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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Camels, Crime, Curry 


I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm fond of camels. They are good-natured, hard-working, intelligent, and if you want them to do something, they'll generally help you out as a favor. I'm sure that if God had designed them a bit more elegantly, and enabled them to speak, they'd be running the place by now.

In other parts of the world, especially India, camels really have to work hard for a living. In Saudi Arabia, we keep them as pets. They are generally treated very well; indeed, I know some people who treat them better than their own wives and certainly better than their domestic help.

But not so this person.

Abused a Camel, Abused by Camel

A man who committed animal cruelty got his come-uppance when he untied the angry creature, Okaz daily reported. The man locked his camel in a stable and bound its legs for three days. When he untied the creature it immediately attacked him, biting him in the head causing a severe fracture. The man had to be taken to a hospital for treatment. It is not known what the man did to the camel after being released from the hospital.

If he had any sense, he'd go back and apologize to it, then give it something really special for supper. You don't mess around with camels. They only do what you want out of the goodness of their hearts, and if you abuse and disrespect them, they'll soon show you which is the superior species.


The "Saudi Gazette" has a regular crime column, which I always go and look at, if only out of morbid fascination. It's full of the doings of the criminal classes in the Kingdom, which are actually pretty tame by world standards, because we're not very good at crime. (I once heard the statistic that Washington DC has more murders in a year than the Kingdom has had since it was formed early in the last century; I haven't verified that, but I can believe it.) Anyway, it's full of things like

A pickup truck, parked in front of its owner s home at Al-Jabour District in Madina, was stolen

A fight broke out at a food supply store between several female shoppers, when one of the women discovered that her handbag was missing

Dhamad Police in collaboration with a Mujahideen team under the command of Sergeant Marwa iy Ja fari arrested a smuggler with 315 bundles of Qat ( a "poor man's drug", local to this region, chewed) in his possession.

Police succeeded in nabbing the individuals who broke into the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice s headquarters.

I love that last one! Why break into the Muttawa HQ? I would guess, to steal from their cache of confiscated women's magazines, Valentine cards, Barbie dolls, not to mention, if they are lucky, porn, booze and soft drugs.

There's always something very quaint about the English used by the reporter on that column. I suspect he learnt his trade in England about 30 years ago. Police are always "swooping", or "pouncing", before "nabbing" the criminals. If they ever reported the conversation upon arrest, it would no doubt be something like "Oy Lofty, you're nicked", with the reply, "Cor Guv, it's a fair cop, you've got me banged up to rights and no mistake".

Another curiosity is the photographer. He either takes photos of the criminals, just having been arrested, looking down in the mouth, or alternately, of crime victims in hospitals. He reminds me of that "Sneaky Pete" photographer who was supposed to operate in honeymoon hotels in Las Vegas and Niagara, commissioned by couples to take surreptitious photos of them in the foam bath and other places, so they could dribble over them together when they eventually got to ninety.

Anyway, this "Sneaky Pete" doesn't ask anyone's permission, he just sneaks into the ward when the victim is sedated up to the eyeballs and hasn't a clue what's happening, and clicks away. In this case, it's a policeman who was injured in a shoot-out, thankfully not severely. So he gets his picture taken, tubes and tissues and all, when he's fast asleep. No chance to fix his hair and have a shave. Anyway, let's be thankful he wasn't having a bed-bath or an enema at the time.

The other curious thing about this column is that they always put the photo at the top, regardless of what the first item is about. The result can often be eerie or macabre; look here and you'll see what I mean.


I enjoy reading history books. One of the things I learnt about English history is that royals like Elizabeth I used to enjoy going on "A Progress". The basic idea was to keep an eye on the various nobles, but it also served to cut down on her food bill. She and the Court, who could number dozens, used to travel to castles and stately houses in sequence, eat all the food, wipe out all the game birds and animals, and then move on to the next one. So Lord Cholmondeley would be out hawking with his pals one day when he spots Elizabeth and retinue heading for Cholmondeley Castle. Muttering "Oh, bugger it" to himself, he orders the servants to slaughter every farm animal in a ten mile radius and roast them, while he heads over to greet Her Royal Highness thru gritted teeth; "Your Majesty, my family and I are deeply honored to have you and your Court as guests at our humble abode". Then the Court would spend several days eating every bit of food until it was all gone, leaving behind a huge pile of animal bones, and two pregnant serving-wenches.

Thus it is with our own Royal Family. They are on "A Progress" around Asia. Any country that's going to need some oil for its growing economy, they're going to have to feed....

The King's entourage includes his sons and the ministers of Finance, Oil, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Information.

....which is a lot of mouths, especially when you include "his sons". So many, in fact, that they need a whole Boeing 747-400.

They've been for a Chinese, and have now left Beijing, the cargo hold of the 747 groaning under the weight of stones from the Great Wall, and assorted Terracotta warriors (What else would the people "who have everything" want for their rockery?). And you know what it's like when you take your family for a Chinese; even if it's very good, you don't really want to go back another night. The A. family would say "Let's have curry tonight for a change". And that's just what the Sauds say. Where is the best curry? "Pilot, plot a course for Delhi!"

Now I can guess that as an endless stream of Saudi princes, some 260 in all, come shuffling out of their 747, hungry as hell, the reaction of the Indians would be pretty much like that of Lord Cholmondeley. Still, needs must. For, in spite of the usual "Saudi Gazette" nonsense about the purpose of the visit....

The visit, the first by a Saudi monarch in 50 years, is expected to lead to a new and strategic Saudi-Indian bilateral relationship focused on cooperation in energy security, infrastructure building and Information Technology.

.... the real game is that India, as a developing industrial nation, needs more oil. So the family have come to find out what India can offer in return. (Apart from some antique temple gods of course; a Goddess Kali will look great in the rockery, and with all those arms, can give pleasure to six Terracotta warriors at once). My personal guess is IT and other things that will reduce the long-term dependence on US technology; not that I'm expert in these matters.

So that's the latest stage in the Gastronomic Grand Tour. Where after this? What particular aromas and flavors will next tempt the palates of our ruling elite? Stay tuned.

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