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.
It is three in the morning in the den of the King's Palace. King Abdullah and Prince Naif (Minister of the Interior) have been making quite a night of it. The "Cartoon Controversy" has meant that Prince Naif was able to get hold of a very large shipment of Carlsberg Lager at a knock-down price. He can't resist a bargain, and brought along quite a few bottles the previous evening. All that King Abdullah could contribute was a large flagon of Rice Wine from his recent trip to China.
For the last couple of hours, they have been playing a Very Silly Game. While in India, Abdullah was presented with a large Goddess Kali. She now sits in the corner of the den. Precariously balanced on the end of each of her eight arms, is an empty bottle of Carlsberg. On the table in front of the Princes is a very large bowl of dry roasted peanuts. The rules of the game are that you say which bottle you are going for, and then flick a peanut at it. If you hit it, you get to swallow a whole bottle of Carlsberg in one go. If you miss, you have to drink a whole tumblerful of Rice Wine. Naif is a much better shot than Abdullah, but it makes no difference, either way you get completely ratted. The whole floor is a mess of empty bottles and peanuts; it looks more like a college dorm than a room in a palace.
"Left, second down!", yells Naif, and flicks.
"Pinggg....". He flips off the cap from another bottle and gurgles, noisily.
"Right, bottom!", yells Abdullah, and flicks.
The peanut arcs silently past the Goddess onto the Persian carpet. "Bugger!" He fills the tumbler with rice Wine once more, and swallows.
"Hell, " he says, "I don't know how many of these I've had, but it still tastes like Yak Piss!"
"That's why", replies Naif, "the Chinkies are such a funny color. You are what you drink!".
They both giggle inanely.
"You know", says Abdullah, "I read something very interesting in the UK Guardian the other day".
Naif screws up his face.
"I know", the King continues, "they keep whining on about Human Rights and Amnesty and all that stuff. But they have actually been very supportive of us with the cartoons, they believe in cultural pluralism and all that, not that we do. Anyway, they came up with this chronology of slavery
. We were the second last country to abolish it, in 1962"
"Really?", Naif replies, "It seems like only yesterday. Shame really. Now we have to pay the ex-slaves a premium over the Paks and Indians to drive our cars. Still, my wives do say that you can't beat a jet-black driver in a thobe and ghutra as the ultimate fashion accessory. But it's still part of our culture. We still refer to our negroes as "slaves", behind their backs of course. Even Bin Laden in that video about 9/11 made a joke about the number of "slaves" that were killed"
"Yes", says Abdullah, "you can take the man out of Saudi Arabia, but you can't take Saudi Arabia out of the man."
"Mind you", continues Naif, "we still get accused of slavery here. Just because we take the passports away from foreign workers when they come here. Then you get the case of those Bangladeshis
, not been paid for seven months, can't get another job or go home because the company has got all their documents, claim they are starving, embassy's not interested because we've promised them a big new mosque in Dhaka. It's unfortunate, but it's certainly not slavery, it's just proactive Cash Flow Management. Anyway, they should be grateful, at least in Saudi Arabia they won't be eaten by a tiger or die of malaria or be drowned in a flood."
"And did you see that case in the States
?" interjects Abdullah. "Those Saudis in Colorado. Paid some Indonesian woman $2 a day for four years. OK, so it's less than the US minimum wage, but how much would she get back in Indonesia? A bag of rice and a pair of plastic flip-flops, that's what. And the Americans are charging them with slavery! I can't see what the fuss is about. They don't care about cartoons, but they get worked up about a silly thing like that. Odd people."
"Top right!", yells Naif, and flicks."Pinggg....". Another bottle of Carlsberg is emptied.
"Left, third down!", yells Abdullah, and flicks. "Pinggg...". A fluke shot, but they all count. Gratefully, he downs a Carlsberg himself.
"Just for once, that Yak can tie a knot in it!"
They giggle again.
When they have settled down once more, Naif remembers something he was going to mention.
"Talking about the odd people, aren't the Americans sending "Slave Woman" over here again?"
Abdullah looks at him. He knows exactly who Naif is talking about. But he also knows that Naif wants to do one of his "impressions", and if he's prevented, he'll sulk. So he plays along.
"Who do you mean?"
"You know", says Naif, widens his eyes, pouts his lips, holds his palms up, and sings......
"Bess, you is my woman now,you is, you is!An' you mus' laugh an' sing an' dancefor two instead of one.Want no wrinkle on yo' brow,Nohow,Because de sorrow of de past is all done doneOh, Bess, my Bess!"
Abdullah waits patiently. When Naif has finished, Abdullah explains.
"Yes, another visit. But not about us this time. It's about Iran. They're very worried about "Mad Ahmad""
"I'm not surprised. All the Iranians are friggin' mad if you ask me. Did you see that video?"
"This one?", asks Abdullah. He reaches for the remote and flicks it on.
Click here for ---> Mad Mullah Video (Thanks, "Trevor")
"Yes", says Naif, "they're all completely bloody Loony-Tunes. And now they think they need their own bomb. What they really need is a lobotomy and a castration. So what are you going to tell the "Slave Woman"?".
"Well", replies Abdullah, "it's a bit tricky really. The Iranians have been a pain in our backside for decades. But if we come out against them, people might think we are siding with the Jews. On the other hand, "Mad Ahmad" is just as likely to threaten us with his bomb, he sees us Sunni Muslims as enemy number two after Israel. So in the end, we'll probably do what we always do."
"Exactly", replies the King. "Just like in the 2003 Iraq war, when we condemned it, but still let the Americans use our airfields up north. This time we'll condemn any "Zionist-Imperialist threats against a peace-loving Islamic nation that would jeopardize the balance in this sensitive region", but privately we'll help the Americans and the Israelis to beat the Bajazus out of them, and the sooner the better. Then when it's all over. we'll offer all the fratenal help we can. But no refugees of course, the last thing we want is their huddled masses."
"Quite right" says Naif, "and it'll be like the Palestinians, we always say that we support them in their struggle against Israeli aggression, except we're the one single country round here who hasn't taken in any of their refugees, and who would want to? They're just like the Iranians, always causing trouble."
"Maybe even worse. A smelly and noisy rabble, if they're not throwing rocks they're firing rockets, then when one of them gets killed they bounce the body along on their shoulders with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. That's why we never made them slaves, they have no work ethic. Unlike the Jews. Say what you like about the Jews, but they are a very industrious people. Perhaps we should enslave a few!"
But, too late, Abdullah realizes his mistake. He has given Naif another cue. Naif stands up, adopts his "Pavarotti Pose", and lets forth with the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's "Nabucco".
Abdullah sighs, but thinks "If you can't beat them, join them." He too gets up.
......O simile di Solima ai fati
traggi un suono di crudo lamento,
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù! *
* Remembering the fate of Jerusalem
play us a sad lament
or else be inspired by the Lord
to fortify us to endure our suffering!
Two discordant, drunken voices echo thru the empty palace corridors.....