Saturday, November 28, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours, Then it Floods – Jeddah, KSA 25.Nov.09

Ask anyone who lives in Jeddah and everyone will tell you that they have never seen an outpouring like this in their whole life. I have lived in the desert coast by the Red Sea for the last 6 years and I can count only with my fingers the times that I have seen rain here. Rains that could be aptly described as brief showers and drizzles in most parts of the world. What’s sad is, according to latest reports, the “showers” that we call in our home countries tragically claimed many lives of people. Many more have been injured or displaced in this highly urbanized place.

It was a sandstormy yet sunny morning in Al Laith, around 180 kilometers south of Jeddah. I was wondering why there was a sudden sandstorm that day. It was unexpected because weather during this period should be cool and sunny. Nevertheless, it was all set that I drive Sani, my Malaysian friend to the airport for his vacation. We have earlier cancelled the airport conveyance provided by our Transportation Section so even when Abubaker, my Saudi staff warned me about the heavy downpour and the flood n Jeddah, the risk-taker in me prompted me to go ahead.

We prepared my 25-day old Rav-4 Sports to brave the sandstorm by asking Tusar, my Bangladeshi staff, to dub the front side of the car with “Fairy”. Fairy is local brand of a liquid soap that is believed by folks here to help protect the lights and bumper of cars from being blasted by the sand while driving high speed along the highway. Little did we know that it was not the sandstorm that we should have prepared for but the floodwaters that at that time was already wrecking havoc in Jeddah.

We had a brief stopover on our way to Jeddah, just beyond Al Shoaibah Desalination & Power Plant to capture the sudden change of the weather. This was the point when the sandstorm stopped and replaced by cool breeze and dark rain clouds above us.

These shots were taken in Al Kumrah, a place before entering Jeddah. The floodwaters covered all the low level places and littering the place with debris.

Despite having only some limited time before Sani's flight, we managed to have a quick stop in the bridge to get a shot of the place underneath it. We proceeded to take the Ring Road to the Airport only to find out that traffic was closed. We had to look for alternate routes and eventually decided to take the Madinah Road via Al Andalus and Herra Streets. It took us almost 5 hours (instead of 2) to find our way from Al Laith to the Airport.

Photos taken on my way back from the airport. Heavy downpour in the city, filling the underpasses and causing traffic jams in almost all the streets. It is not clear in the above pictures but a van and a bus were submerged in the underpass leaving speculations that many cars were submerged there, too.

I have seen police officers everywhere but they seemed to be helpless. I got caught in this traffic jam for around 3 hours. My only consolation was to listen to beautiful music and make every-now-and-then mobile updates and comments un Facebook.

As in any calamity, we find heroes. The photos above show young Saudi boys trying to do the traffic in the streets where police officers were not available. They begged motorists who were hardheaded and who did not want to follow safety warnings to divert to other routes.

The flooding rain may have disrupted Jeddah and may have caused many of the pilgrims to be stranded in highways, but the rain and the floods were no dampener to the spirit of Hajj. Here you can see goats and sheeps (to be used for sacrifice) being carried for business despite the weather condition. On our way to Jeddah, we have seen merchants running after their camels that escaped from their pens, probably frightened by the rain and the floods.

Three days have passed since that Wednesday's devastating flood and many blame the poor drainage system of the city to be the main cause of the floods. The downpour paralyzed the entire city, just two days ahead of the Eid holidays, leaving the city’s shaky infrastructure crippled, perhaps for years to come.

As of this blogpost, 350 people are still missing, and the latest death toll is 98. The claim that more than 2,000 cars have been damaged may not be an exaggeration after all. Many questions have been asked in the wake of the rains in Jeddah and many people says that what happened was a man-made problem.

Some Videos on the Flood

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eid Mubarak! Eid Al Adha Greeting

Eid Mubarak to all Desert Aquaforce readers! It literally means a "Blessed Festival"and can be paraphrased as "May your religious holiday be blessed." It's a way of saying "Happy Eid" at the time of the Islamic Eid holidays. It is a phrase of greetings that is said among Muslims to congratulate each other on holidays. The appropriate answer when someone greets you is, "Allah yubarak feek!"(May Allah bless you also!) This phrase can be applied to both Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan/Fasting) and Eid al-Adha (Hajj/Sacrifice).

Today, the whole Islam world celebrates Eid Al Adha. It is one of the special festivals of Muslims and it is also known as the festival of sacrifice. On this festival Muslims sacrifice their domestic animals like goat, sheep, cow, camel etc. This sacrifice made by Muslims is a symbol of sacrifice made by prophet Abraham - commemorating his willingness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God.

Christians believe that the son brought by Abraham to be sacrificed was Isaac, his son through Sarah. Islams on the otherhand, believe that it was Abraham's son Ismael through Hagar that was brought by Abraham.

The Quran says that Muslims should understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by them, has nothing to do with atoning for their sins or using the blood to wash theirselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations: "It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him." (Qur'an 22:37)

The symbolism is in the attitude - a willingness to make sacrifices in the Muslims' lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each of them makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important to them. A true Muslim, as they claim is one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah's commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that the Lord desires from them.

What we Christians Believe In Differs in the Seed...

God promised to bless Abraham by making of him a great nation, and by blessing the entire world though his seed. When a famine occurred in Canaan, Abram went to Egypt. Fearing he might be killed and his still beautiful wife might be taken in marriage, Abram passed off his wife Sarai as his sister. This put at risk the promised “seed,” which would come through Abram and Sarai. Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, but God prevented a consummation of this “marriage.” Pharaoh learned that Sarai was Abram’s wife and rebuked him, escorting him back to the land of Canaan.

After Abram and Lot were separated and Lot was taken captive, Abram went to his rescue. After Lot’s successful recovery, Abram met Melchizedek, a mysterious king to whom Abram offered a tithe. Reiterating His covenant with Abram and promising him a son, Abraham believed God’s promise, and his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.

As the years passed, Abram and Sarai became concerned, since no son had yet been given them by God. They decided that it was only necessary for Abram to father the child and that Hagar could serve as the mother of the child, in Sarai’s place. At age 86, through Hagar, Abram and Sarah had a son, Ishmael. This son as what we believe in was not the “son of promise,” but God would care for the land as He had said. At age 99, 24 years after God first promised a “seed” for Abraham, God reaffirmed His covenant with Abram and Sarai. He changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. The next year, God promised, they would have a son. God commanded Abraham to be circumcised and to circumcise all the males in his household. Circumcision was to be a sign of God’s (Abrahamic) covenant for all generations to come. Thus, years after he was declared to be righteous, on the basis of his faith Abraham was circumcised.

Abraham and Sarah had Isaac. Sacrificing this son of promise was the greatest test of Abraham’s life, but it revealed that Abraham had finally come to trust in God as the One able to give life to the dead. It was at this situation that God proved Himself to Abraham as Jehovah Jireh - God will provide!

Justice for the Victims of the Maguindanao Massacre

It is a tragic thing that something like this happened within a few months before GMA finally winds up her term of office. After the celebration of victories of Manny Pacquiao and Efren Penaflorida’s win, which made every Pinoy anywhere in the world proud, the Philippines was once again put on the world map. This time not for something that every Juan will be proud of but for something atrocious and horrifying that even the UN had to issue a statement about it. What a shame!

Indeed, it is something shameful, a moment of defeat, the triumph of superciliousness, the party of the wicked politicos that leaves us walking down here in the streets of a foreign land bowing down our heads in dismay and shame. The once proud Pinoys have nothing more to say but to accept the failure of our government to build a nation where peace prevails and for the citizenry to be protected by a government that is administered by the rules of law and not by the rules of guns and goons.

I was born in Cotabato City and lived the first 17 years of my life in the valley surrounded by mountain ranges in Upi, Maguindanao. I had my share of the arms conflict – evacuating from place to place, jumping and hiding in foxholes surrounded by sandbags, and coming back to our home that has been fully ransacked and looted by the hypothetically protectors and implementers of peace. I thought that such savage and barbaric acts were already things of the past until it is displayed once again before our very eyes. This horrendous crime brings pain and anguish to a once upon a time a Maguindanaoan-lad.

Do we care for the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre or are we pensive and engrossed with just the extras and supplementary?

Here are links for your further readings:
How Maguindanao massacre will affect 2010 polls

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