Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

2 Dec, '05

Have you noticed that blogs in each country in the Gulf have a collective theme or trend? I have and I would like to hear your thoughts on this as well. The excellent The Muscatis blog has written about this phenomenon over a year ago, and now a fellow Omani blog, Wardat Al-Khaleej has amplified on the issue.

Here’s my take:

In Kuwait they are sarcastic and rip their government and parliament every day, but quite a number of the blogs (I’d say the majority) are more concerned with daily lives and relationships.

Qatar needs many more bloggers, I have no idea what’s going on in that scene.

Saudi is trepeditiously testing the waters and the bloggers there are probably the most corageous in the Gulf because if they are found out or fingered, we won’t hear from them again, regardless of the number of petitions and human rights reports. They’ll be gone. So not one of them writes using his/her real identity. However blogs like The Religious Policeman is a *must read* and is one of my personal favourites as it gives you an educated insight into what actually happens in that country and its author does not pull punches when he wants to express his opinion, but he always does so with civility, good manners and a huge measure of sarcasm that hits the point much more thoroughly than cursing at 1,000 words a minute. The other and the pioneer in Saudi blogging of course is non other than Saudi Jeans who is young and frustrated by what he sees as inequities in his Saudi society. He tends to concentrate however on technical issues and is the glue that binds the Saudi blogger community together. Without his efforts, the Saudi bloggers scene would be vastly different.

The Emirates is more of an expat scene with continuous bitching on how bad life is in the Emirates and how brain-dead Aeraabs are as well as how smelly and uncouth Indians and Pakis are and how oh how mundane and boooaring this expat life is and how they want permaent membership in the “clooob” and have to live in lurvly Jumaira beach area. There are a few more blogs written by locals, but I fail to find a trend really. They are all over the spectrum but seem to be united in their feeling of superiority.

Oman’s blogs are peaceful and human and personal and lovely and cuddly! Hardly a controversy but the mundane day-to-day existence and experiences. I read Omani blogs if I want to believe that everything in the world is hunky-dory and relax.

Bahraini blogs on the other hand do have a trend, and that trend is local politics. For a country that is as small as Bahrain, one would wonder why the hell are we even concerned with politics? Maybe because of the have/have not divide? Maybe because of the lethargy of the government, maybe because of perceived wrongs suffered by the people, and maybe because of the interference of fools and middle management who have made it their life’s work to make everyone else’s as uncomfortable as possible?

In any case for our troubles we have had 40 sites permanently blocked recently (they’re pinning this on the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority this time rather than the usual Ministry of (dis)Information which is the usual (and will continue to be) the bogey-man of restriction of speech) and more blockages are in the offing.

And I thought that we had that thing called the Freedom to Speak which presumably was guaranteed by the constitution?

Filed in: General

Comments (33)

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  1. anonymous says:

    Religious policemen is a fraud

    Religious policemen is a total and utter fraud… although he is a good writer and his sarcasm beats any other blog out there… his fearless and vocal voice against Al-saud is commendable…HOWEVER….he is NOT SAUDI although he purports to be….this is based on two slip of the tongues THAT no ARAB would make:

    1- After received an email from FARAH, he decided to publish the ‘gentleman’s ‘ email…. hmmm
    2. He thinks Quran recitation competitions are based on speed… any arab-speaker would know it was totally opposite…
    3. Stating that the Quran should be ‘placed where the sun don’t shine’…. no one claiming to be muslim would ever say that..

    After these points were raised to him on his blog he took the following actions:
    1. He edited to posts.
    2. He deleted all related comments…AND blocked me and another saudi blogger.

    So much for the free speech he so critisizes the Al-Saud for….proving that he is some kind of British expat who lived in the UK and who doesnt want to be openly exposed.

    So he is totally discredited in my eyes and many of the other Saudi bloggers. All he wants to achieve is a wide western readership and a platform to not only diss Al-Saud but all that is related to islamic ideology in a very extreme and insulting way… a total disregard that I think even, Mahmood, who considers himself to be liberal would accept if not at least appearing to condemn such attacks.

  2. mahmood says:

    Re: Religious policemen is a fraud

    I remember that incident.

    1. Farah could be both a male or female name, just like Najat for instance as well as others.
    2. He was being sarcastic, you missed that apparently, and also demonstrating his loathing of extremism as typified by the Qaseem district (not town).
    3. Yes that was overboard, but I have heard a lot worse from fellow Muslims, don’t use that to categorically vilify him to your own ends.

    2nd part

    1. Every blogger I know edits his/her posts from time to time without seeking approval nor making it apparent that he/she did so. Even respected scholars like Juan Cole do, look up my incident with him which I documented here. I hold no grudge against him nor did I expect a statement to the fact that he changed his article when apprised of facts. That is completely up to the writer.
    2. I have blocked a number of people whom I found detrimental to the atmosphere of this site for my own selfish reasons and for the continuity and contiguity of the blog. I bet this happens to most blogs. In his opinion, you probably transgressed on one or some of his ideals so he blocked you. It is his blog, so eat up your pride and deal with it, get on with your life.

    If he was discredited in your eyes then fine, that is fully within your own domain and you will agree with me that is completely subjective and not globally definitive.

    To me he has much more credibility than a lot of blogs I visit daily, and he does have good and noble intentions. If you disagree with him or any other person, that does not give you the right to defame and slander that person.

    And for the last time: I’m not a liberal, I’m a LIBERTARIAN!

  3. [deleted]0.95776700 1099323586.392 says:

    Re(1): Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Mahmood: “We are really fortunate really to have Mr. Bush at the helm who was persuaded to start the process, and me writing this is a direct result of his actions.”

    Now you’re talking sense, Mahmood. I’ll ignore the rest of the paragraph, knowing that’s its poor form in the Middle East to mention Bush or America without a knock at the end.

    As for the previous poster lamenting the apathy about the problems presented, I would caution patience. Informing people about the issues is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You can’t dash off a few posts and expect everyone to climb on your bandwagon. It is a long slow process, like filling a swimming pool with a squirt gun. You have a lot of work ahead of you. Stop complaining and start building your readership and networks.


  4. [deleted]0.95776700 1099323586.392 says:

    Re(1): Religious policemen is a fraud

    Mahmood: “And for the last time: I’m not a liberal, I’m a LIBERTARIAN!”

    Then you are on the right end of the political spectrum. Hmmm. You praise Bush and you profess a conservative political orientation. Mahmood, your destiny is to be a Republican.


  5. anonymous says:

    Re(2): Religious policemen is a fraud

    Steve darling

    If Mahmood’s destiny is to be a Republican, then mine is to become a Texan.


  6. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    That’s Interesting article to read, I agree with it, but I prefer to be peaceful in a situation where you shouldn’t be offensive or critical, I am anti-nationalist, I barely bother about what’s going on in specific country, I prefer to think deeply and find a solution by criticizing those countries in general. I don’t like to mention daily news, I like to find the origin of us not the origin of today’s problems, our problems have an root not a new root caused by some new arabic leaders or some news feminist or religious policemen or some CIDs organizations. I love History, and I love to dig it everyday in my blog, I don’t mention it sometime but I like it to influence my writing, as an Omani I am, I prefer not to act like one, I prefer to act like muslim because my ideology prevents me to mention only Oman, and forget the others, It may make me feel selfish, and Nationalism is a selfish ideology to some extents. As I see, and observe daily in my life, There’s a thin line between Politics and Religions, people sometime misunderstand both and can’t divide them, It’s hard to make them apart in the case of Islam, and it’s almost very misunderstood in the west. In our daily life, we see many problems, complex problems. We as humans or arab citizens, we only complain about these problems and ask for changes..later on after a change has been applied we will see another problem and ask again for another change to change the old change!…you know what the problem was basically?. The problem was We are bad-problem-solvers because we didn’t find the cause of the old problem to ask for the right change to solve that problem, instead we ask for changes with no idea what the real problem is. Myself, I get confused and I can’t find the main problem sometime, that’s why I prefer to be calm and quiet in solving problems and don’t be judgemental until everything becomes clear. Sorry If I wrote alot, but I usually comment in long.

    [b]Salam [x][/b]

  7. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    It gets back to everyone’s personal level of involvement to the surroundings. Some websites really do break the mold.

    The Joker

  8. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Mahmood – have you seen this? [url][/url] (scroll down)

    Apparenty your Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa has paid off all US$330 million of the plastic popfreak’s debt.

    – [url=][b]secretdubai[/b]

  9. smiley says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Thanks for the plug Mahmood (though you’ve linked Warda’s blog under blog’s title). The reason I am frustrated about the present “thematic trend” in Omani blogs, is because I don’t think it’s true to the reality that we live. I feel it paints a false image. Yes, Oman is a peaceful country. Yes, we are lucky to have a government that does not segregate between sects and does not oppress shi3a like Saudi does, or that leads to violence like Bahrain. But still we do face massive issues that the government has been doing its damndest to sugar coat or just sweep under the carpet. The press is entirely subsidized by the government and cannot survive without it so they will never face the issue. Plus our Ministry of Truth has an iron grip and will never allow the issues to ever be discussed in public.

    Finally we have an avenue for discussing the issues. First it was online discussion forums, and now blogs. And yet no one cares. If you read the blogs, it appears that things are, like you say, all hunky dory. What about the massive unemployment. What about the horrendously low wages that the job seekers are being forced to accept. What about the govenrment workers who haven’t had a wage hike in 20 years. What about the defence budget that eats up over 40% of the annual spending despite us being the most peaceful country in the region. What about the massive and growing divide between the rich and poor. What about the religious freaks who tried to overthrow the government earlier this year. What about the fact that we’ve found out that Shell has lied to us and overestimated our oil reserves and now we’re facing a super fast drop in production yields in most of our wells. We might be out of oil as soon as 16 years from now and yet the only alternative source of income the government talks about is an increase of tourism income by a measely 3%. Or the fact that although we’ve had a Majlis Al Shura since the early 80’s and it’s been freely elected since the mid-90’s with full rights to women, no one still knows what these elected officials do and not a single one of them has even attempted to test the water by trying to make a difference. Does no one care?
    [Modified by: muscati (Osamah) on December 02, 2005 01:59 PM]

  10. mahmood says:

    Re: Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Of course people care, only if it means that someone else is sacrificed rather than themselves, way of life, or income. That’s the pervasive thing in the whole Middle East and is not unique to Oman. Does that mean that you should just shut up and accept it? That is completely upto the individual as I do not, nor does anyone other than yourself, would know your particular situation and your particular country, thus no one should even dare impose his/her will on you and your community.

    Globally however things are starting to change simply because the giants (USA/Europe) have had enough of dealing with despots and have suddenly woken up that dealing with a democracy is really a more stable thing to do than supporting looting desperate “leaders” for generations. We are really fortunate really to have Mr. Bush at the helm who was persuaded to start the process, and me writing this is a direct result of his actions. You sometimes need a fool to do your bidding, because they are much more easily manipulatable!

    Sorry for the wrong link, this has been corrected now. I love your blog! Please take heart and keep blogging, you ARE making a difference.

  11. [deleted]0.95776700 1099323586.392 says:

    Re(3): Religious policemen is a fraud

    It’s entirely possible, Jasra. All you need is a green card and a ticket to Dallas. Texas is full of people from other countries. Lots of Eastern Europeans and Koreans and Chinese and Vietnamese and even a few Brits and Scots. And lots of Indians and boatloads of Mexicans. There’s no reason why a Gulf Arab wouldn’t fit in. Or even be noticed.

    In a couple years you’ll be saying hi y’all and cuttin’ off the lights and talking about your INsurance. That wild Texas freedom and independence thang gets under your skin. And then you’ll go home to the Gulf in snakeskin cowboy boots and a pink cowboy hat and your relatives will wonder what the heck happenned.

    Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you.


  12. Steelangel says:

    Re(2): Religious policemen is a fraud

    By Allat, Steve, please don’t lump Libertarians and Republicans together; The current Republican party is so far from Libertarianism it’s not funny.

    At some point in the next few years I’m forseeing a split in the Republicans a la the split in the Likud party. Maybe the militant centrists and Libertarians will finally wake up.

    Or maybe we’ll just sit around and lament the Jews ruling the world like every other group.


  13. mahmood says:

    Re(3): Religious policemen is a fraud

    yaaay again! old friends are commenting again, started missing you guys and gals! 😉

  14. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs


    Just wanna comment about the Saudi blogs since I am one of them 🙂

    I personally don’t think that the religious policeman is really a reflection of the “real” Saudi Arabia.. he is expressing lots of frustration .. and only that!!

    I like Saudi Jeans and I can very much feel for him .. and for sure recognize his efforts in creating the Saudi Blogs community!

    Finally .. there are couple of Saudi blogers who openly show their names and even more .. in their blogs … Even though I don’t agree with him .. but Mr. Fouad has a real good blog!
    btw, he is not the only one sharing his name through his blog.

    Guess people .. all over .. are getting more courageous and welling to take a bit of risk!

  15. anonymous says:

    Re(3): Religious policemen is a fraud

    Hmmm. I’ll admit that Republicans stray from the conservative reservation too often, especially now on the budget. I see Libertarians as a sort of utopian conservatives disconnected from reality. If you shed the Republican cynism and inject some pragmatism in the Libertarians, you reach a happy conservative middle.


  16. mahmood says:

    Re(3): Religious policemen is a fraud

    yay she’s back! :p

  17. anonymous says:

    Trackback :: Trends in UAE blogs

    TrackBack from Husain Shabbir

    Mahmood has posted an insightful analysis of the trends or themes of most UAE bloggers. He says most bloggers in UAE bitch about how bad life is in the UAE.

    The Emirates is more of an expat scene with continuous bitching on how bad life is in the E…

  18. Steelangel says:

    Re(4): Religious policemen is a fraud

    I never much left Mahmood 😀 Just have been quiet; there’s only so much I can say these days!

    On the subject of the Religious Policeman, There’s a lot of me that knows he’s real, though I sometimes wonder if he’s not terribly unique amongst the Saudi populace; lucky enough to have escaped the brainwashing.

  19. Steelangel says:

    Re(4): Religious policemen is a fraud

    That’s the Libertarian Party, Steve. Their platform is neccessarily extreme, to differentiate from the Republicans. But I staunchly disagree with a few of thier ideals – open borders being one and I can’t completely agree with a tiny services-only government as such a government would fail at the protection and promotion of the nation’s interests. There are people out there who wish to replace the notion of liberal (or conservative) government with ‘Islamic Government’ – anaethma to human progress and freedom. A people that does not defend their freedoms and culture lose those freedoms and culture to barbarians. I personally believe that Western Culture is worth defending. It wasn’t the Chinese or Islam that developed General Relativity, it was a German Jew, y’know.

    Anyway – a lot of Libertarians think that the LP is amazingly shortsighted and utopian, worth only a protest vote.

    If Condi Rice, John McCain and a few other politicians split from the Republicans to run on a Libertarian-culture/National Defense/Reason in Government platform, they would win the middle without a fight. The Democrats have nothing. At all. They’ve drifted too far to their ‘religion’ (Leftism). No sane person can identify with people like Ward Churchill or Cindy Sheehan or Michael Moore. The Repubs have abused my trust and Bush has only JUST NOW done what he should have done three years ago – let out the attack dogs about Iraq, explain exactly what the WoT was about, cast the fight in WW2 allusions, and shut the leftists up by being straightforward because Leftists exist on doubletalk and hypocracy.

    Just like the Muslim Brotherhood – but that’s a post for later.

  20. anonymous says:



    Just wanted to say that we are reall enjoying your blog. keep it up

    its a really interesting insight into Bahrani live

    We’ve placed a link on our website, we like it so much

    well done


  21. mahmood says:

    Re: weekbyweek7

    thank you for the link and your kind words.

  22. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    I think your comments are accurate on UAE bloggers – but are you referring to English language blogs only? These are the only ones I can read, and nearly all of them are written by expats. And yes – we do moan! But it is fair to say that the situation for most people here has dramatically deteriorated – financially and quality-of-life wise – over the past five years. And that people – expats – are disenfranchised here (fair enough, we’re not asking for or expecting any say in local politics) so blogs are an outlet.

    Circumstances just aren’t happy enough any more for people to shut up and put up with a lot of the problems and frustrations in the UAE. And given it is – Dubai in particular – attempting to be on a level with other developed world centres, then the criticism is both just and necessary. You can’t claim to be open and tolerant and progressive and have such draconian censorship laws, for example. Or claim to be a “city that cares” but take no real action over road deaths, or unpaid workers literally starving in appalling labour camps and unable to pay for medical treatment. Newspapers are certainly forcing some action here, it’s only to be expected that bloggers are going to express the same sentiments.

    I get the impression there are a load more blogs written in Arabic by locals, but sadly have no clue of their content. This guy’s blog: is banned here. Again, it’s in Arabic so I am not sure why it’s blocked.

    There seem to be quite a few local emirati teen blogs in Arabic – certainly teenagers here are hugely active on the web, which is possibly why they keep blocking Flickr (as it’s used as a meeting point for young males and females). There also seem to be quite a few young women/mother blogs around, particularly by stay-at-home mothers, which is understandable.

  23. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Sorry the above comment @11.01 was from me, [url=””][b]secretdubai[/b][/url]. I’m not logged in or something.

  24. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    The problem is, imho, and please before bashing me, just listen to my personal view, I do not impose and just sharing what I think is….

    so the problem we’re facing here is the freedom of speech thing with our governments, we resort to blogging, forums, anything online cuz the internet is not controlled, or is it? They would still come and block sites for what? for speaking out what everyone knows out there? I mean they are facts and you know it, let people release their frustration. There are some people who would use things to their own benefits thus resorting to violent measures. People do not understand that unity is the most important element and that change, no matter how slow, should be based on unity and proper conduct not just violence.

    I am not blaming people for what is happening in Bahrain recently, on the contrary, these people have had enough. and there is always a breaking point.

    One of the reasons I came up with my blog, was because of the different attitudes of people, of course they should have different attitudes and approaces. But for something major to happen, all should be on the same line of thinking and action. I am saying this because in Bahrain we get a lot of different people, now to me, again as a person, am not referring to religion or sunni and shia conflict. It’s all about how we behave as people that affects our unity or not. Take for example the shitty people and bdf members, or those illetrate people who vote for extremists, cuz they think the same. These are the people affecting our unity. Plus it IS the government who are trying to change the demographics of Bahrain by injecting inferior people into our society thus weakening it. There are a lot of points but no matter what I say, “boys will be boys”.


    -One LIB Team member ([url][/url])

  25. mahmood says:

    Re: Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Ben Kerishan should be reason enough for any non-Arabic speaker to start learning the language! He’s certainly one of my regular (read daily) reads as he is very erudite, thorough and wipes the floor terrorists and islamists using their own tools, but this time with incisive logic. The Lands of Sands along with The Religious Policeman are at the very top of my list, I don’t know how The Lands of Sands slipped my mind when I wrote the article. Bad me!

    I agree with you that blogs are an excellent venue for sharing thoughts, criticisms and even simply whiling away the time, there is nothing wrong with any of these pursuits. My general categorisations of the themes bloggers take in each country is of course based on my own interpretation which by definition is subjective rather than objective. As you said with the wide spectrum of blogs and bloggers in every country we are bound to have a lot of variation in themes and topics covered.

    I enjoy your blog tremendously and like your tongue-in-cheek style. Very informative and entertaining at the same time. Keep it up!

  26. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    That pretty much sums up Kuwaiti blogs, Mahmoud. Thanks!

  27. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    That was me by the way… didn’t know I had to login


  28. anonymous says:

    Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Not enough Qatari blogs… you probably mean there aren’t any.
    I’ve come across maybe 5 or 6 blogs – only expatriates (such as myself).


    [url=]Qatar Cat[/url]

  29. mahmood says:

    Re: Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    Thanks Zaidoun, I enjoy your blog the most amongst the Kuwaiti blogs which are generally better quality than most in the Gulf, at least their variety is quite nice. Is your blogging in Arabic now a permanent feature? How did your audience change since you started with your Arabic blogging, or what was the reaction of your English-speaking audience when you did and continued to do that?

  30. mahmood says:

    Re: Thematic trends in Gulf blogs

    I know it is a shame and I don’t know why the Qataries are not blogging, or maybe they are but under the radar. I know that services like for instance does allow its users to completely hide their blogs, or password protect them. Maybe they’re hiding there?

    Like you, there is another quite respected lady in Qatar blogging under the name Peaceful Muslimah but her last post was in August and I don’t know if she still is in Doha or have moved since.

    An aggregation service for Qatari blogs would be a boon… any takers?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Although this may be several months old, but one should point out that unlike other GCC blogs, there are more topical blogs in the UAE. This I have not found in Bahraini or other countries.

    I would dare say that UAE blogs are possibly the most developed _because_ they are expat driven. This is mostly because it is a product of a vast and diverse group of people with a wealth of experiences you don’t normally find in one single GCC country.

    As someone has mentioned, there isn’t really much room for anyone to comment on politics, neither are there any political issues to comment on to begin with (local politics that is). The country is very stable, unlike Bahrain where the situation is volatile, or Kuwait where the population is very involved.

    And yes, people are not bitching because they like to. There are some serious survival issues involved in Dubai. I say this from a business owner perspective. Salaries are simply not able to keep up with the rates of inflation, let alone the runaway rent prices. This is particularly interesting because Dubai specifically _claims_ to be the best of this and best of that. Too much hype and you reap disappointment.

  32. mahmood says:

    Thank you for the update, I agree to a certain extend that since I put up the original article, the Emirates-based blogs have developed tremendously, for instance, I read the following almost daily and track them through bloglines:

    I cannot agree with your description of Bahrain being “volatile” which it is not, I wouldhave used “vibrant” politically as an adjective. However, sadly, it seems that the Barhaini blogosphere is diminishing rather than expanding, and I don’t know why that is. I wish more Bahraini blogs spring up, we need fresh blood!

    As for Kuwait, I think they are definitly the granddaddy of the Gulfian Blogosphere and rightly so. They were the closest to Iraq at the cusp of the blogging inception and Kuwait Unlimited continues to be the lead and the bellweather of the Kuwaiti scene.

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