The interactive travelogue diaries of a Saudi across Europe

Updated 20 May 2014
0

The interactive travelogue diaries of a Saudi across Europe

It’s not every day you come across a young and refined Saudi travel writer.
Abdullah Al-Jumah, a one-of-a-kind budding Saudi writer, legal adviser and postgraduate at Harvard, was inspired to write a chronicle on his travels across Europe at the beckoning of avid Twitter followers, who lived his journey with him online.
Madarek Publishing House published Al-Jumah’s Arabic account of his travels, entitled “Anecdotes from a Saudi journey across Europe” in Arabic in 2013, which quickly became a bestseller.
Unlike his two previous books, “Greats Without Schools,” another bestseller, and “Orphans Who Changed History,” the idea of writing his latest hit was inspired by the fact that his Tweets provided an interactive platform that was quickly gaining momentum.
“Through sharing my experiences with followers on Twitter, I felt I was traveling with several travelers and not all by myself,” he told French news channel France 24.
The book was a big hit at the Riyadh Book Fair, but the book-signing session by the author had been canceled twice thanks to an incredibly high turnout of fans, who caused bottlenecks at the fair.
Twenty-seven-year-old Al-Jumah is a lecturer at King Saud University, where he had completed his undergraduate degree.
The young writer had also studied at Bournemouth Business School in the United Kingdom before going on to pursue higher studies at the prestigious Harvard in the United States.
His book is a collection of 11 stories and anecdotes during the writer’s travels across nine different European countries.
Al-Jumah starts off his account with a surge of nostalgic emotions at his witnessing of Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, where his hero Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, was exiled.
The writer then moves onto New Forest, an area in southern England that includes one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pastureland and forest, for an adventure under the rain with his friends.
The author then takes readers into the narrow roads of Genoa in Italy. His tiredness subsides as he takes a closer look at the majestic dome of Florence’s famous cathedral and he almost misses his flight getting a load of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
He then experiences a Titanic-like journey across the Baltic Sea and lives the joys of aristocracy at the famous English Ascot Racecourse, in addition to many other gripping tales in different cities.
The book is juvenile-spirited and provides a glimpse into the author’s youthful and firsthand accounts from its cover to the inside text.
Al-Jumah shares historical information to juxtapose reflective insight.
Indeed, his tone shifts from sadness and fear to curiosity and joyfulness throughout his account.
His writing style is simple and clear, targeting youth who are not avid readers.
At one point in the book, his travel buddies were prompted to ask him why he refused to drink beer or frequent nightclubs, evoking a deeper current of debate and cultural elements for thought.
The author also talks about some of the stereotypes he encountered as a Saudi.
An Italian tourist he had come across, for instance, wonders why Al-Jumah wasn’t staying at a high-end hotel instead of a budget hostels.
In fact, most hostel receptionists told Al-Jumah that he was the very first Saudi they welcomed at their premises.
The writer also mentions certain Saudi phrases, reflecting his identity and helping readers identify with his journey.
His book, however, is not well edited, with numerous misspellings, grammar mistakes and the occasional overdose of detail.
The book lacks creativity when it comes to descriptions, many of which are repetitive, and the Saudi element of his title isn’t always reflected in his writing with the exception of the chapter entitled “The Reversed Flag.”
Nevertheless, most of his anecdotes managed to grip me throughout.
Indeed, this is a brave and novel attempt by a young Saudi who may just have introduced a new frontier in national literature.

Email: [email protected]


’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

(FILES) This photo taken on March 22, 2016 shows a child gesturing to a woman at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2018
0

’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

  • Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead

SEOUL: When Ashley Park started her marketing job at a Seoul drugmaker she had a near-perfect college record, flawless English, and got on well with her colleagues — none of which mattered to her employer once she fell pregnant.
Nine months after she joined, Park said, “They said to my face that there is no place in the company for a woman with a child, so I needed to quit.”
All the women working at the firm were single or childless, she suddenly realized, and mostly below 40.
Park’s case exemplifies why so many South Korean women are put off marriage and childbirth, pushing the country’s birth rate — one of the world’s lowest — ever further down.
Earlier this month Seoul announced its latest set of measures to try to stem the decline, but critics say they will have little to no effect in the face of deep-seated underlying causes.
Many South Korean firms are reluctant to employ mothers, doubting their commitment to the company and fearing that they will not put in the long hours that are standard in the country — as well as to avoid paying for their legally-entitled birth leave.
When Park refused to quit, her boss relentlessly bullied her — banning her from attending business meetings and ignoring her at the office “like I was an invisible ghost” — and management threatened to fire her husband, who worked at the same company.
After fighting for about six months, she finally relented and offered her resignation, giving birth to a daughter a month later. Aside from a brief stint at an IT start-up that did not keep its promise of flexible working hours, she has been a stay-at-home mother ever since.
“I studied and worked so hard for years to get a job when youth unemployment was so high, and enjoyed my work so much... and look what happened to me,” Park told AFP.
Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead.
“The government kept telling women to have more children... but how, in a country like this?” she asked.

The South’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — fell to 0.95 in the third quarter of 2018, the first time it has dropped below 1 and far short of the 2.1 needed to maintain stability.
As a result of the trend, which has been dubbed a “birth strike” by women, the population of the world’s 11th largest economy, currently 51 million, is expected to start falling in 2028.
Many cite reasons ranging from the expense of child-rearing, high youth unemployment, long working hours and limited daycare to career setbacks for working mothers.
Even if women hold on to their jobs, they bear a double burden of carrying out the brunt of household chores.
Patriarchal values remain deeply ingrained in the South: nearly 85 percent of South Korean men back the idea of women working, according to a state survey, but that plummets to 47 percent when asked whether they would support their own wives having a job.
Employment rates for married men and women are dramatically different — 82 percent and 53 percent respectively.
Now nearly three-quarters of South Korean women aged 20-40 see marriage as unnecessary, an opinion poll by a financial magazine and a recruitment website showed. But almost all children in the South are born in wedlock.

Against that backdrop, the South’s government has spent a whopping 136 trillion won ($121 billion) since 2005 to try to boost the birth rate, mostly through campaigns to encourage more young people to wed and reproduce, without success.
Earlier this month it announced yet another round of measures.
They included expanding child subsidies of up to 300,000 won ($270) a month, and allowing parents with children younger than eight to work an hour less each day to take care of their offspring.
More daycare centers and kindergartens will be built, and men will be allowed — but not obliged — to take 10 days of paid birth leave, up from the current three.
But many measures were not legally binding and carried no punishment for firms that denied their workers the promised benefits, and the package met a disdainful response.
“The government policies are based on this simplistic assumption that ‘if we give more money, people would have more children’,” the Korea Women Workers Association said in a statement.
Seoul should first address “relentless sexual discrimination at work and the double burden of work and housechores” for women, it added.
The centrist Korea Times newspaper also questioned whether such “lacklustre” state policies would bring in real change unless the government tackled the real drivers of women shunning marriage and childbirth.
“Unless these harsh conditions for women change, no amount of government subsidies will convince women having children is a happy choice.”