Patrick Swayze

I'm trying to shut up
no problem i enjoyed it gonna read your other stuff at some point

you should write a book though, maybe you have I dunno...


in je ogen waait de wind
Interesting article. Never heard about this Nayef guy but have read some other stuff on the Saudi elite, having orgies and wild parties on drugs. To me, Saudi-Arabia is together with North-Korea one of the weirdest countries in this world and I've never understood why there isn't more media attention for this country, in contrast with aforementioned North-Korea and also considering the attention countries such as Pakistan, Iraq and Iran are getting. I mean, if I'd start a war on terrorism I'd probably start with Saudi-Arabia but somehow they manage to stay under the radar?


Beast of Burden
Thanks for reading it. It is, as you suggest, insane. Western media coverage of the House of Saud is a fascinating, if depressing, topic. The Saudis have too much wealth, power and influence to be touched. Their exiles and expats are under constant surveillance. Their critics can be ridiculed, side-lined or sued.

One of the more interesting examples of this is the fate of the book Alms for Jihad by J Millard Burr and Robert O Collins, which had some explosive information on the Wahhabi terror-sponsoring activies of various Saudis, including Khalid bin Mahfouz. He sued Cambridge University Press for libel, and the publishers cancelled distribution and witthdrew (or asked to be withdrawn) all the library copies that had been sent out. It was a craven retreat, though understandable. CUP didn't have a Saudi war-chest. CUP reps were going around bookshops in the UK unable, legally, to even mention this book.

There are a few copies still in circulation, but look how much you'd have to pay for one.


up and down the lovley hijaz, mostly in Jeddah


Beast of Burden
Well, I haven’t been up the lovely Hijaz or visited Jeddah.

The thrust of my understanding and critique of the Saudi rulers and their social order comes from listening to the brilliant Saudi feminist and academic Madawi al-Rasheed and a ten year long dialogue with a close friend who is also the daughter of an affluent Jeddah family. Her circle of Saudi and Arab friends was also one of mine for a couple of years in the middle of the last decade. Some of them had hair-raising ideas and conspiracy theories about Zionists and Masons despite being quite Westernised, and this didn’t always detract from their physical allure.

Yet they were all united in their hatred of the Al-Saud and the constricting and unhealthy nature of Saudi society. They all suffered to some degree from its deep institutional and social chauvinism. It is not something I experienced first hand, needless to say. But then I haven’t written a piece of reportage, but a polemic in the manner of my 2005 King Fahd obituary. I wrote that because of the almost universally lenient pass Fahd got after he died, which I found bewildering and (almost) unbelievable. It made me angry. I felt the same this time, too.

I have got a lot from the work of Stephen Schwartz, whose main target (as a Sufi convert) is Wahhabism and (therefore) their Saudi patrons. In my piece I also draw on the experience of Ed Husain, who lived and taught in the Kingdom with his wife, and who were both (as moderate Sufi-leaning Muslims) appalled by what they saw. Other writings that shaped my understanding (for what it is) include those of John R. Bradley, Robert Lacey, Thomas Hegghammer and Qanta Ahmed. I was also electrified and appalled in the very beginning by Said K. Aburish’s partisan but detailed screed, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud.

There were parts of this piece I had serious doubts about including, but decided to anyway. My point is not to stereotype Saudi subjects, and I do realise I am pointing to the extreme effects of a system of rule and religious manipulation and oppression that I have collated from second hand accounts. I don’t claim anything more than that. If I am completely wrong here, and Saudi Arabia is actually fine and healthy and a pleasant place to live for men and women alike, with an accountable ruling family whose malign imprint on global terrorism and religious reaction is overstated or false, then all I can say is: phew! That’s good news for everybody.

As for the hijab, abaya and niqab, which are direct and terrible Saudi exports, I understand the justifications and reject them all. From every angle, they are nothing but a sexist imposition.


Beast of Burden
The Mahfouz scandal I had direct juice on, because of my job at Foyles. The CUP rep at the time was somebody I also socialised with, and he described the whole dreadful unfolding of this saga in private. He felt slightly ashamed of it. In the shop, he couldn't even mention the name of the book.


thanks Olly for this
nothing wrong with a bit of polemic! & Nayef was undeniably a proper nasty bit of work
Jeddah is renowned as the most moderate & cosmopolitan town in the kingdom, most Saudis i encountered live normal modern lives and the extreme attitudes you mention are very exceptional, the state ideology is so incoherent that it's not easy for normal folk to share (any more than our neo-colonial monarchy). I found it laid back, reminicsent in many ways of sunny california - big cars, big roads, big food, hot and misogynistic lala land
this banal reality is unfortunately not portrayed often or well understood by the lazy negative english speaking media, which prefers to exoticise and simplify - i reckon many Saudis are weary and baffled by this misrepresentation of their society as extreme and their culture as backward,

"Saudi Arabia is the purest Islamist dream state still standing after the demise of the Taliban in Afghanistan" & "As for the hijab, abaya and niqab, which are direct and terrible Saudi exports, I understand the justifications and reject them all. From every angle, they are nothing but a sexist imposition." cases in point - simplifications to the point of nonsense really

Mind you i had some classic conversations with (male obviously) drivers stuggling to justify keeping women off the roads!
saudi_05.jpg wise words and wonderful images from olivia arthur


rip this joint please
i hate Thatcher and read Berlinksi on Turkey (not sure what i think).

Cognitive dissonance right there, is what i believe they call it. (like when you want a torta and all they have are burritos.)


Beast of Burden
The Thatcher book is a superficial free-market pamphlet aimed at a superficial conservative American audience. Apart from that, there is nothing wrong with Claire Berlinski. She has a perspective on Turkey, and that is all, but it is a fairly interesting one. Turkey seems to be as confusing to Turks as it is to anyone else.


Well-known member
whats a torta? english people dont eat mexican food. what are you talking about scott?