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Bahrain: The Arabic language – two for the price of one!

Happy New Year from Bahrain! This week we have reflections on the year gone by, and plans for the one to come. A number of bloggers have complaints about the media, a new blogger describes an unusual experiment, and we end with some thoughts on the nature of Arabic.

We begin with a beautiful photo by Ammaro of Al Fateh Mosque:

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

Ring out the old
Ebtihal Salman has been looking at the year just passed:

وقبل الإنجراف في المزيد من 2008 لا بأس من جرد حساب للعام الماضي. أشعر بالرضا عن 2007 لولا المرارة التي جاءت بها النهاية. … أما على الصعيد الشخصي وهو الأهم فقد كانت سنة حافلة بالإنجازات. … عدت للكتابة بعد جفاف طال، ويجب أن اعترف ان المدونة كانت مفتاح أساسي. اشتريت لابت توب أخيراً ولكنه لم يكن بالروعة التي تصورتها، ومازلت أقضي الوقت الأكبر في غرفتي كما كنت أفعل أيام الكومبيوتر الثابت. أمضيت بعض الوقت في الدراسة وذكرت نفسي بمتعة التعلم وأني لم أزل أستطيع التفكير! وأضفت إلى رصيدي العلمي شهادة جديدة. سافرت إلى أماكن جديدة، وقابلت بعض الأشخاص اللطفاء، واشتقت للبحرين والبحارنة في كل مرة.

Before the erosion of any more of 2008, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take stock of the last year. I feel satisfied with 2007, except for the bitterness which came at the end. On a personal level, the most important, it was a year full of achievements. I returned to writing after a long drought, and I have to acknowledge that my blog was the key. I bought a laptop at last, but it wasn't the wondrous thing I imagined, and I still spent a lot of time in my room as I used to do with a PC.

Ring in the new
Ala Al Mulla is looking back to look forward:

طبعاً محاولة نسيان الماضي شيء إيجابي ومعزز للذات لكن مع بداية السنة قد نستذكر الماضي لغرض واحد ألا وهو معرفة ما أنجز في السنة الماضية وتقييمها ورسم خطط السنة الجديدة.

Of course an attempt to forget the past is a positive thing, and good for self-esteem, but with the beginning of the year maybe we should recall the past with one aim, to know what we achieved in the last year, and to evaluate it, and to draw up a plan for the new year.

Clever lad
Evil Odd has some advice for setting resolutions:

Before I ramble on about next year's resolutions, there are a few issues with last year's resolutions – they weren't SMART! In case you're wondering, SMART is:

Specific
Measureable
Action-oriented
Realistic
Timely

While in some cases they were good enough (i.e. pass all my exams), in other cases they sucked (i.e join the gym). What was I joining the gym for? To lose weight? or to get fit? And when was I going to join the gym? for how long? If I just joined the gym, did I accomplish this point, or did I actually need to attend the gym regularly and work out? You see – a resolution like “join the gym” is crap. I should've been more specific.

Lies, damned lies…
Mohammed AlMaskati made a resolution of his own recently, around the time of Bahrain's National Day:

I chose not to watch the program of Sawsan AlSha’er [Bahraini columnist and TV presenter] the other day; I have taken a personal oath to stay away from all national media starting the 16th of December, you really don’t expect much of local news or even proper coverage on the media throughout those couple of weeks, nothing but force feeding that Bahrain is in fact a prosperous wealthy and democratic country that hosts the best F1 races known to the humankind.
I came across a clip of the program uploaded by one of the viewers and couldn’t help but to laugh at the hypocrisy and the lies that were so bluntly pulled out at the nation by people supposedly representing ministries and individuals representing the so-called “pro-governmental views”. […] But what was aired on the program was different; all of a sudden it wasn’t funny anymore. How someone would stand out like that and lie on public TV is just way beyond me, how low can you get really?

For details of what Mohammed objected to, see here.

…and news?
Ashish Gorde isn't happy about the state of the media either– and writes about an experience he had during a recent trip to India:

My five-year old nephew made a profound statement. I was watching this news channel that will not be named because I'm in a good mood… (T)his news channel never tackles anything serious or substantive, and instead, gives importance to news events that are of tabloid-y nature. And just as I was watching one such insignificant ‘news’ (for want of a better word) and chuckling at the serious expression on the anchor's face that my nephew suddenly blurted out, ‘they show cartoons on this news channel.’ I burst out laughing at my nephew's statement because, unknowingly, the youngster managed to get to the very heart of this issue.

Ashish goes on to examine the media in India; to read his opinions, see here.

You can't give it away…
In a new blog, anothergod recounts a tale of an interesting experiment he once tried:

نفذتها عدة مرات، أن أقف أمام إحدى الإشارات، بثياب رثة حاملا بين يدي ورود أبيعها، لا من فقر ، ولكن كنت أريد أن أرى تعامل الناس معي أولا، وتعاملهم مع الورد ثانيا، وقفت أمام إشارة الخريطة سابقا، والقفول، والعدلية، وأماكن كثيرة، كنت أقف متلثما احمل الورد، أمر على السيارات، انتقي الوجوه التي أذهب إليها عارضا الوردة، وملبيا دعوات الوجوه التي تطلبني للوردة، عندما يسألني عن قيمة الوردة، أقول له هدية ، أعطيها إياه وابتسم له ، وأذهب ، رأيت أبتسامات عديدة واستغرابات أكثر، لكن ما أثارني هو ذلك المحرقي عند إشارة القفول، كان كبيرا في السن، طلب وردة، فأعطيتها إياه، ولم يسألني عن السعر، بل أخرج من جيبه عشرة دنانير وقال لي خل الباقي لك، ابتسمت، وقلت له إنها هدية، نظر إلي باستغراب، وتأمل في وجهي، كان اللثام قد سقط نوعا ما ولم التفت إليه ، أمسك بوجهي بيديه الثنتين، نزل من السيارة، وعيناه الواسعتان في وجهي، كل هذا والصمت يخيم علينا، إن له سر يريد أن يكتشفه وإن بي خوفا من أن أصل كالعادة إلى مركز الشرطة جرّاء أفكاري الجنونية، قال لي فلان؟ هنا صعقت، وقلت لا بلهجة نفي واضحة قال لي انت مو ولد حجي فلان، هنا سكت إذا يبدو عليه أنه تعرف الي ولم أكن أعرفه، وأصر عندها على دخولي سيارته بالرغم من رفضي ، عند ذاك كانت ابواق السيارات تزمر بصورة مرتفعة عليه، قام ومضى وأوقف سيارته في مكان وأتاني مشيا يقول لي، لماذا تفعل هذا، أنت بخير، لديك كل ذلك الورث ، كل ذلك المال وتبيع ورد قلت له هدئ من روعك يا سيدي، فما أنا إلا متأمل في هؤلاء الناس، أنا لا ابيع، أنا اشتريت هذا الورد وأهديه لمن طلبه كالماء تماما

I did it several times, stopping by traffic lights wearing worn out clothes, carrying roses in my hands to sell – not because of need but because I wanted to see how people would react to me and the flowers. I stood by the traffic light near the Bahrain Map, and then in Gufool and Adliya as well as many other places. I had my face covered up, carrying the roses. I would pass by cars and select the faces I would offer the roses to, meeting the requests of the faces which asked for them. When someone would ask me about the price, I would say it was a present, and give them to him and smile at him, then go. I saw many smiles, and even more astonishment. But what annoyed me was the Muharraqi man near the Gufool traffic lights. He was an elderly man. He asked for a rose. I gave it to him. What surprised me was that he did not ask me how much it was, but took out BD10 [approx. 26 USD] from his pocket and told me to keep the rest. I smiled and told him it was a gift. He looked at me in surprise and kept staring at my face, as the mask had slipped when I wasn't paying attention. He got out of his car, and held my face in his hands, his wide eyes focused on my face. All of this was happening in silence; it was as if he had a secret he wanted to uncover, while I had fear in my heart and didn't want to end up in a police station, thanks to my crazy ideas. He then said my name. I was shocked. I strongly denied it was me, but he asked me whether I was the son of so-and-so. Here he became silent as it became obvious that he had recognised me while I didn't know him. He insisted that I get into his car, despite my refusal. At this point, the cars behind him started honking loudly. He drove ahead, parked his car and returned walking to me. He asked me why I was doing that while I was well-off and had an inheritance. He asked why I was selling roses when I had all that money. I asked him to calm down and told him that all I was doing was reflecting on people's behaviour. I wasn't selling anything. I had bought all those roses and was giving them out to those who asked for them, just like water.

Perhaps this would be a suitable point for another photo, this time from Bo_MaLiC:

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

Both high and low
For once I'd like to quote from my own blog, bint battuta in bahrain, as I wrote a post about the divide between the written and spoken forms of Arabic, and what influence that has on the use of the language:

From time to time I have come across claims (though I can't seem to find good references on the internet) that illiteracy in the Arab world is closely tied to Arabic being a diglossic language, i.e. that there is a marked difference between the written and various spoken forms. […] I've been discussing this subject – diglossia, literacy – with various friends recently, to get their opinions, but we didn't reach any clear conclusions. One person claimed that the use of Standard Arabic was increasing, because of satellite channels – it's the only way a programme can get an audience across the Arab world. Another told me exactly the opposite – that because of satellite TV, people are more familiar with the different dialects of Arabic and are more confident of understanding and of being understood, therefore no longer feel the need to speak a standardised form.

We'll leave you to think about that – more from Bahrain next week!

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