You are viewing Culture

The Khabbaz

The Khabbaz preparing to bake the traditional bread of Bahrain

The Khabbaz, originally uploaded by malyousif.



The baker preparing to slap the dough on the wall of the clay oven. This is the traditional way in which bread in Bahrain is baked. It is also called Iranian bread or Khobbiz (hence the baker in Arabic is called Khabbaz). This Khabbaz is in Saar village.

Khobbiz is a “must have” component in our household’s Friday Breakfast (vlog coming up!).

My Canon 20D is on the blink by the way, it just won’t switch on for some reason. So you have to put up with my mobile snaps until it’s fixed! Sorry.

Have a wonderful Friday! 🙂

Share

Very quickly

Over the last few days three things were brought to the fore in the local press after people continued to point fingers and talk about the situations in their majlises etc: one thing that has been talked about for years in Bahrain is the issue of naturalization, which is a very emotive subject with the opposition (read the majority of Bahrain) believing that the process is adopted purely to strengthen the hand of government by bringing in new naturalized citizens and use them to skew the electoral outcome and change the country’s demographic; the government on the other hand say that there are no such motives and they are granting citizenship only to those who qualify.

My say: we’re tired of this shit. It’s high time to establish an independent commission of enquiry with free access to all records and persons and then publish a report. If the government is found at fault, then amend/change the laws to ensure that it does not transgress it in the future. If on the other hand it finds that the public’s fears are unfounded, then the public should just shut up and let us get on with our lives.

the prime minister visiting needy families in MuharraqSecond thing: Muharraq, that island which defines Bahraini culture, politics and opposition throughout its ages, has once again rocked the boat.

It’s various “majlises” – community halls presided over by luminaries of neighbourhoods and used as simple devices to while away the time, plan political movements, and strengthen the community spirit and good neighbourliness – have decided that they have had enough with sectarian-motivated political movements and told all political societies in Muharraq that they couldn’t give a shit about them, especially the Asalah (Wahabi) and Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood) that they will not support them any more as their programs in the 2002 elections were far too sectarian and government-allied. The majlises will front and support their own candidates in opposition to these Islamist movements.

Then a tonne of bricks came tumbling on them, by way of our prime minister who defines their roles as:

Addressing the majlis owners, he stressed their role in diagnosing the citizens’ needs and referring them to government officials.

Mainly relegating their ancient role to that of triage rooms in hospitals; just conduits to the “real thing.” He also had this nugget of wisdom to dispense:

he warned against misusing the parliament to raise controversial issues which could only smear the legislative luster.

Sorry sir, I wholeheartedly disagree with your premises. I would rather our parliament raise these contentious issues and solve them, rather than leave them to fester and ultimately explode in our communities.

As to the majlises, they are regarded by the community as localised mini-parliaments to inculcate the spirit of democracy and solve local issues locally, rather than be a conduit to the government, which they certainly can do should they so wish. Majlises are excellent at fostering and enhancing the community spirit, as such, their activities should not be curtailed. And if you believe that you can, then allow me to tell you sir, that you are ill informed. Some of these majlises have been going since 1957, some might even have been established before that, so leave them alone, they’re doing a good job throughout the kingdom.

Third and final thing (I’ve got to get work done, after a wonderful 2-day weekend!): The dogs are out once again attacking “Haq’s” right to petition the UN to get involved in Bahrain’s political scene by sponsoring or aiding in correcting the 2002 constitution. They have collected 82,000 signatures in a petition calling for the restoration of the 1973 constitution, or proper amendment of the 2002 constitution. Faisal Foulath, famous Shura Council specialist in brainfarts, is calling the Haq movement liars and basically is being used to start another smear campaign against them.

The prime minister also obliquely mentioned them and lambasted them for their efforts in his visit to Muharraq (he was rather busy wasn’t he? Attacking 3 subjects in one, THIS is what I call efficient damage control!) in which he stated:

The Premier yesterday warned against raising controversial issues which may drive wedges in the community and serve narrow personal interests. “Democracy, openness and freedom of opinion should not be used as a pretext to violate the law, sow sectarian sedition, or falsify truths in international arenas, claiming internal liberties are curbed,”

Alrighty then… so he too found it distasteful that Haq went whining to the UN. But then, if the Royal Court would accept receiving popular petitions, they might not have resorted to such a measure.

Things are hotting up my friends! Elections must be really really close now. And my fellow Bahrainis would recognise this flurry of activities of promising more reforms, building more houses, visiting the poor and making them promises, and cleaning the roads and painting the curb-stones and the outpouring of wisdom by the tanker-load by senior officials in and out of government are just signs that we have gotten used to.

These cleanups remind me of the preparation for the GCC conference before they hit the island for a day or two, the whole island gets a face lift. Maybe having the elections every four years will now be regarded as a good thing if they’re going to clean up the place more often than the GCC shindigs.

Have an excellent Sunday my friends, the very first first day of the week in the history of Bahrain!

Share

The tide turns

Posted on

Some say that this war is much more than meets the eye, as it is in reality not more than a political game increasingly looking like being played by amateurs at the expense of the hapless Lebanese, caught in the middle, and are paying for it with their lives, property and a whole country’s infrastructure, all of which have just been repaired and were raring to go!

Alas, dumb conspirators think that they can force through their “New Middle East” child by allowing battles like these to continue unchecked, and allow more children to be slaughtered, and have the temerity to characterise what is happening now as nothing more than birth pangs!

If and when this “New Middle East” is ever born, it will be no more than an ill-formed aborted foetus.

To me Israel has already lost the war; while the winner is already determined regardless of military outcome. Joining Israel’s loss are its new and old friends: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

The winners in the world’s public opinion is Nasrallah and his Hizballah who have already achieved what the Muslim Nation could not throughout its more than 1400 years history. Could such an outcome be comparable to that other battle in which another son of the Prophet laid down his and his companions’ lives in a just stance for truth, against a vastly superior army?

That’s for history to decide.

Today; however, all Muslims are virtually a single sect, today all Muslims are Hizballah!

Share

Ostracized

My good friend Mohammed is ruminating on some thoughts on his blog (welcome back to blogging my friend, you were missed!) on conflicts which have made him wake up and take notice. I shall respond to one of his points, and I urge you to go read what he has to say, which I think is a valid point of view:

Regarding the deafening Arab silence in condemning Israel, I think it demonstrates several important factors:

1. You are alone. As a country, no matter whichever it may be in the Arab world, and in this case it is Lebanon, one of the main investment centres for Gulf Arabs flush with money, it is still alone when it comes to war. Especially this war. My observation unfortunately it is that as Hizballah is Shia, then to hell with them, let them burn. There is not a single thought given beyond this fact, hence in this case, both country and paramilitaries are on their own.

2. Where does Hizballah get its weapons? Do they go out to the weapons market and buy those Katyushas? Some, maybe, but the majority must be supplied by sympathetic countries who have the legal infrastructure to actually go and buy weapons, considering that these deals now are country-to-country, rather than manufacturer-to-buyer kind of transactions. I’ll leave it to you to decide who those sympathisers are. Suffice it to say that it is a different set than those supplying Hamas and the “resistance” in Iraq.

3. Haifa is hardly the “depth of Israel,” according to the maps, it’s a mere 35 kilometers south of Hizballah’s launch pad. Which begs the question, do their sympathisers not “trust” them with bigger and heavier iron? Don’t they want to reach Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

4. The UN is a camel, not very beautiful, not very efficient, but sometimes practical. It’s getting to an agreement by committee, hence, don’t expect them to make a decision in a hurry, and certainly not one that might anger even a little member. Are they toothless then in these circumstances? Of course. Their effect only happens after the fact, once things have calmed down. Had they had the authority for immediate deployment of peace-keeping forces, the situation would be a lot different.

5. Nothing, absolutely nothing demonstrates the tribalism of Arabs more than wars and conflicts, even on a micro level, let alone this “huge” conflict we have on our hands now. These events crystalizes positions – unfortunately – without much thought beyond the family, tribe, sect, country. The brain ceases to function beyond those things, and of course logic has left the building quite a while ago, and if – and that’s a big if – one declares a position slightly out of those drawn and accepted lines, then that person is immediately vilified, attacked verbally and possibly physically, labeled a traitor and a sell-out, and ostracized. A lot of these people who do question accepted norms more often than not answer with their lives.

Violence, you see, is something that is built into our psyche as Arabs, if the situation does not yet demand the use of fists, then at least the floor belongs to that person who shouts loudest. Most definitely not to that person who is trying to reason and look at alternate points of view to arrive at a conclusive solution.

It is this trait, I think, more than any other that has succeeded for centuries in cowing us, in forcing us to happily accept tyrants, and has allowed us to regress rather than progress. And we really have only ourselves to blame.

One of my friend Mohammed’s conclusions is that this situation will breed more terrorists. Mohammed I agree with you; this will most certainly rub some passions raw and someone will take it upon themselves to “avenge” the Arab honour. After all, Hizballah’s birth was another Israeli incursion into Lebanon, Al-Qa’idah’s birth was the mountains of Afghanistan in response to Soviet intervention, Zarqawi et al is the result of the American insurrection in Iraq, so it is safe to assume that this conflict too will give birth to some more “freedom fighters” who will continue to perpetuate and wreak havoc in the world.

By the same token, and in the continued absence of proper educational systems in the Arab and Muslim worlds, one that values critical thinking rather than learning by rote, there is no doubt in my mind, that someone, somewhere, out of 250 millions of my Arab brothers and sisters, and the more than 1.3 billion Muslims around the world, will have read part of this post and have already decided that I too, should be ostracized for my views… Simply for asking the “wrong” questions.

Share

One Palestinian Pound

Posted on

One Palestinian Pound of the Anglo-Palestinian Bank Ltd.

One Palestinian Pound, originally uploaded by malyousif.



I visited my sister Maha’s workplace (Palace Enterprises) this morning and had the good fortune to also visit one of the owners of the company, Waleed Al-Rayyis, who is an avid currency collector and a pleasure to talk to. One of the rare notes he’s got in the collection is this Palestinian Pound.

If you look closely, you will notice that it has Arabic, Hebrew and English text. It is also quite clear that there is no mention of “Israel” on it, which leads me to believe that it must have been prior to 1948, and is a clear indication of several factors:

1. Both Palestinians and Jews resided in Palestine.
2. Jews were an important section of the constitution of Palestine’s citizenry.
3. Palestinians had the upper hand, ie, they ruled at that time.
4. Britain recognised that fact, hence “The Anglo-Palestine Bank Limited” printing these notes, rather than “Anglo-Israeli” which obviously at the time did not exist.

It’s interesting how a single currency note can have that much history isn’t it?

Share

No way, not in Bahrain!

Posted on

There is a huge part of me that refuses to believe that we – Bahrainis – are capable of doing what we see on the television news every day; the violence, the killing, the kidnapping, the vicious crime, the beatings, the terrorism, all of these things I would like to believe that they are completely alien to us. We are after all a small nation of under a million people living in a country the size of a small city in the larger world.

Everyone knows each other. If you believe in the six degrees of separation, then Bahrain the factor is really just one degree. If you don’t know a person, then you most probably will know his kin, or a member of your family or a friend is bound to know the person, so the network is really really small. Bahrain is in fact more like a large family.

This closeness gives us a huge comfort zone. You will never hesitate to stop and give an unfortunate person a hand. You see an accident in front of you and suddenly tens of people immediately park and try to help, genuinely. And in most cases – this is from personal experience and it has happened to me several times – you will find that you will know the persons involved or know a member of their family. This is part of what makes Bahrain truly great. I will never – ever – leave this place. It might be just a sand pit in some people’s minds, but it is MY sand pit and I love it.

That’s why it really hurts me to be informed of vicious and seemingly unprovoked and calculated attacks which result in this:

police brutality against abdali abbas?

Meet Mr. Abbas Abdali of al-Ekr village in the island of Sitra. He was driving home at an early hour of the morning when he got stopped by unmarked (and dis-plated vehicles) and viciously attacked by masked men. He was left torn, bleeding and unconscious on the pavement for 3 hours before a migrant worker happened to be by and shook him awake. Abbas just had enough energy to drive the short distance home for his wife to immediately take him to the Bahrain Defence Forces hospital to get attended to. He ended up with a list of stitches to various places in his body, particularly his head. According to Abbas, he was surrounded, beaten and kicked by more than 7 persons who came out of unmarked Range Rover vehicles, the men were masked and some of whom wearing the traditional Arab dress.

Why? What possible reason could have warranted this vicious attack?

The circumstantial evidence (until the police investigate and transparently produce a report – which realistically will never happen) is that he happens to be the elder brother of the Unemployment Committee head, who happens to reside in prison at the moment due to his involvement in the “Dana Mall Riots” as that case came to be known, he himself was attacked and sexually assaulted in the very spot that Abbas came to this trouble.

Conspiracy? I don’t know. I certainly am very sceptical when it comes to conspiracy theories, I just find them far too fantastic that only simpletons actually ultimately believe. But the circumstances of this case just does not compute.

Regardless, that does not interest me. What interests me is that this is not my Bahrain. No, I am not being an ultra-romantic, but this is so alien to us as it raises so many questions which we – as a society – demand an answer for. The police must open a full and thorough enquiry and punish all those responsible, regardless of how high they are within the society and if it becomes known that these criminals are even remotely associated with the security apparatus, they should be doubly punished.

Incidents like these are despicable, and it is these incidents – not the Islamists and their shenanigans, not the whores, not the discos, not the drugs and not the booze which destroy our beloved country’s reputation and world standing.

Something must be done about this. Please. For the sake of Bahrain.

Share

Blended!

Posted on

I got this in the mail today, and I thought it was a practical joke. Who the hell would send me this stuff?

BLENDER cover page BLENDER article

Then I remembered, I was interviewed by Blender for an article about Michael Jackson a few months ago!

It was a good interview actually, very well written and encompassing, not one that is superficial and fawning. After reading the article I’m glad I did it, and thanks go to my friend Shayma for arranging it.

Unfortunately, their site doesn’t seem to have that particular article, so you have to go out and buy it if you want to read it.

Share