I took a visiting friend around to Seef Mall for some “authentic Bahraini cuisine” in the shape of the excellent Yum Yum Tree grill and we both enjoyed the feast!
Anyway, after stuffing ourselves, we walked about the centre a bit and he wanted to buy his wife something nice. We stopped at a perfume shop and what I saw at the checkout desk was amazing. I couldn’t believe what some people would do to themselves “just to look beautiful”. I asked the shop assistant about this product and she told me that this is a rather high moving item!
Doesn’t anybody bother to read the ingredients? When they say “explosion” they’re NOT kidding! I am sure a kid would be able to make such a powerful bomb out of this muck, so how can “thinking” people actually put this on a sensitive part of their body is beyond me.
I wonder if these products ever make it to the Ministry of Health before being made available for general sale.
Anyway, I hope whoever does put this muck on their lips waits a few days before lighting a cigarette, then I have no doubt that their whole face will explode!
It took two years of continuous struggle and hard work and only a few seconds for the Malkiya beachfront situation to be resolved. The king – yes, himself – intervened and ordered the illegal fish-traps removed. The traps of course were installed to prevent people from “trespassing” in the sea in front of a hardly used estate, and were erected in the first place to compensate for the huge loss of face suffered by the owner of said estate – Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the king’s cousin – when he was ordered two years ago to remove a separation wall he again illegally built.
The papers have branded the removal of the fish traps a win for Bahrain. I don’t. I regard it more as the full highlighting of the complete disregard that some hold the laws, and an affirmation that laws in this country are applied selectively; more-over, the state itself provides the resources for some people to continue to trample all over these laws.
Why else are there riot police stations within the contravening estate hurling abuse at people and officials without and preventing an official work party from removing the traps? Are those “peace keepers” beholden to the transgressor in any way? Are they in his employ, or are they – as they should – in the employ of the Kingdom of Bahrain sworn to serve its people and protect it from harm?
Why is it that after a week of the responsible authority issuing its order to remove the traps from the area their order goes unheeded and it takes the king to intervene in such a trivial matter?
They say that justice should not only be applied, but seen to be applied. Both situations – as evidenced by this debacle – are very far removed from our shores.
I wonder what trick would be employed next to prevent people from “trespassing” on what should be public property, my guess is that it won’t be too long for the press and people to be made busy once again with another brouhaha that would divert the country’s attention from more pressing issues.
UPDATE 070822: Municipal Councillor Yousif Al-Boori is a liar. Neither Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad communicated with him in regards to the Malkiya fish traps, nor did the King intervene and Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed, the fish traps owner, was the epitome of cooperation in getting them removed and did not hinder their removal. All this morning’s papers are saying so!
And he’s got a new recruit too. The surprising thing – well, unsurprising really – is that this “phenomenon” seems to be a feature of the Muslim Brotherhood specifically. First it was our effervescent Mo Khalid, the original Satanwala, then now it’s the big kahuna at Al-Menbar Islamic Society who has done some “good Internet research” into this “phenomenon” and as in today’s Al-Wasat, he has lectured about it to kids at the old age pensioner’s home in Hidd.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Salah Ali has defined – with his extensive Internet research and a dolefull of hearsay – who, what, where, when and the whatfors of Satan Worship; let me elucidated – briefly mind you – the gist of what he says:
Those who have been apprehended in most of the Arab countries are aged between 15 and 24 and they are private school graduates and don’t know anything about Islam even though they are Muslim, and they do not memorise the Fatiha or any of the other Quranic suras and they do not know any of the pillars of Islam nor the meaning of the two shahadas and none of the Islamic values.
They get to know each other by dying their hair black and shaving their moustaches and shaping their beards
They wear shiny black clothes and let their hair grow so that they tie it from behind (as in ponytail) and some wear ear rings
sorry this is just getting too disgusting for me to continue to translate, here’s Google to do the dirty for you if you are that interested, or read the original text referred to in Al-Wasat above.
But basically, the hugely popular and elected Member of Parliament, the representative of ALL Bahrainis, is casting stones on large segments of society, and you know what? He’ll once again get away with it; here we have him categorically and in print categorising whom he calls “Satanists” to be those who are in:
In private schools
come from rich or middle class families
who wear black
Salafis and other Islamists such as himself
What, weren’t you paying attention to his second point above?
The youth of both sexes between 15 – 24
Who like rock music
Party in private clubs, etc
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, this is what you pay for, now sit back and enjoy the show.
The words moronic rather than satanic comes to mind when I read this “report”. Another one for the anals of journalism me thinks.
Finally, there is some movement as far as the internet connectivity is concerned. Lightspeed Communications, which is partly owned by Jordan Telecom, has announced unlimited ADSL packages for the home and office at cheaper rates than the current bandwidth-limited packages offered by Batelco; details of these packages are:
If you go to their site’s tarriff page you will see a bright orange star next to the “promotional rate” but the page does not explain what that star is. It is fair to assume that it indicates some terms and conditions attached to that offer, but in the absence of printed explanations we have to wait for an official response, but unfortunately no response was forthcoming.
Hot on the heals of Lightspeed though, Lightspeed’s supplier have started offering Unlimited access to their business packages with an appreciable discount too! I would not be surprised to find that Batelco will soon introduced either more reductions of tariffs for home users and/or new unlimited packages and that, my friends, will be very welcome.
Is Batelco feeling the competitive heat? There are now many competitors in the broadband business: MTC Vodafone, Lightspeed, Neutel, Kalam, MENA Telecom and 2Connect amongst others, so Batelco most definitely is feeling the heat and Batelco being Batelco is responding of course. They do take competition very seriously and if history serves right, they will only move to provide better, faster and cheaper services when they have to.
They have now, I believe that the charges they levy on broadband access (both residential and business) are still high and I am absolutely convinced that ultimately they will be forced to reduce their tariffs to be more compatible with world standards, and more importantly, be reasonable enough for the local market to engender good internet based innovations.
The numbers that the competitors are offering though do not seem very convincing, especially when you consider they essentially buy wholesale from Batelco and then resell it without having to invest in their own infrastructure but depend on that provided by both Batelco and BIX. This is legitimate business practice of course and done in true trader mentality. But the thing that I fear is that just like a lot of small traders, they over promise and under deliver.
Consider for instance the packages recently announced by Lightspeed (shown above); their capacity is based on a 1Gbps port purchased from Batelco (bitstream service a lot of Lightspeed’s services would run on) which they hope to generate enough interest to fill. At the moment their contention ratio on that pipe is promised to be something like 15:1, but insiders tell me that in order for them to make any money off this deal, their business model is based on providing a contention ratio of 30-40:1. This essentially means that if you buy a 2Mbps contract from them, when they reach their break-even point you will probably experience much lower speeds! By that time of course Batelco might well have released much more competitive packages, or other entrants would have come into the market with good financial strength to carry their plans through while you are locked into that “star” that we can’t seem to find the explanation of.
The financial strengths of both Lightspeed and Kalam specifically give rise to some concerns. My sources indicate that both companies have not paid their BIX bill for months now and are under threat of stop-service. Lightspeed also had to downgrade its bandwidth capacity with BIX because it simply cannot afford the bill and this happened after it has been taken over by Jordan Telecom!
Lightspeed might have a bigger problem on its hands in a few months if it does not meet the “minimum customer connectivity clause” of the contract and if that happens, you can rest assured that Batelco will come down on Lightspeed like a tonne of bricks with hefty fines already designed in their contract. The repercussions – without the Jordan Telecom muscle – could very well be bankruptcy should they not take care of this particular problem.
Still, residential packages as they have offered could be their ultimate salvation. But they are sitting on a knife’s edge and they have to manage it very very carefully. If they sell a lot of these packages and they ultimately find they have a lot of unsatisfied customers due to the high contention ratios they will shoot themselves in the foot. Actually they would have shot off the whole leg. It’s that serious ironically because customers in 8 – 12 months’ time will have a much bigger choice than that currently enjoyed.
This is a similar situation – business wise, I am told, between Batelco and Kalam where the former who has been branded the latter as a “bad payer” with all the conditions that ensues on their relationship and ultimately customer base. There is nothing worse than falling foul of a business supplier. I hope they can re-capitalised (again?) in order to remove that particular stigma and be more creative in their offerings. We hardly hear of Kalam now.
There are also those malicious rumours doing the rounds that a telecoms company has not paid its employees for 6 months! I don’t know about the employees themselves, but had that been me I would have chucked that company in a long time ago and wrote the unpaid salaries off rather than keep with the headache of “will I get paid this month.” Telecoms companies are not alone in this boat of course, other major media companies do suffer from the same, uh, variable salary pay days just to keep employees (and their personal loaning banks) on their toes.
Which brings me to another question mark point here: Is it ego that is driving MENA Telecom or is it really good business sense? Why would anyone invest in a technology that has not solidified yet and why depend on a single vendor to take you down that path? Why invest such a huge sum of money in it without first testing the market properly or simply building a viable business case?
Why would it invest the huge sum of US$60 million in a market whose best estimates of broadband users is 60,000 and the vast majority of whom are on the Batelco 10 Dinar package per month?! What and where is their particular market? Please tell me! Unless they wish to take on Batelco head-on in the broadband business but then Batelco is operating on completely depreciated copper while MENA is going for the ultra new WiMax technology! If they do get even 100% market ownership of that “huge” 60k user-base, where can they make their money? I doubt very much that they will make it from VPN or DVB services. I can understand that a few business customers (and by few I do mean few) going for their VPN solution, but as we do not have any media infrastructure to speak of in this country, I would be kind enough to them to assume that they actually copied their business solutions from the Motorola WiMax brochure rather than have conducted proper market research! Could they please give the salesman who sold them that “solution” my number? I am in desperate need of as good sales staff. Still, they will be successful. They’ve got KFH to hold their back and it won’t allow it to fail. Industry watchers think that MENA might have gone bankrupt twice already save for KFH’s deep pockets.
So where does all of that leave us the consumers in this Jewel in the Arabian Gulf?
It certainly gives us more options, entrants are now coming up with nice packages but unfortunately they are not very well thought out business cases as we have seen from the above, but one could be forgiven for seeing a similarity in this and “birth pains”. Ultimately the good will rise because of innovative offerings while others will just naturally disappear from existence. This is the nature of a deregulated market and that is what we should expect more of.
What would really deregulate the market; however, is splitting Batelco into at least 2 businesses: one managing the wholesale which should own the infrastructure, while the other continue to offer the retail services. This will allow its retail operation to fairly compete in the market and with its own self. Rather than continuously being at loggerheads with the TRA for hiked prices offered to its customers and much more importantly allow new business entrants to come into the market and boldly provide new innovative services without having to worry that the rug will be pulled from under their feet at any moment.
I’m not going to bother to write too much about this as it happens again and again and they never learn, or maybe they actually do and it is the price they have to pay in order to keep their seats. Proof really that the US President and his whole government enchilada are simply the best salesmen and women the world has ever known.
This sales cycle this time has been aided and abetted by our dear beloved big neighbour to the East with dickheads like Shariatmadari fanning the flames and the pipers shriek and point their fingers across the swamp dancing frantically about like lunatics: “see they want to take us over, we have to protect ourselves from those Safawi turbaned mad men!” Completely forgetting that the best way to solve perceived problems with neighbours is discussion and engagement, not buying more useless weapons which will undoubtedly escalate mistrust and lead to an arms race the only winners of which are the arms manufacturers.
“Yeah,” they say, “look they are supporting Hamas, Hizbollah, Nahr Al-Bared, Al-Qaeda, and more that we don’t know about. They want to topple our governments, we have to prepare for them attacking us!”
You fools! They don’t have to attack us. They are not the danger. The real danger is your geriatric autocratic non-participatory and exclusionary rule!
What “they” might to do is just egg our people on by simply (and ironically) pointing out that we should demand that our regimes be made more democratic. Come on admit it, the prospect makes you shake in your Jesus boots, doesn’t it? Well, get used to it guys because inclusion and sharing power are the only factors that will allow your tenuous rule to last.
So what are we to do? Beg the Americans to arm us to the teeth, completely and docilely acquiescing to their requests, or should we think for a change and apply logic to our relationships, or should just plonk down our and future generations much needed funds to buy weapons of no use? That’s always the easiest well trusted option isn’t it? Throw money at a problem and hope that it will go away; if it doesn’t, just throw more money at it.
Shouldn’t that money be used for infrastructural projects, for education and health, save it for the future generations who will not enjoy the benefits of the oil dollar?
Nah, throw it at Mr. Bush and Co. and beg like dogs with tongues lolling about, paws up, waiting for that absent minded scratch on the head and the occasional pat with the soothing growl: “good boy, down, stay!”
Why is it so difficult for grown men – those we choose to call “our leaders” – to engage, sit around a table with a genuine will to solve problems rather than exacerbate them? Is it too difficult to comprehend that discussing regional problems sincerely provides lasting peace much more than whatever weapons could provide?
Didn’t we have enough of wars in this God forsaken region?
Al-Jazeera English’s Abdulrahman Al-Shayyal produced a short documentary to explore the sectarian divide in Bahrain. He came and interviewed me amongst many other Bahrainis to find out the underlying reason that these tensions exist.
Mohammed Khalid is one of those controversial personalities. He has gained notoriety by his outward sectarianism. He has not shied away from those controversies but on the contrary, welcomed them! Even the hallowed halls of parliament did not deter him from being involved in not only shouting matches but physical violence which earned a black eye for his troubles.
He has a propensity for wasting the parliament’s time as well in chasing what he calls (and has become infamous for) Satan Worshipers and other ghosts, all of which are presented with an Islamist twist.
Mohammed Khalid, like others of his ilk on either side of the political spectrum, has copiously demonstrated his inability to differentiate between the roles of a politician and a preaching cleric, it is this last failing which has resulted in the Sunni Endowment Board finally becoming fed up of his antics and slapping a gag on him by not allow him to once again preach his version of extremist Islam and sectarianism in Bahraini mosques.
Not wishing to acquiesce to that request, or at the very least be intelligent enough to perform some soul searching to discover the reason for such a decision, he has now willingly involved the parliamentary bloc to which he belongs to politicise this ban even further; once again demonstrating that their version of Islam is just another political tool which is malleable enough to reshape into whatever they wish it to be.
I am pleased with the decision to stop Mohammed Khalid and think that although the decision is rather late in coming, at least it has arrived; better late than never. I do hope; however, that this is a strategic shift and that other preachers will be monitored and stopped should they start their sectarian poison, or entrench themselves into political or governance issues which most are not qualified to enter into.
I propose that if the government is hesitant in adopting this stance, then let them at least stop members of parliament from leading prayers and preaching sermons, that, I am sure you will agree, is directly utilising houses of worship for political gains and influence, an activity which is completely unlawful in this country.
Much to the chagrin of some contractors, it looks like the Ministry of Labour is rolling out their Ministerial Order for outdoors work stoppage from 12 noon to 4pm starting tomorrow. The Order was apparently published in the Official Gazette today.
Apparently this guy – who is one of the Iranian leadership’s consultants – is demanding that Bahrain be returned to the folds of the Iranian Nation as the United Nations declaration to remain both Arab and independent is null and void as it was the word of the dual-Great Satans (Amerika and UK).
The real reason he wants Bahrain back (which he won’t get even in his wettest dreams) is because we beat them fair and square in football and got them kicked out of the World Cup, and this – he thinks – is the punishment we deserve!
On the serious side, he just made the major point for foreign forces to stay in the Gulf indefinitely to counter the expansionist endeavours of Iran’s mullahocracy. Of course when you have ex-parliamentarians like Abdulla Al-A’ali holding their “democracy” at such a “shining example” of how democracies should be, and when people like IsaQassim continues to shout “Down with Liberals Secularism” on two separate occasions and demanding that Shari’a be applied in Bahrain… well, you get the picture why a lot of people are really jittery.
The political lines between Bahrain and Iran have been burning at one million Kelvin since this story broke when Shariatmadari authored his OpEd in his paper, I just hope that this will get resolved soon and that the Iranian leadership will come on and unequivocally state that they do recognise Bahrain as independent and kick this moron’s ass into oblivion.
UPDATE 18 July, ’07: full translation of original article in Arabic is available here.