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US expat’s blog on Saudi life censored

Riyadh – Susie’s Big Adventure in Saudi Arabia has turned a little dark: the US expat’s chirpy blog on life in the kingdom with a Saudi husband has been blocked by the country’s censors.

The 57 year-old grandmother, who prefers not to give her full name, said Wednesday she has no idea why the Saudi authorities have put a block on her blog (susiesbigadventure.blogspot.com), which recounts her experiences of moving to Saudi Arabia two years ago with her Saudi husband of 30 years.

"One night I went to bed and I could see it, and when I woke up I could not access my blog," she told AFP from her home in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Since Monday trying to read her blog from inside Saudi Arabia brings up an announcement from the Communications and Internet Technology Commission reading: "Sorry, the requested page is unavailable."

CITC, which could not be reached for comment, mostly uses the block for pornographic and stridently anti-government political sites.

But Susie’s Big Adventure is mostly about life as an expat woman in a new culture — new foods to eat, places to visit and places to shop, and odd cultural experiences.

When the Arizona native strays to more current issues – like a recent post she headlined "Saudi Arabia Wastes Biggest Untapped Natural Resource: Women" – she says nothing that is not in the local newspapers.

"I don’t know why," she replied when asked why the blog was censored. "Everybody discusses things that I discuss."

Her story suggests the difficulties for bloggers in a country split between a deep Islamic conservatism which does not allow women to drive cars, and a large number in the population who are pushing for sweeping change.

In December 2007 Fouad al-Farhan was jailed for four and a half months for the pro-reform postings on his popular Arabic-language political blog.

Susie, like most of the expatriates blogging from Saudi Arabia, tries hard to avoid religion and politics – though she admits that is difficult when writing about women.

"Too many people around the world just don’t know what this mysterious place is really like and I have tried my best to give an accurate glimpse into real life here. Is this wrong?" she asked on her website.

Her most popular post was about buying Katy Perry’s hit CD "One of the Boys" in Jeddah and finding that the cover art, a picture of Perry in shorts, was overdrawn to show her in long pants.

Noted by a US Hollywood gossip website, the post drove up her website hits from 250 a week to 9,000 a day, for a few days in April.

Susie said she was surprised to receive emails of support from other bloggers, including al-Farhan.

"Other bloggers said I didn’t overstep the boundaries," she said.

AFP / Expatica