At Jenadriyah Festival.
The sandy dust caught my abaya as we climbed the rocky slope. Bruised knees and bloody knuckles meant nothing. The abaya was of course only worn for fashionable causes. It catches the wind dramatically and “it makes me feel less like a tourist” K. added. It was aesthetic purposes. The black in contrast with the yellow rocks and blue-grey sky. I stood on the ledge and screamed. The echo carried by the wind. “I like to scream into the vast nothingness” I thought and the thought hit me that it was a long way down. I dangled a leg out of curiosity with an overwhelming fear of height creeping up my spine. We skipped back down, the feeling that we had conquered this magnificent place–what truly felt like the edge of the world.
I question the statement and some of the things shown are less funny. But I think it captures some funny and fascinating moments you’ll only find here in Saudi. The drifting in the end is what I’ve come across. Young men do it everywhere, in all types of vehicles.
Björn and I was fortunate enough to be invited along side the Ambassador and his senior adviser for lunch with the minister of culture and information the other day. One might say it was a small gathering to celebrate the end of the ten day long book fair. Greeted as a success the mood was jolly. I sat with a hand full of women in the women section during the pre-lunch speech, all prominent scholars and professors. (The network for Saudi prominent women is actually quite impressive, but of course, also quite exclusive, the all seem to know each other quite well. Perhaps they can also serve as a lesson to us, women of the “westerland,” and our ability to constantly work against and not towards each other.) Anyway. All seemed to be like a typical Saudi event, mostly men, some women, until it was time for lunch. At the VIP – seating I sat down to dine at a table with 50 guests, 49 men and I. The absence of women not as noticeable as the presence of one–me, yours truly–abaya wearing of course, but refusing the hijab, seated across two members of the “haiia,”–mutawwah. And it was, truly astonishing. Me, Haram in my every being, sat there and shared a meal, with all the men. The debate surrounding the lack of women in public space and the oddity in excluding all the prominent female members of society and including me will be left for a later stage. Now I just felt the amaze of being the only girl in the world.
Pippi. She’s wild and crazy and she doesn’t have any parents that she needs to listen to and she breaks eggs in her hair and sleeps with her feet on her pillow. Pippi. She was my favorite growing up. Working at the book fair I’ve noticed how different parents seem to view Pippi here. “Ah. My girls shouldn’t read this,” one woman said to me and I hinted that there was a concerned smile under her niqab, “they will get the wrong ideas,” she said, and put the book back down on the table. “The wrong ideas,” the phrase edged itself on to my mind and I’ve still not been able to completely forget about it. In a way Pippi symbolizes the Swedish upbringing: encouraging questioning authority, questioning what’s predetermined as “right” and “wrong”–as long as you stay nice and don’t hurt people. I mean, look at Pippi, she even gives some of her gold coins to the robbers after she kicks them our of her house. I’m sure Pippi and Astrid Lindgrens other characters that challenge gender stereotypes, the sensitive male characters and the strong female characters has had an important part in shaping me and the individual I’m today–a strong independent woman. When young Saudi girls sit down and experience Pippi for the first time I feel privileged to be sitting next to them, knowing that one bewildered, crazy, little stumpy girl from Sweden, with orange hair and miss-matching socks is inviting them to a new world and a new world order. Yesterday before I left I had a long conversation with a 12-year old girl. She loved Pippi, Pippi was her favorite. “My dad always tells me that I’m not allowed to ride a bike,” she said and continued, “but I always ask him why, why I’m not allowed to ride a bike when my brothers are? And then he has no answer. And I know, someday he’ll stop telling me I’m not allowed.”