A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘Bahrain’ Category

stolen dreams, Bahraini-style

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 12, 2009

Sometimes I miss having a television. When I do, its not the long waits on Verizon’s customer service line that come to mind (or at least, not with any fondness!). What I remember are the curiously entertaining monthly visits from my grey-market satellite tv provider in Beirut.

I thought of those days again this morning, when this snippet from AME Info caught my eye:

The head of Orbit Showtime Middle East said illegal satellite users outnumber legitimate subscribers in Bahrain by five to one, forcing the company to ‘fight for its survival’, Gulf Daily News has reported. Marc-Antoine d’Halluin said the extent of illegal Dreambox usage is so severe that it has prompted the company to take a more hands-on approach to protecting its intellectual property rights. ‘There is no larger challenge for Orbit Showtime than to protect our business and to ensure that our product is not stolen via users of the Dreambox,’ he told the paper.

Yes, yes. I do understand the difficulties that illegal satellite usage poses to Orbit’s bottom line. But part of me smiled, thinking: Bahrain sounds like a place I could get into :).


Posted in Bahrain, Beirut, television | Leave a Comment »

Scrabble Gets Fair Play in Bahrain

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 28, 2009

Yesterday an intriguing item came across my Google alerts: the news that a Bahraini champion Scrabble player had been found guilty of cheating and banned from playing in tournaments for the next four years. Today I saw a follow-up article in Abu Dhabi’s The National, which I have pasted below.

Its a bit long, and Scrabble is not the world’s most pressing concern (and no, I am not saying this just because I lost a family Scrabble match over the Christmas holiday. Grandma, your unchallenged string of victories was well-deserved.). But I think this story is important, because it offers an example of an organization willing to enforce the rules of fair play – not something that happens in the Middle East all that often, and certainly not to Gulf citizens.

Even if you aren’t interested in Scrabble, I hope you will be interested in this article and the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association’s (who knew!) message that cheating is unacceptable.

The Scrabble champion banned from international competitions for four years for cheating will not be stripped of his local and regional titles, it was announced yesterday. The Bahrain Scrabble League Committee believes the ban “is punishment enough”.

Mohammed Zafar, 19, beat Akshay Bhandarkar from Dubai last June to win the Gulf Scrabble championship. He is also the Bahrain national champion.

Mr Zafar, who denies cheating, was barred by the game’s governing body, the World English Language Scrabble Players Association (Wespa), for breaking the rule about how players draw their letters while playing in a tournament in Malaysia in December.

“The decision is not to strip Mohammed of his titles,” said Roy Kietzman, a member of the Bahrain Scrabble League Committee and a special panel of four that met on Monday night in Manama to discuss Wespa’s decision.

“We felt it was humiliation enough to be charged with being guilty and being banned from Scrabble.

“For him, this is public humiliation in the Scrabble community. We feel this is punishment enough.”

Mr Zafar was accused of taking his tiles from the top of the bag and having a quick peek at them before letting go of any he did not want during the Causeway Challenge, held in Johru Bahar in Malaysia.

The rules of the game state that although players may give the bag a vigorous shake, they must draw tiles at shoulder length while looking away from the bag.

Mr Zafar is also banned from the Malaysian tournament for life.

The Bahrain Scrabble League Committee says it “fully endorses the Wespa decision that he was guilty”.

Mr Kietzman confirmed that Allan Simmons, the chairman of the Wespa inquiry and Britain’s national champion, had been willing to lower the penalty and cut the time of the ban by half if Mr Zafar had admitted his guilt.

“We are urging Wespa to make strict guidelines on what to do in the future. This was a precedent.”

Last year, Mr Zafar faced the two-time defending champion of the regional Scrabble title, Mr Bhandarkar, in a thrilling match that saw the use of plurals, bingos [when a player uses all seven letters at once] and plenty of theatrics.

Posted in Arab world, Bahrain, Iowa, vanity | Leave a Comment »

No ‘Kingdom’ in the emirates – but definitely in the republic

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 12, 2007

The Kingdom – the new, reputedly Syriana-esque movie (set in the Gulf and featuring a more nuanced portrait of live there) – is out, but not everywhere. Its been banned in Kuwait and Bahrain (all the more reason for my aunt & uncle to come to Beirut next weekend!) for a “false depiction of facts”, according to the New York Times and AFP. But the UAE and Qatar are showing the film, and Saudi Arabia, for which banning is something of a non-issue since the kingdom has no cinemas, has said nothing.

Arab News, the English-language Saudi paper, published a round-up of opinions and concluded that banning the film was “counter-productive” and that Saudis should be permitted to see how other parts of the world – in this case, the US – see them.

Meanwhile, I checked the movie listings yesterday morning and saw that The Kingdom is playing here – in the ABC mall, at least (no word on whether it will find an audience in Verdun!). It probably isn’t a great movie, but I bet its great on a lazy Eid afternoon:).

(On the other hand, Jack Shaheen, who pioneered social science research on the depiction of Arabs in Hollywood movies, is very critical. His review concludes with: In a time that calls for cultural understanding, we get crude antagonism. In a time that calls for nuance and clarity, we get dangerous simplifications and gross distortions. So … if you do see the film, think carefully about what you are seeing.)

Posted in Arab world, Bahrain, Beirut, film, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia | Leave a Comment »

sheep in translation

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 1, 2007

As a midwesterner I grew up near, if not with, livestock. Semis carrying cows, horses, pigs and sheep were a fairly common sight on the Iowa highways – particularly during the late summer’s fair season.

I can easily imagine an article about an Iowan livestock expert traveling to the Arab Gulf to “explain” our livestock to handlers there being published in the Des Moines Register – and I hope it would be as enjoyable (and humorous, to the city folk) read as this Australian one below:

Bahrain-bound to explain the Aussie sheep
Daniel Lewis Regional Reporter
July 30, 2007

A FEMALE truckie from Coonamble is the livestock industry’s latest weapon in the battle to maintain live exports to the Middle East.

Sharon Dundon, 34, the mother of an eight-month-old boy, has just completed a masters in rural science looking at the impact of long-distance truck transport on cattle.

Mrs Dundon flew out of Sydney on Saturday for a three-year stint working with Middle Eastern stockmen to help them better understand and treat the millions of Australian sheep that are shipped into their care each year.

She will be based in Bahrain, representing Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp, which co-ordinates Australia’s live export trade.

In her new job she will be working with stockmen in Middle Eastern feedlots, ports and quarantine facilities. She will be taking intensive Arabic lessons and teaching local truckies how best to load and unload livestock.

Mrs Dundon said her professional interest in animal welfare began when she started truck driving.

She said the disturbing images of livestock being mistreated by local stockmen arose because they did not understand Australian sheep.

“The biggest difference between our sheep and Arab sheep is [Arab sheep] are very domesticated,” she said. “They literally raise them in their backyards. [Australian sheep] appear wild to them because our sheep are run in vast grazing paddocks and have often only seen people once or twice.

“The way they work with their domesticated sheep won’t work with ours. Their domesticated sheep will walk past because they are used to people, but ours won’t walk past people.

“That’s why they get so frustrated, because they don’t understand why [Australian sheep] run away from them.”

Australia has been signing memorandums of understanding with Middle Eastern countries to get them to improve their treatment of Australian livestock.

They also oblige signatory nations to land any livestock suspected of being sick into quarantine facilities rather than force them to remain at sea.

That is designed to avoid a repeat of the Cormo Express incident of 2003, when Saudi Arabia refused to accept the ship’s 57,000 sheep, claiming they were diseased. When no alternative buyer could be found, thousands of the sheep died at sea.

The Australian livestock industry says live exports cannot be replaced by slaughter in Australia because refrigeration infrastructure is so poor in many export markets.

The RSPCA is opposed to live exports because of the suffering of animals on ships and because authorities have no control over how the animals are treated after landing.

Mrs Dundon travelled on a live export ship last year and said “the sheep are just so happy. They are just sitting down chewing their cuds and the standards are excellent.”

Posted in animals, Arab world, Arabic, Australia, Bahrain, economics, education, women, words | 2 Comments »

Unity in the Arab world

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 12, 2007

My friend Andrew (the Middle East is a breeding ground for expatriates named Andrews and Andy; they soring up everywhere, in journalism, the foreign service, humanitarian work, and academia. This Andrew is one of five whom I know.) has published a piece on Sunni Beiruti fears in the Toronto Star: Recipe for more bloodshed in the streets of Beirut.

Its an interesting piece. Andrew notes that the few Shiite residents of Tariq Jadideh have since moved to Shiite-majority areas, which reminds me of a comment that H made recently about a barber in my neighborhood. I had noticed that the barbershop had suddenly disappeared, but not known why until H (who frequented it, apparently) said: he moved because he is Shi3a and the neighborhood is too Sunni.

Towards the end, Andrew notes that: The clerics at Imam Ali Ben Abi Taleb have issued their fatwa and hung a blue banner in front of the mosque that reads: “Hold on to Islamic and National Unity.”

Over drinks a few weeks ago we talked about this notion of unity and why it has such strong resonance in the Arab world.

For example, almost every day I walk under a banner that reads: “The strength [quwwa] of Muslims lies in their unity”.

Here in Lebanon the opposition is calling for a unity government; the opposition in Bahrain is doing the same; and we all know about the new unity government in Palestine.

A and I wondered, at first idly but then more seriously, about the extent to which the high value in which unity is held plays into what Western analysts often see as laughably high election victories. (Not that the US’s incredibly low <50% victory margins do not merit snickers of their own, of course.)

What if we as academics and political analysts were to look at 98.75% presidential victories not as risible insults to our intelligence but as the overwhelming show of support needed for a “mandate” to rule? If unity is the ideal rubric under which one governs, a 65% or even 75% victory is little better than an outright loss.

I haven’t reached any definitive conclusions about this little rumination of mine, but I do think that notions of unity and the positive attributes attached to it are things to which we should begin to pay closer and more serious attention.

Posted in Arabic, Bahrain, Beirut, Canada, Canadians, Islam, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, politics, unity, words | Leave a Comment »

Child’s Play: Bobotie and Other Delights

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 2, 2007

This morning I saw a headline on my Google Alert – Bahrain that made me burst out laughing:

Bobotie in Bahrain.

The article announces a South African food and wine week being put on by the Gulf Hotel – which I am sure will be a feast.

I do feel that I ought to warn Bahraini parents that this might not be a child-friendly affair – especially for expats with picky young ones.

Years ago, Fantastic Foods (whose couscous I mentioned in Fantasy Foods: Just Add Water) came out with a Bobotie package mix. My mother, as adventuresome in her food choices as in all other areas of her life, bought one – eager to bring some culinary diversity into our Midwestern diets.

Bobotie is a spicy meat pie dish that originated in Cape Malay (for one recipe, see Global Gourmet).

Whatever flavor and whatever culture it might have brought to our family table was submerged – or, more accurately – drowned out by a 10 year old rube: me.

To commemmorate the trauma of having to eat this dish, I re-worked a song, “Love is Always Better the Second Time Around”. My version honored leftovers – and disparaged bobotie.

Dinner’s always better the second time around,

except for bobotie, which we feed to the hounds.

The hounds, they hate it – it makes them fat.

They run so slowly that they can’t chase cats.

What it lacks in artistic intensity, it more than made up for in heartfelt passion.

I am sure that if I tried the dish today, I would have a much more positive (and hopefully more eloquent) reaction.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that Owlfish and Marzapane both enjoyed the dish when their mother, Umm Owlfish, made it for them a few weeks after I sang the song for them. The problem was my immature tastebuds – not the dish itself.)

Posted in Americans, Bahrain, childhood, family, food, friends, home, music, South Africa, words | 4 Comments »