Thursday, May 03, 2018

Saudi Arabia - sort of joining the early 20th century 118 years late

A good article at NPR about the Saudis feeling some "culture shock" at the sudden attempt at modernizing social views by their new Crown Prince.

I didn't know baby photos had once been banned for religious reasons, for goodness sake:
Comedian Khaled Omar takes the mic and begins his act, lamenting how he has no baby pictures of himself. His parents ripped up the family photos in the early 1980s, when ultra-conservative religious authorities deemed photographs haram — forbidden, they said, by God...

Omar's punchline gets a good laugh: Now, he says, not only are photos suddenly not forbidden — but all the people who banned or tore pictures up are now happily posing for selfies. He still wants to know what happened to all his baby pictures.
Conservative towns are having a hard time accepting it:
While some rumblings of discontent are apparent in the kingdom's big cities, it's more obvious in smaller towns, such as Huraymila, about an hour's drive north of Riyadh, past plenty of camels and new construction in the desert. The town of wide boulevards and squat, sand-colored buildings has a conservative reputation. You can't buy cigarettes, and music in public remains unwelcome. When the government entertainment authority tried to stage a concert here a few months ago, the town refused to attend it.
They are also going to be encouraging tourism, for like, the first time ever?:
Consider the changes in April alone: The kingdom rolled out its plans for its first-ever tourist visas, held its first Arab fashion week and opened its first cinema in 35 years.

A 26-year-old man in Riyadh, wearing a thobe, a long white gown, says the changes are nothing short of shocking.
It's about the last country I would be comfortable visiting.  Well, maybe after North Korea. I can just imagine the ease with which one could be framed for doing black magic, or for looking lustfully at a woman, or something weirdly specific to their still antiquated beliefs.  I mean, seriously, this report is just from November 2017:
In the midst of Riyadh’s latest “anti-corruption purge” carried out by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a government body elsewhere was busy giving a course in defeating an alternative form of evil hiding between the walls… black magic.
The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice concluded a training programme on Wednesday called the "development of scientific skills in the fight against witchcraft."
The course took place in Ramada al-Hada in the city of Taif, located in the Mecca province, southwest of the country.
The 27 participants of the programme were taught how to “scientifically battle witchcraft,” and received certificates of attendance from the head of the Taif Governorate, Sheikh Yahya bin Ali al-Hazmi.

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