Saudi Arabia often has the ability to surprise, delight and amaze in equal measures. But every now and then, it’s not the Magic Kingdom that surprises as much as the lack of knowledge and ignorance shown by the outside world. One story broke in April that didn’t fail to grab headlines the world over.
Allegedly three Emirati men were kicked out of Saudi Arabia’s largest cultural festival by the religious authorities for “being too handsome”. The three men were asked to leave Janadriyah and then deported from Saudi to protect the virtues of the Saudi women present. The story was broken in America by Jezebel and the piece makes for a very entertaining read.
There’s been literally thousands of pieces now written on this and the ensuing ‘outing’ of one of the men, an aspiring actor whose name is Omar Borkan Al Gala.
Unfortunately ladies, which Omar obviously exists the story is a hoax. LiveLeak website was one of the first to break the news of the hoax and this is how whoever was behind the public relations coup did it.
Let’s start firstly with the facts. We have three Emirati men who were kicked out of Janadriyah. Firstly, this is feasible. Riyadh is a conservative place and the religious authorities are present at Janadriyah to monitor all the naughtiness that goes on. However, having been to the Festival a number of times these three would have had to have whipped off their kandouras/thobs to get kicked out such is the amount of inappropriate behaviour that can occur at Janadriyah.
There was an incident at the UAE pavilion when one of the religious authorities objected to Emirati singer Aryam’s presence at the event. He himself tried to force her removal but was instead arrested by the National Guard. The incident was captured on Youtube and is below.
The other apparent truth is that one of the three Emiratis who was outed was present at Janadriyah. However, he had gone into the family section where single male bachelors are not allowed and started dancing. His dancing apparently wasn’t to the taste of everyone present and he was asked to leave the area according to LiveLeak which quotes from a news piece which now seems to have disappeared.
And that seems to be the basis for what then happened.
Someone with an active imagination, a good deal of time and a great deal of media talent spotted an opportunity to seed a story with Elaph.com, an online website that focuses on news in Saudi Arabia. The original story, which has disappeared into the caches of the internet, wrote that three Emiratis had been deported from the Janadriyah Festival and Saudi Arabia for being too handsome. There was a quote to this effect from an ‘unnamed’ Saudi official.
The story quickly snowballed after getting picked up by the English press in the Kingdom, and one of the three men, Omar Borkan Al Gala, apparently outed himself on his Facebook page. The man became a celebrity overnight. He’s been interviewed worldwide and he’s already picked up acting work.
The story surrounding Borkan Al Gala, which loosely translates to Volcano of Love, contains numerous inaccuracies. The first is deportation from Saudi Arabia. As an Emirati and a GCC National he cannot be deported from Saudi Arabia under these circumstances. I’ve never even heard of a GCC National being deported from one country to another. Strike one…
Secondly, the other two Emiratis have never been outed. You’d think that they’d be in on the act as well and keen to grab their fifteen minutes of fame. But unfortunately, the ladies will have to wait for their pictures to be plastered over the web. Strike two…
And finally, the story broke via a news website from an ‘unnamed Saudi official’. Saudi officials rarely speak out of turn, especially on such a topic. It took over a week for Al Gala’s name to be ‘leaked’. In this day and age of instant social media updates, I’d have assumed that this story and the identity of the three Emirati men would have been the news item on both Saudi and Emirati Arabic-language Twitter networks. But no, that wasn’t the case. Strike three…
I’ve got to give it to Al Gala. He’s made the most of the opportunity, of the ignorance about Saudi Arabia, and of the lack of fact-checking on this one. It’s a fun story and one which doesn’t do any harm. But seriously, being too handsome for Saudi? Have the Emiratis met any Saudi boys lately? In the words of my partner, “Saudi men are much more attractive…”