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Paying the price for red mercury mania
By Abdullah Al-Maqati
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 16 - 04 - 2009

Saudis in search of a quick buck have begun paying the price for investing in rumors that the Singer make of sewing machine contains the so-called “red mercury” substance.
As the rumors started sweeping the Kingdom a few days ago the prices of Singer sewing machines rocketed from SR200 to hundreds of thousands, with one reported case of a machine being sold for half a million riyals.
After various authorities around the Kingdom denounced the rumors and clarified the existential status of “red mercury” – that its very existence is entirely unproven – some Saudis who saw the opportunity for a quick buck were subsequently left with painful losses.
“I heard the rumors and went straight out and bought a sewing machine for SR11,000, hoping to sell it on for maybe 50,000, as I'd read about such prices on the Internet,” said one Saudi in Taif who wished to remain unnamed.
“I've been trying to get rid of it now for two days, but without success.”
The young man said he had been saving the money he spent on the Singer to buy a car.
Financial losses have not been the only upshot of the rumors. Friendships have also fallen by the wayside, and fights over sewing machines have sparked family disputes.
“Some of the women in the villages around where I live have ended up in fights,” said a man in Dhulm. “They'd been going to each others' houses asking to borrow machines so they could do some sewing, and then instead took them to the market.”
“Other people,” he continued, “have been going to friends' houses to demand back the sewing machines they gave away as presents years ago, and I've also heard of guys getting into fights with their brothers over sewing machines belonging to their mothers and grandmothers.”
In Jeddah, the head of forensic evidence said he knew who was behind the rumors. “The rumors about red mercury were started by African conmen,” Saleh Zuweid said. “Laboratory tests have shown that the sewing machines do not contain the so-called red mercury.”
“These conmen claim that the substance can be used as food for the Jinn who will then bring you lost or buried treasure from deep in the ground,” Zuweid continued. “They also claim it can be used to multiply your money ten times over.”
Abla Hasnain, a social criminologist from King Abdulaziz University said the whole issue was due to a lack of awareness.
“We used to think that people susceptible to this sort of thing were ignorant illiterates, but what we're seeing now is educated people and academic people falling victim to this nonsense,” she said.
In Baha events even reached the courts, when a Saudi man accused another of stealing a sewing machine in order to sell it on.
The claimant, however, refused to swear the oath before the court, and Judge Waheed Abdullah Aal Abdul Qadir dismissed the case.
– Ibrahim Alawi, Mohammed Al-Mo'ayyed and Abdul Khaliq Al-Ghamdi also contributed to the report/Okaz/SG __


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