By Wattad, Nizar
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. 21, No. 4
The First Children's Encyclopedia of Arabia
Mary Beardwood, a teacher from England who lived and taught in the Middle East for over two decades, has written and published the world's first compendium of facts on the Arabian Peninsula geared specifically toward children, reported the March 3 Arab News. The book took three years to write and was first published in October 2001, although fast sales have resulted in multiple reprints. Beardwood was not alone in her pursuits: by the time she was finished, over 100 people were helping her, most out of appreciation for her efforts in educating the world on the history and culture of the Peninsula. The Children's Encyclopedia of Arabia is 157 pages long, with plenty of illustrations. It is divided into four main sections, dealing with Arabian history, the coming of Islam, Arabian flora and fauna, and the discovery and relevance of oil in the region. Beardwood has received numerous compliments from grateful readers, many of whom have approached her with a simple message: "Thank you for caring."
School Fire Sparks Saudi Debate
A school fire in mid-March that left 15 Saudi and expatriate schoolgirls dead has sparked intense debate in the Saudi public and press over the government's management of female education. According to the March 13 Arab News, most Saudi government schools lack emergency exits and fire extinguishers, and do not conduct drills for evacuation or rescue operations. The national outcry included an unprecedented call for the resignation of senior education officials, a request heeded by King Fahd, as he forced the retirement of Ali el-Murshid, who headed the now-defunct Presidency of Girls' Education. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah ordered a commission of inquiry to ascertain the safety of school buildings and evaluate proposals to construct new ones. The March 16 Saudi Gazette quotes him as saying that "any department that is negligent in this matter will be held responsible, because our children's lives are a trust, regarding which we will not allow any negligence." Also coming under scrutiny were the activities of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, members of which allegedly prevented male rescue workers from aiding the girls as they were trampled in the rush to escape the flames. An official report later absolved the Committee, calling the charges "untrue" and questioning the identity of individuals whom eyewitnesses claimed were blocking the gates at the time of the fire.
Prince Abdullah: Saudi Arabia Faces "Suffocating" Economic Crisis
A Feb. 7 Arab News report revealed the contents of a circular issued by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to various government departments, urging them to increase efficiency and end unnecessary spending or face losing their jobs. …