Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saudi Wave: A Trilingual Resource on Saudi Arabia and Region

Saudi Wave is a blog by professional journalist Habib Trabelsi, AFP journalist (20 years), and his team. It is a highly professional blog, in appearance and substance, which is an excellent resource for information and news on Saudi Arabia in 3 languages: Arabic, English, and French. Its trilingual nature is a boon for those mastering only one of the languages, and for those who are fluent in all 3. Often the same article is provided in its original translations to each language, or may be translated by the team. Below are excerpts from the Why Saudi Arabia? and About Us Pages, along with my overview of the major categories addressed.

Why Saudi Arabia?

A major political, religious, economic and financial power

The world’s leading oil producer and exporter, Saudi Arabia is a major political and economic actor in the Middle-East and the world.

By far the largest and the wealthier among the Arab monarchies of the Gulf, the Kingdom leads the 6 member Gulf Cooperation council (GCC- also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates)

Saudi Arabia is strategically involved in the regional issues linked to the wars and crisis of neighbouring Iraq and Iran and is an influential player in the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as in Lebanon.

Birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia enjoys an exceptional stature as the first Islamic power where millions of Moslems go for pilgrimage (Hajj) every year.

“The Land of the two Mosques”, governed on the basis of the Islamic Law (Shari’a) and the Wahhabist doctrine has the most observant Islamic rule and has been the breeding ground of most of the radical and fundamentalist movements all over the Muslim world.

The least transparent country...

International experts and researchers have expressed growing interest in this country, which is considered to be one of the least “transparent” in the world as freedom of expression is continuously repressed in the most extreme ways. The media is subjected to a rigorous censorship, coupled by a harsh climate of strong self- censorship.

It is highly forbidden to question the government in power or the legitimacy of the strict application of the Shari’a Islamic law.

...slowly unveiling since 9/11

The September 11th’s attacks that hit the U.S. wrecked the Kingdom and stood as a significant turning point. The main perpetrators of the attacks were Saudis, pressure was put on the Saudi government to adopt a policy of “openness and freedom”.

In the aftermath of 9/11 that, Saudi press found itself enjoying more freedom, and started exploring subjects that were once considered as taboo. All the shortcomings of its political system and the abuses in it’s society are coming out in the light. Even the powerful religious police is being questioned.

Yet, Red lines remain

Journalists still have to observe some Red Lines, drawn by the regime and the ultra-conservative religious circles, tightly controlling the country.

The balanced new margin freedom is aimed at absorbing the mounting wrath of the poorest living on a sea of black gold.

The wave of moderate transparency reflects the slow change in the Saudi society, most obvious through the new tone of the newspapers and websites.

About us

Saudiwave is an independent website providing information and analysis that is essentially axed on the political, economic, and social situation in Saudi Arabia. An important section of Saudiwave is devoted to events taking place in the Arab Peninsula, security matters, and terrorism.

The idea of founding Saudiwave was first introduced by Habib TRABELSI, a journalist who spent more than 20 years working for the French Press Agency (AFP), covering the Gulf region.

Saudiwave's team is composed of experienced journalists, who acquired through the years a rich professional background and a vast knowledge of this strategic yet diverse and complex region.

Our team includes:

Habib TRABELSI - His role consists of conducting research, providing insightful analysis of political developments in the region and of news and reports related to terrorism.

Essia TRABELSI - Conducts research on various other subjects, such as economic and social developments in the region, and supervises the translation of our articles. Essia particularly supports the cause of the advancement of women in the Arab world.

Nesrine TRABELSI - Journalist, reporter, english translator.

Other Countries

Other countries is one of the main tabs, and like the others, it breaks down into useful subcategories: Other GCC countries, Arabic countries, Islamic countries. The category Politics is comprised of Interior Affairs, International Relations, Security, Human Rights, Media Affairs, Terrorism. Society, and Economy, each are similarly divided into useful subcategories, including (but not limited to) Immigrants, Women, Marriage, Poverty, Cultural Life, Entertainment for the first, and  Agriculture, Employment/Unemployment, Urbanism, Environment, Energy, Tourism for the second. Islam/Religion comprises: Holy Places, Religious Police (Mutawa), Ruling Fatwas, Pilgrimage (Hajj), Holy Month [Ramadan]. The category Press opens to a collection of articles from diverse sources, internationally, and nationally, but the subcategories of Arabic Press and Western Press are as yet only promises.

Perhaps my favourite subcategory, as an idea, is "Strange" (under Society). This seems to me the proper place for news such as: Fried mouse found in bag of chips.

The look is beautiful and the interface highly functional and easy to navigate, including colour coding by language. A small point, I would have put the Arabic interface in green, the English in red, and the French in blue. No matter, the colour and artistic choices are aesthetic, and the content excellent.

Your thoughts, comments, impressions?


Wendy said...

Well, Chiara ... I certainly didn't need to find something else to read!!! :)
Your link (for me anyway) did not lead to the website but of course I found it. I've just had a glance and it is a very impressive site. Now I need to find a couple of more hours to spend on the net and I think I spend waaaaay too much time here as it is! My Saudi and ME bookmarked sites are growing.

Chiara said...

Wendy--LOL :) I have the same feeling sometimes, but I think this could be almost a "one stop reading". Thanks for the comment and letting me know about the link. I have fixed the main one, and added the direct ones for each language (so you can read the Arabic directly :P ). The "Why Saudi Arabia?" info seems to have disappeared (even when you follow the link through the tab to the supposed page). Hopefully, that is a temporary problem, or one my computer is having at the moment. Thanks again for your comment, and enjoy! :D

Ameen said...

The site is very professional and functional, the look is wonderful. there are few journalists working on this site, and a company administring it.
In reality, it does not look like a site of a personal interest, like this site or other blogs. It is heavy site that needs good support to run it and sustain it, and translate each article into two other languages.
It is "supported" site, in my own opinion.

Now, I have browsed many articles, and most of them are from the negative angle only, and they go into nitty picky details, that needs so much filtering to get those articles.
Most of the articles leads to one conculsion: it is horrible country and there is a big need for change, and people are so thirst to them.

Now, let me post my opinion (and this is relevant to a lot of western media in general):
1. Do people here want a change?
Yes, in reality most people here wants a change in a way or another:
- But, (in my opinion) only 5% to a max of 10% of people wants a change in the direction covered in Saudi wave or many western media.

- Majority of people who are looking of cultural change (and i am one of them) and i would say 50% they want it in a moderate modern way, with keeping Islamic value as the heart of the society. They see many parts of malaysia as a good example, or the recent turkish voice in foriegn issues.

That type of change is so represented in "Corner Stone" program for Salman Ouda scholar in Ramadan, and in every Friday. Salman is becoming a prominant and role model character in the area, and also he is getting popular, not only in Saudi but in all over the middle east. This program was heavy material in the local news, internet, and every cultural debate. The topic of last Ramadan was "the change". (he was not covered in saudiwave, which makes me wonder how they missed him? he was mentioned in shy way in some indirect topics).

Another role model is Khawater program, and again he was covered in a very shy way. He is asking for a lot of change, but it is not what the saudiwave pattern.

A person covering Saudi culture and 'change' topics without stopping heavily on those programs simply that person is either
(so isolated from this culture) which is not the case here, the editor lived 20 years in the area and he is an arab speaker.
(he/she is biased, in other words got hidden intentions or agenda)

2.Is Saudi so horrible place to live in and it is full with religion intolerence?
- Definiately there are issues that include racism and intolerence. But definately, there are many other patterns as well, that never get global media attention.
I tell you, recently, i learned, that in Jeddah alone, there are about 1 to 3 phillipinos who convert to Islam every single week. I learned this from the barber I go to, he is phillipino who converted to Islam. The same shop had another phillipino who converted to Islam.
My ex- phillipina maid and another one with my aunt converted to Islam. My brother philippino driver did. My cousin Indian (ex conservative Hindu and a preacher) did as well.
I just heard stories from friends about a canadian old woman in jeddah and an old phillipino guy in riyadh also converted.
Worth mentioning, being muslim won't add a penny to salary or reduce or do any change in dealing with them.
These are few of many stories. Of course the Quran and beliefs were the most important reasons. But also, I would never been surrounded with so many stories, majority from humble people, if we are a culture full of racism and intolerence.

You never ever read an article or a story in global media, discussing such examples.

In conclusion, I think saudiwave is a site not free of hidden intentions. It is very different from this (Chez) blog which I respect a lot as it always have fair angles (even when I disagree on some topics)
also, I believe that change should be from within the society. it cannot be enforced from outside, otherwise it creates so much imbalance.

Chiara said...

Ameen-Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your excellent comment. At least on the French version of Saudi Wave, the articles are from the best French newspapers and from across the political spectrum. In that sense I think it is a very useful site.

I agree that there is an inherent media bias towards the negative and towards the politically expedient. One needs to read broadly, well, and critically.

I also agree, that Saudi Wave seems to have a great deal of resourses despite the "mom and pop" quality of its editorial board. I am not sure what those would be however.

Thank you for sharing your personal wishes for Saudi and your experiences. They coincide with those of most of the Saudis I know or have discussed this with. Modernization and evolution of and within Saudi culture would be the best, and looking to other moderate Muslim countries is a good strategy. Borrowing the positives from the West, without buying the whole package would seem helpful, as Saudis decide the value for themselves.

Thank you for your kind words about my blog, and I am happy you also commented on a newer post. I look forward to more of your comments, and I sincerely apologize for getting back to this one so late.

Thanks again for your comment!


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