Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

PGM: Proud Grandmama Moment

I took a wonderful photo at Easter, wonderful because I have the same exact photo at the same exact age of my son, holding up his Easter Egg exactly (or, oh pardon me, I can’t resist, eggsactly) the same way. There are just some little things that make a Grandmama’s (and Mama’s) heart sing 🙂

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Because AdventureMan has worked so hard with him, little Q has been moved up to a more advanced class, and we are all excited about that. I know there are some who prefer to be the BEST in their group, but we always learn and achieve more when surrounded by people a little more accomplished and skilled than we are. We are happy he will be pushing himself to be a really GOOD swimmer!

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When we pick Q up at school, all his little school friends say “Q – your BaBa is here!” LOL @ all these little kids speaking Arabic!

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April 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Easter, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Heritage, Humor, Language | Leave a comment

Qatar National Day 2012

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Congratulations to all our Qatari friends and greetings on your National Day, December 18, 2012. One of my new favorite sources of information out of Doha, the Doha News, has published a great article, Everything You Need to Know About Qatar’s National Day 2012, which you can access by clicking on the blue type.

Sorry for laughing, but this year they have forbidden people to decorate their cars and some of the displays common on National Day. Good luck with that!

National Day in Qatar might be a lot of fun, if it weren’t for the crowds, and the grid-locked streets. If you want to watch the fireworks – and they are truly fabulous, the Amir and his supporters spare no expense, it is truly bread and circus time in Qatar – you just have to grit your teeth and buy into getting through all the traffic to a viewing site.

We found a great – and relatively remote – site from which to watch, us and our 300 closest Qatari friends, over at the Marriott marina; it was a great view, and only maybe two hours trying to get home afterwards, LOL, fighting our way through the party-SUVs with their foam sprays and their decor, and young Qatari males dancing on the top of the SUVs, yes, they did, I am not kidding.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Doha, ExPat Life, Heritage, Leadership, Living Conditions, Qatar | Leave a comment

Olympic Committee OK’s Hijab for Saudi Judo Contestant

From AOL/Huffpost

LONDON — A female judo fighter from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete in the Olympics wearing a form of headscarf after a compromise was reached that respects the “cultural sensitivity” of the Muslim kingdom.

Judo officials had previously said they would not let Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani compete in a headscarf because it was against the principles of the sport and raised safety concerns.

But an agreement was reached after several days of IOC-brokered talks between the International Judo Federation and the Saudi Olympic Committee that clears the way for her to compete Friday in the heavyweight division.

“They have a solution that works for both parties, all parties involved,'” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said. “The athlete will compete.”

The agreement was later formally announced in a joint statement by the judo federation and the Saudi committee.

“Working with the IOC, a proposal was approved by all parties,” the statement said. “The solution agreed guarantees a good balance between safety and cultural considerations.”

Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, the judoka’s father, declined to describe what changes – if any – will be made to his daughter’s head cover for the competition.

He told The Associated Press his daughter has been training with women at a special facility in London for an hour and a half every day since she arrived with her parents and her brother. Shahrkhani said his daughter, who has a blue belt in judo, is preparing for Friday’s fight in seclusion.

“It’s her first time in competition and it’s the Olympic Games, so she is focused on that,” Shahrkhani said.

Saudi Arabia, which had never sent female athletes to the Olympics before, brought its two first female Olympians to London on condition they adhere to the kingdom’s Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.

Shahrkhani’s participation was thrown into doubt last week when judo officials said a headscarf could be dangerous because of chokeholds and aggressive grabbing techniques.

Without giving precise details, Adams said the headscarf agreement is in line with Asian judo rules and is “safety compliant but allows for cultural sensitivity.'”

“In Asia, judo is a common practice so they asked for something that would be compliant with that, and the judo federations have reached a compromise that both are happy with,” he said.

Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the headscarf, known as a hijab, during major competitions. Headscarves are allowed in taekwondo, but taekwondo fighters also wear a headguard, which covers the headscarf.

Shahrkhani may be the first judoka to fight at the Olympics who does not hold a black belt in judo, a Japanese martial art. She did not qualify for her Olympic spot like most of the other judo fighters. The IOC extended a special invitation for her to compete as part of negotiations to bring Saudi women to the Olympics for the first time. The other Saudi female athlete to compete in London is 19-year-old Sarah Attar, a California-based 800-meter runner.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei had been the only three countries that had never fielded female Olympians in their teams. With all three now including women, these are the first Olympics in which every competing nation – 205 – is represented by female competitors.

“Our aim is that we want to have women from all national Olympic committees competing in the games,” Adams said. “Clearly one of those that is new is Saudi. We want to make sure we give a maximum chance for women from every NOC to take part in the games.”

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Heritage, Saudi Arabia | | 2 Comments

Nigeria Wants Looted Art Works Back

From AOL/Huffpost

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the governmental body in Nigeria that regulates the nation’s museum systems, is demanding the return of 32 artifacts recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Consisting of various bronze and ivory sculptures looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897, the Director-General of the commission, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, states that the pieces were illegally taken by the British Expedition as spoils of war.

The MFA in Boston acquired the pieces last month as a gift from New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, who purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s. But the pieces were originally looted by British soldiers in the late 1890s, following the Benin massacre of 1897. In a statement made by Usman, the commission stated: “Without mincing words, these artworks are heirlooms of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.”

According to Huffington Post blogger and Princeton art history professorChika Okeke-Agulu, the laws governing cultural heritage in the United States are lenient toward museums holding works like those from the Benin Court. Commenting on the ethical imperatives associated with the looted art acquisitions, he has stated that “calls for the resolution of the problem caused by British looters of Benin royal art collection will not go away — especially now that Nigerian/world-citizen voices have learned to harness the popular power of the Internet to demand action.”

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Heritage, Political Issues, Public Art | | 1 Comment

Emirates Women Seek Law Forcing Tourists to Dress Modestly

Qatari women have the same concerns in Qatar; this article from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/emiratis-dress-code_n_1653446.html?utm_hp_ref=world:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — With the number of foreigners dwarfing that of locals in her hometown of Abu Dhabi, Asma al-Muhairi has become increasingly anxious at the prospect of her younger nieces abandoning their full-length black robes in favor of Western attire that seems to be everywhere she goes.

But it wasn’t until the 23-year-old marketing worker came face to face with two scantily-clad female foreigners at one of the many luxury shopping malls in the United Arab Emirates that she decided to take action.

“While going to a mall, I saw two ladies wearing … I can’t say even shorts. It was underwear,” said al-Muhairi, whose black abaya – a long garment worn by conservative Gulf women – is offset by a gold Versace watch and egg-shell blue handbag.

“Really, they were not shorts,” she said. “I was standing and thinking: `Why is this continuing? Why is it in the mall? I see families. I see kids around.'”

Failing to persuade the mall to intervene, al-Muhairi and another Emirati woman, Hanan al-Rayes, took to Twitter to air their concerns in May.

They were inundated with responses that prompted them to launch a Twitter campaign dubbed (at)UAEDressCode that aims to explore ways to combat the growing number of shoppers in low-cut dresses and hot pants.

As the campaign picked up steam, it also has served to symbolize the growing concerns among Emiratis, a tiny minority in their own country.

Emirati citizens account for a little more than 10 percent of the 8 million people living in the Gulf nation. Most of the population is made up of Asian, African and Middle Eastern guest workers, as well as Western expatriates living here temporarily.

The overall population more than doubled over the past decade as the country embarked on a building boom that transformed Dubai, up the coast from Abu Dhabi, into the Arabian Gulf’s financial hub and a popular tourist draw.

“I think in an increasingly tumultuous region and in an era of powerful and often intrusive globalizing forces, citizens of the UAE are increasingly concerned that their traditions and core values are being eroded,” said Christopher Davidson, an expert on Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University.

“In some senses, it is a grassroots reaction to authorities and leaders that have for many years done little to check this erosion,” he added. “We’ve seen reactions to alcohol, so now we are seeing a reaction to immodest dress.”

Jalal Bin Thaneya, an Emirati activist who has embraced the dress code campaign, said it is a way for Emiratis to show they are concerned about the loss of traditions.

“If we were the majority and had the same make up, things would be different,” Bin Thaneya said. “You wouldn’t need anything. You would see Emiratis everywhere and you would be afraid of offending them … Now, we’re a minority so you feel the need to reach out to an authority.”

As the number of foreigners has increased, so have the stories of them violating the UAE’s strict indecency code, which limits drinking to bars and nightclubs and bans public displays of affection. A drunken couple was caught having sex on the beach and another allegedly having sex in a taxi. A Pakistani was deported for flipping the middle finger at a motorist, and the courts are filled with cases of foreigners having sex out of wedlock.

Most Emiratis rarely come face-to-face with misbehaving foreigners.

The malls, however, are a different story.

They are one of the few places where everyone comes together to escape the brutal summer heat. The cultural clash is hard to ignore, as families of traditionally dressed Emiratis shop and relax in cafes alongside foreign women wearing tank tops, shorts and even transparent gowns over bikinis.

Most malls have policies in place that require “conservative” dress and encourage shoppers to avoid showing shoulders and knees, but few publicize them or enforce them. Police in Dubai, where the mall that al-Muhairi visited was located, didn’t respond to a request for comment. They told the Gulf News newspaper there is nothing they can do since there are no specific laws against immodest dress.

“People were seeing it for a long time but they didn’t say anything,” Bin Thaneya said. “You can’t go to the police for such stuff. There is no one to go to. You can’t go to the mall management. The mall security guard gets paid less than someone at McDonald’s. He isn’t going to do anything.”

Al-Muhairi’s campaign is just one of several over the years led by Emirati women who have tried in vain to enforce the dress code – handing out brochures, confronting foreigners. But hers has benefited from the growing popularity of social media as well as the Arab Spring popular uprisings, which has given Emiratis a sense they can speak out on some social issues.

The UAEDressCode feed has more than 3,300 followers with a lively discussion that includes plenty of support for a code but also concerns that it would unfairly target foreigners or create divisions between locals and foreigners. Unlike similar campaigns in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, the impetus for a code has not come from Islamic hard-liners, but from moderate locals like al-Muhairi who love their Starbucks and Western movies but just want foreigners to respect local customs.

“We are not asking others to cover up like us. We are giving them freedom based on their beliefs and religion,” al-Muhairi said. “We are not judging and saying this shows she has other interests. We never want to judge. Do whatever you want and wear what you want but with limits. Just respect the public here.”

The campaign has caught the attention of the Federal National Council, which pledged last month to push for stronger measures to enforce the dress codes. That came after the country’s culture minister, Abdulrahman al-Owais, supported efforts to emphasize the conservative traditions of the UAE.

Members of a half-elected, half-appointed council have suggested a law could include warnings and fines but not jail time for offenders. But the FNC has no law-making powers, so any decision now rests with the UAE government.

“If there is a law, the behavior will be different,” said Hamad al-Rahoomi, an FNC member who compared a UAE dress code to laws in France that bans the niqab, in which a veil has only a slit exposing a woman’s eyes, or the new dress code at Royal Ascot in Britain that aims to limit provocative outfits.

“We don’t want to catch people. We just want people to think of the other parties,” al-Rahoomi said. “What I want is to go with my family in my country and not see something that is harming me.”

The Abu Dhabi police issued this week a booklet on dos and don’ts for tourists that will be available at the Abu Dhabi International Airport and hotels, according to The National newspaper. It advises tourists that public displays of affection including kissing are considered indecent and that they should wear “modest” clothing.

Tourists – some in skimpy summer dresses, others in shorts and T-shirts – defended their right to wear what they want, either because it is fashionable or keeps them cool in the summer heat. None of the 10 people interviewed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi knew about a mall dress code, nor were they advised their outfits violated it. Several said a dress code law would go too far.

“I think it’s ridiculous because most of the people in Dubai are tourists,” said Sarah, a 21-year-old tourist from Kenya wearing a short dress exposing her shoulders and legs. “I want to go somewhere where I would be comfortable in my own skin as a travel destination. I feel comfortable like this and this is how I will dress.”

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Heritage, Living Conditions, Parenting, Social Issues, Travel, Values | 2 Comments

Syria’s Stonehenge

Today from Fox News via AOL:

Older than the pyramids . . . desert find in Syria

A mystery city lies in Syria’s deserts, one older than the pyramids — but the war-torn area is preventing archaeologists from decoding its riddles.

Fragments of stone tools, stone circles and lines on the ground, and even evidence of tombs appear to lie in the desert near the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa, 50 miles north of Damascus, archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum said. He likened the formations to “Syria’s Stonehenge.”

“What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” Mason said Wednesday during a presentation at Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, according to the University publication the Harvard Gazette.
He made the find during a 2009 trip and is eager to return and further explore the site. But he says regional conflicts make such a return trip nearly impossible.

“It’s something that needs more work and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”

‘What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living.’
– Archaeologist Robert Mason

The monastery itself, also called the Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian, was built in the late 4th or early 5th century, he said, and contains several frescoes from the 11th and 12th century depicting Christian saints and Judgment Day. He told the audience at Harvard that he believes it was originally a Roman watchtower, partially destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt.

But the desert puzzle is much older.

Bits of tools Mason found nearby suggest the mystery he discovered in the desert is much older than the monastery. It may date to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, the Gazette said.
Egypt’s oldest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was built about 4,500 years ago.

Mason also saw corral-like stone formations called “desert kites,” which would have been used to trap gazelles and other animals. The desert around the monastery is hardly a verdant pasture — “very scenic, if you like rocks,” Mason reportedly said — but was probably greener a few millennia ago, the archaeologist explained.

Like Indiana Jones exploring Italy’s museums in “The Last Crusade,” Mason hopes to return to the monastery to excavate under the church’s main altar — he believes he’ll find an entrance to underground tombs there.
He also hopes to return to strange stone formations he found in the desert, which he dubbed “Syria’s Stonehenge.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/25/10000-year-old-ruins-found-in-syrian-desert/?cmpid=prn_aol&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec3_lnk1%26pLid%3D173136#ixzz1yr0RB3dw

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Heritage, Middle East, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Alaskan Heritage Celebration

I’m researching the Inuit / Eskimo / Yup’ik mask my Mother bought lo, these many many moons ago, and like anyone born to research, I am hopelessly lost, and enjoying every minute of the journey.

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I’m not Alaskan. I was born in Alaska, and so many times through the years when I see blocks that need ticking, I have been tempted to tick “native Alaskan” but I know that they don’t mean me, and that there are people who really deserve those preferences. I FEEL Alaskan, even though I’ve been gone a long time.

(My Mother used to tell us not to play with the “natives” because “they had knives!” (Big scary eyes). LLLOOOLLLL! Can you think of any quicker way to get your kids to play with the forbidden group? They had knives! Plus, they were our neighbors, and our classmates, and we all played together. Skied together. Played Cowboys and . . . Indians. Yes! We did! LLOOOLLL!)

I found this fabulous video of segments from the “Celebration 2010” There is a reason I am sharing this – first, for all my friends of all nations who love textiles and handwork as I do – and our name is legion – I want you to see this video and to see the magnificant ceremonial robes they are wearing. They have to be hand made; they are each so individual, even among people of the same clan, the bear is different, one from the other, the fish – different, the raven – fabulously different, I even saw a sun! I hope your heart goes pitter patter, just as mine is going.

I wish I could bring this entire celebration to Kuwait and do a presentation with the KTAA (Kuwait Textile Arts Association.) They would LOVE these crafts, and the dancing. Look at the wonderful drums!

Second – did you hear them ululate? This is what I love about my travels; no matter what our differences, we have some amazing similarities.

Celebration, a First Nation heritage event taking place in Juneau, Alaska, originated and was sponsored in 1982 by Sealaska. The gathering takes place every other year and is the biggest event for Native Americans in Alaska for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

To me, the coolest thing of all is that this is not done for tourists, but for the First Nation peoples, to transmit their culture to their children, and to celebrate themselves. This second video focuses on the clans and their special dances:

Now here is the exciting thing. It only happens every two years. This year it will take place June 6 – June 9. Here’s the information:

Celebration Native Cultural Conference
June 06, 2012 to June 09, 2012
A biennial Native cultural celebration featuring colorful costumed processions, dance performances, authentic arts and crafts and gatherings. Held in various venues including Centennial Hall Convention Center.
907-463-4844
http://www.sealaskaheritage.org

We already have plans for this June (I’ll share more about that later) but I talked to AdventureMan and said I really, really want to go in 2014. He said (are you sitting down?) “That’s just the kind of thing I LOVE! We’ve been planning to go to Alaska anyway, let’s go for that celebration!”

And that is why, after all these years of being married, I still adore my husband. He is a man with a heart for Adventure, and he gets all excited about the same things I do, well, some of the time. There was a falcon fest once in Tunisia that he dragged his feet on because he had just gotten in from a long trip, but once we got there, we all agreed it was one of those things that we would have regretted forever if we missed it. He is always up for a new adventure!

Wooooo HOOOOOOOOO!

See you there?

May 19, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Heritage, Humor, Kuwait, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | 2 Comments