September 13, 2005

Saudi Arabia is not New Zealand

I just discovered a remarkable blog, "The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment." Example:

So let's take "Saudi Arabia is not New Zealand". Well, I suppose that explains why they didn't film "Lord of the Rings" here. Only a few mountains, Tolkein never had camels wandering across the horizon, and I don't think Gollum would enjoy all that sun. But the Prince was talking about something else. He was talking about the D-word. He was talking about Democracy.

I guess the point he was trying to make was that while democracy may be OK for New Zealand, it isn't OK for Saudi Arabia. Why make the distinction with New Zealand?. Well, geographically it's thousands of miles away, probably about as far as you can get before you start coming round the other side. Apart from Easter Island, that is. But then he's unlikely to say "Saudi Arabia is not Easter Island", that would be ultra-gnomic and everyone would think he'd completely flipped. So New Zealand it is. Three million rugby and cricket playing sheep-farmers, about as remote culturally and geographically from us as you can get, that's an excellent distinction to draw.

It also meant he didn't have to talk about that more local example of full-blown Western democracy, one whose border is at one point only ten miles from our own, a place where they have a Parliament and a Prime Minister and Elections, a place that we pretend doesn't exist, and it's called...


There. I've said it. Israel. The only democracy between Turkey and India. But now I have to go and wash my mouth out with soap and water, because we're not supposed to talk about it.

UPDATE: And how about this picture of Arabia (link added):

On a lighter note, my thanks to Shari for this photograph. She asks where it's from. Well, it's obviously a Saudi camel, you can tell from the face. You can't avoid loving camels, they'll just sit there all day, totally unfazed. Not like a highly-strung Arabian horse, it'd be two miles down the road by the time you got your camera out, ask Michael Brown. Anyway, the clue is the advertising hoarding at the top right. It's in......Hebrew!

What you can see of the sign says: hanaha (הנחה) - reduction. Used in Hebrew like the word "off" in "20% off" (the "20%", or whatever, is presumably in the top part of the sign, that you can't see in the picture).

UPDATE: Oh, well. You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true? Read this. For me, this was the nail in the coffin - I don't know much Arabic, but I know that Evariste is correct.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 13, 2005 12:39 PM | TrackBacks
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I know nothing about arabic, but did you also read the entry further down?

Posted by: Peter at September 13, 2005 04:36 PM Permalink

Well, I'll tell you Peter, I see LOTS of Israelis transcribing Hebrew into English, and it's quite amazing how badly they do. Part of the reason, of course, is English's very unclear spelling rules, but I think another big part of the problem is that people are not very self-aware about how they speak. So, even though I think his explanation is a stretch, I'd be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt - but I poked around a bit and there were just too many little things of that nature. I guess the clincher for me is his unwillingness to really clearly show off his knowledge of Arabic, at least his local dialect. I think his acting insulted is a ruse.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 13, 2005 05:47 PM Permalink

For example this (from the link in the comment above):

The letter in question, which you call "heh" but is also called "haa" or "har" in some books, is a very different sound from the "aitch" sound in English.

It looks to me like he's confusing the Arabic equivalents of het and he (for some reason my comments don't allow underlining, but the h in het should be). An Arabic speaker wouldn't do that.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 13, 2005 06:02 PM Permalink

That is, the h in qahwe (or ahwe, gahwe, etc. depending on your dialect) is a regular h sound, more or less the same as in English.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 13, 2005 06:11 PM Permalink

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