Saudi judicial reform, 2009

Reading Lohaidan in Riyadh: Media and the struggle for judicial power in Saudi Arabia

Arab Media & Society, Issue 7, Winter 2009, http://www.arabmediasociety.com/?article=702 

Along with a reported one in seven viewers across the Arab World, Saudis were glued to their television sets during 2008 watching a Turkish soap opera called Noor.[1] The show was dubbed into Levantine Arabic and broadcast three times daily during Ramadan by MBC, a pan-Arab satellite network owned by Walid al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of the late Saudi king Fahd bin Abdelaziz Al Saud. Starring an economically independent, unveiled female lead and her tender Casanova of a husband, Noor was so popular that it spurred a large number of Gulf Arab tourists to visit Turkey, including the Saudi first lady Princess Hissa Al-Shaalan, and its blonde and blue-eyed star Kivanc Tatlitu became a heart-throb for Saudi and other women. The drama had a particular grip on the public because, unusually, it was dubbed into colloquial rather than classical Arabic, and its Turkish milieu had a familiarity for Arab audiences that other foreign soaps lack. Continue reading Saudi judicial reform, 2009

Saudi Arabia’s ‘liberal enclaves’

“Liberal enclaves: A royal attempt to bypass clerical power”, in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1979-2009: Evolution of a Pivotal State, published by The Middle East Institute in Washington DC in Oct 2009.

http://www.mei.edu/Portals/0/Publications/SaudiArabiaViewpoints.pdf

Liberal enclaves: A royal attempt to bypass clerical power 

Within the first months of Abdullah’s term as king, the Saudi government pursued a number of policies to improve the kingdom’s economic profile. Saudi Arabia became a member of the World Trade Organisation, the limits were raised on foreign stakes in sectors such as banking, telecoms services, wholesale, retail and franchising. These reforms were intended to answer economic priorities of diversifying from dependence on oil revenues, finding jobs for young Saudis and opening up foreign investment. But they had another function too, one that was more transparent in a centrepiece of the early period of Abdullah’s reign: the establishment of “economic cities” where, freed from the influence of the Wahhabi clerics, Saudis would live, work and study as productive members of a modern economy. Continue reading Saudi Arabia’s ‘liberal enclaves’

Saudi Arabia’s media empire

Saudi Arabia’s Media Empire: keeping the masses at home

Arab Media & Society, Issue 3, Fall 2007, http://www.arabmediasociety.com/?article=420 

Since the 1990-1 Gulf crisis when the United States used Saudi Arabia as a launchpad for a campaign to evict occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia has used the Arab media as a key area for responding to perceived threats to the leadership’s legitimacy and stability such as challenges to its alliance with the United States and criticism of its political system, decision-making processes and image in the Arab world. The immediate Saudi response to the Gulf crisis was launching the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), established as a private television enterprise by a brother-in-law of King Fahd, Walid al-Ibrahim. Subsequently, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, leader of Saudi forces in the 1991 war and son of current Crown Prince Sultan, consolidated his control over London-based pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat while sons of Riyadh governor Prince Salman consolidated their control over Al Hayat’s London-based competitor Asharq al-Awsat. A minor Saudi prince set up the Orbit entertainment TV network in 1994 and businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and business partner Saleh Kamel established the Arab Radio and Television entertainment network (ART) the same year. In recent years these three networks, MBC, Orbit and ART, have saturated Arab viewers in Arab and Western entertainment, led by Hollywood movies, American sitcoms and talkshows. Continue reading Saudi Arabia’s media empire

Saving Jeddah’s old city

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is hoping that the United Nations will step in to help save the historic old city of Jeddah, whose unique Red Sea architecture is in danger of disappearing.

The ancient city in Saudi Arabia is in line to be included this year on the U.N.’s World Heritage List, which so far includes 830 sites including eight in Yemen and Oman, says Sami Nawwar, who is leading the effort to preserve Jeddah’s past. Continue reading Saving Jeddah’s old city

Dubai as architects’ paradise

DUBAI – Wealthy Gulf Arab investors have only to snap their fingers and someone in Dubai’s burgeoning community of Western-trained architects will design the impossible – or the unthinkable.

The emirate is fast becoming an architect’s playground as more and more outlandish structures take it closer to its dream of being the world’s most visually striking metropolis. Continue reading Dubai as architects’ paradise

From Egypt to India

One of the first things that hit me when I arrived in India for the time – Mumbai in 2005 – was how similar to Egypt it was, or at least this one little part of it seemed so. Mumbai, a city of 18 million, and capital of a state of some 80 million was an Egypt unto itself. But it was the lush greenery with the lethargic humanity swarming everywhere on its streets among the animals, and filled out with omnipresent dust and humidity that did it. Coming out of the airport I felt I was going along one of the Nile irrigation canals near the Pyramids in Cairo. As we headed through those outer suburbs I could have sworn we were about to turn into Messaha Street in Cairo where I lived. India was a “wounded civilization”, as Naipaul had once said, but so too was Egypt. Both were one of the world’s first great civilizations, though its Indus culture which was contemporaneous with the rise Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia and Pharaonic Egypt on the Nile had subsequently “disappeared”, historians say, though perhaps it merely was absorbed into Aryan civilization of north India when the Aryan tribes moved in to establish the culture that today we call Indian. Continue reading From Egypt to India