Project 365

Welcome! This is my own 365 project of creating at least one post per day about the stuff that I learnt, achieved, and found, the stuff that made me happy, or the new thing I did every single day.

The project was started on 21 February 2010. It has stopped for few times but I am determined to continue!

This project is dedicated to myself. I want to feel grateful for every single thing I have. I want to be thankful for my own life. I just want to feel that I have enough.

Tag: arabs


I would like to invite Prof. Brown to conduct an ethnographic study on Middle Eastern cultures which revolve around the word "eib", "عيب". This Arabic word, in its root, means "flaw", and yet the word in its daily usage, refers to shame. You are told, "eib", as in, shame on you, for doing so and so. Usually, the word "eib" is accompanied with a sentence about what people would think. One’s life is centred on what others think, the flaw which you might be presenting, and the shame which emerges from it. The root of many problems in Arab society are not oppression of women, nor is it dictatorship, etc. It is of us oppressing ourselves with this constant shaming process. We are always told to not reveal our flaws, to always care about what people think – of what we do, how we dress, how we behave, etc. We fear stigma, because we engage in stigmatizing each other.

I always love to read the comments on TED talk. This one is the comment for Brene Brown’s talk about shame. This is a very interesting insight about Arab society and I do think that we have such approach too in Asian/Indonesian society.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment poll

I found an interesting poll at This poll has been closed but I was struck at the poll result! 33% of the women who wear Islamic attire have never been sexually harassed in the West, while 32% of the votes said they have. Yes, I know… the poll show a strange result if you look at the percentages of other options, but this is a reminder that sexual harassment are plaguing women every single day… no matter where they live. Based on my experience of living and traveling in the West and Muslim world, I have to agree with the result of this poll. I have never been sexually harassed in any non-Muslim-majority countries that I went to. It is in the Muslim-majority country that I often experience such thing. In fact, it’s reported that 90% of Yemeni women said that they had been harassed (80% for Egyptians and 30% for Lebanese). Isn’t it sad?!

Saudi Arabia is a place where I constantly experience sexual harassment. It’s not a safe place for women to go around without men. And it’s NOT always a guarantee that you wouldn’t be harassed when you go with your brother or father. I have been stared from top to bottom, hissed, followed, thrown a business card, touched (thank God “only” my hand, but others may experience worst that me), and I have seen something that I should have not seen. I have also been followed with a car, which was scary! I have heard lots of inappropriate and sexual comments directed at me on the streets and the malls. It doesn’t happen only to me, I assure you. No matter how old you are and no matter how much you cover yourself, women in Saudi Arabia experience harassment almost every single day.

If you think that Mekkah and Madinah are the least place for women to experience sexual harassment, then you are gravely wrong! Inappropriate comments here and there can be heard even when you are in the Holy Mosque! I remember I was constantly stared by this creepy old man for an hour prior to the Eid Prayer at the Haram Mosque in Mekkah. I was very angry but I couldn’t do anything except to ignore him. I did react a couple of times when I was sexually harassed, but I didn’t want to cause disturbance this time at the mosque during one of the holiest months. Normally, women do not react when they experience such thing, allowing men to do it again as they please. BUT I’d suggest to do something about it! Scold him or  even threaten him to the religious police!! That would make him dead scared.

Anyway, the experience I wrote above didn’t only happen in Saudi Arabia. Indonesia is no exception, although it’s still “ok” if compared to Saudi Arabia. But still, sexual harassment knows no boundary. Even if it’s in the form of comments like “where are you going, pretty girl?”, it’s still considered a harassment.

I always wonder, why does it happen so frequently in the Muslim world? Is it because we’re too strict? (I’m talking about Saudi Arabia or Iran) Is it because men and women are forced to be segregated all the time? Is it because of the concept of mahram (guardian) that is being abused and misused?

Or are we perhaps too flexible and laid-back? (like in Indonesia or perhaps Malaysia) Men and women are not segregated. They can mingle as freely as they can without worrying about religious authorities. If that’s the case, why does sexual harassment  still exist there? I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as sexual harassment in the West, but I never experienced it (hopefully I won’t!). Maybe it’s different if I wore revealing and skimpy clothes and went to the club. Maybe! I don’t know. I never done that hahaha.

One day, a friend of mine asked me via twitter: “as a globetrotter, don’t you think the more liberal the country is, the less sexual harassment they experience? No hidden curiosity”.

That’s a tricky question! While I enjoy my life in the West free from disturbing comments or weird stares, I don’t support liberal views for obvious reasons (e.g. religion). We don’t need a totally free society but we also don’t need a strict one! But how can we be in the middle between the free and strict system? How can we teach the kids in a way that when they grow older, they wouldn’t look at women merely as an “object”? I don’t know the answer to those questions, to be honest.

My friend, who has been to Iran, Jordan, and Syria, also told me that out of all the three countries, she thinks Syria is the best. Iran is too strict, so it’s common for the youth to secretly hold mixed-sex parties with alcohol and drugs. Jordan, on the other hand, is too liberal and the women often complain about sexual harassment over there. Syria, according to her, is actually in the middle between Iran and Jordan. There are no restrictions imposed, nor visual judgment on women who don’t dress modestly. But most women dress and talk decently. Please note that her opinion is based on her observation after traveling to those countries and mingling with the locals (through CouchSurfing! What else, really?!).

She makes me want to go to Syria again!!! I want to go there and meet my uncle and aunt to discuss about this. Hopefully Syria is “recovering” soon from the unrest.

I want to conclude this post with this verse in the Qur’an:

Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.

— The Qur’an (24:30)

Arabic Music


When I’m homesick, one of the ways to cure that homesickness is by eating Middle Eastern foods or by listening to Arabic music! 😀

This song, Ally Gara, is one of my favorite songs and probably my only favorite classical Arab music. I don’t know who the original singer was, but this classical song was made popular (again) by Saber Robaei and Asalah Nasri. Saber and Asalah are two of the best Arab singers. Their voice is just amazing. Both of them have performed this song on separate occasions. If you watch this video, you’ll notice it’s a rather  spontaneous performance at a random party attended by many Arab celebrities. You can see how they made gesture to each other to tell whose turn to sing next. But despite the spontaneity, both Saber and Asalah did a great job!! I even think Saber can survive without Asalah there haha.

The song is quite long (more than 10 minutes) — the video that I embed here is the second part of the performance. It’s common for Arab singers to prolong a song by “playing” with their voice (like what Saber did at 2:34 and Asalah at 4:40). They do that quite often when performing a classical Arab music. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, it’s to show the greatness of their voice and how long they can sing without breathing.

You can download the mp3 of this performance from here. Saber and Asalah never recorded this song, so the one from this performance is used and was widely played in the radio across the Middle East when it was first broadcasted on TV. So you can hear the voice of Asala asking for a glass of water in the beginning of the song hahaha. It’s a spontaneous performance, I told ya!

When You Greet… in Arabic

The Arabs have a weird way of greeting their friends. They would ask the following questions:

  • How are you?
  • How’s everything?
  • How’s your health?
  • How’s your family?
  • How’s your son/daughter?
  • and the list is expanding… (but usually those first four questions are asked)

And what’s the answer to all those questions?

Alhamdulillah. All praise is due to Allah SWT.

In Saudi Arabia, when you greet a person, you’d kiss him/her on the cheek. So if you ask him/her four questions above, then you’d kiss him/her for four times. So it all depends on the number of questions that you ask. And all of them must be answered with alhamdulillah.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest you watch this funny and short video made by MTV Arabia about Saudi kiss:


My brother and I used to make fun of the way Arabs greet. It’s funny, when you think about it. I mean, you ask so many questions and no matter what you ask, the answer will always be alhamdulillah! It’s soooo “basa-basi”.

Anyway, it turns out that this way of greeting has existed for so long — it was once the habit of salafus shalih (the ‘pious predecessors’ from the first three generations of Muslims) which has been passed down until now! The reason why they did it was so that they can say the word alhamdulillah for so many times. In other words, they deliberately did it so that we can praise Allah SWT more often — i.e. so that we can be grateful to Allah SWT more often.

Subhanallah, I didn’t know that!!! I’m such a loser for thinking about it in another way. Oh God, please forgive me.

* Taken from a book titled “Kaya & Bahagia dengan Syukur” by Ahmad Hadi Yasin.

Totally Fake

Read this article, titled “At The Beach With Nancy Ajram” and found some surprising facts:

  • Lebanon has one of the highest rates per capita of plastic surgery in the world
  • 1.5 million plastic surgeries are performed in Lebanon each year. An estimated 20% of them on men.
  • Lebanon is a country where banks will give women monetary loans for plastic surgery but where up until last year women could not open bank accounts for their children
  • There are more Lebanese women living in Lebanon than there are men

And I can see more fake faces on TV nowadays. I actually wrote a little bit about it in my other blog, focusing more on the Arab female singers. Al-Arabiya published a slideshow of the before and after looks of these Arab stars. Some of them looked sooooo different!

Sherine Ahlam

Pictures taken from Al-Arabiya.