The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
Every self-respecting country ought to have a Royal Family. The Brits have got one. The Danes do, and had a lovely wedding yesterday. Even India has the Gandhis. And we have the House of Saud.
So where did they come from? Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, on a hill known as Watership Down, there lived a family of rabbits. They had a family name, let's call them the Hashemites. They ate grass and skipped around, did nobody any harm, really.
However, nearby lived another family of rabbits. They were seriously wierd. All their female rabbits had to stay inside the burrow. Whenever there was an eclipse, they would hold special rituals. They took everything absolutely literally. They were led by the meanest, baddest rabbit ever. Let's call him AbdulAziz.
He decided to move in on the rabbits on Watership Down, and take the place over. This he did, relatively easily. The poor old Hashemites moved off, so some very poor and scrubby land up north. AbdulAziz was now King of some very prosperous real estate.
He decided it was time to start a family. As I said, these rabbits were seriously wierd. They had a rule that you could have 4 wives at a time. Tough shit on the 75% of male rabbits who ended up celibate, they could always go off and be terrorists. So King AbdulAziz started to procreate, as rabbits do. When he got bored with one wife, he divorced her, and married another one. In fact he married several, having children all along the way. And of course these children interbred, thru several generations.
This tale illustrates why we now have several thousand Princes and Princesses. They all get a pension. However there remains the problem of how to find them gainful employment.
Some are real businessmen in their own right. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
owns lots of everything. However others operate, let us say, less mainstream businesses. When cops make a drugs arrest, they will never follow the chain upwards, knowing what they would find. Many are involved in the "beverage industry". Others are Venture Capitalists. When they spot a growth business, for example mobile phone sales, they will approach the owner with a "buyout opportunity". When the owner rejects the low price, he is reminded that he could easily become the guest of Prince Nayif's penal correction system, no questions asked. So the bad news is that he has to sell. The good news is that he gets to stay on and manage his old business, on a lousy salary.
This leaves the top princes. Clearly they have to be found positions in the top echelons of government. The royal succession passes via elder brothers, so that's all sewn up. The current King, Fahad, is not a well man. In fact he is both a diabetic and an alcoholic, which is a Bad Thing. It is said that he has so many intravenous drips, so many pipes going into him, that he looks like an Oil Terminal. Then there is Crown Prince Abdullah. He is the next oldest brother, so he is next in line, and the current de facto ruler, given King Fahad's incapacity.
But what to do with the others? Imagine, in earlier years, a family picnic in the grounds of one of the palaces. The younger princes and princesses play together. Young Sultan has lost his Action Man. Young Nayif is beating one of his smaller cousins with a stick; "Apostate!", he shouts, not knowing what it means, but liking the sound of it. Fahad (in tube-festooned wheelchair) and Abdullah, discuss their future careers.
"Saud's no problem", says Abdullah, "He's bright, urbane, witty, charming. Good talker, complete bullshit of course, but it sounds plausible. Make him Foreign Minister, he can be the Acceptable Face of Saudi Arabia, he'll make us all look civilized. I can just hear those women on the diplomatic circuit. "Darling, last night I met the Saudi Foreign Minister! Absolutely Divine! Such a charmer, such twinkling brown eyes! Made me feel twenty years younger!""
"That's settled, then" says Fahad, pushing the plunger on his glucose tube and giving himself another shot. Nayif, meanwhile, has discovered a young female cousin holding Sultan's Action Man, and is throwing large stones at her. "Harlot, adultress, whore!" he screams, his face livid with rage. Eventually, she loses consciousness; Nayif loses interest.
"Sultan", continues Abdullah, "is quite straightforward. He loves his Action Man, his toy tanks, his model aeroplanes. We'll make him the Minister of Defence and Civil Aviation. He'll probably make Saudi Airlines buy every airliner that's going, he thinks Airfix make them, but since when did our nationalized industries have to worry about being cost-effective, that's what the oil money is for".
"OK", says Fahad, for whom any conversation is a bit of an effort. "The one I really worry about is Nayif"
"I know what you mean", replies Abdullah, looking at the prnce in question, who has now captured a stray cat, and is cutting off its head with a steak knife. "He's definitely the dimmest of the lot, I doubt he'd even get into Imam University. He's nasty, mean, sadistic, and completely stupid. I don't think we have anything that would suit him."
Meanwhile Prince Nayif, having decapitated the cat, has climbed into his toy Police Car. He's driving round in circles, blue light flashing, going "Nee-Naw-Nee-Naw", and eating a shawarma, just like the real thing. Abdullah and Fahad look at each other, each having the same flash of inspiration. "Minister of the Interior!" they exclaim simultaneously.
Abdullah settles back in his chair, satisfied. Fahad rewards himself by pushing the plunger on his tube of Johnny Walker Red Label.