Older Workers Add Value To Any Organization

29 June 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

A UK newspaper published a survey that stated: “workers of over 50 are four times less likely to pull a sickie than younger staff.”

The survey also brought to light a five-year study which indicated that 44 percent of workers aged 20-39 had lied to their boss about being ill to get time off, compared with just 10 percent of those over 50. More mature workers seem to be healthier and more energetic and less reluctant to take sick leave. Younger workers attributed their time off due to a common cold and at times took more than the required days for treatment.

The survey of 2,000 working adults by an insurance firm found that older workers were keen to make the “best impression” and hold on to their jobs as they approached retirement.

Older workers also took better care of themselves and thus were more active. They also brought stability, experience and knowledge to their jobs and were surprisingly more ambitious. Therefore, they were more productive because of their almost non-existent absenteeism.

Older workers add value because they share skills and knowledge and act as mentors to the younger staff. A better work ethic makes them exceptionally reliable. As a result, we now have to erase the misconception that older workers are just biding their time.

In the golden age of Saudi Arabian Airlines, there were exceptional “older workers” who did not at all feel threatened by the new batch of graduates, but rather helped and guided them. Not all of them had higher qualifications, but the majority of them added value by their character and committed personality.

I am sure many managers have a lot of stories to tell about made-up excuses by younger members of staff so that they can skip work. One of the most amusing stories that I can remember was of a young man asking for leave because of his mother’s demise. The leave was granted and he disappeared for nine days. Then six months later, he filled out another leave form claiming that again he needed to attend his mother’s funeral. When questioned about this, he quickly added that this was his stepmother. However, the story does not end there, because less than a year later the same young man applied for leave citing the funeral of yet another stepmother!

Meanwhile, young members of staff have easy access to fake medical reports. Unfortunately, they know that they can get away with this because of Ministry of Labor regulations that favor the employee.

However, one should not deride the young too much, but rather by and large place trust with older, more experienced adults.

The ideal situation would be an organization with a mixture of older workers and younger staff that can bond together. The older ones can set an example of responsible behavior and together they can build a strong and viable team.

Younger adults should be aware that the future can only be achieved through hard work, learning from the more experienced members of staff and accepting authority within a proper management framework.

This satisfactory mix would go a long way to achieving the organizational success of any enterprise.

— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

Granddaughter, Kayla Ann Abilez Weds

26 June 2015 | 0 comments | Weddings & Engagements | by

Granddaughter, Kayla Ann Abilez Weds Grant Heron

Al & Pat Denyer who lived in Dhahran and Ras Tanura from April 1980 to August 1990 announce the marriage of their granddaughter Kayla Ann Abilez of Thousand Oaks, California to Grant Heron of Salt Lake City, Utah at the Los Angeles Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on June 13, 2015.

Kayla is the daughter of Linda Abilez of Thousand Oaks, California and Grant’s parents are Rick and Kara Herron of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kayla received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University. Grant is a master’s graduate in architecture from the University of Michigan.

A reception was held later in the day at the home of Joe and Karen Neff in Camarillo, California. Over 125 family and guests attended the reception. Family members came from as far as Maryland and Utah.

The newlyweds will reside in Arlington, Virginia.

Palestinian Refugees Slipping Into Oblivion

24 June 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al-MulhimAbdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

The total number of Palestinian refugees is estimated at around five million. These refugees include those displaced from their ancestral lands in 1948 and their descendants.

The number of Palestinian refugees is shockingly high. These poor people have been braving all sorts of problems for the past 70 years with no end to their plight in sight. Have we — the Arabs and the international community — forgotten these people? If the answer is in the negative then why on earth are they still living as refugees?

Truth be told, the Palestinian refugees were forgotten the day they left their lands decades ago with a promise that their lands would be liberated in a few months.

As it turned out, the number of Palestinians had increased dramatically over the years due to wars after the creation of the state of Israel and the high birth rate among the Palestinians.

During the past few decades, these poor people are not only bearing the scourge of being refugees but they are increasingly becoming victims of conflicts they are not party to. In the ongoing violent conflicts across the Arab world, these refugees are caught in the cross-fire.

Unfortunately, it is not only us, their Arab brothers, who have betrayed them but even their so-called leaders appear to be concerned about their selfish interests only. Finding solutions to the problems of Palestinian refugees appear to be nowhere on the agenda of their leaders. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for these Palestinians.

Merely issuing statements expressing solidarity with these refugees are not likely to end their miseries.

Ironically, countries that had assured Palestinians in 1948 that they would soon return to their lands are also currently faced with the refugee problems. Internal conflicts in many of those countries have rendered their own people refugees in their own and other countries.

Sometimes I wonder what if the Arab world had taken the less than a million Palestinians in 1948 and issued them citizenships of the country in which they had taken refuge. They would have become part of those countries and the current problems would have been reduced. It is an open secret that the issue of the Palestinian refugees is a major obstacle to achieving a peace deal.

Five million refugees is no laughing matter. The Palestinian leaders have seldom highlighted this issue effectively. Palestinian leaders very rarely raise the issue of these refugees or discuss their plight. They are seldom seen visiting the refugee camps, which are largely managed by international agencies such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Management of these camps is not an easy task. The camps were already facing a paucity of funds and now a deluge of refugees from countries — that had promised Palestinians fleeing their lands in 1948 that they would ensure their safe return soon — is also adding to the problems at these camps.

Around seven million people have been displaced from Syria and Iraq and seeking refuge across the region. The number of those fleeing bloody conflicts in Libya and Yemen is unknown. The number of these new refugees far exceeds the number of Palestinian refugees.

The problem of Palestinian refugees would only aggravate over time. Ironically, in the many rounds of peace talks held so far no viable option has been discussed to tackle this issue.

As mentioned earlier, the funds allocated for these refugees are already insufficient due to which many different ideas are being proposed to handle this issue. One of those proposals calls for changing and modifying the definition of a Palestinian refugee. Many in the United Nations are of the view that refugee status should be given to only those Palestinians who fled the Zionist onslaught in 1948.

If approved this decision will have catastrophic consequences. There is a great need to resolve this refugee problem before going ahead with further peace talks.

It is undoubtedly a sad tale. Had these people been assimilated into the local populations of their host countries, they could have contributed greatly toward the progress of those countries. Unfortunately, for decades they just remained confined to their camps leading lives of uncertainty.

Just a few decades ago, these refugees were brimming with hope but slowly and gradually that hope is fading. The Palestinian refugees are in a very desperate situation and with the start of the so-called Arab Spring many in the Arab world are busy with their own to think about this desperate lot.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Palestinian Refugees Slipping Into Oblivion reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

Ramadan’s Lanterns

24 June 2015 | 1 comment | Special Interest | by

Written and photographed by John Feeney

Blessed is He who made constellations in the skies and placed therein a lamp and a moon giving light; and it is He who made the night and day to follow each other: For such as have the will to celebrate His praises or to show their gratitude.

The Qu’ran, Chapter XXV (Al-Funqan, The Criterion), Verses 61-62

Ramadan's Lanterns

No one knows for certain when the use of children’s Ramadan lanterns began, but it is a very old Egyptian tradition. Indeed, lanterns and lamps of various kinds, of many hues and degrees of brightness, and even both real and imaginary, have always been special to Egypt. For centuries before the coming of electricity, Cairo itself was noted for its spectacular use of lanterns to illuminate the city, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year, is a time of fasting, blessings and prayers. It also commemorates the revelation of the first verses of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad.

As a way of giving thanks to God during this holy month, and as a way of unifying the worldwide community of believers, Muslims – with special exceptions for the sick, nursing mothers, pregnant women and travelers – spend the daylight hours fasting. The hours of the night, until dawn, are marked by prayers, ceremonial meals and celebration of the day’s spiritual victory over human desires. After sunset, streets and squares all over the Muslim world are thronged with people out buying food after the long day’s fast, or visiting friends, or preparing for sahur, the last meal of the night, which will be taken before dawn. It is then that young Cairenes, allowed to stay up late because of Ramadan, traditionally gather in groups of three or four to go out among the crowds, swinging their glowing lanterns and chanting their ancient song of Ramadan – just as children in other lands go caroling – hoping to receive in return a few nuts or sweets for their vocal efforts.

Passed on by children from generation to generation, the traditional song, in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, accompanies the swinging of the lanterns in the little ones’ hands. It goes like this:

Wahawi, ya wahawi
iyyahah
You have gone, O Sha’ban,
You have come, O Ramadan,
iyyahah
The daughter of the Sultan
is wearing her caftan,
iyyahah
For God the forgiver
Give us this season’s gift.

Some believe that the children’s lantern song comes all the way from Pharaonic times, like the ancient Egyptian song called O-Faleh in the Pharaonic tongue and al-Bahr Sa’id in Arabic (meaning “The River Has Risen”). In the days before the Aswan Dam was built, that song was sung by groups out in small boats on the night the Nile reached the peak of its annual flood. Certainly, the lantern song is very old, and very Egyptian.

Ramadan's Lanterns

The opening lines – “Wahawi ya, wahawi iyyahah” – have no known meaning. “You have gone, O Sha’ban” refers to the month that comes before Ramadan in the Muslims’ lunar hijri calendar, and “the daughter of the Sultan is wearing her caftan” means she is dressed in the garment worn when going out, maybe to the mosque. “Give us this season’s gift” refers to the small presents children receive from family and friends at the time of the ‘Id or holiday that follows the month of fasting.

In the days leading up to Ramadan, children become more insistent about having a lantern; many can hardly wait to start swinging and singing – for what child, from its earliest years, is not attracted by a glowing, magical lantern? Yet Cairo children may be the most “lantern-struck” of all: Recent research by Dr. Marsin Mahdi of Harvard University indicates that Scheherezade’s ‘Alaa’ al-Din (Aladdin) of the magic lamp may well have been a Cairo boy.

One week before Ramadan begins, part of Ahmad Maher Street, for most of the year a humble thoroughfare in the old medieval quarter of Cairo, is transformed. Usually home to tinsmiths, marble-cutters and makers of mousetraps, for one glorious month it becomes “The Street of the Lanterns.”

To get there, you turn off Port Said Street in front of the Museum of Islamic Art, into Ahmad Maher Street, pass the central police headquarters and walk for 10 minutes or so toward the great 11th-century city gate, Bab Zuwaylah – a stone’s throw from the famous Tentmaker’s Bazaar (See Aramco World, November-December 1986).

Just outside the massive medieval gate, you will find the facades of dozens of small shops festooned with thousands upon thousands of Ramadan lanterns, small, medium and big ones, suspended from crossbars or strung up on poles, waiting to delight the hearts of young Muslim Cairenes.

The lantern-makers themselves are very humble people, often working in small rooms, in corners, in alcoves or simply under corrugated iron shelters. The work of producing the tens of thousands of lanterns required to meet demand during the season usually begins about nine months before Ramadan. Sometimes entire families spend their lives, from generation to generation, working in the various aspects of the lantern business – like Said Hanefy Diab, Salama Hanefy Diab and Sayed Hanefy Diab, shown on these pages.

Mahmoud el Said, now 25 years old, has been making lanterns since he was 10. In his small dark room within the shadow of Bab Zuwaylah, he sits cross-legged day after day in front of a constantly burning blue flame with Wagih, his 15-year old assistant, at his side.

All day long Mahmoud wields his soldering iron like a medieval magician’s wand, back and forth, deftly creating lantern after lantern. Each fragile lantern-frame is made from thin strips of tin usually cut from old tin cans.

Ramadan's Lanterns

Pieces of hand-colored glass are then inserted into the frame and finally, when a lighted candle is placed inside, the lantern glows with translucent beauty – at least for the few weeks of Ramadan, for they are not meant to last longer.

Each day, in every shop and workshop, dozens of lamps of different designs are made and then carefully stored away in wooden crates, or strung from floor to ceiling, in readiness for the season. Most of them are no more than about 25 centimeters (10 inches) high, but others can be enormous constructions as much as 150 centimeters tall (almost five feet), like Mahmoud’s “Bride of the Nile,” destined to shine in a five-star hotel.

Only the lantern-makers know all the designs, manufacturing secrets and, above all, the names of their magical lanterns. New designs are sometimes created to commemorate special events: A special lantern named “Farouk,” after the late Egyptian king, was created many years ago when he was a boy. One of Mahmoud’s smallest is called Musa, or “Moses”; a much bigger one is Shaqqat Battikhah Kabirah (“A Big Piece of Watermelon”), bigger still is Najmat al-Bahr (“The Star of the Sea”), which waits in his shop to glow in the night and gladden the heart of some child, once the holy month arrives.

These odd and endearing names you will never know unless you ask; they are a part of childhood fantasy, echoes of the magical lanterns in the children’s own stories, like the tale about the old man who polished his lantern until the good ‘Afrakush appeared.

Until the end of the last century, there were very practical uses for lamps and lanterns in Cairo, often prescribed by laws going back, some say, to the very first Pharaonic towns, or niwits.

Ramadan's Lanterns

A niwit was usually created by laying out a single main street running due north and south and then a single cross-street, from east to west, all set within a circle of protecting walls. Al-Qahira (Cairo) itself, the original private palace-city of the founding Fatimid rulers of Egypt, was laid out in this way: a single street surrounded by a ring of protecting walls. To this day, the old north-south main street still exists, twisting and turning through the medieval city, just as it has for a thousand years.

The Qasabah, the city center or Main Street, of al-Qahira came to be known as al-Tariq al-Sultani, or the Sultan’s Way. The street led, as it still does, from the main entrance gates on the northern side, right across the city to the opposite southern entrance of Bab Zuwaylah – where most of the lantern-makers are found.

Al-Tariq al-Sultani later became known as al-Shari’ al-Sultani, and remained the main street of the city. Over the centuries, individual houses and harahs, or multi-family compounds of homes, were built in the area. These settlements were joined to al-Shari’ al-Sultani by small side streets, each with its own protecting gate, and some of these ancient stone-arched gateways still exist on the Qasabah.

Security along the Main Street was the responsibility of the wali, or governor, of the city and his shurtah (police). There were actually three walis: one for Misr, the Arabic name for Egypt, which was probably used to refer to the old parts of the city built before Fatimid Cairo; one for al-Qahira, the Fatimid palace-city; and a special wali for the all-important Citadel, the city within the city, founded by Saladin in 1176, that overlooks Cairo. The famous ninth-century mosque of Ibn Tulun, built in the open desert in the days before “Cairo” was ever thought of, became the dividing line between Misr and al-Qahira, and indeed, between Upper and Lower Egypt: Everything south of Ibn Tulun became known as Upper Egypt and everything north of it became Lower Egypt.

Each harah settlement came under a shaykh al-harah, a kind of mayor responsible not only for security and religious matters but also for closing the harah gate at sunset, opening it again at dawn and lighting the lantern which, by law, was required to hang over each harah gate. Likewise, each big house in the harah was required to burn a lantern at night above its entrance and each harah resident had to carry afanus, a folding lantern something like a small concertina, while out walking at night.

Ramadan's Lanterns

A special suq, or bazaar, near the old Fatimid mosque of al-Aqmar, supplied the vast quantities of tapers, candles and oil required for the thousands of lanterns used to illuminate gateways, house entrances, and other outdoor sites, and the greater thousands of lamps that lit interiors throughout the city: shops, houses and the immense brass chandeliers in hundreds of city mosques. In many of these palatial mosques there were thousands of softly burning, decorated glass-and-enamel lamps, created by master craftsmen, for which 14th- and 15th-century Cairo became famous.

European travelers arriving in Cairo were always amazed at the sight of so many lamps: “No king in all of Christendom could pay out of his revenue for all the oil which in this city is burned in the lamps,” one wrote.

The “noble month” of Ramadan produced the most spectacular nightly illuminations of the year. As the sun went down and the minarets and domes were silhouetted against the sky, a new magic possessed the city as thousands of lanterns were hoisted up to the tops of the minarets. “We were struck,” a visitor reported, “by the sight of towers sparkling with light, each of them lit with numerous lamps at three levels.”

Indeed, many visitors thought Cairo more alluring and splendid after nightfall than by day:

The multitude of lamps burning in the towers made the city seem inflame…. From the topmost pinnacle of each minaret of all the mosques rods were thrust out and from these hung lamps, cunningly devised with a cover on top lest the wind should put out the light…. High above every mosque as many as twenty, forty, even sixty lamps were burning….

Ramadan's Lanterns

The European travelers, writing home so enthusiastically about the illuminations they saw in Cairo, were for the most part unaware that the lanterns they saw hanging from the minarets held a special meaning for all the Muslim inhabitants of the city, a metaphorical meaning conveyed in this moving verse of the Qur’an’s 24th surah, or chapter, called Nur – The Light:

God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The
parable of His light is as if there were a niche and
within it a lamp: The lamp enclosed in glass: The
glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed
tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce
touched it: Light upon light! God doth guide who
He will to His light: God doth set parables for men:
And God doth know all things.

Also unknown to most Europeans was the fact that the lanterns, hoisted to the tops of the minarets at sunset, signalled to Muslim Cairenes that the last rays of the sun had just disappeared below the horizon, thus releasing them from their daylight fast and allowing them to participate in the fast-breaking meal.

The Ramadan lanterns continued to burn in the night sky, carefully calculated to last until “the raf of the lanterns.” The word raf, in Arabic, means removal or lifting, and “the removal of the lanterns,” after sahur, the last meal before daybreak, signaledimsak, or the end of the night’s feasting and the resumption of the Ramadan fast. In the course of a thousand years, some things in Cairo have not changed. Though the glowing mosque lanterns of Ramadan have been replaced by greenish fluorescent tubes which are no longer raised and lowered, the old term raf still persists – though if you ask why, or what it means, hardly anyone knows.

Ramadan's Lanterns

Today, the firing of a cannon from the heights of the Citadel – heard instantaneously throughout the country on radio and television – is the signal releasing Muslims from their fast at the very moment of sunset, and reimposing the fast at the moment of daybreak. The boom of the cannon is still called midfa’ al-raf, an old Cairene term meaning literally “the cannon of the removal,” an echo of “the raf of the lanterns” in centuries past. In Egypt, the past is always present.

As for the Ramadan traditions of times gone by, there are still signs for all to see: From the tops of some medieval minarets protrude a few wooden rods – some intact, some broken – once used to hold glittering arrays of Ramadan lanterns. On some minarets can be found gaunt wooden frames and pulleys, developed in later centuries for easier hoisting and lowering of the lanterns.

In today’s season of Ramadan, for the very young and for the crowds thronging the shops in the Street of the Lanterns at Bab Zuwaylah and throughout the city, it is still business as usual. The little ones’ lantern-swinging and singing may be hampered these days – perhaps made a bit more precarious – by the constant streams of fast, noisy traffic and the press of people in a city whose population is now some 13 million. But children never forget, and in the safety of the humblest and the grandest homes in Cairo, the little ones continue to swing their lanterns and beg for an ‘Id gift from anyone who will listen to their ancient song:

Wahawi ya wahawi
iyyahah
Ruht ya Sha’ban
Gayt ya Ramadan
iyyahah
Bint is-Sultan
Labsah al-guftan
iyyahah
Yallah al-Gaffar
Idduna al-idiyah
Yallah al-Gaffar

Filmmaker John Feeney, who has lived in Cairo for a quarter century, is a long-time contributor to Aramco World. He wishes to thank Laila Ibrahim, renowned authority on Mamluk Egypt, for her help with this article.

Safaniya Breaks World Cable Length Record

24 June 2015 | 0 comments | Saudi Aramco News | by

Safaniya Breaks World Cable Length Record

Saudi Aramco has achieved a landmark by energizing its largest Tie-in Platform (TP-20) with a 230 kV submarine composite cable.

TP-20 lies in the world’s largest offshore field, Safaniya, and the energizing was the first in a phase of long-term plans to upgrade the Safaniya offshore field, referred to as the Safaniya Master Plan.

TP-20 will be the main crude oil gathering and power supply hub for North Safaniya offshore field. It is designed to provide 152 MW of electric power via a 46 km, 3-core 230 kV submarine composite cable (power and fiber) from a Saudi Electricity Company, newly-built 380/230 kV onshore substation.

This 46 km, 3-core 230 kV submarine composite cable is the longest of its kind in the world and was installed as a single piece without a field splice. Considering the value of equipment at stake, the laying of the submarine cable was an extremely critical and complex operation.

The entire length of the submarine cable was transported from the manufacturer on a single vessel, known as a deep water cable laying vessel. Then with the help of a shallow water cable laying barge, the cable was installed from onshore to offshore TP-20.

With the complete 230 kV electrical substation, the weight of TP-20 exceeds 6,000 metric tons. This staggering load cannot be handled by an industry standard marine crane. Therefore, the installation of TP-20 was performed using a unique float-over method. Careful measures and plans were developed to ensure successful construction and installation of the platform. Several construction workshops, design analyses and model reviews were conducted to review all aspects of the design and to ensure its safe installation.

Subsequent to the energization of TP-20, TP-18 and the nine wellhead platforms in central Safaniya field were also successfully energized under the same project. TP-18 is designed to provide 62 MW of electric power being fed via a 44 km, 3-core 115 kV submarine composite cable from a newly-built 230/115 kV onshore substation.

A complete electrical power system is delivering power to Safaniya’s remote offshore loads and has increased crude oil production more than 70 MBOD from the central Safaniya field – all this after a complex and challenging commissioning operation.