. You can always manage to find pirated copies of software, DVDs and games. The point is that you get to choose the standard of living that suits you. You can find the cheap products as well as the originals.

Living in the western world has its advantages. Unlike the gulf region, you rarely find the discrimination between the rich and poor, between locals and foreigners. Everybody uses public transport. Anybody can work in any job and its not considered a shameful thing. A Master student could be working as a gardener as part time job and be into snowploughing in the winter. You learn to be self-dependent. You fill up your own car at the gas station, and you wash it. There isn't any Bengali or a Pakistani guy who does it for you. All this comes at the expense of the high taxes and the uptight standard of living that would keep you busy managing your own finance and surviving in that competitive world.

And then you have people. It is a two edged sword. What's great about our culture is how people are willing to volunteer and give help when needed. It is not unusual to find people helping an old person cross the street, or help a lady carry her bags. On the other hand, these social obligations are absent in western societies. People rarely bother to help offer guidance for lost ones. It is such a materialistic culture that lacks trust and caring for fellow human beings. This reminds me of the first time I rode a subway in Toronto. There was an old guy who was seated in an awkward position covering his head in a way as if he is knocked unconscious. We passed by more than 8 stations and this guy never moved a muscle. I was surprised that no body bothered to approach to wake him up or see if he is alive. People seem never to care.

Whereas these strong social commitments are considered a positive aspect about our culture that does not mean that I despise the western culture. With time, I started to like the "I don't care" attitude. You don't feel the 'peer' pressure that you'd normally find at our part of the world. You don't see nosy people interrogating you with questions "how much money are you making?" "Who's that person that you ditched me for?" You don't find silly people who match the colour of faceplate of their phone with the colour of their clothes (trust me I know someone who does). Or show-off people who are willing to break their leg to show their visitors on how their company are paying for FIRST CLASS treatment in one of the best hospitals in the city (and unfortunately, I know someone who did it).

And after all, it all comes down to the person. Personally, I've suffered in my first few months in Canada. It was such a depressing period because it is not easy to find a person who has a similar mentality or share a similar background to discuss the concerns of settling there. But with time, I managed to settle and gel with the community. My last few months were amazing. It constituted part of the best summer I had in my life. When I took the decision to settle back in Jeddah, I went through the same phase all over again; the ability to filter my thinking and my actions from the experiences I've learned abroad and tune my character back to the old culture that reminds me how narrow-minded and primitive I were. Nowadays, I feel that I have developed the skills that made me capable of settling anywhere in the world.


P.S: my employer is sending me on my first mission abroad to one of the most politically instable areas in the world (try to guess what it is ;) ). I will blog all about once my 8 day journey finishes...that's IF (and that's a big IF) I come back. It all boils down to how lucky I am and whether I'll survive the trip or not. So meanwhile, Ramadan Mubarak to all of you and happy birthday to those who'll have a birthday next week. And oh don't blog much in my absence. I will only read and comment on the last post when I come back. :P. So keep it a post a week.

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