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Segregated Saudis Flirt Via Bluetooth - Yahoo

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  • Zafar Khan
    Segregated Saudis Flirt Via Bluetooth By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 11, 6:19 PM ET
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2005
      Segregated Saudis Flirt Via Bluetooth
      By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer
      Thu Aug 11, 6:19 PM ET


      RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The restaurant, like all Riyadh
      eateries, has taken precautions to prevent its male
      and female diners from seeing or contacting each

      Circular white walls surround each table in the family
      section, open only to women alone or women accompanied
      by close male relatives. Other male diners are on
      lower floors.

      Yet despite the barriers, the men and women flirt and
      exchange phone numbers, photos and kisses.

      They elude the mores imposed by the kingdom's
      puritanical Wahhabi version of Islam — formulated in
      the 18th century — by using a 21st century device in
      their mobile phones: the wireless Bluetooth technology
      that permits users to connect without going through
      the phone company.

      "It's more fun coming to a restaurant these days,"
      said Mona, 21, as her two friends giggled. Their
      Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones rested on the table
      next to the remnants of a dinner of club sandwiches
      and fries.

      "I've been using Bluetooth since it came out last
      year. We're always looking for new things to add a
      spark to life," Reem, 24, told The Associated Press.

      The women would not give their full names when talking
      about communicating with the opposite sex — so strong
      is the taboo in this kingdom where men and women are
      strictly segregated. Unrelated men and women caught
      talking to each other, driving in the same car or
      sharing a meal risk being detained by the religious

      But connecting by Bluetooth is safe and easy. Users
      activate the Bluetooth function in their phone and
      then press the search button to see who else has the
      feature on within a 30-foot range.

      They get a list of ID names of anyone in the area —
      names, mostly in Arabic, often chosen to allure:
      poster boy, sensitive girl, lion heart, kidnapper of
      hearts, little princess, prisoner of tears. Some are
      more suggestive, like "nice to touch" and "Saudi gay

      Users then click on a name to communicate with that

      The phenomenon has started to receive attention in the
      media, especially after stories appeared saying women
      were photographing female guests in revealing evening
      gowns at weddings — which are segregated — and
      circulating them to friends by Bluetooth.

      That created some panic among those who feared
      pictures of their mothers, sisters or daughters would
      be seen by men. Some families hired female guards to
      confiscate camera-equipped mobile phones from wedding

      There is little the government can do to control
      Bluetooth use. Last year, it banned camera-equipped
      phones, but backed off because cameras have become a
      feature in most phones.

      Abdul-Aziz al-Aseeri, a 25-year-old computer science
      teacher, said he tells his students that Bluetooth
      technology can be misused. "I warn them of the dangers
      of having pictures of their mothers and sisters ending
      up in the phones of their classmates," he said.

      But for many Saudi youths, who have almost nowhere to
      meet members of the opposite sex, the technology is a
      godsend. It is replacing a favorite method of
      flirting: throwing phone numbers at women through car
      windows or in shopping malls.

      With Bluetooth, men and women can safely flirt at
      malls, restaurants and even traffic lights.

      For the most part, the messages are innocent. But for
      this conservative society, it is pretty bold stuff.

      Many images feature babies — some blowing kisses —
      perhaps because women consider them cute. Animated
      cartoons doing bellydances, dreamy Arabic songs and
      sappy, sentimental messages are also popular.

      "Last night I sent an angel to watch over you, but he
      came back soon," said one message. "I asked him why,
      and he answered, 'Am not allowed to watch over other

      Some are more forward: a picture of a woman covered in
      a cloak and then another one of her in a white top,
      looking coquettishly from beneath the rim of a cap; an
      image of two women kissing; a woman taking off her
      trousers while suggestively shaking her hips.

      On a recent warm night, Abdullah Muhammad sat in front
      of his laptop at a sidewalk cafe waiting for his
      computer's Bluetooth to pick up nearby users.

      "I use Bluetooth to meet girls," said the 24-year-old
      businessman. "The religious police cannot catch me."

      His long, dark hair combed back, Muhammad said when he
      sees a woman walking past, he presses the search
      button in the hope her phone's Bluetooth is on.

      With women forced to cover up in the kingdom, how can
      he tell if she is someone he would like to start a
      relationship with?

      "I check her Bluetooth ID," he said. "If it's cute,
      then I'm pretty sure she will be pretty."

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