Saturday, March 10, 2007

"oh sh*t man". . .i start this entry out with this quote because A.) i wasn't sure how to even start in about this weekend because there is almost too much too tell. . .and B.) it's what one saudi i met would say before he would start into ANY story he was going to tell in english. . .

this was the first weekend i was initiated into true saudi culture. . .i've been an outside observer. . .but this weekend i participated. vic (who i've mentioned before, downstairs neighbor and co-worker) took me to durma (small town 80km from riyadh) to meet with some saudis he knows. four brothers. . .fahad, mohammad, saud and i forget the other guy's name.

we started off eating lunch at fahad's family compound with only fahad (i would guess fahad is 30 something). the compound is few small 1 - 4 room houses behind walls and watched by a hired egyptian also named mohammad. obviously when the whole family is there women all hangout in one house the men in another house. . .with children running in between the two. the compound grounds were surprisingly unkept. . .lots of debris. . .

the lunch consisted of roasted chicken on rice. . .we sat on the floor in fahad's main house. . .and ate with our hands. . .basically you grab the rice and ball it up in your hand and put it in your mouth. . .i tried to do my best to be polite. . but instead ended up being made fun off because. . .i was not "eating like a lion".

fahad took us to the ruins of durma. . .the ruins are probably 100 - 200 years old. it wasn't like a touristy ruins site. . .just some real houses that fahad's city lived in a 100 years ago. his explanation was that the young people wanted to build new houses but the older people like the older houses. . .so they moved to the new house and eventually just leave the old house. he said he wanted to show me these houses because, "we can have lives without america."

we then drove to fahad's father's house. where we met the rest of the brothers, some friends and obviously the father. the father is a very old (92) saudi man with striking blue eyes. . .which i thought strange. he was very friendly and told me he wanted a new wife from indiana. i immediately thought of hooking him up with grandma nikki. . .but he then stated he wanted her to become muslim. . .so i decided that probably wouldn't workout. we ate some snacks (this is probably around 7pm). . .dates, bread and tea. . .again sitting on a floor. the rooms where we hang out have a big carpet, cushions on the walls and a bunch of square pillows that you lean on. there was also a young boy. . .probably 8 or 9 that spoke flawless english from movies alone. . .it was amazing. it was during this time that mohammad one of the other brothers. . .invited to show me around riyadh the following day.

after the snacks it almost time for dinner. fahad, vic and i went to pick up some chicken and bread. we then all reconvened at fahad's family compound. we played cards. . .some game called hokm remarkably similar to euchre only with a much more complicated point system, while the egyptian security/servant mohammad made the chicken. we then ate the chicken with the bread and some onions from the garden on the family compound. they eat dinner very late, it must have been 9 or 10pm.

then starts the conversation. . .which lasts hours. . .of course they had all sorts of questions for me about politics. . .what's the us media saying, the war, about the mid-east. . .generally what i think about this or that or the other. . .finally. . .i turned it around on them and asked. . .okay, okay. . .america says al queda wants to kill democracy and freedom. . .i understand this is just rhetoric. . .what does al queda really want? this was most interesting to me. . .here is the paraphrase. . .

america was aligned with afghanistan through the soviet era. . .but when the soviets were gone and an islamic government arose (taliban). . .america was displeased. . .then came bin laden. . .and america tried to kill him with missiles in the 90's. . .then bin laden declared war. . .and then came the embassy bombing and the uss cole. further more the us setup air bases in saudi arabia. (i can see the problem there. . .the koran states this is a problem). . .which was very upsetting. . .and generally the us is seen as liars. . .we say one thing and do another. . .like hezzbolah. . .us wanted free elections in lebenon. . .but didn't like the outcome. . .so the us proclaimed the elections were no good. . .etc, etc. . .

. . .so it would seem if americans would just leave well enough alone. . .then. . .well. . .

we talked briefly about christianity. . .but got hung up on the concept of the trinity. . .and i totally understand the confusion. . ."see there are three pieces that make up 1 God?. . ."so three Gods?". . ."no one God, three pieces". . ."jesus was a god?". . ."no jesus was God. . .". . .blah blah blah. . .this makes sense when you grow up in the bible belt. . .but, uh. . .yeah. . .

. . .anyway we talked until about 1 a.m. then drove back to riyadh. . .it was a long day.

friday i met up with mohammad at about 5:30pm. . .we met at fahad's garage in southern riyadh. . .these brothers own like a million houses and businesses and i don't really understand who own's what or does what and if you ask the brothers what they do they say "businessman". . .for instance the garage was a garage, body shop, car rental office, tire shop. . .all in one. . .

mohammad then took me to old riyadh at city center which is basically an area where there are really old buildings mixed with really new buildings. he took me to a market and some other sites. . .places i would have totally not been comfortable had i not been with a saudi.

we then went to his "small house". . .which is a apartment where he just hangs out with the guys. . .basically a living room (again no furniture, just a rug and pillows and a tv). . .kitchen, bedroom (also a rug and pilliows) and bathroom (hole in the floor). . .one of his friends came over. . .which i was thankful for because his english was MUCH better. . .and we ordered sandwiches and watched some tv.

then we went back to the garage and sat in the office and drank tea. . .about 10pm. . .i said i was leaving. . .i did have to work the next day. . .so i drove home. i was tired. it was a looong weekend.

i have tons of video of all this stuff. . .i just need to edit it all.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is facinating reading except the part about hooking me up with a 92 yr old. whoot! glad your getting to see some sites. and meet some real saudi's. i didn't know alcohol was illegal there.
love gmn

mister_dickinson_himself said...

Interesting. Firstly, if it's any comfort to them, the US would have been totally disinterested in Afghanistan if it wasn't for the Soviets. When the Soviets were invading Russia, it was a matter of the US wanting to throw any type of monkeywrench into Russian plans. Could have been anyone...Cuba, North Korea, Argentina. In this case, it happened to be the Afghans.

Secondly, what do you mean the Koran has a problem with those airbases? It says that? Is there anything in there about long-range bombers, dry docks for naval ships, or ICBMs?

Thirdly, I hope that kid saw a lot of good films. I can't imagine what his English is like if his entire sampling of the English language was a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chris Rock.

Can't wait to see video on this. It's still all contraband, right? And it's hard to believe alcohol is entirely illegal over there. What is the real definition of alcohol there? Something like "we ban whiskey, but turn a blind eye to fruit alcohols"? I'm trying to imagine whether or not despite the absence of alcohol, they can idolize all those nonalcoholic "alcoholic drinks" like virgin daiquiris and smoothies and all that kind of stuff.

mister_dickinson_himself said...

this totally reminds me. you met any saudis yet who play warcraft? maybe there's a better chance of one of your euro-co-workers playing it.