An Englishman’s journey to the truth

An Englishman’s journey to the truth
Updated 23 September 2014

An Englishman’s journey to the truth

An Englishman’s journey to the truth

The fact that this book was published by Arabian Publishing, a reputable publishing house, speaks for itself. James Budd, for his part, has written a fair and honest account about a country he had reasons to dislike. However he never gave in to a desire of vengeance after he was removed from his teaching post in Aneiza. Incidentally this oasis town ten hours away from the capital Riyadh is written several ways: Anayzah, Onaizah, Onizah and Unayzah.
Dr. Ibrahim Abdulrahman Al-Turki, Cultural Affairs Editor of Al Jazirah mentions James Budd’s controversial removal in his incisive introduction. A group of determined critics opposed the arrival of the English teacher because they feared the intellectual impact the teacher might exert on the young people. This triggered a war of suspicions and intrigues which eventually led to James Budd’s departure from the Kingdom.
“Many a dark cloud has a silver lining and in this case those who wrote the first chapter of this story were not the ones who wrote its conclusion. The fortunes of yesterday’s outcast were reversed and today it is James who has emerged triumphant.”
While some people could not believe that James Budd was genuinely interested to master a language he loved, in the end his honesty, integrity and determination proved them all wrong. After leaving Saudi Arabia in 1970, he lived in Kuwait and Qatar until 1983 and then left for Muscat where he worked for the Omani News Agency from 1992 until 1998.
During all those years, he never forgot his Saudi friends and kept regularly in touch with them. He returned to the Kingdom in 1996 to perform his pilgrimage in the company of one of his old students. And finally, in 2011 he made a long awaited return trip to Aneiza. Forty-one years after his first stay he felt that very little appeared to have changed.
“The town still has an unhurried, intimate atmosphere, as well as the same easy sociability that I remember from the days when it was less than a fifth of its present size and in the company of its present day inhabitants I felt almost as though I were carrying on a conversation which had been broken off only a day or two previously, rather than forty-one years earlier”.
This book goes beyond its title. It is more than an Englishman’s journey from Aneiza to Makkah. It is first about a man’s journey to the truth. It is also about a man’s sincere desire to learn Arabic and live in an Arab country. Thirdly, it is about a fascination for the Arab world which never faltered.
James Budd tells us he read Wilfred Thesiger’s classic, “Arabian Sands” when he was sixteen. And I am sure this book resonated in his mind when he lived in Aneiza, which is approximately a ten hours drive from the Nafud desert, the Kingdom’s second largest desert after the Empty Quarter. This book crystallizes the feelings created by “The Deserts of Arabia” to a point which to this day has never been equaled. Wilfred Thesiger was the last adventurer to cross the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world in the late 1940’s.
“Since leaving Arabia I have traveled…to remote places…I have seen some of the most magnificent scenery in the world…None of these places has moved me as did the deserts of Arabia”.
Thesiger’s powerful account echoes the feelings expressed by James Budd and many foreigners who have lived in the Kingdom. A passage to Arabia often leaves an imprint of the desert, creating a never ending yearn to return.
Unlike many books written by non-Saudis on the Kingdom, “Half Past Ten in the Afternoon” is accurate. It makes a positive contribution to the history of a period which is not well-known.
The author admits that it was unfortunate that he never wrote a journal about the years he spent in Aneiza from 1965 to 1970.
“At the time I believed I had an infallible ability to recall facts and events and that keeping a diary would be pointless drudgery, but today, over forty years on, I realize how wrong I was”.
However, James Budd managed to recall a number of anecdotes. One of them which is related to his name is extremely funny and is definitely one that cannot be forgotten.
One day during a gathering, as he was giving his name, “James” the mere sound of it provoked a hearty laugh: “Jumsi, like the lorry!!”. The author of the joke, a certain Hamad, had indeed never heard this name before but he was familiar with the popular GMC Trucks which were and still are extremely popular to this day.
The people living in Qassim are known to be very traditional however, the author is right in noting that: “Many of its inhabitants had experience of the outside world and some of its leading families had long-established business connections in Mumbai, Basra, Zubair and the Gulf”.
Budd also gives some excellent descriptions of the “majlis”, a special room where Saudi men hold their friendly gatherings during which the traditional coffee is made following strict rules. In the past, this important ritual among the Bedu was followed by a recital of poetry described in this book. However, the author justly remarks that today visitors are no longer entertained in the house majlis but in an “istiraaha”, a small guest house whose décor recalls a Bedouin tent or even in an actual Bedouin tent.
I was deeply moved when the author mentioned Saad Abdullah Sowayan whom I have met. He is an eminent expert on the traditions of the Bedu. His book on Nabati poetry is a classic and it includes a masterful description of the coffee making ritual which he says: “is not just an ingredient of hospitality but its more important and ceremonious part”.
Eighteen years after he left the Kingdom, James Budd embraced Islam, something that one of his employers, Abu Sami had envisioned: “I have a feeling you will become a Muslim one day. You will probably not believe me now, but I have an idea that you are closer to Islam that you think, closer in fact, that many Arabs who are nominally Muslims”.
In an age when Islam is being defamed and defaced by Muslims themselves, it is gratifying to read James Budd’s touching and sincere account of both his journey to Islam and to Aneiza. Islam stands for peace and the author by his wise, forgiving and calm nature highlights the true nature of a Muslim. This book which gives a moving account of his life should be read by anyone wishing to know the truth about a country and a religion which are both still deeply misunderstood.

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Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
Updated 28 February 2021

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
  • The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years
  • Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions

DUBAI: A haven for humans craving furry feline company, a cat cafe in Dubai also doubles as an adoption center for some of the United Arab Emirates’ many strays.
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
“Anyone who is stressed just has to find a cat. All your stress will go away,” said Omnia Fareed, whose two cat-loving sisters Allaa and Iman started the cafe after university, taking inspiration from similar establishments in Korea and London.
The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years. Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions.
The cafe’s name Ailuromania is a play on the Greek-derived English word for a lover of cats: ailurophile.
The cafe has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they cannot keep a cat at home.
“They are so cute, they love playing,” said visitor Shaasthra. She said she appreciates how the cafe looks after the cats’ welfare by advising people not to hold them or wake them up.
Another regular visitor, a street cat who would stare in through the window, was also invited and eventually adopted.
Since Dubai began lifting coronavirus lockdown measures last summer, the cafe re-opened with capacity and sanitization restrictions.
Dubai has a large number of stray cats, with many abandoned on the streets by their owners. In 2018 UAE authorities made it illegal to abandon animals, but animal welfare activists in Dubai have for years called for a large-scale trap-neuter-release scheme and feeding programs to bring numbers down humanely.
In August, Dubai municipality issued a circular restating a policy of fining anyone caught feeding strays, saying it increases the spread of diseases.


Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
Updated 24 February 2021

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
  • The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media

BEIJING: A Chinese court has ordered a man to pay his former wife 50,000 yuan ($7,700) as compensation for housework she did during their five-year marriage, state media reported on Wednesday.
Under a landmark civil code that seeks to better protect the rights of individuals, spouses can seek compensation from their partners in a divorce if they have shouldered more responsibilities — including housework.
The woman, who did not work outside the home during the marriage, sought compensation for housework she had done after her husband filed for divorce at a district court in Beijing last year.
The judge ruled in her favor, telling the man to pay 50,000 yuan for her labor, according to state television.
He must also pay 2,000 yuan a month to support their child, with other assets such as property to be divided equally.
The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media, with many netizens saying the amount was too little.
“A nanny’s annual income is already in the tens of thousands of yuan,” said a social media user. “This is too little.”


Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2021

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
  • “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before”

JEDDAH: The ketogenic diet has become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends, but experts have warned that many of its advocates are unaware of the dangerous side effects the diet can cause.

According to Healthline.com, the ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities with low carb and Atkins diets. A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
However, the diet has led to severe side effects for some people.
“The keto diet should only be done under clinical supervision, and only for brief periods of time,” Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist, CEO and owner of Hayati Ghethaei, a catering company, told Arab News.
She added that the keto diet should only be considered in “extreme cases,” because it can do “more harm than good.”
Idrees said: “It can cause damage to the heart, since the heart is also a muscle.”
Consulting a doctor, completing necessary tests and discussing goals with a clinical dietitian should all be considered before starting a keto diet, she added.
Idrees said there are many misconceptions surrounding the keto diet and exercise, adding that exercise can still reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health conditions.
People need to be careful about the types of exercises they practice, she said. “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before.”
Fouz Ghannamil, a fitness trainer, told Arab News that the diet appeared to work for many people. “It is good, but my own opinion is that the human body needs more nutrition than just fat and a really small dose of carbohydrates.”
She added: “It has a high portion of proteins which is good, but the fat sources, no matter how good they are, are a bit too much. It is better in my opinion that the portion of fat and carbs is balanced.”
Ghannamil suggested a better alternative for people looking to shed pounds this year — sticking to a diet of “80 percent healthy food and 20 percent junk food.
“Because naturally, your mind will desire junk food that is not natural, however, it has loads of fat in and your body can use it as an energy source.”
She warned people considering a new diet to stick to a balanced nutrition pyramid that contains everything they need: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.
She added that people should avoid diets based solely on numbers rather than personal experience.
Idrees, on the other hand, proposed the Mediterranean diet as a simpler alternative to the keto diet, saying that it has a good balance of seafood and other sources of proteins, moderate portions of dairy and a limited intake of red meat.


TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list
Updated 15 February 2021

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

DUBAI: A large majority of respondents to an Arab News Twitter poll said they disagreed with the US decision to remove Houthi militia from a terrorism list — reversing one of Donald Trump’s final decisions before leaving office.
A staggering 74 percent of 1,113 voters said they opposed the decision, while just over 17 percent agreed. And only 8.9 percent said they were undecided.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthis will be removed from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations on Feb. 16.


Blinken said the decision to remove the group’s FTO designation as well as its Specially Designated Global Terrorist Designation was driven by concerns, calling it “a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
The announcement came after the Houthis mounted a number of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, which were condemned by the State Department earlier this week.
The top US diplomat noted in his statement that Houthi leaders Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, Abd Al-Khaliq Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim remain under sanction.


“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on Dec. 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen,” he said, using another name for the Houthis.
The Biden administration's special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, was in Riyadh this week for meetings with Saudi and Yemeni officials as well as UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.
“The United States will redouble its efforts, alongside the United Nations and others, to end the war itself. We reaffirm our strong belief that there is no military solution to this conflict,” Blinken said Friday.


French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
Updated 11 February 2021

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
  • Sister Andre is not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday
  • She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26

TOULON, France: Europe’s oldest person, French nun Sister Andre, turns 117 on Thursday after surviving COVID-19 last month and living through two world wars, with a special birthday feast including her favorite dessert — Baked Alaska.
Born Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister Andre said she didn’t realize she had caught the coronavirus, which infected 81 residents of her retirement home in the southeast city of Toulon, killing 10 of them.
“I’m told that I got it,” the nun said ahead of her birthday. “I was very tired, it’s true, but I didn’t realize it.”
But David Tavella, spokesman for the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home, said she had “experienced a triple confinement: in her wheelchair, in her room and without a visit.”
“So, her birthday, it reinvigorates us,” he added, following the deadly outbreak.
Sister Andre said she was not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday but the home is planning a celebration for her.
There will be a special mass at the home, which has a dozen nuns, and the chef is preparing a birthday feast of foie gras, capon fillet with porcini mushrooms and Sister Andre’s favorite dessert: baked Alaska, washed down with a glass of port.
She says her favorite food is lobster and she enjoys a glass of wine.
“I drink a small glass of wine every day,” she said.
Born in Ales in a Protestant family, she grew up as the only girl among three brothers.
One of her fondest memories was the return of two of her brothers at the end of World War I.
“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she said last year, on her 116th birthday.
She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26. She joined the Daughters of Charity order of nuns at the relatively late age of 41.
Sister Andre was then assigned to a hospital in Vichy, where she worked for 31 years and then spent 30 years in a retirement home in the French Alps before moving to Toulon.
She is the second-oldest living person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, after Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, who is 118.
Asked what she would say to young people, Sister Andre said: “Be brave and show compassion.”