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Arabisc: Asian Games, Democracy and Models

Why was there no celebration of the Arab heritage in the opening of the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, and what is the relationship between democracy and models and why is an Egyptian blogger asking his readers to watch award-winning movie Good Night and Good Luck?

These are some of the questions our North Africa and Middle East bloggers hope to answer this week.

Bahrain-based blogger Haitham Sabbah doesn't seem to be so pleased with the Asian Games opening ceremony and wonders why the Qataris failed to include any representations of Arabs in it.

إفتتاح جميل بل رائع ما رأيناه الليلة في حفل إفتتاح دورة الألعاب الآسيوية على أرض الدوحة، عاصمة قطر الشقيقة. ولكن أين العرب؟
شاهدنا السفينة والبحر كما هي العادة في كل الإحتفالات المشابهة لمناسبات رياضية خليجية عل الأخص. كما شاهدنا لوحات فنية وتراثية وحضارية أسيوية رائعة مثلت حضارات شرق أسيا، فقط! نعم قطر أسقطت العرب من قاموس أسيا.
السؤال هو: أين العرب في كل ما قدِّم؟ أين الحضارات العربية؟ أين التراث والفن العربي؟ أين حضارات الأردن وسوريا وفلسطين ولبنان؟ أين حضارات اليمن والعراق؟ لماذا تجاهل المنظمون القطريون العرب وحضاراتهم؟ أليست هذه واحدة من أهم المناسبات التي يجب أن تستغل لإطلاع العالم على حضاراتنا وتراثنا؟ أم أن أسيا مقصورة على شعوبها الشرقية؟
فالننسى العرب. أين بلاد فارس؟ ولماذا تم تجاهلها هي الأخرى؟
“It was a beautiful opening for the Asian games in Doha, the Qatari capital, but where were the Arabs? We saw the dhow (ship) and the sea, which was expected and similar to all the openings of sporting events in Gulf countries in particular. We also saw spectaculor folkloric shows which represented the civilisations of South East Asia alone! Yes, it seems that Qatar has omitted the Arabs from Asia in the Atlas. The question is: Where are the Arabs from all that was shown? Where are the Arab civilisations? Where is the Arab heritage and arts? Where are the civilisations of Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon? Where are the civilisations of Yemen and Iraq? Why did the Qatari organisers ignore the Arabs and their civilisation? Or is Asia restricted to its Eastern people only? Let's forget the Arabs. What about Persia? Why was it ignored too?,” he wrote.

In Egypt, 3rby writes about the impact of democracy on the socio-economic standard of people, as well as their physical appearance.

قريت مقال ابويا في القدس العربي….برضو ماشدنيش اوي…بس فكرت في حاجة …وهي علاقة الحالة الاقتصادية والاجتماعية للشعب بالحالة السياسية للدولة.
كنت فاكر ان لما الدولة تبقي ديموقراطية الحالة الاقتصادية والاجتماعية بتتحسن..وده كان دايما بيفسرلي ليه بلدنا بلد فقرانة…بس بعد ماقريت المقالة واللي بتتكلم عن الاسعار وفرقها بين مصر وايطاليا وهو حكالي عن ناس كان يعرفهم من زماان قبل مايجي القاهرة وشافهم في اطاليا وبعد ماكنت(استغفر الله العظيم)تتخض لما تشوفهم بقوا عاديين او اجمل من الشخص العادي في القاهرة.
فكرت في شكل الناس…ليه في الزمالك والمعادي البنات بيبقوا حلويين(مش عينيهم خضرا وشعرهم اصفر…بس الوش بيبقا حلو)وليه تروح قرية تلاقي الوش مثير للشفقة.وليه واحد زي شعبان عبد الرحيم تخين وواحد زي عمر دياب جسمه حلو..وبعيدا عن الجينات والرياضة هاقولكم السبب…السبب ان الفول وعيش الجمعية مثلا بيعمل كرش بس من غير مايتخن بقية الجسم اما الاكلات الغنية مابتعملش كده.
علشان كده ممكن تشوف شخص وتقول هو ساكن في عمارة في مدينة نصر ولا ساكن في مسقط عمارة في مدينة نصر.
علشان كده برضه في بلدنا الناس اجسامها مش حلوة في حين ان في ايطاليا الناس موديلز
“I read my father's article in Al Quds Al Arabi which didn't attract me a lot but which made me think of the relationship beween the economic and social condition of people to the state of politics in the country. I used to think that when the country becomes a democracy, the socio-economic conditions improve. This used to always explain to me why our country is poor. But after I read the article which shed light in the differences in prices between here and Italy and he spoke to me about people he knew a long time ago before he came to Cairo, and whom he saw in Italy, and who looked shocking but now look like normal people.. I started thinking about people's appearances. Why are the girls in Maadi and Zamaleck good looking while the girls in the villages have faces which make you feel sorry for them? Why is someone like Shaaban Abdulraheem (Egyptian folkoric singer) so fat while Amr Diab (Egyptian pop star) has a shapely body? Away from genes and sports, I will tell you something – the reason is because the beans (traditional Egyptian dish) and the bread brought from the consumer society makes people's stomachs bigger, without making the rest of the body fat, whereas good food doesn't have this effect. This is why you know whether people live in a high-rise building in Nasr Town or in its basement just by looking at them. This is also why in our country people's bodies don't look appealing while in Italy people look like models,” he wrote.

Still in Egypt, blogger Mohammed Hisham urges his readers to watch the movie Good Night and Good Luck, which he says spells out the situation in his country today.

Good night and Good luck

هذا هو اسمه ، وإذ لم تستطع أن تشاهده أثناء مهرجان القاهرة السينمائي، دور عليه على الإنترنت،ماعرفتش .. شوف منه نسخة مسروقة- مش حرام صدقني!- عند واحد صاحبك.. اشتريه سي دي مضروب من العتبة..برضه ماعرفتش.. يبقى سافر أمريكا وشوفه هناك! أعمل أي حاجة بس أمانة عليك لازم تشوفه..وأنت تتابع مشاهده ألغى من دماغك فكرة أن أحداث الفيلم تدور في خمسينات القرن الماضي حينما تحولت أمريكا إلى “كيان خائف من نفسه” بفعل السيناتور “ماكارثي” الذي أصبح يطارد كل الأمريكيين بتهمة الشيوعية.. أنسى ذلك وضع مكان الأسماء الأجنبية آخرى مصرية..ستجد أنك تشاهد بلدك على الشاش

“Good Night and Good Luck. This is it's name. If you weren't able to watch it at the Cairo Film Festival, look it up on the Internet. If you didn't know how to, watch the pirated copy your friend has. It won't be illegal, trust me! If you can't, buy a smuggled one from the side street in Atabah. If you still cannot watch it, buy a ticket and travel to America and watch it there. Do anything you can but please watch it. While watching it, forget that it is set in the 50s of the previous century when America turned into an entity which was scared of itself, thanks to Senator McCarthy who was accusing all Americans of being communists. Forget all that and replace the foreign names with Egyptian names. You will discover that you are watching your country on the screen,” he pointed.

In Kuwait, Zaydoun is steaming that workers forgot to paint white lines on a main road, for drivers to stay within their lanes. But he says it won't make a difference because drivers in his country don't follow the rules anyway.

طريق المغرب السريع، وبالأخص الجزء الذي يمتد جنوباً من تقاطعه مع الدائري الأول إلى الدائري الرابع، تم إعادة تزفيته منذ أكثر من شهرين وإلى الآن لم توضع الخطوط البيضاء التي من واجبها تنظيم حركة السير على الطريق
يبدو أن القائمين على هذه الأمور أدركوا أن وجود هذه الخطوط أو عدم وجودها سيان ما دام سائقي السيارات في الكويت من مواطنين ومقيمين لن يلتزموا بها وسيقودون سياراتهم على كيفهم، طايحين له بتوينات لأنه شارع أبوهم ولم يتعلم أي منهم أصول القيادة من الأساس
“The Maghreb Highway, especially the stretch going South between the first and the fourth links, was resurfaced more than two months ago but the white lines which are supposed to organise driving haven't been drawn yet. It seems that those in charge of such tasks have come to the realisation that having or not having those lines meant the same thing as long as drivers in Kuwait, including citizens and residents, didn't follow the lanes and drove in the way they wanted as if the roads belonged to their fathers. It seems that none of them knows how to drive properly,” he wrote.

Our last stop this week is with Saudi blogger Sara Mattar, who goes to school in nearby Bahrain, an Island which is separated from Saudi Arabia by a 25km causeway. In a post which has so far attracted 83 comments, Sara tells us about her experiences in Bahrain and the simplicity of Bahrainis she has met.

In relatively ‘freer’ Bahrain, Sara thought she would be able to free herself from wearing the black Abaya (cloak) which is obligatory in Saudi Arabia.

في بداية دراستي لم أكن ارتدي العباءة الخليجية، كنت أرتدي القمصان الملونة والبناطلين، وكنت لا أتكلم إلا لماماً، الذي لا يعرف جامعة البحرين، فقط للتوضيح، معظم الفتيات هناك وبنسبة 90% يلبسن العباءة السوداء، ويضعن الطرحة السوداء كغطاء للشعر، وأنت حر في اختيارك، كل ماتطلبه منك الجامعة، الحشمة فقط في طريقة لباسك، وكنت آتي للجامعة، متحررة من العباءة والتي أرتديتها بعد عامين من دراستي، وأصبحت أشبه البقية من طالبات الجامعة، وحررني لبس العباءة من بعض الاختلاف!!
“When I first joined the university, I didn't wear the Gulf Abaya (black cloak worn by women). I used to wear coloured shirts and pants. I also didn't talk much to people. For those who don't know Bahrain University, I would like to clarify that 90 per cent of the girls there wear the black abaya and a black veil to cover their hair. You are free to choose what you wear but the law says that you should be modest in your dress. When I first came, I set myself free from the abaya and I only wore it two years into my studies there because I wanted to look like my other colleagues. Wearing the Abaya has freed me from being different,” she wrote.

From her experience and despite the fact that her home is only 45 minutes by car from Bahrain, Sara says Bahrainis are very different from Saudis.

بعد عامين بدأت أجلس مع بعض الطالبات البحرينيات، وبالتأكيد وجدتهن بسيطات ولهن عالمهن السحري الخاص، ولو أنهن يختلفن كلياً عن بنات قبيلتي، سأكتب مشاعري تجاههن في موضوعاً آخر، وربما في رواية منفصلة، لأني أجد أن الشخصية البحرينية تستحق التوقف عندها طويلاً، ولديّ أسبابي التي تقنعني بشدة لذلك، تماماً كما يجد العالم كله، أن شخصية المرأة السعودية، تابو عليهم أكتشافه ومعرفة خصائصه. يبقى الرجل البحريني، هذا الكائن اللطيف، سهل المعشر، والذي يبدو شخصية متميزة، تعرفت عليه قبل عاماً واحداً فقط!!!
“After two years, I started getting to know Bahraini female students, whom I found to be very simple, with their own magical world. Although they are totally different from the girls in my tribe, I will write about them in a separate post because I feel that the people of Bahrain deserve a longer stance and I have my own reasons for giving them more time and space. In comparison, Saudi women are a taboo for the rest of the world, which they think they need to discover and learn about their characteristics. Meanwhile, Bahraini men are sweet-natured beings, easy to co-exist with and with a distinguished personality, which I only discovered about a year ago,” she explained.

Sara also thinks that Bahraini women are more likely to get married and not end up as spinsters because they come from a more open society, which is ready to embrace other traditions.

الشئ المميز الذي وجدته في البحرين، فيما لو تجاوزنا بساطتهم الواضحة، من حيث مفرداتهم اليومية، أو حتى من خلال تعايشك معهم، إن نساءهن لم يصبن بداء العنوسة، الذي نصاب به نحن هنا في السعودية، أو حتى في الخليج بأكمله!! وهذه ميزة جيدة بل أجدها رائعة، ولاحظت كمية الفتيات اللاتي يتزوجن من مجتمعات الخليج العربي، إن امتداد البحرين العائلي يتجاوز المحرق والمنامة وسترة، ليصل إلى الدوحة والدمام وأبوظبي والكويت، وهذا إن دل فأنه يدل على عمق التسامح الاجتماعي لدى البحرينيين، ومدى تأصل العلاقة الاجتماعية والإنسانية مع كافة المجتمعات التي تجاور هذا البلد الصغير!!
“What I liked in Bahrain, that is if we put the simplicity of its people aside, is that their women have not been infected with the disease of spinsterhood, which we Saudi women (or women in the other countries in Gulf for that matter) are prone to get. This is a good characteristic which I find amazing. I have noticed that many girls get married to men in the Gulf region and that the family links in Bahrain extend Manama, Muharraq and Sitra to include Doha, Dammam, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. This proves that Bahrainis can socially co-exist with others and that its social and humanitarian relations exceed the size of this small country,” she wrote.

The Gulf region or the Gulf Cooperative Council is made up of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

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