December 25, 2006

Al-Baal One Year

On exactly this day, one year ago I started Al-Baal, now known as Al-Baal Café. The idea was to create an atmosphere like that of Al-Baal Café in Damascus which I used to frequent many moons ago. It was a café where people would meet and discuss life, music, art, religion. Share both happy and sad moments with friends, while music played in the background.

I'll be going away for quite some time and will see you all hopefully sometime next year God willing. I might have some particularly interesting pictures and articles to post so do look out for that.

Thank you to all my readers and dear fellow bloggers for making it a pleasure to blog.

Eid ul-adha will take place most likely in the end of december so I wish everyone a Blessed and Happy Eid, and to those Muslims who have partaken in the Hajj, may God accept your efforts and prayers and I hope you all prayed for a better world for Anandeep, Carlos, Sergej, Nkosi, Zahra, Maria and all the other children that have not been named.

How about we make a collective new years resolution? Avoid jumping to conclusions. Which will lead to avoiding judging people wrongly. Which will avoid injustice. And ultimately lead to a better world. Simple, huh? *laughs*

Take care everyone.

December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Al-Baal wishing all its readers who are celebrating the Holidays,
a peaceful and happy Christmas together with near and dear.

A swedish tradition during the holidays is to insert small cloves into an orange.
Not only does it look decorative, it sends out a sweet and musty aroma
throughout your apartment.

December 22, 2006

"If Dubai can do it , why can't we?"

Little Dubai has more tourist visitors than the whole of India!

National Geographic writes about the tax-free emirate and how it went from a fishing village to a world class business investment zone.

In their Did you know? section you can read about the making of the Dubai Palm Islands.

As time goes "bye"

When things around you have always been black,

Recognizing white takes time.


When your heart is a minefield,

No one can approach you without getting hurt.


When you don’t know which way you want to go,

No compass will lead you.

December 19, 2006

"Circumsize me!"

According to a statement by UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF, male circumcision can decrease the risk of being infected with HIV.

Campaigns taking into account religious and cultural sensitivites will be launched around the world as a consequence. Men will be standing in line ready to go under the knife. The question is; will news like this help decrease the spread of AIDS or will men assume that they are now next to immune and indulge even more than before?

Although the report presented by the previous mentioned organizations has taken into account the risks of spreading such information and thus has emphasized the need to stress that circumcision by no means is a protection from HIV/AIDS but merely a complementary source of protection, one still cannot help but worry about the effects of word of mouth.

I can imagine a conversation between two Muslim men in a poorer area of Casablanca:

-I heard that men who are circumsized don't get AIDS.
-Come on Amin, who said that?
-What? Are you saying I'm lying? A nurse told Boubakir and he told me.
-Wallahi? You see! The wisdom of Islam. God has protected us from AIDS*...

Update: Interactive AIDS map.
*Since circumsicion is obligatory for all boys in Islam. Converted adult Muslims do not have to do it.

December 18, 2006

Saudi PhD in Sweden

Dr. Mazen Matabakani recently toured cities in Sweden lecturing at state libraries and other institutions on Muslim peace culture. He teaches at both King Faisal Centre for Islamic Studies and King Bin Saud University, both in Saudi Arabia.

He specialized in Orientalism or al- istishraakiyyah as it is called in Arabic, and had the following facts presented at one of his lectures in Stockholm;

-In 1873 the first World Congress of Orientalists was held in Paris. Every 3 to 5 years a new one has been held in different parts of the world.

-Kyoto University in Japan has recently composed a volume on Islamic Political Thought from past to present.

-A Danish Institute has been set up in Damascus following the controversy of the demeaning Muhammad Caricatures printed by Jyllands Posten in the fall of 2005.

After his lecture was over, I couldn't help myself but ask him about issues that had nothing to do with orientalism but more to do with the enigma that is Saudi Arabia.

I mentioned the AIDS situation outside Aqaba (read previous post) and how unfaithful Saudi men are at risk of being infected by HIV and unknowingly carrying it on to their wives. His comment to that was, "We deserve it."

December 15, 2006

"I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim"

Earlier this month, two Bosnian artists Lejla Porovic and Alija Isanovic held an exhibition called "I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim" in Kista Shopping Mall, Stockholm. It was sponsored by the one and only anti-discrimination bureau in Sweden that has been established by Swedish Muslims.

Old man looking into a broken mirror in the video

In the middle of the shopping mall, you noticed a tv had been set up playing a film in black and white of different immigrant Muslims walking up to a broken mirror watching their distorted faces. Under the tv a thin film had been glued to the ground covered in black and white photographs of the very same immigrant Muslims.

To the right: Lejla and Alija discussing their work

I asked Lejla what the pictures on the ground signify;

-The feeling of being a newly arrived immigrant in a country is a bit like starting at the bottom, being stepped on, not noticed. And the video complements that feeling by showing how one looks in the mirror and not quite recognizing oneself anymore. The photos in black and white represent a feeling of nostalgia for our past. There are even coffee stains on them to give them that used feel.

First Pic: A visitor avoiding stepping on Alijah Isanovic
Second Pic: A visitor walking all over the whole foto display

The most interesting part was watching how the Mall visitor's reacted to the pictures on the ground. I found there were three types of people; the one that as he/she noticed the pictures, made every effort not to walk on the faces. The second type that would walk around the pictures. The third type that wasn't bothered at all and walked right over everyone.

December 13, 2006

Swedish-Iraqi Lucia

Every year on December 13th, Swedes celebrate St. Lucia Day, marking the beginning of the christmas season. A girl is chosen to play the role of St. Lucia, donning a long white dress with a crown of lit candles on her head.

I attended the Lucia Concert today in Blåhallen, a beautiful old hall, that was arranged by The Culture School (Kulturskolan). I spotted a young girl wearing the headscarf participating in this semi-Christian/Swedish event. Something unthinkable when I grew up in Sweden many moons ago.

A great effort had been made to make it a multicultural Lucia for everyone by choosing a Swedish-Iraqi girl as Lucia that later danced to an oriental tune played in typical Swedish folk-music style with flute.

Classical music and other Swedish folk-tunes were sung by children along with latin chamber music and at the end of the event the most enjoyable part was listening to the older Swedish people saying; "well I think it is nice how they mixed all those cultures".

December 12, 2006

Turkish Bath in Stockholm

Near Stockholm's main mosque, a turkish bath or hamam as it is generally known as, is very likely going to be built and ready for use around 2008. The bath has been purposely chosen to be built near the mosque because hamams in Turkey and many other Muslim countries are generally always built next to the mosque.

They are now looking at having 1 or 2 days a week reserved only for women. Swedish culture however promotes a very lax attitute towards having men and women together in baths due to the Scandinavian sauna culture.

New Blog: Global Themes

Global Themes is finally launching its Photo Blog!

Contributors from all over the world, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Boston, Abu Dhabi and more, will post pictures on a weekly theme. This week's theme is Water.

This is a chance to see the world and different issues from diverse perspectives while global music plays in the background like "The Gypsy Girl" by Nikos Kypourgos.

Join us over at Global Themes!

December 11, 2006

Ridiculous Rumours

In Sweden we have had many cases of girls and now even boys being killed by family members because of alleged love affairs (physical or emotional). Primarily Islam is being attacked for this primitive, barbarian behaviour.

So what's it all about?

To think that this is a male invented phenomena would be to laugh in the eyes of all victims off honor killings. The fact of the matter is, men and women are both in on it, maintaining and executing.

In Jordan, honor killings are given a milder sentence. Thanks for such a legal view can be given to France, where the idea stems from. Crime de passion (crime of passion) as it was once labelled. In France it was used in a context where often a man had killed his wife out of jealousy. Because of the "upsetting" circumstance, he was not to be held as harshly accountable for killing her.

In Jordan this year 15 people (mostly girls and women) have been murdered by family members. Often a brother, father or uncle. Only recently a 21 year old girl and her would be fiancé according to Jordan Times.

Her own mother had heard from their neighbor that the young couple were having a sexual relationship. She then told her husband, the girls father, who later called the boy's family over pretending to want to finalize an engagement. He asked to speak privately with the boy and his daughter and fired 14 shots at both daughter and boy killing them.

He "defended the family honor." Medical reports later showed the girl was a virgin.

It is irrelevant whether she was a virgin or not. Whether she had sex with the boy or not. How do you kill your own daughter? There can be nothing but a sick society and culture that would encourage such behaviour.

Playing devil's advocate, had he not killed his own daughter, he would be put under great pressure by his surroundings, both men and women. And as the Pakistani saying goes, he would have "lost his shalwar" (meaning lost his pants, become shamed).

This sense of honor exists in many cultures, and although nothing in Islam has ever and will ever support such behaviour, Muslim men and women continue to make a case against themselves for being the most primitive bunch of lunatics on the planet. A legacy every Muslim (particularly in the west) is forced to bare whether they agree with it or not.

December 06, 2006

World Lullabies

In the sub-continent and many parts of the Muslim world, children fall asleep to the tunes of la ilaha ill'Allah* sung often by their mothers.

Every country has its own traditions of lullabies. One thing they all have in common is a soothing effect on recipients of even an older kind. Playing on Al-Baal Café is the song Cancion para dormir by Beatriz Pichi Malen from Argentina.

It can be found among many wonderful world lullabies on the Putumayo Record, Dreamland.

*Arabic for There is no god but Allah. The Islamic testimony of faith.

Russian Spy died a Muslim

"Litvinenko's father, Walter, said in an interview published today that his son - who was born an Orthodox Christian but had close links to Islamist rebels in Chechnya - had requested to be buried according to Muslim tradition after converting to Islam on his deathbed.

"He said ’I want to be buried according to Muslim tradition’," Mr Litvinenko told Moscow's Kommersant daily."

-Article in Times Online.

December 05, 2006


A testimony to a people, language or culture's influence in another language or culture, can be found in the world of linguistics.

We all know that the Muslim and Arab contribution to science, philosophy, medecine and more, has been majorly ignored by all of our western school curriculums. The dark ages in western history were the ages of light somewhere else.

The Renaissance was aided by the fact that Muslim scholars translated and reinterpreted the old works of Aristoteles, Socrates and others into Arabic, which became the language of intellect in many parts of Europe (Spain), Africa (Mali to Morocco) and Asia (Iraq). These texts were later translated into other european languages thus paved way for The Renaissance, or re-birth of the ancient philosophies.

Back to linguistics. The english word Carmine, meaning crimson red, has an interesting etymology. It dates back to Medieval Latin (1712), and is a mix of the Latin word minium and the Arabic word qirmiz.

It does somehow speak volumes about the influence of the Arabic language and Muslim contribution to our western heritage and highlights that there in fact can be no "western" void of the mention of Islam. The two are united.

1001 Inventions Exhibition in Cardiff, Wales

December 02, 2006

The Red Ribbon

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... someone just died of AIDS.

December 1st was the International World AIDS Day. The Red Ribbon featured everywhere as tv channels and regular people donned it in support of the today 39.5 million people living with HIV.

Most of those affected by AIDS are women who got infected by unfaithful husbands or partners.

9 million children in Africa lost their mother to AIDS. What if you were born an African?

November 29, 2006

What's in a name? part 2

This is a story from real life, one that will mark you. For those who missed part 1, read it here.
Goodbye mother
Hassan, his wife and two boys were settled in Sarajevo now where he lived an average life of comfort and happiness with his extended family.

Hassan's mother however slowly became unwell and was diagnosed with cancer. A woman in her 50's, she was then cared for by his sister Emina. Things went downwards from there on. His majka (mother in Bosnian) passed away and the family of 7 were devastated.

Unrest in Bosnia
Milosevic comes to power in neighbouring Serbia in the early 90's and the world for Hassan and his family is about to change in more ways than anyone could have ever fathomed. A wave of unrest is spread through the Balkans, some decide to leave, but most of the others like Hassan stayed on beliving that it would probably get better.

The war, one that would last for years, breaks out in Sarajevo by Serb hands and in a short period of time the whole of Bosnia becomes the scene of autrocity, massmurder and genocide.

Finding salvation
Everyone is trying to leave. There are buses taking the men away. Most of the men are murdered. Others manage to flee to neighbouring countries or refugee camps. Hassan's sister Emina escapes with her daughter but her husband is placed in a concentration camp.

Hassan, intelligent and skilled as he was in his profession, was much too valuable for the Serbs to kill. They held Sarajevo under siege for 4 long years, the longest time for a siege in European history. Hassan knew the electrical wiring and system of all of Sarajevo and thus was held hostage together with his family.

His house was occupied by soldiers who made sure his family didn't escape along with everyone else, and everyday like clockwork, they would come early in the morning and pick him up for duty at the electrical power plant in Sarajevo, and after slaving away the whole day walk him back to his two boys and beloved wife.

Refugee in Sweden
Hassan's sister Emina made it to Sweden with her 4 year old girl, and eventually she managed with the help of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations, find her husband and get him to Sweden too. Hassan's other sisters and brothers fled to Germany, but his father, was not as lucky. The Serbs killed him along with most of the men in his family.

Hassan however, was still alive and his sister knew it.

Leaving Sarajevo
The only way for a Bosnian stuck in his own city under siege, to leave the city, was through military escort and/or human rights organisations with letters from other European Governments, picking the people up. Even Serb soldiers would not be able to go against that and would have to let go whomever they held hostage.

Emina, herself traumatized by the news of the death of her and Hassan's father, did whatever she could to try and get Hassan and his family to Sweden. She wrote letters, and she was visited in the refugee camp in Sweden by humanitarian and Swedish government workers who helped her with a letter that would serve as a salvation for Hassan and his family. In it she had to state the exact names of his wife, son and Elvir, his stepson.

Coming for Hassan
An envoy came to pick up Hassan and his family and the letter with all names was presented to the Serbs, with all the names of written on it, but it was rejected twice because Emina had written Elvir's name (Hassan's stepson), with Hassan's surname instead of his mothers surname as is written in his passport.

In all her trauma, Emina forgot that Elvir had mainatined his mother's surname and not his stepfather Hassan's and when she was informed of the letter being rejected she quickly tried to rectify it and got a new letter made. Another envoy was sent.

Hassan dissapears
One day Hassan didn't come back home after his long forced labour at the electrical power plant. The envoy came to get the family, this time with a complete and full letter with all the correct names in it, but of course Hassan was missing. He was to be missed for 30 days, when one morning Hassan's wife gets a call from the Serbs who had taken him and is informed that he is now dead and they wanted to know if she wanted his body, otherwise they would dispose of it.

His murdered body was later thrown by the gate of his home and word was now sent to Emina in Sweden. It was too late. Hassan was no longer. He knew too much, it was too risky to let him go.

Hassan's wife and two children escaped heartbroken with the envoy and were taken to Sweden.

As for Emina, she is tormented everyday having lost her father and most of his family and her beloved brother. She sometimes asks herself, "What if I hadn't written Elvir's name wrong? Maybe Hassan would still be alive."

What's in a name...

Note: Real names used in the story have been altered.

November 28, 2006

Sweet Racism

The new face of racism has arrived and it's colour is Prussian Blue. The American twin sisters Lynx and Lamb Gaede (yes those are actual names), are part of the up and coming band Prussian Blue whose idol is none other than Adolf Hitler.

The name comes from the colour that the gas used during the Holocaust would leave; prussian blue. Holocaust Deniers claim the gas chambers had no blue colour in them. The band needless to say, has the backing of every racist and anti-semite in the States not to mention their manager who is none other than April Gaede, their neo-Nazi supporting mother.

The Gaede family has a blog up with pictures from their ranch. Here is one particularly disturbing picture of how they brand their animals with the nazi symbol. She writes:

"By wearing a Hakenkreuz or "hooked cross" the cattle avoid the cruel and abusive Kosher slaughter houses."

The music sounds like any other american teen pop band, if you don't know the story behind. Here's their song When I'm with you.

Somehow these blonde twin sisters and their family, are a more disturbing phenomena than Bin Laden himself.

November 27, 2006

Is you is or is you ain't?

Most of us grew up watching Tom & Jerry. One episode in particular, Solid Serenade (1946), has stayed in many people's minds. Tom plays and sings the old 1940's classic "Is you is" by Louis Jordan.

Watch it here.

Epidose Updates:
Tom & Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl (episode appears after 1 h 34 min featuring Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.)
The Cat Concerto feat. Hungarian Rhapsody no 2.
Mouse in Manhattan.

Picture courtesy of the ultimate fan site Tom & Jerry Online.

November 26, 2006

Stateless within a State

"In the UAE stateless citizens are denied rights such as documentation, medical, education, banking abilities, traveling and even marriage."
-Excerpt from the Stateless UAE Nationals, the UAE Government & the United Nations Petition

Lend your voice to those who cannot be heard. Sign the petition.

November 25, 2006

Deadly Beauty

What do you all see? Green, lush beauty?
Think again. It is all covered in mines by the Serbs during the war in Bosnia.
This is the only road to the top of this beautiful mountain outside Sarajevo and it is not covered in mines. Anything beyond this road is mine infested. On my trip to Bosnia last summer I spent a week on this mountain gazing at untouchable beauty.

And yesterday Bosnian and British mine disposal experts got their feet blown off in Lebanon, by Israeli mines from the recent conflict.

In 1997, an agreement was signed by 151 States not to use or store landmines. However 40 countries, among them Israel, America and China, did not sign it.

"U.N. experts say up to 1 million cluster bombs dropped by Israeli aircraft during the July-August war against Hezbollah remain unexploded in south Lebanon, where they continue to threaten civilians. At least 24 people have died in cluster bomb explosions since the war ended."

-International Herald Tribune
-Svt (Swedish Television)

November 24, 2006

UAE President shopping in Stockholm

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of The UAE based in Abu Dhabi, has purchased Stureplan, one of the most exclusive areas in Stockholm.

We are all quite amazed over here. Mixed feelings from the Swedes. The UAE however still has a much better reputation in Sweden compared to Saudi Arabia. People holiday in Dubai more and more.

In the package, sold for 4 billion Swedish kronor, he gets:
-Sturegallerian (an exclusive shopping mall)
-Sturebadet (a SPA situated in the shopping mall)
-Sturehof (an expensive restaurant)
-Sturecompagniet (a very famous night club where the stars hang out)

The outcome of this purchase will be quite interesting to follow. This way the two countries will be forced to deal with each other more and perhaps some of the prejudice that exists in Sweden regarding Arabs and Muslims might be adressed.

Picture courtesy of Aftonbladet and FREDRIK HOFGAARD/AFP

November 23, 2006

Jewish Settler Extremism

"A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents. Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks."
-International Solidarity Movement
-Article in the Jerusalem Post.

There is no mention of this terrible act of terrorism by Israeli extremists with the silent approval of the Israeli army, anywhere in Swedish media. If they can smash the face of a blonde Swedish teenage girl with a country like Sweden that supposedly will "back her up", one wonders what they would do to a Palestinian with none of the above?

November 22, 2006

Holy Soap!

Did you know there was a Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice?

This is what they have done lately in Saudi Arabia.

How about helping their fellow male citizens to keep it in the pants on their business trips?

-With thanks to DG for the link to the Comission's website.


Sweden's older population, the 70 plus crew, grew up in a Sweden without immigrants (besides the Italians that came during the 50's), black people, Muslims. No interaction at school, work, neighborhood lead to many of these senior citizens living in a Sweden that is today totally new to them. With people they know nothing of and have the utmost prejudice for.

Then came the Taxis. In most larger cities, a large number of immigrants or "new Swedes" drive these Taxis. And when you get old in Sweden and have trouble taking the bus or train yourself (especially while going grocery shopping), the government gives you a taxi card where you ride the cab for a small sum.

All of a sudden all these older people have to meet with Mamadou, Abdi, Nima and the likes. They sit together for a longer period of time and the final verdict on their OK'ness will be given in the end; whether or not Mamadou, Abdi or Nima, opened the door to the car and helped the passenger out, carried the groceries all the way to the door.

Like one older Swedish lady said: "I rode with a black fellow today. He was totally black. But he was soo nice to me, he even carried my groceries to the elevator."

Welcome to the 21st century grandma...

November 18, 2006


The hub of World Music is without doubt Putumayo Records. I discovered them in the late 90's and was introduced to Habib Koité (Mali), one of the most talented musicians in Africa.

They produce new records all the time and sign world music artists to their label. They recently founded a new label called Cumbancha and their first signed artist is none other than The Idan Raichel Project.

Currently playing on Al Baal's Stickam Player; Di Goldene Pave, from the album A Jewish Odyssey.

November 14, 2006

The stamp of approval on Hijab

Sweden's new stamps feature two women wearing the headscarf in a very Swedish forestry environment. Notice the moose and pine trees? Artist Irina Gebuhr is behind the new design.

Would you see this in Muslim countries?

November 13, 2006

Saudi Men Spreading AIDS

In a small town outside of Aqaba, Jordan, a group of Beduin women serve as prostitutes for the many businessmen and others visiting Aqaba for conferences and other gatherings.

Among those men there are a large number of Saudi Men (as well as men from the rest of the Gulf Region and world), who frequent these Beduin women. Married men, often with more than one wife.

I met up with a woman working for a humanitarian organisation in Sweden, as she had recently come back from that town outside Aqaba. She compared the state of it to the sights of poverty she had seen in India. She continued telling me about the research with regards to AIDS she had been made privy to.

Cases of AIDS had been found among those Beduin women. When one of the women was asked to estimate how many men she had slept with in her "career" as a prostitute, she rounded it up to a disturbing figure of 700 men. Unprotected sex.

Right now, there are most probably women and children in Saudi Arabia who are infected with AIDS because of their hubands and fathers and they don't even know it.

November 08, 2006

Hall of Philosophers

On a quest for knowledge and truth in life
faced with ourselves in moments of strife
Blue is the shade that colours our eyes
while gazing at rain that pours from the skies
In a Hall of Philosophers to make us wise
we learn that some truths come at a price
We pay with our days we pay with our light
diminshing slowly as we're approaching the night

November 07, 2006

Al Baal playing...

...Into White (1970), by one of the last centuries best singer/songwriters, Cat Stevens, today known as Yusuf Islam after his conversion to Islam in the 70's. The half swedish, half greek singer has yet again taken up his guitar and produced a new album, An other cup which sounds just like he used to back in the day. Read more on his amazingly beautiful and cool official website. His other website featuring more religious content can be found here. Yusuf is back, and this time he has brought Cat with him.

November 06, 2006

A wedding and A funeral

In the year 2004, on dec 28th, Usman, son of one of Gothenburg's earlier Swedish Muslim converts, had gone to Ireland on his honey moon. 22 years old at the time, he decided to head out alone on a treck in the mountains in Killarney.

He never came back to his wife. For two years he was listed as a missing person.

Today he has been found by a local farmer on one of his wanderings. Everything points to an accident, where he had fallen from a cliff. His dead body will be prepared for janaaza, (islamic burial), as I write this post, in Ireland.

The article was all over Göteborgs Posten, Gothenburg's main newspaper.

I remember two years ago when the story of him missing was all over the media and the lips of people who knew him. One never knows how one will leave earth. Imagine being newly-wed and losing your husband or wife on your honey moon? Reality truly beats fiction...

November 01, 2006

Storm and away

First there were winds, and now we in Sweden are hit by snow storms. I am travelling this week and by the looks of it, it doesn't look good. Long distance trains cancelled, airports shut down. Hopefully I won't have to cancel, or worse, meet the storm. But if I do, rest assured, there will be pictures!

Take care everyone.

October 29, 2006


The third and final movie in Indian born Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's trilogy, Water, tells the story of 1938 India, where widows suffered three fates: To burn with their deceased husband. To live a life in self denial. Or to marry the husband's brother if his family permits.

We get to follow the fate of Chuiya, a 7 year old bride whose significantly older husband passes away, and she is lead to a widows home where other widows dwell till they die. It is an absolutely beautifully made movie with a simple story that captures you.

Watch clips of the movie here. Watch trailer here.

Also read about Saudi Arabia's first feature film, Keif al hal.

Her other two movies are Fire and Earth.

Swedish Storm

Sweden was hit by a storm on Friday the 27th, some places more mildly and in other places airports shut down. This was the view from my balcony. The pallette of the sky changed from this to a green blue.

October 28, 2006

Keif al hal?

Screening at Stockholm's 17 th annual International Film Festival is Saudi Arabia's first feature film, Keif al hal? A comedy-drama shot in Dubai.

"The ultra-conservative Khaled wants his sister Sahar to marry his righteous and God-fearing friend Waddah. Sahar on the other hand has no plans what so ever to quit her job as a journalist and seems much more interested in Sultan, a director of experimental theatre and also a close friend of the family."
-David Fukamachi Regnfors

Watch the trailer here.

October 27, 2006

PHR Israel

Damned Dime

Patients mysteriously self set on fire even after the fire has been put out. Patients with internal burns that wont heal.

It's all about Dime. A new "sucess story" in the world of weaponry. Doctors in Gaza and Lebanon have all reported these strange new finds in patients that have been coming in after attacks by Israeli Military. Sweden recently was made privy of such reports alongside reports from Danish medical staff also talking of a similar strange types of wounds from the same area.

A weapon that has been developed in US airforce labs with toxic heavy metal powder called Dime, is believed to have been used in attacks on civilians in both Lebanon and Gaza according to recent reports that are being further looked into by Human Rights Watch. The Israeli human rights organisation, PHR, Physicians for Human Rights, have been waiting for a meeting with the Israeli Defence Ministry for two months, demanding an explanation to the mysterious wounds on victims of attacks in Gaza after having visited fellow medical staff in Gaza and taking their testimony.

During the war in Vietnam, similar wounds were found in civilians struck by US smoke- and light granades, which both contain white phosphor, a substance not approved for use against human beings.

Even there the wounds were of the type that would not stop burning even after attempts to stop the burning wounds. Doctors at that time had to cut out the area of the burns in order to allow the patient a chance to heal and survive. the idea then, like now, was to inflict wounds of a type that simply would not heal, and thus would leave the affected person untreatable.

More than 30 years later it is happening again.

Similar story can also be read in The Guardian.

October 23, 2006

Happy Eid al-Fitr!

Written on the outside of this odd but cute mosque in Mostar, Bosnia is; "Bajram Serif Mubarek Olsun."

The Bosnian and Turkish word for Eid is Bayram.

I wish all readers and anyone else who is participating in the three day celebrations, a very happy, blessed and above all fun Eid!

Eid Mubarak!Ciid Wanagsan!Bayram Mubarek Olsun!

October 19, 2006

"Poor" Maria Millionaire

Meet Maria Borelius. The J.Lo of the political world. Had an amazing 8 day express career as a Minister in the new formed right wing government in Sweden.

Reason for her resigning from her post? It was revealed that she had in the past hired a nanny, "black" as we call it in Sweden, meaning without paying taxes and an official salary. Money under the table basically. Ok fair enough, a lot of people do it. What is interesting here is her explanation for not paying her nanny a proper official taxed wage:

"I couldn't afford it at that time."

This comes from a woman who together with her husband at that time made 16 milion Swedish Kronor a year (roughly 1.6 million Euros).

October 18, 2006

Oh pec!

Humana People to People receive the first OPEC Fund Award for Development.

hey were chosen "in recognition of the vital and valuable work it is engaged in across southern Africa," in countries like Angola, Mozambique and Zambia. Humana and Opec have been in partnership since 2001.

One seldom sees pictures like this. Saudi Eminences giving out prizes to Scandinavian women who work for Africa. Maybe the world is changing for the better after all...

H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia (left), Mr. Suleiman J. Al-Herbish, Director General of The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) (middle) and Ms. Maria Darsbo, Chairperson of Humana People to People (right).

October 17, 2006

Poll Result: Israeli Military Reaction

Not much more needs to be added to the poll results. They speak volumes in many ways. The world is not black and white and one is reminded of that more and more every day.

Do vote in my next poll: Do you believe a cure for AIDS will be invented in the future?

October 15, 2006

Keep a Child Alive

Got a dollar and 49 cents to spare?

Why not Keep a Child Alive?

In the new single prepared for the International AIDS Day on December 1st this year, Don't Give up (Africa),* by Alicia Keys and U2's lead singer Bono, all proceedings from the sales of the single will be donated to KCA, benefitting children with AIDS in Africa.

The single will be released on iTunes for both US and non-US residents on December 6th, 2006.

Meanwhile watch the video here.

*currently only available for purchase for US residents.

October 12, 2006

Jolie's Jordan Journal

What are the chances of us ever visiting Ruweished camp in Jordan? Slim to none?

What is Ruweished camp? Who lives there, and why are they there?

One can say many things about celebrities doing charity work, and some may even go so far as saying they do it for their own publicity. But the fact of the matter is, many people who care about for example, what Angelina Jolie does, will perhaps come across the following link; Angelina Jolie's Jordan Journal. And perhaps one more soul on the planet has been made aware of yet another pebble in the sea of hurt. And who knows, that soul might be inspired to do something about it.

Jolie talks Ramadan, Refugees and Recognition.

October 11, 2006

NG goes World Music

National Geographic, most famous for its amazing imagery and photography not to mention top of the line articles and stories from the world has now decided to delve into the world's music scene.

Apart from music downloads you will be able to find videos, artists interviews and information about tarditional and popular music in contries around the world.

Baaba Maal from Senegal, Emmanuel Jal, former Sudanese child soldier now hip-hop star. Or how about Israeli Reggae?

Visit their new website here.

October 08, 2006

Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale

Sohaila, a well educated woman, 27 years of age tells us her story about what leads her to sell her kidney. It’s a story about a system where women are prey by constitution. Raped in early age she flees into a marriage with a psychologically disturbed man. To get a divorce she has to borrow money and buy herself free, a freedom which is imaginary even though she gets a good position in a computer company and is able to pay the interest of the loan, faith caches up on her. Her abusive stepfather is now about to sell the elder of her half sisters, who already tried to commit suicide, to a crippled considerably older man. Sohaila decides to take care of her two half sisters. Meanwhile the half of the loan which was private has to be paid of immediately. Sohaila face a situation where social authorities waves her away in spite of her impossible situation with hints that she always could sell her body. Sohaila refuses to do so but she still has to sell a part of it – her kidney.
-Excerpt from the Swedish made documentary by Nima Sarvestani shot in Iran, "Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale"

October 8th, October quake

One year passed since the terrible quake,
but my life and my world it did not shake.
Now many people's lives are at stake,
they're calling for us "awake, awake!"

October 05, 2006

What's in a name? Part 1

He never made it to tell you all this, so I will tell you his story as related to me by his sister. Reality beats fiction, and this following story from real life will leave any people in doubt of that statement, as sure about it as the sun rising and setting everyday.

Libya, some two-three decades ago:

Hassan, not Libyan himself, was working there electroengineer as he was. He loved a girl. A typical story of impossible love? Not really.

She was seeing his best friend, and eventually became pregnant, out of wedlock. Even in Communist Bosnia (or Yugoslavia as it was at that time), it was somehow frowned upon. Hassan's best friend, left her without marrying her or taking care of the baby boy that would eventually see the light of day; Elvir.

It didn't matter to Hassan, and he decided to marry her anyway. His parents back home were not thrilled but they all agreed that should he decide to marry her he should under no circumstances separate mother and child. He wouldn't have done that anyway. He loved her too much.

He left Libya and started a new life in Bosnia with his wife and bonus child.

The child had been damaged a lot, especially during the pregnancy when his mother had tried to hide the fact that she was pregnant. Elvir couldn't speak properly and Hassan invested a lot of time and money in his stepson to get him speech therapists and whatever else to help him function as normally as possible.

Eventually they had a boy of their own. The only difference between the two boys was that Elvir kept his mother's last name, and the new boy of course got the name of his father. That is how she wanted it.

Who would have thought then, that it would have such dire consequences?

As time went by the children grew older and Hassan made sure never to favor his biological son over Elvir, sometimes resulting in being harsher on his own son. Anything so that his wife would not feel that her boy was not loved.

To be continued...

October 03, 2006

When all is forgot...

The things that were, and the things that were not,
what do they matter when all is forgot?
What use is the candle you use for light?
When standing outside on a cold rainy night.
Do you sing songs of lamentation to a deaf ear?
or is it the sound of your own voice you wish to hear?
Do you paint pictures of your heart to a blind eye?
or do you paint so that you can hang it for passers by.
Whatever it was, and whatever it should have been,
no one can name what they have never seen.
And yet all that was, and all that was not,
what does it matter when all is forgot?

October 01, 2006

Ileeya & Somalia

Playing on Al Baal right now is a Somali song called ileeya, from the album Moonlight.

One of their most famous singers is Xasan Adan Samatar. The letter X in the Somali language is the equivalent of the letter haa or 7 in the Arabic language. (Xasan=Hassan)

Many of you have probably never heard Somali music before, but I bet you have all met or come across Somali people. They have a fascinating language and culture. The sound of the language is soft, yet distinct. Thanks to my many Somali friends, I have picked up some of their language and music.


Ps. All the links I have provided you with have music you can listen to with one click. The most comprehensive guide to Somali Music can be found here.

September 30, 2006


In Indian and Pakistani wedding tradition one of many days that make up the wedding celebration Shaadi, is at least one Mehndi Day (Henna Day). This is a picture taken of the stage of the groom's Mehndi Day (a stage I helped decorate). The bride and groom sit on the stage while family members come up to them and paste henna on their hands, oil on their hair and turmuric on their cheeks. (In reality the bride and groom held a tissue paper in ther hands which we smeared on. Modern times and all...) Traditional Mehndi colours are bright orange, green, yellow and pink.

September 24, 2006

Yusuf Islam a.k.a cat Stevens in Dubai

In May this year I travelled to London and attended an evening of remembrance of the Prophet Muhammad, and at the event Yusuf Islam showed up unexpectedly and a video was played where he pulled out his guitar on stage which he had left in the closet for nearly 20 years and sang what was to me the most beautiful version of the old Arabic song "Tala' al badru 3aleyna" (the white moon rose over us).

A song that was sung by the people of Medina upon the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad to the city.

I have searched for the video on the net and today by chance I stumbled upon it, here it is, from his live performance in Dubai earlier this year.

September 23, 2006

Our guest has arrived

Ramadan has finally decided to visit our homes. Today will be the first day of fasting. Here in Sweden that means eating the morning meal before 4.50 am when the sun rises, and breaking the fast in the evening around 7 pm when it sets. Roughly 12 hours of fasting.

A Ramadan blog, initiated by fellow blogger Kaya, has been set up and anyone who would like to contribute can go there and sign up.

Recipees, Photos, Ramadan thoughts, Tips etc will be the main focus of the Blog. Do drop by Ramadan Kareem...

Have a blessed and wonderful Ramadan!

September 22, 2006

Female French Revolution

For those of you who missed reading my "A French Revolution in Saudi" post, here is a re-cap of it:

I have a suggestion for all Saudi women; it's time for a revolution!

Yes you heard me. Bring out the guillotine (in the form of kitchen knives that do an excellent job on tomatoes), guns (in the form of the latest version of blow-dryers) and don't forget to claim the code; Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

You are to tell the men in your lives (and the king), that you are not able to work outside your home and contribute to the economic growth of society because it is against your fitra (human predisposition). Don't forget to quote some of the leading wahabi scholars; I'm sure you will find heaps of material for your defence.

-Fraternize with your kitchen utensils and chop your husband up a lovely salad, Tabbouleh perhaps? That knife of yours will chop up those tomatoes in small squares before you can say "Help". (Oh and if you don't have a husband, a brother or father will do just fine.)

-Equalize yourself to that of a servant (for what could possibly be better than to serve your husband?) And last but not least:

-Liberalize yourself just enough to pull out the blow-dryer and fix your hair in the latest western hairdo (for even the learned wahabis don't mind you getting all dolled up á la Hollywood, as long as it's for your husband).

Vive le reverse psychology!

September 21, 2006

E-mailing Musharraf

Did you know President Parvez Musharraf had his own website?

The reason I found out is that there is a "Women's Protection Bill" in Pakistan that has been proposed and is now on the table of the President himself, where he can either take action and approve it or not.

A campaign on the net has been initiated by blogger Eteraz and brought to my attention by fellow blogger Baraka. You can read more about the Bill there.

For those (Pakistani, half Pakistani, or non Pakistani) interested in lobbying for this Bill to be taken seriously by the President concerning issues of forced marriages, rape and abuse, the following can be done.

Go to Musharraf's website, and send a comment with the following text:

We believe that you should support the passage of the Women’s Protection Act in the form proposed by the Select Committee of Parliament. The passage of that bill would be a significant step forwards in the protection of women’s rights in Pakistan and an achievement for which you would always be remembered.
Musharraf is to appear on The Daily Show with John Stewart on Sept 26th.
Ps. one can actually download desktop pictures of Musharraf on his website... *Laugh*

September 20, 2006

Beyond measure?

It has been discussed and philosophized over by most romantics, poets and what nots. Can love be measured? And if so, by what means?

It would be cool if we could use a measuring stick or a scale in order to know how much love we or someone else felt. "I love you 156 pounds." But what would be the purpose of such a measuring device? What would we do if we found out that we loved our partner more than he or she loved us? Do we have to love the other in equal amounts?

Me personally, I wouldn't see much use of such measuring devices or what do you say?

For me one quote sums up the more important aspect of defining love, be it between family members, friends, lovers or even pets;

Love is as love does

At the end of the day, it is that general feeling of what that love makes you feel like, and what it delivers in actions. This means there can be many types of love, but we decide what we can or want to live with.

A woman with an abusive husband who claims he loves her and finds herself believing in what he says can ask herself, "what does his love do to me?" Maybe she will change her mind.

September 18, 2006

Tiggedy Tag

I was tagged by Kaya, master chef of teh blog world, always cooking something up:

I am thinking about..
how much milk I have had to drink these past days.

I said...
to myself this morning, "you have to take care of your plants". I have been neglectful lately, terrible of me.

I want to...
travel to Mali.

I wish...
"I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller", remember that song?

I miss...

I hear...
a tractor.

I regret...
putting myself in positions of regret. Oxymoron?

I am...
right now concidering Tanzania or Uganda?

I dance...
classical indian dance and a million other things.

I sing...
currently Aaja Aaja.

I cry...
when someone cries, even on tv. Snap out of it!

I am not always...
someone who is always something. lol

I write...
in order for my soul to breathe.

I confuse...
you, don't I?

I need...

I should try...
to eat something.

I finish...
all cashew nuts and complain when there are none left.

September 15, 2006

On hills where nothing grows

On hills where nothing grows,
She waited for it but it didn't show.
If ever it would have she'll never know,
for she planted a rose where nothing grows.

September 11, 2006

September "El (now we can get) Even"

Where is the war but in your own hearts?
And who are those targets that you fill with darts?

One man's errors do not represent a Nation's,
And spreading hate for revenge is no justification.

A man's dark side is no darker than the darkest in you,
Misplaced hate will only bring out his hate anew.

Set an example for generations to come,
Hate breeds hate, even more in some.

We are only liable for the things that we do,
Just like I'm not liable for the wrong in you.

Explain to the child that has no knowledge of hate,
That because of one man she will meet with her fate.

An eye for an eye, and a life for a life?
Where's the logic in vengeance for strife?

The world has a way of giving back your contribution,
Once and for all stop the emotional pollution.


You've all been listening to Romanian Fantasy No.1 by Alicia Svigals on my stickam. (UAE visitors, I am sorry that Etisalat, or rather "it is haraam" has blocked stickam so you can't enjoy the music but do visit amazon where you can hear it and other songs.)

Romanian Fantasy No.1 is a Jewish wedding song of a style developed mostly in Eastern Europe. The name of the genre is Klezmer, which comes from the Hebrew words Kley (instrument) and Zemer (song). It is usally as the name indicates, an instrumental song.

The style was more or less non existent after the Holocaust, however Jews who had fled to America brought the music with them and it had a short upswing. With high demands on assimilation, less emphasis was placed on preserving the traditions. In the mid 70's when a new generation of American born musicians with Jewish ancestors started listening to old Klezmer recordings from the 40's, Klezmer had its rebirth.

September 06, 2006


Home is where the heart is,
yet the heart isn't always where it should be.
If home was where your heart is,
then why isn't it here with me?

September 05, 2006

Wither not...

Wither not loved one,
before the first leaf hath fallen.
Before fall has begun,
don't you hear summer's calling?
Picture Dartscape

September 01, 2006

Travel Time & Wedding Planning

It's time for another short but sweet trip. Will be back to blogging hopefully by next week.

The Wedding planner
A friend of mine is getting married and the whole Pakistani thing has to be done. First two different mehndi (henna) days. One for the bride, one for the groom. On top of that, one wedding day for the girl (Baraat), and one for the guy (Walima). Are you feeling exhausted?

Anyways, with Pakistani weddings you can always be sure to expect drama. You know, of the Bollywood kind. 200 gulab jamuns have to be made, a woman who can play the dhol (drum) needs to be located, and, make sure to tell that woman alongside her friends not to sing for 5 hours (please!!!), find sticks to make dhandiyan (wooden sticks in colour used for a special dance.)

Finding the sticks & A No Fork Policy
I mean you just don't find the right equipment for Pakistani weddings here. So what does any normal Pakistani do?...They go to the hardware store, buy some wood, and saw some dhandiyan...

Then there was the purchasing of supplies for the first Mehndi that we did today. So I tell my friend TP, lets get 200 forks, knives and spoons.
TP: Shaykhspeara what are you saying? These are no Swedes. It's all chammach (spoon) and roti (bread).

Then I'm like, so, shouldn't we get you like a guestbook for all the guests to sign it?
TP: Are you still on about those Swedish things? I'll be happy if they leave stains of curry in it.

To be there or not to be there
Then there is the issue of planning the actual program of the day. When is the groom entering, who will throw rose petals on him, and when is the bride entering with her entourage? So naturally, I ask.
TP: Well she's not gonna be there.
Me: What do you mean she's not gonna be there, she's the Bride??
TP: Well I don't know don't ask me. I think her mom said it was bad luck.

So I don't plan the program with her in mind. A few days later I get a call. The bride is after all, gonna be there.

A few days later, another call.

TP: Well, there's been a slight change of plan.
Me, bracing myself: Oh?
TP: Yes, the bride isn't coming oh and, the wedding has been moved earlier, to next week.

So the bride is not coming, but, get this...her family is.

The bride's Mehndi
Then there is the issue of the bride's Mehndi day. So I ask TP, what's the plan for that?
TP: Well I am not going.
Me: What's this now? Why are you not going?
TP: Because her mom wanted it so. But you are going.
Me: I am going? I am going to your wedding but you are not gonna be there? I am not even related but I will be there?

The Almond Talk
We (as in the grooms entourage), have to come to the bride's Mehndi day with almonds in a basket. So let me get this straight: I am going to my friend's wedding without my friend being there, to attend his bride to be's Mehndi whom I have no affiliation with, carrying almonds in a huge basket we bought from IKEA...

All in all, what don't you do for your friends? A small sacrifice to make them happy on their big day, umm, I mean days. Even though they won't be there to witness some of the days!! *laugh*

August 29, 2006

Even Muhammad* wavered

What's the classic comment one gets as a Muslim when life gets you down and you wanna complain about it?

"Patience brother/sister. Noah waited 900 years."

Thank you very much, that helps a lot.

Another scenario: You are going through a medical hardship or a family member is or having some sort of personal crisis, and you feel like your faith is wavering.

Reply from surrounding people: "It is a trial for you, pray to God and everything will be ok insha'Allah (God willing)."

Excuse me? Did you not hear what I just said?

Where is the humanity? It has almost become the case where if you complain or feel depressed or feel like life's a bitch, you have low iman (faith).

Ignorance is not the suffering man's bliss.

A very long time had passed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, since Muhammad* had recieved any revelations from God. Last one he had got was Chapter 89 (Al Fajr). People around him in the hostile environment that Mecca was to Muslims at that time, started mocking him saying "Muhammad, your god has abandoned you".

Muhammad*, a prophet himself, wavered in his faith and felt he had done something wrong and God might have abandoned him. In the light of that, God sent down the following words that were to form Chapter 93 (Al Duha):

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
I swear by the early hours of the day,
[93.2] And the night when it covers with darkness.
[93.3] Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased,
[93.4] And surely what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before.
[93.5] And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.
[93.6] Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?
[93.7] And find you lost (i.e. unrecognized by men) and guide (them to you)?
[93.8] And find you in want and make you to be free from want?
[93.9] Therefore, as for the orphan, do not oppress (him).
[93.10] And as for him who asks, do not chide (him),
[93.11] And as for the favor of your Lord, do announce (it).

So next time someone is having a hard time in life, don't keep preaching to them about saying alhamdolillah (all thanks be to God) when they are about to watch their loved one slip away from life and are feeling a bit wavered in faith. Just remind them; "Even Muhammad* wavered"... and that's OK...

*May peace and blessing be upon him.