Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Photography in Public Places to Be Allowed! 

Arab News reports on a new head scratcher from Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that photographing in public places will be allowed except in prohibited areas. The new decision, which was revealed after a meeting of the Supreme Commission for Tourism's (SCT) board, will be implemented within a year.
So, let me get this straight. In a year, I'm going to be allowed to take pictures whereever I want, except where I'm not allowed to? This one will rank right up there with all firearms being expressly prohibited except for those which are allowed, and the law outlawing U-turns except where they're permitted. I know there's some sense here somewhere, I'm just not sure where.

I first thought that perhaps all photography in public places was presently prohibited, and this new law was a serious innovation. But I couldn't find anything (on Google) to support that. Reading the Arab News article further, it appears to be related to the Saudi jihad against terrorism, trying in some ill-defined way to make it clearer precisely where photography is and is not allowed for tourists. As if it could be any clearer.

In my Googling for Saudi Arabian laws banning public photography, I chanced upon a few other interesting cultural tidbits about Saudi Arabia. For instance:

Do not openly show anger or curse in any fashion; you can be jailed for this.

Do not voluntarily get involved in social incidents or accidents, even to give first aid. This can lead to complications.

Should you accidentally jostle or bump into someone on the street, you should try not to say "Excuse me," since this is considered unnecessary and somewhat odd.

[regarding cars:] If a dealer is involved in the sale, he will probably expedite that process for a small fee. [I think we call this bribery.] The registration should be kept with the vehicle at all times. In the event of a serious accident, wait at the scene until the police arrive. Be prepared to accompany them to the local station for detention, pending investigation, determination of responsibility, and assessment of compensation. [Cool, they lock you up and assess how much you have to pay while you are held in detention. I think we call this bribery too, but I'm not a lawyer so it's possible bribery has the wrong nuance for this particular example. Some cultures have as many subtle variations on the concept of bribery as there are words for snow in Eskimo.]
You know, given all these guidelines, and the confusion over how much photography is allowed before you're locked up, I'm slowly cheering up about those Israeli arrival/departure stamps in my U.S. passport.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: