Replica Shopping

Shopping has never been a big deal for me. I am not one of those people who go "brand" shopping; those who only wear LEVIS, DIESEL, or LEE COOPER jeans; only wear ALDO or CLARKS shoes etc. For me (and this might sound crazy), shopping is about building a relationship with a garment. If I feel I like that piece, then most probably I'll get it even if it was an unknown brand.

At the same time, I have my limit. I know that there are places that I'll never shop in; especially those neighborhoods that are in down town where clothes are sold at peanut prices. I just can't accept this to myself.

And as I've said, when I buy something, it is to satisfy me and be happy about it – not to show off in front of others how filthy rich I am or to show the brands I wear. But lately, I am starting to get pissed.

One of the exceptional things about living in this side of the world is the cheap prices you will find for some of the best brands out there. You are talking about 60 to 70% difference in pricing. And that's basically because of the widespread of "replica" products.

Over the summer, I met a couple of my friend's friends and they astonished me with their experience in buying the best with the cheapest price.

Try to imagine my feeling when I see that a guy bought an elegant classy SEIKO watch that's worth 30 riyals compared to my normal good 350 riyal SWATCH; cool amazing RAY-BUN sunglasses that look like they are worth 400 riyals while in fact they were purchased for less than 20 riyals. These provocative events can't stop me from feeling a bit frustrated by all those who shop replicas. I can't help myself to stop cursing them.

But alas, those days are over. I am joining their league. I came to realize more advantages about replica shopping. Other than the cheap prices, you will have more variety than the originals because each place will present for you a different set with different design while maintaining the brand. Second, the fact that replicas deteriorate faster will justify going back to shopping and getting the latest out there without feeling any kind of remorse for the old piece.

Damn, I feel so cheap.

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Wadi Mur

What an outstanding weekend. I think it was the best weekend I had in this year.

It is not that often that you find people who are willing to go on a camping trip. It all started with an email being circulated by a fellow colleague. The plan was to go to a valley 3 hours away (called Wadi Mur) from Jeddah, camp and sleep there for the weekend. I loved the idea since I haven't camped before.

We left at around 2 p.m. I joined the guys at CARREFOUR where they were shopping for what we need for the trip. Tents...check. Food..check. Mattresses..check. Apparently, the guys were experts in camping and they knew what to get. One of the guys even packed one of broken down old dining rooms that were thrown away, lying in the dust. Wood is always good for a bonfire. :D

The absence of signs and the fact that the roads were not paved forced us to be on 4-wheel drive all the time with our only source of guidance was an old 1995 guidebook that was guiding us by resetting our odometer at specific points and calculating the number of kilometres we drive. A typical description was like this: "reset your odometer at 0. After driving 14 kms north east, you'll see palm trees, take right..and drive 32 kms till you see a small farm. Take left And drive 35 kms....etc"

3 hours later, we were there. We picked a great spot that was between a small cliff and a running stream. We set up the tents before it got dark and we climbed up the cliff to a decent spot where we could enjoy the sight of the sun set.

As much as I write, nothing could describe the serenity and the beauty of that night. A night illuminated by a full moon, instrumental music and a bonfire. We shared many great stories and jokes. It was a chance to know each other especially since most us meet for the first time. It is not very often that I hang out with such a unique group; a group that consisted of:

i) Yours truly
ii)an Egyptian guy who spent many years in Cambodia and Mauritania. He basically spent a significant portion of his life camping in the wild
iii)a Maldivian with his kick-ass 10.2 megapixel NIKON camera equipped with God knows what Lens that can support up to 134x ZOOM. In other words, he is a professional photographer
iv) A half Saudi half Swedish guy (weird who got his degree in Australia and spent 9 months of his life on an environmental project in East Timor
v) An American Egyptian who was an intern in the White house. He was the guy who drafted the speech for the UN American ambassador who vetoed against condemning Israel for the murder of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin.

So considering the composure of our group that give the impression that we are a bunch of amateur foreigners, I think our biggest achievement that night was not getting ass-raped and lose our anal virginity, especially after a bunch of strangers passed by at around 11 p.m. who tried to befriend us and wanted to investigate more about us. We were worried for some time as they camped somewhere near and every once in a while, they'd send out a scouting car near our camp.

By the time we woke up at dawn to watch sun rise, all of us were itching from the mosquitoes that feasted on our skin for the whole night. Well, this isn't too bad considering that we didn't become a feast for other animals, especially those dogs/wolves tracks that I've noticed around our camping site.

At around 9 a.m, we packed our stuff and headed home. On our way back, we stopped by King Abdullah Economical City, and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology. Those were the two big projects that are being heavily campaigned as future projects that will rejuvenate the Jeddah district and attract many foreigners to Saudi Arabia. It is their way of imitating the Jebel Ali & University City areas of Dubai. By the constructed civil works we've seen, it looks like it is a very promising project.

On our way, we passed by Rabigh city and chilled for a while on the beach. For those who don't know, Rabigh is an industrial city that is famous for having the biggest oil refinery in the world. We continued our journey back home and by mistake we ended up in Durrat Al-Arus. Entering that place is an accomplishment by itself as it is usually reserved for high class families who own a resort there. As the Wikipedia link says, its a tourist village that has the American lifestyle theme and it is a "very liberal and open-minded village that is far away from Saudi Arabian traditions". I guess that says it all. We managed to sneak past the security and swim for 2 hours there.

After that, we went for lunch at one of the famous restaurants lying on the outskirts of Jeddah where you personally choose and pick the fishes and ask the cooks to make it grilled or fried depending on your preference. This delicious meal was the perfect way of ending our long enjoyable journey.

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nombres en français

So I am now infected like the others. My life is becoming ultra-boring as it is slowly being shaped by that vicious disease called "routine". It robs from us the precious moments of our valuable time. It breezes by us and leaves us wondering "is it November already? What have I done in my time". Between working 9 hours or more, sleeping, and time spent in showering, eating and driving..There is little room left to enjoy ourselves on weekdays. The only time I have to enjoy would be weekends, which by the way I rarely do since I try to catch up on all the sleep I missed, the books I didn't read and the videogames I didn't play.

So like any other problem I face, I try to rectify the situation with my usual unconventional solutions. I decided to minimize my short-term pleasures (the ones I'd enjoy on a weekend among friends in a coffeeshop, billiards etc) and engage in more routine activities that will yield beneficial results on the long-run.

So, for the last month, I've been going to my gym on Sundays and Tuesdays. And on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, I am taking French lessons Level 1. It is always have a third language up your sleeve and I really regret not learning French at an earlier stage in my life.

French is not a tough language to learn especially if you keep associating it with English. Nevertheless, I noticed some differences in the semantics and the way French handle pronouns. In English we refer to "they" for both men and women. But in French, it is 'ils' for men and "elles" for women. Moreover, French differentiate between a formal "you" that you use among strangers and an informal "you" that you use among pals. A formal "you" is "vous" and an informal you is a "toi".

The second weirdest thing about French is the numbers. In both English and even Arabic, if you wanna refer to a 2 digit number, let's say 34, you'd take the "thirty" and add to it the "four" to make it thirty four. Same goes for 72..its "seventy" (70) "two" (2) etc.

The system is the same in French. 64 is "soixante quatre" where "soixante" is 60 and "quatre" is 4. 25 is "vingt sept" where "vingt" is 20 and "sept" is 5.

However, and for an unknown reason, numbers beyond 70 starts to get complicated. My only guess is that somebody really pissed off the French mathematicians. The 70 in French is the "soixante-dix" (60+10). So 76 is "soixante dix six" which is like saying (60+10+4 = 74). The same thing applies to the 90 numbers. 92 would be "quatre-vingt-dix deux". Its like saying "80 10 2" (quatre-vingt is 80). This only happens among the 70-79 and 90-99 numbers. Luckily, the 80-89 numbers escapes this anomaly and follow the normal and usual numerical system like the other numbers from 20 t0 60.

These are my basic finding so far. I still have 6 more weeks to finish the courswe. I guess that by the end of level 1, I'll be able to engage in a 2 minute conversation with the locals in France that'll end up with me screaming "please let me talk to one of the representatives in my god-damned embassy".

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A penguin among eagles

It was one of those Saturday nights. We were hanging out in the parking lot of the TIM HORTONS near my house. Just doing what we "usually" do.

One of us started an interesting discussion saying:

"Guys, what do you think is the biggest number in the world?" said Jesus

"I think its the number of stars in the sky" said Gremlin Ears

"well, in the quran, we say "allah akbar" as much as the number of leaves on the tree" said Mo

"or the number of sand granules in the world" said Big J

"or the number of water droplets in the ocean" sadi Jesus

"yea that makes sense. Coz our earth is 75% water. So its definitely number of water droplets" said stoner

"GUYS, I found it"...I said

All eyes fixed on me

"I think its the number of bits of everything that's quantifiable in the world since the inception of time"...I said it with the excitement of Archimedis when he screamed "EUREKA"

All eyes still fixated on me as we share a moment of silence...before Big J blasted out:

" many....times...have we...told you...NOT TO HANG OUT WITH US IF YOU DON'T WANNA GET F##$@%$ HIGH?"

Oh well, it was just another one of those many times where I felt like a penguin trying to fly among eagles.. Apparently, I didn't manage to join them in their "special" mood.

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Unforseen Woohoos

WOOHOO #1: wooohoo. I got my honey back. In my last trip to Sudan, the government of Darfur had thanked us in its own way by offering each one of us a tank of pure honey. Unfortunately, Sudan Airways refused to ship the contents on the aeroplane. We are talking about 5 kgs of pure Darfur honey for each one of us. So, we had to leave them with our accompanying driver from the Ministry of Finance.

Luckily one of our colleagues, who went there for vacation, managed to retrieve them from the Ministry (who I thank for keeping them for a period more than 2 months) and managed to ship it with back with him to KSA. Honestly, I don't like honey, but I'll force myself to enjoy every single dip of it.

WOOHOO #2: today in the morning I met my colleague as I was parking my car. He is the closest guy to me at work since we both joined the same program at around the same time in the same department. We meet up with another colleague (let's call him Uzbei) who we haven't seen since eid il fitr. And this is how the conversation went in the elevator:

"so how was your vacation?" said my friend
"good..." said Uzbei
"just good?"..

"actually very good"..
moment of silence...
"I got engaged" ..said Uzbei
" too" said my friend
"ah nice..when?" said Uzbei
"just last week"...said my friend
"ah great. So Congratulatons to both of us...see ya later" said Uzbei.

I am standing there in shock telling myself "WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?". I overjoyed for both of them but at the same time I am bewildered by the their coldness. I mean these 2 get engaged and for them it is not a big some certificate or an achievement they've accomplished. Seriously, wow. I never felt I'll see this day coming.

WOOHOO #3: woohoo to my sister.. She started her first job this Saturday. Her job is in the interior design domain where she has to basically provide advice and sketch designs to meet the needs of her high-profile clients. And when I am talking high-profile, we are talking about the prestigiously rich & royal class. She is in her 3rd day and she already met a former prime minister of Pakistan and his daughter, and made a couple of visits to the Mansion of a prestigious princess from KSA's royal family (King's Sister to be exact).

My sister is getting depressed each time she comes home. She can no longer dine in our 4 x 3 m2 kitchen. The smallest kitchen she saw at the mansion is 400 x 300 m2. 200 security guards, and over 15 cars are all bits and pieces of the luxury she saw. Nobody is allowed unless he/she prays 2 rakaas in the mosque built inside the mansion – built for the exclusive use of her majesty.

Of course, The shop my sister works at can never cater the likes of you and me. A vase that's worth 30,000 riyals and a small painted portrait that's about the size of the palm is around 1000 riyals. A living room with 3 sofa sets is worth over 150,000 riyals..and the list goes on and on and on.

Life is ironic. It keeps on surprising me. I should learn never to underestimate others, especially my sister who I've always bullied.

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Sick & tired of...

  1. People thinking I am SYRIAN. All the people I met in the last 5 years of my life never guessed my heritage (literally none). The first thing that pops to their mind is "are you Syrian?".God damn it. I've had enough of this crap especially after a cab driver in my own country wanted to overcharge me for his fare because he thought I am Syrian. God damn it. I've never visited Syria in my life. With the exception of my grandmother (who I see her only in the summer), neither my father nor my mom are Syrian. So is it like a curse that will burden me to eternity because of my own self-customized accent that consists majorly of a Syrian dialect. Is it because of all the damned years I spent with the company of the Syrian community or is it the post-effect of watching too much "maraya" series in my teenage years?
    But seriously, the Syrian accent is much easier to pronounce and softer on the ears compared to Palestinian or Jordanian accent. If you wanna confirm something, Syrians/Lebanese say "eih". Palestinian/Jordanian say "AAAH"..Seriously, stare at the mirror and try to say "eih" and try saying "aah". With the "aah", I feel like a predator who's gonna start feasting on his prey. Same for the use of "QAF" letter where Palestinians/Jordanians replace it with "GAF" while Syrians just remove the roughness and make it "Aaf" such as "GALOOLI" and "ALOOLI". And the list goes on and on.
    The only time I took this as a complement is when I met someone the other day and he started "so you from Syria?". I raged and snapped at him "God damn it, WHY WOULD YOU THINK I AM SYRIAN? WHY CAN'T I BE JORDANIAN OR PALESTINIAN?". He just said: "hmmm, you smile alot".
  2. Being always the youngest. "Oh, you are the youngest employee among all our 950 employees in this institution", "you are the youngest person in our program/team/training course"... "Oh you are the youngest student in our university/college/institution"."Oh, you are the youngest person to register for this exam". God damn it, So what if I entered university at age of 16 and was doing my postgraduate degree at age of 19 and started working at age of 20.. GET OVER IT PEOPLE.

    and you know what? In all my life, I never won an award for being the "youngest in .....". So in case you thought people say it because they are impressed with me, then think again.

  3. My Skin. If I ever get to choose what animal I wanna be, I'd definitely be a snake so I can peel off my skin every once in a while.

    You have no idea how much I hate my skin. It is the same skin that was infiltrated by infinite attacks of acne during my teenage years for a period that lasted more than 6 years. Back then, I tried all kinds of crèmes, pill solutions, and I was naive enough to buy PROACTIVE solution (a tv product that Britney spears, kanye west, and Jessica Simpson used) and you know what? Its all crap.

    Infiltration is back now but this time its in the form of moles in my back rather than my face. I visited 2 dermatologists and both of them have said to me the same thing:

    "not to expose myself to the sun"

    Me sitting in the patient's chair waiting for him to complete his sentence before we shared an awkward moment of silence that I broke with

    "how long?"


    Oh Great. So apparently, my skin has the potential of growing random irregular moles every once in a while. The process is accelerated by activities like sunbathing, tanning or anything that involves exposing my ultra-sensitive skin to the Sun. And you know what the fun part is? I have to monitor the development of those moles to ensure that they don't develop into skin cancer moles. And how do I do that? By photographing my back every few months. Thanks to the brochures I am reading, as long as these moles have a uniform color, round shaped, and have a diameter that's less than 6 mm, then I am ok.

    Great..So no more sun and forget about the idea of getting a tan for this stupid pale skin. Akh, where are vampires when you need one?

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