“Saudi wastemen came over the bridge for boozy orgy celebrations.” —Noor Naga
The horror of the city. As Dhari tapped the steering wheel, he calmed himself by visualizing the beautiful woman who should be sitting next to him soon: shoulder-length blonde hair and sky-blue eyes. He eyed the two security guards idling at the gate of the hospital, joking with each other. The gangly one spit on the ground, then turned to the one with long hair, who handed him a cigarette. Dhari’s friend Dawood got caught with a woman he wasn’t related to once. Dawood was actually lucky to spend only a week in jail, but Dhari knew he couldn’t handle prison for even a day. If only he could have been born somewhere else, where people weren’t separated from one another like this. Whenever he watched American movies, he marveled at how men and women got together, threw dinner parties, clinked glasses. Relationships, dances, first kisses, all these things were taken for granted. How would they view Saudi weddings? Separate ones for men and women. At a wedding, all one did was shake men’s hands, drink tan Saudi coffee in small ceramic cups, and sit, waiting for meat and rice to be served.
The Colonel’s words weighed on Hisham’s mind. He became confused and hesitant again. This Colonel… He either was sincere and didn’t want to hurt Hisham, or was an expert in psychology. Hisham didn’t know. Could it be possible that all the prisoners were wrong about the Colonel’s intentions? Or was Hisham the naïve one? The Colonel fell silent as ‘Awadh brought tea and coffee. The Colonel lit another cigarette and took an audible slurp from the hot tea, followed by a sigh of pleasure.
My first roommate in Riyadh was a French teacher who once tutored an ex-political prisoner. The man was a retired lawyer who had belonged to a Marxist-Leninist network in the sixties, and had been part of a coup attempt against King Faisal. He had been tipped off right before his arrest and had escaped to Paris, where he studied law before coming back to Riyadh much later. Others had less luck.Arrested on intelligence provided by U.S. agents to the Saudi secret police, many of them were tortured or summarily executed. Some were even flown above the Empty Quarter and thrown alive out of helicopters.