Not without my cat

Just a few meows, some might call it rantings and ravings..

Location: Jiddah, Saudi Arabia

An old Cologne cat that had to adapt to a new home.. lol

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mice Mystery

We have mice in the garden - nothing unusual, you might say. But we have many mice in the garden, and according to my mothers in law this is not by mere chance. Both of them are convinced that their husband, my father in law, intentionally plants the mice in the garden so his beloved cats have plenty of prey to hunt for. They even claim that he would secretly feed the mice. My father in law of course rejects such suspicions and calls them nonsense and women talks. Never ever would he do such an absurd thing, and he asked me if I could really figure him sneaking out at midnight feeding mice or putting any out.

Actually, I cannot. He is such a noble-looking, aristocratical elderly man, the kind you'll never see in anything but thobe and ghutra, every inch a distinguished, most respectable family patriarch.
But he also is a passionated cat lover. He has seven cats - actually, he had eight cats and we had one, until a certain little lady decided to become Her Furry Majesty's best friend and move over to us. I still remember when I first came to Saudi Arabia - "Oh let me have a look at the new family member!" he called out and immediately squatted down in front of the cat kennel to have a look at Her Furry Majesty..

My husband harbors a dark childhood memory where he and one of his brothers had received a thorough beating for accidently ruining a precious rug, while all around them the cats were busy sharpening their claws at the cherished preciosities without getting anything but a fatherly 'Oh look how sweet..'. The swimming pool debate is another collective family lamento when the whole family demanded a swimming pool for the garden and my father in law refused because one of his cats might fall in and drown. There is a swimming pool now - in the cellar of their house where the cats won't go while the garden is a kitty paradise with lots of toys, climbing facilities and cosy resting places. (There are actually two gardens - ours and theirs, separated through a wall but with holes in it so the cats can use both).
The biggest family riot was about the cat safe fencing. The estate does have high walls all around but since it is located at the coast there are no high walls to the sea side. Then one day one of the cats walked away from the estate to the street and got run over by a car. My father in law ordered a cat safe fencing for each and every spot where the cats could walk out and the rest of the family went rampant because the free view on the sea was a bit impaired by the wire netting. My father in law was merciless - luckily, I might add. I remember when my husband told me that Her Furry Majesty would have a big garden to play in in Saudi and I remarked that it would have to be cat safe or else I wouldn't feel comfortable letting her out. He gave me a long look and said "My father will love you..."

And there are the mice. It is indeed mind-boggling how many mice there are, fat and healthy mice, in an otherwise perfectly sheltered garden area populated by nine (9!) cats. Sure the gardens are huge and there are lots of places and corners where mice can hide and breed but it is still amazing. Her Furry Majesty, doubtlessly the best huntress of all, usually catches an average of four to five mice every week. Her Crown Princess Lady Layla is a bit less successful, maybe three mice per week. I don't know how my father in law's cats are doing when the clumsy Persians are not the best hunters, but the Turkish Angoras are pretty talented - there is no day when my mothers in law wouldn't complain about mouse remains in the house or on their veranda. Let's say all together they catch seven or eight mice per week - with all cats put together that would be a whoppy 15 mice each week!! That would be more than 60 mice every month!!!

Maybe we just happen to live in an extremely mouse-rich area, but then I wonder how people around can possibly get along without having cats? They sure must drown in mice! When you think of it the newspapers should be full with headlines such as 'Serious mice problem in Jiddah' or maybe 'Residents call for authorities to take action aganist mice plague' or maybe 'Prince Naif vows to fight Zionist mice conspiracy' or some such.

But maybe there simply is no mice problem elsewhere because the mice are all in our garden.

The mystery remains unsolved...


Well, we are back home after almost four months in Germany this year - the longst time ever since we married. And actually, we have been looking forward to Saudi Arabia as a wonderful haven of peace and tranquility. We just forgot about the family...

Now it is quite normal that loving family members wish to pay a visit to the long missed relatives and we sure do not mind - but why oh why do we have to be related to half the Hejaz? And for crying out loud - why must it be Ramadan??

In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan is the time of the year where you get thrown out of bed at half dark two in the night by banging and shouting at the door as if the house would be on fire - there before your sleepy eyes standing one or two of your two dozens or so laughing brothers or sisters in law, or any of your 37 or so cousins, each complete with wife or husband and half a dozen of noisy kids, cordially presenting a cake or something like that because you sure must be hungry after fasting all day, the complete entourage rolling into your living room ("Oh all dark? Were you sleeping?") and the kids jumping around everywhere ("Can we see the cats? Where are the cats?"). The terrified cats are under the bed where you would wish you could hide as well..

And no, we do not belong to the league of those who reverse night and day during Ramadan - we still get up at Fajr and go to sleep early. At least we try... right now my husband has gone to sleep because the poor guy hasn't slept all night. I was a bit luckier because he had told me to just stay in bed and he told the relatives I wouldn't feel well. Since we are back we haven't had one night undisturbed and our sleeping rhythm is badly disturbed. My husband already plans to spend next Ramadan in Morocco..

What complicates matters a bit is the fact that we live together with my husband's parents, more or less in one 'house' - it's a bit hard to explain. It actually have been two separate houses until one day a weird head got the idea to combine both houses with a common 'entrance hall' - as a result we now have an 'entrance hall' the size of a parking lot and the whole combination looks a bit.. err.. odd. When my German father - a former architect - was here the first time he just stood and stared for full five minutes until he finally said that this would be 'the monument of an unknown architect'. My husband told him the architect hadn't been unknown but had left the country after completing this masterpiece of his. My father nodded and mumbled something like "Perfectly understandable..."

So we live in one half of this architectonical monstrosity and my father in law and his two wifes occupy the other. I guess this is another specialty of our family - not that my father in law has two wifes but the way they live. Normally two wifes require two separate households and I guess this was how they started some 50 years ago. Until it turned out that those two wifes became best friends, constantly sticking together and always doing everything together - and it is still like this. They actually have each her own realm in their house but it's of no use - they stick together like they were limed together. One can start a sentence and the other one finishes it. My husband once joked the only person in the world who ever saw them separated in the past 50 years was his father. By the way - none of them is my husband's mother who died when he was born. He was raised by both of them, calling both of them Mama, which is why he actually has two mothers who both have the same place in his heart. And I have two mothers in law - it's always funny to see the reactions of Germans when I talk of my 'Schwiegermuetter'..

Under normal circumstances we enjoy living so close together but Ramadan can get straining when my mothers in law more or less have party time the whole month - in which night and day are reversed. And since the whole relationship on their way to that everlasting Ramadan party pass through our 'entrance hall' it is unavoidable that they see our door and think 'Oh, once we're here we can as well...'
At least we can be sure that there is no risk of any visit at this time of the day - they won't show up until after sunset. I hope nobody thinks we are unsocial, or that we wouldn't like our relatives. It is just all a bit.. err.. enervating. My husband always says Ramadan is the month of contemplation - I'm afraid we cannot hope for any until Ramadan is over..

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Late and in a hurry: Ramadan Gaddafi!

Just so you know what all my inlaws are laughing about every year, and of course they could not resist calling us up cheekily wishing us Ramadan Gaddafi.. That dates back on my very first Ramadan and my hapless attempt to delight my father in law with an authentic Arabic Ramadan greeting.. well, and delighted he was...

Our place here is pretty much a mess right now since we'll be going home to Saudi Arabia soon. As usual we've shipped things we did not deem too important first so our suitcases will have space enough to store all the books and antics we've bought - and as usual we're just discovering that our judgement as to what is important and what not cannot really be trusted. I just wait for the day when we face our day of travel with nothing to wear..

Inmidst all that, my dear husband once again insisted on getting me to the doctor to check if I'm Ramadan-fit. Now I do appreciate his concerns for my health but hey, the mere fact that I do not exactly look like one of Gaddafi's female bodyguards doesn't mean I will drop dead any time soon. Unfortunately the doctor told him I was fit to fast but that he should take care I eat properly before dawn. Oh, don't wonder - my husband takes my doctor visits Saudi style, read Mr. Responsible will be present every single moment, watch over the undress cabin with Argus eyes and of course discuss every detail with the doctor at great length.
The downside here is not that I am fit to fast - the downside is the 'proper meal before dawn'. My husband now expects me to eat something to the amount of a stuffed cow in the morning before I'm even halfways awake..

(Yessss, habibi!! I'm nagging!!!..)

Oh well I just hate to travel, and all the hectic that comes along with it! No matter how much I long for our home the mere thought of packing, planes and other discomforts is gruesome to me. The cats are with me on this one and I guess we will have a hard time to pluck the furries from under the bed or where ever they may hide. They're already giving us very suspicious looks..

By the way, according to the Austrian ORF a Danish airplane that was set to start from Vienna airport had to be evacuated by the police. The reason: passengers felt threatened by a foreign looking young man because he was reading an Arabic newspaper..... After the plane was thoroughly searched by the police it could take off, albeit two hours late and minus the unhappy reader of the suspicious newspaper who was expelled from the flight by the Danish pilot. It turned out he was a harmless student.
Now I wonder if I should offer my husband my niqab so other passengers might not feel threatened by his suspicious looking Arab nose. Or maybe we should get ourself some Micky Mouse comics for camouflage.

Finally, I just read another blog in which some people comment on my blog. Very nice and caring people, indeed, calling me a poor lost soul in bitterness but they do wish me to find real happiness one day. Heartwarming, isn't it? There even was a real fortune teller predicting trouble for my marriage. I wonder all the time how this guy could possibly know that my husband just never learns to put the toilet paper back in its box, in spite of knowing that the cats need scarcely three minutes to roll it all up and spread it all over the place. Tarot cards? A crystal ball? Eerie...

Well, so much for now. I'm tempted to write 'I might not be blogging for a few days' but looking at the various dates of my entries I guess it would be a bit off the mark.

So I just say I'll be back soon - provided I'm not too busy building that balsa raft and crossing the ocean..

Friday, September 30, 2005

Happy-end for a cat

A few days ago my husband and me have been out dining and were on our way home, on quite a dark street. Now my husband - as usual - was driving like a... err.. well, let's say he likes to drive fast, when out of a sudden he said that he wasn't sure but he thought there was a cat lying on the oncoming side of the street. We looked at each other, not sure since it seemed so unlikely that he had seen anything as small as a cat in that dark and the speed, but since we just couldn't ignore it we turned around and drove back, a little slower now.

And yes, there was the cat, lying in the middle of the street as if it were dead. My husband stopped the car and went out to pick the poor thing up (yes I know, not very reasonable on the middle of a dark street..). It was a beautiful grey tabby cat with a small red collar, but obviously badly hurt and profusely bleeding. We called up our veterinarian just to get the answering machine that gave the number of the emergency clinic, and off we went. All the time I had the poor cat on my lap, being afraid it might die right there before we could reach the clinic.

At the clinic we had a typical encounter with German bureaucracy - they looked after the cat and found it was in critical condition and would need immediate surgery, but since there wasn't an owner around willing to pay they hesitated. With no owner, they argued, the cat would rate as a stray and the responsibility would be with the local animal shelter. The animal shelter would not agree to 'adventurous' surgeries with uncertain outcome, and so it would be better to put the cat down. Now there is a law in Germany that no vet must turn down an animal in need and I tried to argue with them, but to no avail. My husband finally put an end to it and said he would pay for the surgery, and that they should move their a....s!
Oh dear how much I love this man!!! ..

And the cat survived the surgery, the next day we saw another vet there that recommended to keep it in the clinic for further treatment and control, but that its chances would be good.
We went to the area where we had found the cat and plastered notes on trees and shops all around in hopes to find the owner. Only two days later we received a phone call from an old lady and it was actually her cat Susi! Since she had no car we picked her up from a rather poor looking house block and drove her to the clinic to see her cat. She was all in tears with joy, especially when it turned out that Susi was doing so well again, would not need any more surgeries and can be taken home this Saturday. She offered to pay us back by installments since she could not afford it all at once, living from nothing but her late husband's meager retirement money. My husband rejected - he told her she should save her money for the future treatment of her cat, since she would need her own vet to check after it regularly for quite some while now. He told her she might view it as a kind of predated Ramadan gift.

The happy end of the story - tomorrow we will fetch a welldoing Susi from the clinic and bring her home to her owner. We are invited for 'Kaffee und Kuchen' (coffee and cake).

To sum it up, we paid nearly 1000 Euro for a cat that isn't ours, we completely ruined our wardrobe (I just got the news from the cleaners that I can forget to get the blood stains out of my apricot colored velvet dress) and the same might be true for the seats of the car. Call us mad if you like..

But we are happy. I will never again say that my husband drives like the blind fury heeding for the Formula 1 championship, and for some time to come I will refrain from all comments regarding the requirements for Saudi driving licenses. After all, he saw the cat - even when he says that it must have been Allah who showed it to him.

We are happy because we are cat lovers ourself and it might as well have been one of our babies lying on that street. We are happy that we made an old lady happy who most likely does not have much more but her cat. And we are happy for little Susi whose little cat life might have ended that night but a lucky angel decided that there still was some more life for her to enjoy.

At times it just does not have to be your own gain to make you happy..

Saturday, September 24, 2005


One thing I just don't like in Saudi Arabia is the negative approach to Jews. It might be because I'm German - we've been the people who had gassed a couple of millions of them for reasons that can only be described as complete madness. The leading Nazis were clever, though - they offered the mob a scapegoat for all their plights, declared him a 'subhuman' against which even the ugliest 'Aryan' with an IQ below room temperature could feel superior, and they didn't even need to be very inventive. Jews have been outcasted and prosecuted all thoughout the European history, the prejudices born within the stupidity of Christianity have been nurtured for centuries and were well alive. They killed the Lord Jesus, after all, they rejected the Gospels, and on top of it they were clever business men, literate ones as well, which so really enraged the envy of the brainless masses who hardly could write their names. The race thing was just a new make-up for an old chimera, it added a modern touch just in case someone figured that the medievals were over.

Stupidity combined with xenophobia and bigotry, that was all about it. I hate this ugly monster raising its head in the Arab world - the same Arab world in which Jews had found shelter from Christian hatred and could live safely and peacefully for centuries. What happened to the enlightement that once was the trademark of Islam?

The reason for the hatred of Jews in the Arab world is, of course, Israel. Considering the history of this state the animosity is well understandable, no one with a minimum of ethics left can possibly applaud Israeli politics.

However, what would you say if someone asked you why you dislike Israeli politics? Because you don't like Jews? Come one, how idiotic would that be?

To get a good objective overview of Israeli history and politics I recommend this website:
The Origin of the Palestine/Israel Conflict

This text was first published by 'Jews for Justice in the Middle East' and the link goes to a website entitled 'If Americans Knew'. Unfortunately, most Americans do not read such websites.

For starters, Jews are not necessarily Zionists, even though all Zionists happen to be Jews. Just because all the suicide bombers happened to be Muslims, it does not mean all Muslims are potential suicide bombers, right?

The Zionists however have good reasons to play the Jew card and claim to speak for all Jews everywhere, it offers them a multitude of advantages they wouldn't have otherwise. First of all the collective compassion from the West - 'oh look, the poor Jews, they finally have found a home and now all those terrorists want to kill them'. It's obvious that the West is driven by a bad conscience, considering that every Western country has had its anti-semitic streaks in the past, and probably still today.

The Zionists bathe in this, with no cares that they themselves didn't care much for their fellow Jews during the Holocaust. When in 1938 a conference took place in France on resettlement of Nazi victims the Zionists refused to take part and made clear they didn't think much of it:
"We are particularly worried that it would move Jewish organizations to collect large sums of money for aid to Jewish refugees, and these collections could interfere with our collection efforts."

A quote by Ben Gurion:
"If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second - because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people."

As if that wouldn't get low enough, in 1941 a Zionist group approached Nazi-Germany in search for a partnership between the German Reich and the 'Jewish state' - I quote from 'The Origin of the Palestine/Israel Conflict':
“As late as 1941, the Zionist group LEHI, one of whose leaders, Yitzhak Shamir, was later to become a prime minister of Israel, approached the Nazis, using the name of its parent organization, the Irgun(NMO)..[The proposal stated:] ‘The establishment of the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian Pd bound by a treaty with the German Reich would be in the interests of strengthening the future German nation of power in the Near East...The NMO in Palestine offers to take an active part in the war on Germany’s side’...The Nazis rejected this proposal for an alliance because, it is reported, they considered LEHI’s military power ‘negligible.’ “ Allan Brownfield in “The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs”, July/August 1998

Well, bad luck - if Nazi Germany would still exist today it sure would have decided otherwise, given the military power Israel has today. What a nice match they would have made... Oh, and don't worry about any racial conflicts. The role of the subhuman could easily be filled by someone else. Arabs, for example.

No matter the ugly past, for the Zionists it is vital to pretend standing for all Jews, and make everyone believe their politics are for all the world's Jews benefit. Only in that role can they count on worldwide support, profit on the West's bad conscience aka 'political correctness' and play their Golden Victim Blanko Check at every occasion. How else did they get away with umpteen breaches of UN resolutions?

It is even more vital for the Zionists to make Jews believe that they stand for them all, fervently hissing in their ears 'everybody hates you, we are the only ones who care for you!' - and while doing so, noising over all those who don't really think so.

Uri Avnery is just one of those, writing for the Israeli peace movement 'Gush Shalom'. I like his articles. I would wish such people would be invited into Saudi Arabia, given a platform to talk and find people to listen, or even some support.

It would doubtlessly help the process of exposing Zionists as what they actually are - a racist colonial power trampling down international right. It would show that people critical of Israel are not merely dumb racists that do not like Jews - but that the critic is justified and independent from any personal whims, based on common ethics and morals.
Apart from this, it is outright embarrassing to hear that Jews aren't allowed in the country or read anti-Jewish statements that are directly drawn from the darkest pits of medieval Christianity. Is there really a need to go down on so low a level?

I'd like to end this with a quotation by Bertand Russell from 1970. He was a brilliant thinker, a man of peace and a voice of reason.

"We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present if gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.

All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long-suffering people of the Middle East."
(Bertrand Russell, 1970)

And no, he wasn't an Arab..

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A good fake Muslima

As long as I can think back I was an agnostic, Russelian sense. My parents were atheists and my father made quite sure I wouldn't fall for any religious sermons at school. He gave me books such as 'Die Hexe' (The Witch) by Wolfgang Lohmeyer, dealing with bigot hysteria in Cologne 1627, and encouraged me to read history books. Religion classes were voluntarily at my school but he also encouraged me to take them. "They're idiots!" he said, "But it cannot harm you learn how they argue.."

However, the religion teacher wasn't willing to argue with me. I was thrown out of class within days and the teacher filed a socalled 'blue letter' - that was the muchfeared note for the parents that they have to appear in school to be informed about their offsprings' misbehaviour. Well, in this case, the only one who had reasons to fear was the teacher when my father showed up...

I gave it a chance, though, I've read the bible from the first page to the last, just to find out that it was definetely the most stupid, intolerant and narrowminded book I've ever read. It well explained the more embarrassing parts of European history..

In short, I really wasn't from the material you make pious people from.

And I didn't become a Muslima because I suddenly became religious or wanted to be pious. Actually, I only became a Muslima because my husband asked me to. His family insisted on it, and while he wasn't willing to demand it from me he made quite sure that he would love me to convert. He had been a rebel all his life and he was tired of it. He wanted to go home, settle down and live in peace with his family after all the fights he gave them during his younger years. The older he became the more did Islam mean to him.

We discussed the matter at great length and I told him that I would hardly ever become a good Muslima. I'm too much of a cynic to become very religious, and it goes against my nature to pretend to be something what I acually are not. He told me he wouldn't mind, for as long as I would respect Islam it would be fine with him.

And I hadn't problems respecting Islam. Unlike Christianity it doesn't come along with a shameful history and more skeletons in the cellar than the human mind can imagine. It might have had its fair share of idiots and culprits marching over dead bodies in order to conquer new grounds but compared to Christianity their numbers were small (even though nowadays there seem to be certain folks that desperately try to catch up..).
Throughout centuries, Islam presented itself as an enlightened and rather peaceful religion. Arts and science blossomed. Just compare Muslim Spain to medieval Europe, or think of the tolerance Islam used to have for other 'people of the book'. Both Christians and Jews could live in an Islamic surrounding without getting harmed. They were demanded not to spread their religion around, and they had to pay a special tax. Compared to the Christian habit of burning this was of course barbaric.

As my husband once pointed out, if America would have been conquered by Arabs the natives would nowadays run around in thobes and go to the mosque at friday. Unfortunatley for them they were conquered by good Christians which is why they are more or less extinct except for a few miserable remains in socalled 'reservations' (kind of rural open air ghettos, usually located in the wastelands no-one else can use).

And so I became a Muslima. It wasn't really difficult, it didn't even require me to lie. There are actually only two little things that you have to agree with:

There is no god but Allah... - fine. Considering that 'Allah' translates as 'god' it basically means 'there is no god but god'. Considering further that 'god' is the human conception of divinity there hardly is an argument against it.

... and Mohamed is his prophet! Equally fine. After all, Mohamed (peace be upon him) was the founder of the religion. No arguing here either.

"La ilaha illa Allah, Mohamed rasul Allah" - well done, girl! You're a Muslima now..

What really struck me as weird was that no-one from the family that so vehemently insisted on me becoming a Muslima seemed to care much afterwards. Sure they all were happy but that was it. No-one ever pressed me on my faith or asked any questions. They did not expect me to go to the mosque or keep prayer times. The only one who will discuss Qu'ran or the Sunna with me is my husband, and of course our family imam. But funny enough, they all agree what a good Muslima I am... ..

Which is somewhat odd when there really wasn't much change in my life. I never drink alcohol and haven't done so before, in spite of being born in the city that prides itself for making the best beer in the world, and in spite of having a father whose biggest joy is his wine cellar. But I don't like alcohol, neither it's taste nor its smell, and I truly despise drunken people.

The dress code was new to me but rarely something religious. As said in a previous post, wearing the abaya is more a tradition than anything else, and when it comes to the rest of my wardrobe I never have been fashionable, anyway.

The only thing that really came hard to me after the conversion was not eating pork anymore. After all, I'm German - nothing beats a good pork roast with potato dumplings and baked apples. No problem in Saudi Arabia when there is not much of a chance to come across Kasseler Cutlets on a Saudi market but in Germany I sometimes have to sigh. Alas, whenever I spot a wonderful looking packet of minced pork in a shop and have the image of delicious Mettbroetchen coming up before my inner eye my good husband will stand there and smile, softly reminding me that even my non-Muslim German doctor tells me that I must not eat pork because it is not good for my rheumatic arthritis. Argh.. I hate to be reminded of that! I'd vastly prefer he would to stick to the religious reasons.. But okay, no pork then. It's actually just a small sacrifice if it keeps a loved one happy.

That I rarely watch TV isn't a sign of religiosity either - I had thrown the TV out of my home two years before I even met my husband. It went on my nerves and the stupidity of the programs was beyond comprehension. I have my hifi system instead, and my books. In how far it is very pious to listen to music and read Bertrand Russell escapes me but it seems the family thinks that. A reason might be that we have an 'old-fashioned' taste of music, a great fondness especially for medieval music from Al-Andalus. Even the family imam has asked for copies once in a while.

Prayer times - we keep them up. When in Germany my husband will often slop around the daytime prayers, mainly because he's out of the house and around non-Muslims, but not in Saudi. And no matter where we are, there is no way he would ever miss Fajr, no matter how long the night has been - and that's not only because we have a four-pawed Fajr alert, two of them, to be exactly..

(How do you get a four-pawed Fajr alert? Quite easy - first you get yourself one or two extremely pampered, rotten spoilt cats. Then you plan in two or three days when you get up for Fajr thinking "Well, if I have to get up for Fajr I might as well feed the cats.." Cats never give up an advantage they once had in their paws! Be assured that there is no chance you will ever oversleep Fajr again, because for the next years to come it will be "Well, if I have to get up to feed the cats I might as well..." You get it.)

Fajr means the beginning of the day and to my husband it is the most important prayer of all. I usually just sit and watch. In the beginning of our marriage I used to leave him alone because I thought he would prefer privacy but he told me he just wants me around, even if I don't pray myself. For me it's more of a short meditation, a reflection perhaps, and I feel very close to my husband then. I actually love to watch him pray, and it's a bit like I have to protect his peace. It's a very warm feeling.

Apart from that, Fajr is most likely the most beautiful time of the day - especially in Saudi when it's relatively cool outside and after the prayer you go out in the garden and watch the day awake. Isha comes next in importance, it ends the day and all hassles and efforts have to stay behind. Sometimes I feel a bit sorry that I lack the deep faith that is required to pray, but I don't want to fake it. For my husband Islam is holy, not only a religion but a philosophy of life and I would feel like offending it when just mimicking it.

My husband does not think I would but he does not try to talk me into anything. He thinks I'll find my own prayers sooner or later. We talk about religion quite often and I'm just happy when he says he has become a better Muslim since we were married. This means more to me than anything else, because I know what his religion means to him. He fought long enough to find peace in his heart.

I think that deep inside I am still just an agnostic, no matter how much the family rejoices over me being a 'good Muslima'. At times I feel like I should protest it but then, what should I tell them? And what would be the difference?

Somewhen last year's Ramadan I sneaked off to my mothers in law to have a shisha - needless to say my dear husband neither eats or smokes during the day and even though I usually join him, the desire for a smoke can get the better of me. My mothers in law sat there, TV running, shisha smoking, big bowl of pralines between them. They encouraged me to get some, giggling that they would not tell my husband. After all, we Muslimas have to stick together, don't we?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

What do you know?

(third eeek-ranting)

Well, we've manifested by now that everything is absolute lousy in Saudi Arabia. Even Arabs themself complain about it, and apart from maybe some fundamentalist troglodytes everybody agrees there's dire need for change. Especially now that there are terrorists everywhere, no-one sane would wish to go there.

And yet, I'm sitting in our German apartement and long for.. err... home? We're staying long in Germany this year, not only because my husband has business to do but because my father of 77 years wasn't too well.

And I'm sick of it. Sick of the noises from the nearby streets, sick of our stupid neighbors that use to peep into our garden. They don't really like us, because when we got this place the first thing we did was surrounding the garden with a high cat safe fencing so our babies can venture outside safely. Neighborhood went rampant because they thought we vandalized their properly styled garden culture. As if anything could spoil their ugly gardens. Pah! You should see our garden at home! And even worse, last month Her Furry Majesty had to go to the emergency vet because she was nearly poisoned from eating a mouse, just because those idiots put out poison everywhere. Now I'm constantly on the jump to take care that the cats won't catch anything again, and if, take it away from them as fast as possible. Ah, if anything had happened to my sweetie they would have had a Saudi terrorist here that would have make Osama bin Laden look like a Vienna choir boy!!

And I'm sick of the cold weather, of the rain, of the bing bang boing from the churches, of everything. I want to be home in Jiddah, be in my beautiful house and my even more beautiful garden, enjoy my shisha in the shadow of the palm trees and look across the sea. Then I want to cuddle up with my mothers in law on the sofa and play backgammon with them. I want to see my husband as settled and relaxed as he can only be on his home soil. I want to feel this deep peace of soul that is at home there.

But then I sometimes sit down and wonder, especially after reading around in the internet. I read a lot of negative things about Saudi Arabia and it's itching inside to protest and put some heads straight, but then, what do I know?

Actually, not much, rather shamefully little when considering that I live in the kingdom for about five years. But I haven't seen much, I hardly ever go out when home. We've visited some antic ruins in the desert, big deal. As said before, someone could pluck our house from the ground and place it elsewhere and it would probably take a year until I notice, unless they put it down in Northern Alaska or some such place.

Of course I read the news, I take my duty course through Arab News and the Saudi Gazette and then resort to the Koelner Stadtanzeiger. Arabic newspapers are of almost no use for me because by the time I have managed to spell myself through the headline the news is ten days old. I hate to admit it but I hardly speak any decent Arabic, and if I do, Arabs think I'm reciting antic poetry in Kisuaheli. Blame my husband. When we first met he hardly spoke a word of German, now his German is close to perfect and I still cannot speak proper Arabic.

Beside that, I always seem to be out of tune with everyone else. Like someone giving me a phonecall (in Saudi) telling me that there is another terrible water shortage in Jiddah again. And I sit there, desperately trying to figure an appropriate comment while scratching my wet hair because I just came out of the bath tub.

I mean, I could as well live on the moon. Or in Micro-Polynesia.

Reading about all kind of Saudi bashing in the internet I am always reminded of my German cousin. No misunderstandings, I really do love her, and my part of the family is small enough (actually, only my father, an aunt, my cousin and a sister that does not talk to me because her husband does not like my husband).
Anyway, my cousin is an awfully conscious woman, conscious of everything. It definetely would not have happened to her that she would have taken a bath without knowing about a water shortage. She would have known about the water shortage before everyone else, and of course she wouldn't have had a bath.

You go out dining with her and while you have a steak she has a spinache pizza and lectures long and broad about animal abuse in the meat industry. You show her your new Indian salwar kameez and she'll tell you that you must not buy anything from India to not support child labour. And so on. It can get a bit straining at times.

That does not mean there wouldn't be any truth to her words, or that one should close eyes completely to anything wrong in the world. But then what is life worth if you see only the bad and never the good, the nice things, the beauty? I would develop serious depressions if I were to live like that.

And it's the same with all those bad writings about Saudi Arabia. Yes, many things are wrong, the country needs reforms, even I figured that out. And yet these harsh critics do not sit well with me because there seems to be no sympathy, not the slightest little trace of love, as if there wouldn't be anything good in the kingdom. As if there were no people, no families, no souls. And I do believe that when you want to change something to the better you have to love it first, you have to see the good things in order to part them from the not so good. Otherwise, you just break everything.

Well, right now, Saudi Arabia seems to me like the most beautiful spot on earth, and I want to go home. And if it's just to escape those awful neighbors who right now turned their stupid TV so loud that the noise comes through the walls. In the middle of the night!

Now wait! We haven't listen to Khaled for quite some time.. and remember, I still have my Quadral Montan speakers! Along with the appropriate amp to power them up! Ha! That'll blow their laughable little surround system (5 bleat cubes and 1 grumble cube, made by Bose) from the Rhineland up to across the Yemeni border...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The dreaded Abaya

(second eeeek-ranting)

Okay, let's face it - women in Saudi Arabia are all forced to wear an ominous black cloak and hide themself as much as possible. My macho husband even expects me to wear a niqab which covers the face beneath the eyes. Shocking, isn't it?

Now there are pious Muslim women who will tell you how such a cover will make you feel proud and free inside which Western women usually do not understand. I won't tell you anything like this, I am not a particularly pious Muslim woman. I've been an agnostic all my life and I guess there's still too much of it left.

So do I mind wearing the abaya? No.

And why should I? It's the tradition of my husband's country and I just respect it, as a matter of politeness. Running around on a Saudi street without the abaya is something akin to visiting the Cologne philharmony in your nightie, I guess I would be ashamed of doing either one.

And no, it wasn't a big deal to get used to it. Personally I had more problems getting used to my husband's traditional outfit. I never had seen any Saudi men in this dress before, at least not life, I've never been to an Arab country. The very first time I saw my habibi in thobe and ghutra I had quite some difficulties to keep a straight face and swallow down a question such as 'Oops? Do we have carneval?'
It took a while until I stopped teasing him that he should take good care of me when we're out so I would not accidently walk after the wrong man.

However, my first attempt of getting dressed up in full stealth mode was a disaster. We were still in Germany and my husband, being the expert, had ordered a complete wardrobe, abaya, niqab, khimar, and some stuff we couldn't really identify afterwards. The abaya was a normal coat with sleeves and my husband frowned at it at once because he thought it was ordinary (remember, he bought it..).
I had naively figured there would be something you can easily pull over your head, instead we had a mass of sheets, layers, cloths, and no idea how to fiddle it all together. My Saudi expert for Islamic women wear was as clueless as I was and we finally admitted defeat.

My husband swallowed his pride and called up one of his mothers (yes, he has two.. ;) for help. Alhamdullilah! I'll never know how she managed but scarcely 36 hours later we received an express delivery from Saudi Arabia - and wow!! - that was an abaya!

It was a socalled open style abaya, all silk and an embroidery so delicate like I never saw any before. All black in black with only minuscule sprinkles of gold in its edges it was probably the most beautiful piece of fabric I've ever seen. It was quite easy to put on, even when we still needed some telephone instruction for otherwise I would not have found the hidden tiny buttons to close it. The niqab was a single layer that even I could figure out how to put on.

And I felt like a queen in days of old, the only problem remaining was how to sit down or get up without having the whole thing slipping off my head. I guess I moved a bit stiffly the first few times. The second obstacle was to learn how to discreetly straighten your backside before sitting down so the fabric won't get wrinkled up. Silk has a 1000 advantages but one downside - it wrinkles and if you're not careful you look like you slept in it for three days.

I still do prefer this style of abaya, not only because I love its flowing elegance but because it is easy to wear and very practical. No matter what you wear beneath it will never press or even squash on the fabric. Since I prefer long, wide clothes, especially caftans, galabiyas or as the height of modernity salwar kameez I just don't like an abaya with sleeves, anything that would cause the clothes beneath to wrinkle. Besides, in temperatures like 40 degree celsius you really don't want anything pressed against your skin - the wider, the better. You can cool down by just waving the abaya around you, but take care nobody watches you doing this for people might think you're a lunatic who tries to fly.

A niqab is not obligatory these days, least of all the fully veiled one complete with gloves and stockings, perhaps unless you live in some remote village with five houses and twenty imams. My family prefers it, however some of my younger inlaws don't wear it anymore. My husband thinks it keeps trouble away and frankly, as long as I think he prefers me wearing it I wear it. It has something mysteriously to it and I can't say I don't like this aspect.

So I got used to the abaya - so much that I sometimes miss it when in Germany. It's just so easy to simply throw it above whatever you just happen to have on, be it your most adventurous designer galabiya that would make Germans think your on your way to a costume festival or be it your sloppiest hang-around-caftan. No worries about your hair either. But neither me nor my husband wear traditional dress while we're here and for all those who already envisioned the picture of a fierceful 18th century 'Wahhabi', he does not even ask me to cover my hair. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

Well, so much fuss about the abaya when it is just a dress, more a traditional dress but a religious one. Sure one can complain about the fact that women in Saudi are obliged to wear it when outside, but what makes it so hard to just accept it, and if for no other reason than courtesy?

Is it maybe that Saudis themself do not seem to be too happy about it? One thing that always strikes me is watching women when flying out of Saudi Arabia. The plane has scarcely left the ground and everybody hops up to get rid of their outer wear. The first time I thought it very funny (especially after sending an asking look to my husband and he just shrugged his shoulders and said 'Fleas, perhaps...')
It's not that they put it away at all - as said, we do the same. Just not in such a hurry, as if one second more would cost a life. It really does not mediate anything like pride of their tradition. It rather looks as if they cannot wait to get away and rid of anything reminding of it.

I've always been a bit stubborn and so I usually just stay put and keep my abaya on. I'll put it out early enough when we reach our destination, no need to hassle. And I'll ignore those looks at my husband (when after all only he could be responsible for my behaviour)... He will just smile into himself then. Being married to me he's hard in taking..

But then I'm not sure if Saudi women are to blame. I had a telling encounter at the Frankfurt airport when my husband left me for a few minutes standing at some desk, still wearing the abaya. Two airport women in front of me - expected to treat me politely since I should have been supposed to be a guest to the country - exchanged some remarks how pitiful I would look. Either they were sure I could not speak German or they simply didn't care. One said to the other that she never ever could be forced into such a 'body bag'.
I usually do not poke fun at other people's imperfections but in this case I just couldn't resist. I told her - in broadest Cologne dialect - that it would be close to impossible anyway to find an abaya she would fit in, an that the only solution in her case would be a medium sized bedouin tent. You should have seen their jaws dropping at the counter..

Oh by the way - in Belgium the wearing of abaya plus niqab is outlawed. I kid you not, you really will be arrested and have to pay a fine for it... juhuuuu, welcome to a free country!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Saudi Arabia.. eeeeek!

I guess everybody knows this typical stereotype - naive woman from the West falls for some exotic looking culprit, marries into the Arab version of the Munster family and suffers all kinds of ghastly hardships until she finally escapes to the shores of freedom where she belongs. Add a helpless child or two that evil Munster man does not want to let out of his desert cave (but loving Mama saves them anyway) and you have everything you need for your next bestseller.

The morale of such stories usually is something like 'only an idiot marries an Arab'. There is so much in our presumably advanced Western society that you will miss, that you cannot do without, the cultural clashes will ultimately prove out too much. You cannot love a man that seriously expects you to put a bag over your head and be a nonperson, can't you?

A typical conversation with a German friend of mine when I sorted out my things before marriage..

Me: "Somehow it breaks my heart that I cannot take my Quadral Montan speakers to Saudi Arabia. It took me so long to save up for them..."
Friend (aghast): "Oh no!! You cannot take your speakers to that country? You, who love music so much? Oh my God, why won't he let you take your Quadral Montan with you?"
Me: "Because he just got me a pair of classical Dynaudio Consequence..."

For those of you who do not know much about Hifi speakers, it makes no sense to stuff a pair of rather big and bulky speakers into a plane when there is already a better pair of speakers waiting for you. I just got a bit nostalgic that day. And no, my 'Wahhabi' husband did not throw my Montan speakers into the River Rhine because they were haram. They are still fine and standing in our German apartement.

What was so typical about this bit of conversation was the blank presumption that Saudi Arabia means loss, restriction, renunciation. The simple idea that you might get something else for it, probably even something better, simply doesn't occur. And the thought that there might be some things you not only do not miss but are actually glad you got rid of them is far too much to comprehend.

And at times, it is outright funny to see the flabbergasted faces when you tell them that marrying an Arab and going to Saudi Arabia definitely was the best choice of your life.

(to be continued)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Talking about cat food..

Good news first - my dear husband has seen my brandnew blog! Just like I saw it in my crystal ball he shook his head and gave me a squeer look. He's not all too fond about this computer world. If it wouldn't be for sheer force he'd probably still be writing his letters on a 1920 typewriter..

However, he said my blog is fine, he just wants me to keep my anonymity when he thinks it is unlikely I would stick to merely discussing the quality of cat food.

Now I was just about to tell you that you shouldn't feed your cat any food with less than 30% pure meat when I discovered this:

Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan
Strategy Includes Preemptive Use Against Banned Weapons

The article reads:

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

'known enemy stockpiles'.... as known as the stockpiles in Iraq, I guess. Are they still looking for them?

The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.

As if the lousy German weather wouldn't be enough to kill my mood. Anyone remember how Saddam Hussein was intending to use his stockpiles of WMD against the USA? Or at least Bush thought he was? God were the Iraqi lucky that this new draft wasn't in use back then...

And how good that King Abdullah just declared that from now on no-one should kiss a royal hand. He said "It also leads to bowing, which violates God’s law as the faithful bow only to the one and only God."

Or even worse, some American might think people are looking around on the floor for their hidden WMD.

What a frightening thought that your life, your home, your future is depending on the whim of a complete idiot, sitting in a country at the other end of the world.

Back to the cat food. Please note that quality cat food must not contain any sugar.

Saudicat's first meows..

Well, another rainy day in awfully cold Germany, husband safely out of the door, houseworks successfully ignored, the sweet little wife has time at her hands to do some nonsense.

Such as creating a web blog. As it seems, this is fashionable these days. So whoops, here we go. We'll worry about the fact that we don't know anything about computers later.

But first a few word to introduce myself. No, I'm not a black cat. I just look like one when home in Jiddah, at least outside the house, that is. I wasn't born in Saudi Arabia, and until six years ago I would never have dreamt of landing there. I lived in Cologne, Germany, all alone except for my cat, and I couldn't figure any other way to live. I had my art, my antiques, my books. The mere idea some guy would stomp around in my life drinking all my coffee in the morning was shocking to me. Apart from that, my cat was jealous, she just hated visitors. Let alone visitors who overstayed their welcomes and squashed themselfes in Her Furry Majesty's favorite sleeping places..

But as they say, every pot finds its lid one day. Mine came in form of a Saudi guy who snatched away some old shellacks I was after from under my nose on a Cologne rag fair. We met more often, talked nights in, nights out, and we had quite a lot in common. Two iron singles who heartily agreed on the fact that only fools marry. Not quite a year later we were married..
Oh well, the cat loved him at first sight and hey, I've got those shellacks..

Our families couldn't believe it. After all, we weren't teenagers anymore - I was 37 and my husband 41 - and they had long given up all hopes their stubborn offsprings would ever get something like a decent lifestyle together. My father couldn't stop laughing and asked my husband at least ten times if he would be serious about it (well, thanks, Papa..), my husband's family asked at least fifty times if I were willing to convert to Islam. My husband chased me through some sort of 'Saudi Arabia for Dummies' preparation and all that I was worried about was how to get my cat into the Kingdom. After all, no way that I would go without Her Furry Majesty..

By the way - the title of this blog.. It became a running joke in our marriage, but not because anyone would have expected me to leave Germany without my cat!
No, it was thanks to a bunch of 'friends' and relatives who really were most thoughtful when choosing their pre-wedding gifts for me on our engagement party at my father's house. Believe it or not, I've collected three (t-h-r-e-e) copies of Betty Mahmoody's book 'Not without my daughter' - go talk about tactful sensitivity...

(Well, not that I would not have appreciated the good will, I just thought it a bit... err... inappropriate. I mean, Jiddah is located at the Red Sea, what utter madness would it be to plan my escape route through Iran? In my case, a book like maybe 'Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki - crossing the seas with an ancient balsa raft' would have been more useful, maybe along with an easy understandable instruction manual for building balsa rafts. But then, I've already found out that people simply do not think very much when it comes to Saudi Arabia..)

To cut this short, we're still happily married, living in Jiddah most of the time, spending a couple of months per year in Germany to not forget how miserable the weather can get, Her Furry Majesty found a great Saudi cat friend and I guess I will meow here more often.

Still so much to say..