Saturday, November 21, 2015

Free Lentil Soup & Garlic Sauce or: How to Get Your Arabic Restaurant a 5 Star Rating

Manouche Mediterranean Grill Express Take Out sign Guelph blog

When you've lived in the Middle East almost your whole life, and you relocate to a small city where burrito and schnitzel joints abound (seriously they're all on the same street), your eyes will be trained to be on the lookout for any restaurant selling food that has flavour. So when I saw that there was a new Mediterranean grill place in town I alerted my brother as soon as possible and we went to go check it out. When we came in to get some lunch, we were offered little cups of warm lentil soup and something delicious covered in garlic sauce. Pretty good first impression I'd say.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

6 Things I Forgot to Take with Me on a Desert Camping Trip

desert camping trip Eastern Province daytime Saudi Arabia blog

Those who know me well, or if I'm being honest, those who have just introduced themselves to me, know that I have a bad memory. Bad memory + planning for a camping trip = forgetting stuff. Learn from my mistakes and remember to bring these six items!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dos and Don'ts of finding the best Arabic food in a small city

Sometimes you have a craving that needs to be filled... with hummus. Or some other kind of Arabic dish. But if you don't live in a big city in North America or anywhere in the Middle East, it won't be easy to find. So I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a handy list to help you on your search.

Monday, November 2, 2015

How to actually help Syrian refugees

Syria to Guelph Solidarity Walk for refugees blog

Twitter is a great place. You get to interact and engage with people from all over the world, hashtags are born, and memes are shared.

Friday, October 23, 2015

10 questions for organic farming activist Dr. Vandana Shiva

Organic farming activist Dr. Vandana Shiva Guelph blog

I met Vandana Shiva in the airport. When the automatic sliding doors at the arrivals gate revealed her luggage cart and her orange sari, I half expected a beam of light to illuminate her, such is the legend that surrounds her. Of course none did because Vandana Shiva is just a human being and not a saint. But what a human being she is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cellulite, armpit hair and stretch marks: Talking body positivity

Neon Moon lingerie non bra logo photographer Michelle Long blog

I am an unapologetic feminist and an unapologetic lover of the Middle East. So when I came across a Twitter account for a company whose founder represented both, I jumped at the chance to learn more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Home is where the food, I mean heart is

photograph of tabbouleh salad made by blogger Lauren Seip

OK. So obviously it's been difficult to visit exhibits which feature Arab art or to interview Arab comedians or radio show hosts while I live in this small city in Canada. So if I can't go out and experience the culture that I love, well then I guess I'll just have to recreate it somehow at home. And one of the ways I know how to do that is to make food!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pop Culture Middle East has moved to Canada!

photograph of blogger Nadine Compton in Guelph, Ontario, Canada

What does that have to do with the Middle East? Isn't Canada cold and 239587908 miles away from that anything exciting? Isn't it just populated with maple syrup, nice people, and hockey?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday PCME!

pug sitting on a chair in front of a birthday cake Saudi Arabia blog
Well, it's been one year since I started this blog. It's grown and evolved and frankly, it saved my life. It gave me purpose when I was lost.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Artist Abbas Al Roquah paints colourful Saudi women

Unlock Art Abbas Al Roquah Le Meridient Khobar Saudi Arabia blog

I was invited by my friend Hussain to attend the opening night of an art exhibition at the Le Meridien hotel as part of their Unlock Art initiative. Swanky I know. The hotel's been featuring local artists for ten years, but this is the first time they held an event celebrating the opening of an art show.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Artists, don't be afraid to show us your rough draft

Sketchart group exhibition Desert Designs art gallery Khobar blog

All artists keep a sketchpad to illustrate ideas and to practice drawing. The "Sketchat" group art exhibition said it would give me a peek into this world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dark Turns, YouTube, and Laughing at Old White People


Hisham Fageeh may not be a household name yet, but you've probably seen his face and heard his voice. The Saudi comedian, alongside a couple other members of Telfaz11, were behind 2013's viral hit "No Woman No Drive." Contrary to what the video says, Fageeh does not describe himself as a social activist, but as a comedian, a role he plays while working with the Saudi comedy group and when he performs stand up. That's not to say that he doesn't care about social issues, rather he is acutely aware of them and utilizes a "push and pull" strategy to get his followers thinking. Many times that ends up with mean comments on the Internet, but hey, every comedian has its hecklers.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My beautiful work of art (view it now before it becomes famous)

Like I said in the post on my visit to Al Rashid Mall’s Ceramique A La Carte Cafe “paint your own pottery cafe,” I'd show you my artwork once it was done being fired in the kiln. Et voila!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Saudi Arabia's hip hop radio host: No booty shaking culture here

Big Hass hip hop radio show host photograph Saudi Arabia blog
Mel de Tin
I've never met Hassane Dennaoui, or Big Hass as he's known on the Internet and radio, but to hear him talk about his passion, Arab hip hop, is to meet the man himself. This enthusiasm and his drive to promote local talent is what got him his job as Saudi Arabia's first hip hop radio host. He started off blogging (and still does) on RE-VOLT and then moved on to hosting his own program, Laish Hip-Hop? (Why Hip-Hop?) and producing his own magazine on the genre.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ceramic zombie heads and Khobar’s "paint your own pottery" cafe

Ceramique A La Carte Cafe Al Rashid Mall Al-Khobar Saudi blog

Desperate to do something different, my friends and I went to a ceramics cafe in Al Rashid Mall. It's a place where you can sit down and order food, all while painting your own pottery. On their Facebook page the cafe markets itself as a kid friendly place, but after double checking that they did in fact sell food and ceramic items to those who've gone through puberty, my friends and I indulged our inner five-year-olds and painted zombie faces.*

Monday, April 20, 2015

Be happy, Live More... Easy enough right?

By now I'm sure you're sick to death of shoes and you've read enough art reviews to keep you going until summer comes around. Let's watch some TV then shall we? Let's.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Like mother like daughter: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Al-Khobar blog
Emelda is a 32 year old housemaid from Tarlac in the Philippines.

When I interviewed Datiba I wasn't able to sit down with her daughter Emelda, who works at Saja's house as a housemaid. Thankfully I was able to return and interview Emelda.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What happens when urban goes corporate

Malja A Red Bull space logo Amwaj Islands Bahrain blog

Tucked away in a little corner on one of the Amwaj Islands, you can find a creative space called Malja. Calling itself a hub for contemporary artists, designers, and musicians, the Malja building is relatively new, only opening its doors at the end of January. Owned by Red Bull, the space is multi-purpose as it has a gallery, DJ's stage, recording studio and a small art/dance room inside.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm fabulous: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Dammam blog
Sharifa is a 23 year old graphics designer from Dammam. 
I met Sharifa through my friend Todd and we sat down one rainy(!) afternoon to talk about her famously large shoe collection.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I'm more than meets the eye: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia Riyadh Al-Khobar Mathaq photo project blog
Hanadi is a 28 year old contract adviser from Riyadh and Al-Khobar.
I met Hanadi one afternoon while I was sitting down in a cafe working on my blog. She came up to me to compliment me on my boots and I asked her if she would like to be a participant in my project. We met up several weeks later at Mathaq to conduct her interview.

Friday, April 3, 2015

People here judge a lot: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project sneakers blog
Al-Anoud is an 18 year old student from Riyadh. She is part of Saudi Aramco's college preparatory program.
I meet Al-Anoud when she comes to Jori's interview. Unlike her friend and her sister Razan, Al-Anoud is tall and has long curly hair.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A housemaid's story: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Datiba is a 58 year old housemaid from Tarlac, the Philippines.

So far in my photography series, I had only interviewed one non-Saudi, "Jane" from the Philippines. Saja, who recruited her two friends Fajer and Sara, said that Datiba, her housemaid's mother, may be interested in my project. She was in the house visiting her daughter, as she works for another family who lives close by. Datiba agreed to be a participant and we sat down to talk.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's only me and the mirror: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Qassim blog
Sara is a 20 year old student from Qassim.
Saja introduced me to Fajer and Sara when I met them at her house. Sara takes some convincing, but eventually she agrees to be interviewed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wedges and tight abayas: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Al-Khobar Razan blog
Razan is a 16 year old student from Al-Khobar.
Razan tagged along with her sister Jori, who was around when I interviewed Reem. Unfortunately we didn't have time for me to ask her questions then, so we met up at a later time at the same coffee shop.

Monday, March 23, 2015

You can't judge a woman by her abaya: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Al-Khobar blog
Fajer is a 21 year old soon to be university student from Al-Khobar.
Like Sarrah before her, Saja helps me find my next interview participant. We sit down outside of Saja's house, in her front courtyard.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"We don't all have long beards": How film can change Saudi Arabia

filmmaker Mohammed Salman Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia blog

Mohammed Salman is a Saudi filmmaker who is responsible for the short film competition at the Saudi Film Festival and is the director behind Epouvantail, which he will be registering at the Cannes Short Film Corner. His short film tells the story of a family and how they wait for angels to come and bless their farm, so that it can become what it once was. To encourage the angels' blessings, the family puts men's clothing on the scarecrows of the farm. After learning of Mohammed's work from a fellow Qatifi, I requested Mohammed for an interview and we sat down for coffee one afternoon.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the outside looking in: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Dhahran Aramco blog
Saja is a 25 year old business development analyst from Al-Khobar.
I've known Saja since I was a little kid. We didn't go to the same school as her father's Saudi (which makes her Saudi) and they went to a different school than us expat kids, but she was always a regular fixture at soccer. She now works for Aramco, the same company that our fathers used to work for.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sister sister: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Dhahran Mall Qatif blog
Jummana and Zainab are both 16 year old students from Qatif.
Sarrah and I leave our cafe and go looking for a couple more women to interview before she has to meet her friends. We go into an empty restaurant and see three girls sitting down together at a table. Sarrah asks them in Arabic if we can talk to them and two of them say yes.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mathaq: Who needs men when there is food and art

Mathaq: Taste of Art and Food Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia culture blog

It's not often that there are public, outdoor events focused on art, food, and crafts in Saudi so when one rolls around, it's very popular. On March 14 and 15 female small business owners and artists set up booths and showed off their wares at Mathaq: Taste of Art and Food, an event held in Prince Saud Bin Naif Garden. It was a family event, meaning no single men were allowed to attend, other than participating artists and food vendors.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What to wear when you're all grown up: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

leather flats Shoes of Saudi Arabia Dhahran Mall blog
Noof is a 24 year old graduate looking for work. She is from Al-Khobar.
Sarrah and I leave the cafe to look for participants. We find Noof sitting at a gelato shop with a couple other girls.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Oh damn, she has really nice taste: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

pink Nikes Shoes of Saudi Arabia Pop Culture Middle East blog
Sarrah is a 24 year old IT professional from Mecca.
Sarrah has been taking piano lessons from me since the summer of last year. She was gracious enough to let me interview her and to be my interpreter for the day. My plan was to hit up the mall, where I would typically see Saudi women outside of my compound. Before we started, we sat down at a cafe first for her interview.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"I swear to God I'm thinking of you": Desert Designs' Collection

The Desert Designs' Collection Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia blog
Desert Designs Art Gallery

On March 9 Khobar's go-to hub for expats and their home decor needs Desert Designs, put up a collection of artworks by Eastern Province artists. Hussein Al-Mohasen, Jassim Al-Dhamin, Nada Farhat and Hussain Ismail all contributed works from 2008 to the present. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Shoes of Saudi Arabia:" The other women that wear the abaya

I originally set out to get to know Saudi women living in Saudi Arabia and while I will continue to do so in my project, it got me thinking about whom I was excluding as participants. Every woman in the kingdom is required wear an abaya, whether they are Saudi or not. This means that expat women have to wear them too. Of course not all women choose to wear it. Some are rebels like my mom, who remember what it was like to live here in the 1980s, when you could get away with wearing loose fitting pants and shirts. In fact, she now has an entire wardrobe of flowy, drab coloured ensembles that I call her Khobar outfits. But I digress.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dior every day: How shoes say a whole lot more than you think

To celebrate International Women's Day, I am launching my photography project "Shoes of Saudi Arabia." The theme for this year's Women's Day is Make It Happen, "encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women." The latter part of that statement is where my project focuses on.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Short" shorts and science in Saudi Arabia

short shorts Al-Khobar Saudi Arabia Pop Culture Middle East blog

We all know that Saudi is a conservative country where women cover up. But did you know that men have to as well? My brother learned that the hard way when we went to Scitech, an interactive science and technology centre.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Mask: Saudi painter explores the idea of exposing one's self

Desert Designs Hidden Amnah Yaqoub Khobar Saudi Arabia blog
Desert Designs

Amnah Yaqoub displayed her artwork at the Desert Designs Art Gallery from February 12th to the 15th. Her exhibit, which she chose to call "Hidden," was a series of paintings exploring the idea that everyone wears a mask, even from themselves. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A day in Bahrain Part 3 or: A stupid reason why women can't drive

Al Fateh Grand Mosque Bahrain Pop Culture Middle East blog

This is my last instalment in my Bahrain travel series. You can find the other instalments here and here.

I decided to end my trip to this little island kingdom by visiting Al Fateh Grand Mosque, which is part of the Ahmed Alfateh Islamic Center. The mosque is huge! It was difficult to take a photo that would capture the whole structure. According to the website, it can hold up to 7,000 worshippers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Saudi Arabia ranked most 'miserable' country in the Gulf

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flag Pop Culture Middle East blog
We've heard about the happiest countries in the world. Every year those pesky blond Scandinavian nations in the north with their high literacy rates and unnaturally tanned citizens score highly on their GDP, social capital and safety and security. And then there are those poor countries in South America and Asia that fly in the face of such studies who rank low for such indicators, but whose citizens report having a high quality of life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

“I want things to be better, this is how I fight. This is my gun.”

Khalid Albaih Sudanese cartoonist Dhahran Saudi Arabia blog

Khalid Albaih is a Sudanese political cartoonist living and working in Qatar as the head of installation and design for public art at Qatar Museums. His cartoons were used by protesters in Cairo, Sanaa, Tripoli, and Tunis. On Sunday I interviewed the artist about the French publication Charlie Hebdo, Arab politics, and what he thinks the future holds for Sudan, the Middle East, and for his own family.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Saudis make 'Rich List,' no one is surprised

Forbes logo blogging Dhahran Saudi Arabia
Forbes recently published its billionaires list and as usual, quite a few Saudis made the cut. Of course leading this list of rich old men is self made man Prince Al Waleed bin Talal al Saud at #35.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

'Lady of the Arab screen' dies at age 83

Faten Hamama tribute Dhahran Saudi Arabia blog
Yet another* icon of the Arab stage and screen has passed away. Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, who was well known for her film work in the 1940s and 1950s, died yesterday reports her son Tarek Sharif. Hamama had been hospitalized a few weeks earlier due to an illness.