JeddiCon’s Yasser Bahjatt at Worldcon 76

The bid committee to bring the Worldcon to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2022 (JeddiCon) styles itself The Jeddi High Council.  The Master of The Order – bid chair — is Yasser Bahjatt. He’s been to Worldcons, and Olav Rokne forwarded several photos he took of Bahjatt on a panel at the San Jose Worldcon of 2018. (Thanks to Steven H Silver for the panelist identifications.)

This was the alternate history panel “If This, Then What?” The panelists in order from left to right: Kaja Foglio, Steven H Silver, Yasser Bahjatt, Kay Kenyon, Harry Turtledove. (Foglio only appears in the last picture.)

Left to right: Steven H Silver, Yasser Bahjatt, Kay Kenyon, Harry Turtledove. Photo by Olav Rokne.
Left to right: Steven H Silver, Yasser Bahjatt, Kay Kenyon, Harry Turtledove. Photo by Olav Rokne.
Left to right: Kaja Foglio, Steven H Silver, Yasser Bahjatt, Kay Kenyon, Harry Turtledove. Photo by Olav Rokne.

A Worldcon in Saudi Arabia?

CoNZealand has received and accepted two bids for the 2022 Worldcon — JeddiCon, a bid to hold the Worldcon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and a bid for Chicago, Illinois, USA. 

Their bid materials will be posted on the CoNZealand website in the next week or so. Site Selection ballots and payment systems are expected to be available in April.

JEDDICON IN 2022. With a web domain — https://jeddicon.com/ — that was just created on January 6, and a bid Council that first came into effect on January 26, the bid for Jeddah has only had a public face for a few weeks.

However, they did file with CoNZealand by the January 31 deadline to be on the Site Selection ballot. (For the record, when File 770 inquired on January 25 neither 2022 bid had yet filed.)

The JeddiCon bid proposes to hold the 2022 Worldcon in Jeddah, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia, at the King Faisal Conference Center.

The bid committee styles itself the Jeddi High Council, led by Master of the Order Yasser Bahjatt (Yoda), who was born in Michigan but has lived in Jeddah since he was 5. He is a computer engineer by profession, but also is the author of Yaqteenya: The Old World, “the first Arabian alternative history novel.”

The bid website adds:

Yasser has been actively building the SciFi culture in Arabia since 2012 when he announced the Initiative Yatakhayaloon that he co-founded with his parter Ibraheem Abbas to jump start the contrary SciFi culture in Arabia (TED Talk). Since then he has been attending the WorldCon to talk about Arabian SciFi and to promote it globally.

Other committee members are Grandmaster Khalid Alsameti (Kenobi), Lore Keeper Rami Hamzah (R2-D2), Ahmad Sabbagh (Ackbar), Dr. Ashraf Fagih (Anakin) a Saudi writer and novelist, Mohammed Albakri (Mace), Raneen Bukhari (Rey), Tamim Kashgari (Tarkin), and Thamer Alturaif (Vader).

File 770 sent an inquiry through the contact page on their website asking about their conrunning experience but has yet to receive a reply.

As is well known, visitors to Saudi Arabia are subject to various cultural and religious restrictions, which can be read about in the entry on the country’s “Local laws and customs” posted by the government of the United Kingdom. Some of these include —

…Local laws require men and women to dress modestly covering shoulders and knees in public, avoiding tight-fitting clothing or clothes with profane language or images. It is not mandatory for female travellers to wear the traditional robe or abaaya. Information on important laws and etiquette around dress codes is available to visitors on the Visit Saudi website.

…Homosexual or extra-marital sexual relations, including adultery, are illegal and can be subject to severe penalties. It’s also illegal to be transgender. Transgender people travelling to Saudi Arabia are likely to face significant difficulties and risks if this is discovered by the authorities. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

CHICAGO IN 2022. The Chicago bid has been wooing voters for a few years now. Their most recent Smofcon questionnaire, Chicago for Worldcon 80 in 2022, said, “We will likely be at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in downtown Chicago, the site of four prior Chicago Worldcons.”

Proposed Site: Chicago, IL
Proposed Dates: September 1-5, 2022
Bid Chairs: Helen Montgomery and Dave McCarty.
Website: Chicago in 2022 Worldcon Bid
Facebook: Chicago Worldcon

The bid chairs have extensive Worldcon running experience, as do the many committee members listed in the Smofcon questionnaire.