Dozens rescued from flooding as heavy rain shuts schools and roads in Saudi Arabia

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The heavy rain flooded roads in Madinah. (Supplied)
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The heavy rain flooded roads in Madinah. (Supplied)
Updated 30 January 2019
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Dozens rescued from flooding as heavy rain shuts schools and roads in Saudi Arabia

  • The Civil Defense said it rescued 65 people in Tabuk and Al-Jouf and 37 people west of Duba
  • Severe weather forecast to last until Tuesday

JEDDAH: Heavy rainfall and sandstorms in the Kingdom have led to flooding, school closures and poor visibility, authorities said Monday as they urged people to take precautions during the bout of bad weather.

Rain hit northern and western parts of Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Monday, while sand swept through major population areas to bog down the skyline.

Schools shut in Tabuk, Arar and Al-Jouf because of flooding and there was low visibility in Riyadh among other places.

"Riyadh, Makkah, the northern border region, Hail, Tabuk, Qassim, Madinah, the eastern province, Asir, Jazan and Al-Jouf are experiencing unstable weather and the General Directorate of Civil Defense calls on citizens and residents not to risk themselves and their families, and avoid going to valleys or dangerous areas," Maj. Mohammed Al-Hammadi, Civil Defense spokesman, told Arab News.

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah urged passengers to check their flights with delays and cancelations expected.

Civil Defense said it had rescued 65 people in Tabuk and Al-Jouf and 37 people in Duba. It told people to exercise restraint while driving and take maximum precautions.

The General Authority for Meteorology and Environmental Protection forecast rainfall in the north and west, and sandstorms or dusty winds in several parts of the Kingdom.

Thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by gusty winds and dust, reducing visibility in Riyadh and the Eastern Region and resulting in lower temperatures.

In Makkah winds of 37 km/h are forecast, while in Jeddah wind speeds could reach 50 km/h. 

Dust filled the air in Riyadh on Monday. (Iqbal Hossain)

Hazy weather was expected early Tuesday in Al-Jouf, Northern Borders, Hail, Qassim and the Eastern Region.

Tabuk is expected to be mostly sunny, with a maximum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius.


Motherly advice from Dr. Thoraya Obaid

Updated 21 March 2019
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Motherly advice from Dr. Thoraya Obaid

  • n an exclusive interview for Mother’s Day in the Arab world, the woman who paved the way for a new generation of Saudi women shares her life lessons
  • ‘Have faith in Allah, and believe in yourself and that you were created to bring good to the world,’ she advises

RIYADH: The first Saudi to head a UN agency, the first Saudi female to graduate from a US university on a government scholarship, one of 30 women to be appointed to the Shoura Council for the first time, one of 100 notable “Muslim Builders of World Civilization and Culture,” and editor of “The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.” These are just a few achievements on the remarkable CV of Dr. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. 

For years she politely declined media requests for interviews, saying it was time for the next generation to take the spotlight. But after a year of attempts by Arab News, she finally granted the newspaper an interview. 


 

As the Arab world marks Mother’s Day on March 21, Arab News decided it was a good occasion to sit down with Obaid, a mother of two girls, because she has been a role model to so many young Saudi women.

 

She has been an advocate for women’s rights worldwide, most notably as under-secretary-general and executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) from 2001 to 2010. 

But what most people do not know is how humble she is. “Please don’t call me Dr. Thoraya, call me auntie,” she said in a soft voice.

Early beginnings 

“I was 7 when I left for Cairo (to study at a boarding school). There were no girls’ schools in Saudi Arabia at the time, in September 1951, and my father had the same principles for his sons and daughter. He followed our Islamic teaching that advocated education for all,” she said.

“I started crying when he took me to the school in Cairo and told the teacher to take me away.”

Years later, she asked her father how he felt at that time. He told her: “I felt that if I let my fatherly emotions take over, I’d have bundled you up and taken you away.” 

But he decided against it, realizing that this moment would make or break her future, and he wanted to empower her through education.  

That moment, Obaid said, helped her cope anywhere in the world. 

She learned to make a new family through bonds with other students and teachers at the boarding school. 

She went on to get a PhD in English literature, with a minor in cultural anthropology, from Wayne State University in Detroit.

“My generation was focused on education,” she said. “You learn that education isn’t only for you, but also for you to serve others.” 

Working life

Obaid has lived and worked most of her life outside her country, in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the US. 

During her time with the UN, she travelled the world. After her meetings in various countries, she would insist on going to villages and poor urban areas where the UNFPA supported government projects, so she could meet the people there. 

“These are the real people that must be empowered to change their own lives, not the ones we meet in the ministries,” she said. “Unless you go and see the poor, the sick and the very basic human rights violations, you won’t know what the country is about, especially if you’re stuck in nice hotels.” 

Even though she sought to visit these impoverished areas, heart-wrenching scenes would always get to her. At the UN they called her the “crying executive director,” but she was not ashamed of her tears. 

In one African country, while checking maternal programs in the village, she encountered a sickly woman who was thrown out of her home by her husband. She told her story to Obaid, both of them with tears streaming down their cheeks. 

In South Africa, she visited the cell in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 17 years. The guides were all former political prisoners, who said they kept the prison open in order to demonstrate that apartheid should not exist anymore. As she cried silently, she told them: “You know, there’s another apartheid happening again, in Palestine.” 

Life lessons

Obaid’s experiences taught her much about life. When it comes to family, she had this advice: “For young girls in families, don’t ask for everything and at the same time. Be selective, and have a strategic goal that you want to achieve in your life; focus on that.”

She said: “My most important request was going to university, a goal that’s now taken for granted by the young generation. So I tell girls to have a strategic objective in life. If you work toward it and achieve it, it will change your life.”

She advises daughters not to be inflexible with parents regarding their demands. “When you grow up, you’ll realize the issues weren’t worth it,” she said. “It’s even more obvious when you become a parent yourself.” 

Obaid, who worked hard to realize her dreams, added: “We, as human beings, don’t have unlimited energy, so direct your energy to what will make a difference in your life.” 

As for being Saudi, she said there is no place like home, adding: “I’ve lived 58 years out of my country and returned voluntarily. I’ve never really felt home except in my home, Saudi Arabia, with all its frustrations and complications.” 

It never crossed her mind to get another passport or residency permit, she said. “I learned that one’s dignity lies in their homeland. Wherever you go and however long you stay, you’ll always feel like an outsider. Even if you integrate in the community, you’re still an outsider,” she added. 

When asked what advice she would give youths, she said: “Have faith in Allah, and believe in yourself and that you were created to bring good to the world.”