By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy
Chapter 2: Al-Hamra Hotel
Osamah pushed his seat backward, stretched his legs, and rolled the window down a crack. The desert cold air hit his face. His body shivered. “Why do I feel so nostalgic? Those days are gone, and I have to concentrate on how to find a job” Osamah whispered to himself. The silence that shrouded the whole desert was broken by an airplane leaving Dammam airport on her way to, maybe Cairo. Osamah wished he was on the airplane. “East, West, home is the best” Osamah said to himself.
Osamah worked in the kingdom for almost a decade. His German friend Kelp warned him one day to beware of the Saudi syndrome. He asked him, “what is the Saudi Syndrome?” Kelp explained, “Getting busy making money while years are years slipping through your fingers without feeling how fast they lapse”
A shooting star flew in the northern celestial horizon. The intensity of the Star’s burning tale bathed the desert in bright light. A camel that was asleep stood up frightened and franticly ran away; its hump was swinging in rhythm with his big strides. “Five-padded monster, run for your life!” Osamah shouted while laughing. As though it heard Osamah, the camel faithfully kept running until it disappeared in the seemingly vast desert. Osamah then pushed the back of his seat backward and closed his eyes; his hands folded on his chest and his mind roaming around.
In his mind, the kingdom was a two-fold Mecca; a Mecca for millions of Muslims to perform Hajj, and a Mecca for people from the four corners of the world to work, and a country blessed with oil that enabled its people to build and posses foreign technology.
“With our money, we became able to start where others stopped?” a Saudi friend bragged in front of Osamah, one day. “Others did not stop, but they’re still progressing and they will always be ahead of you” Osamah said, and then added, “You also deeply lack the human infrastructure. Foreign hands are everywhere; engineers, physicians, teachers, workers and servants. In fact, they are the weavers of the warp and weft of your technological fabric. And as far as the social fabric is concerned, you culture is strong, but it leaves a little room for pure provisions of the religion to function” upset, his friend asked, “What do you mean?” After a short pause, Osamah said, “Your religious school of thought; the Wah’habism”
“What’s wrong with it? Osamah’s friend asked. “The Wah’habi school did the job when it was conceived, but it ought to be replaced by a more lenient school since the circumstances have changed. science and technology has brought forth cases that should be dealt with differently” Osamah explained. “Speaking like a secularist!” Osamah’s friend said. “Call me whatever you want” Osamah interjected, and then added, “But I am speaking while I am still being within the boundaries of the Qur’an and Sunnah; the boundaries of ijtihaad. When the Islamic empire expanded during the Guided caliphs’ time and afterwards during the Umayyad and the Abyssinians eras, the Muslims Ummah was faced by new cases that required fatwah. The Muslims’ Ulamah handled those cases wisely” Osamah’s friend did not say a word. Osamah then added, “Some of those Fikeh case was the case of the bag full of fart winds. If a man in a state of readiness for performing prayer went to the mosque carrying such a bag, would it break his ablution and spoil his prayers?, or if a Muslim performed his prayers while carrying a piece of hashish in his pocked, or a bottle of wine, would his prayers be nullified? The answer was no in all cases because the winds are isolated by the bag, the wine is also by the bottle, and the hashish in itself is not Najasah, therefore it will not nullify his prayers. As weird as the questions might have seemed, the Ulamah did not hesitate to answer the questions. If those Ulamah existed today, they would answer many questions arising from the technological and scientific advancement, such as artificial insemination, cloning, treating certain diseases with stem cells and…” Osamah’s friend interrupted, “But the door to Ijtihaad has been closed for ages”. Osamah then said with sarcasm, “No wonder the Muslim nations are still lagging behindt!” his friend angrily said, “We are not” Osamah said, “On the outside, may be…you don not herd your animals riding camels or horse anymore, but Toyota trucks... but on the inside, the beautifully decorated Saudi Vase still requires lots of efforts to look like its outside”
When Osamah was recruited, he was not surprised, as many stereotypical Westerners were, by the high buildings, five-star hotels, nicely paved roads and highways, universities, well-equipped hospitals, high-standard restaurants, and beautiful parks. He knew that not all the Saudis were still desert dwellers herding camels and living under tents; an image that might have been portrayed by Hollywood and the Western Media. But a few months later, to his surprise, he found that what he tried to escape while he was in Egypt; alcohol and drugs, could be obtained in the kingdom if you knew the right connection. You had to search hard for it, not the other way around as in the West and other countries.
Osamah’s first job in the kingdom was a night manager in Al-Hamra hotel in Dammam. One day, he wanted to buy a few groceries from the shop opposite the hotel where he worked. On his way to the shop, he was intruded by a Lebanese girl in her early twenties. Tightly wrapped up in a silky abayah and her head covered with a silky scarf that intentionally failed to conceal a lock of her blond hair, the girl asked him; her wide and green eyes seductively blinking, “Do you live in Al-Hamra Hotel?” Osamah answered, “Yes, I do. I am the night manager” She then said with a tempting smile on her face, “Oh, poor man…you have been working all night. Would you like a company to help you go to sleep?” Osama said, “No, thank you” The girl then seductively emphasized, “I’m good at what I do” Osamah said, “I’m sure you are, but thanks” The girl said, bargaining, “It won’t cost you too much” Osamah said to her before crossing the street to where the shop is, “I’m tired. May be some other time” On the other side of the street, Osamah could not resist his urge to have another look at the girl. Her firmly wrapped butt was wiggling in rhythm with her footsteps. “What a round and firm posterior she has!” Osamah whispered while biting his lower lip.
The headquarter of the Swiss management running the hotel decided to send Al-Hamra Hotel’s manager to Egypt to run one of their hotel in Cairo and Hans Ruhdusele, the Food and Beverage manager was promoted to run the hotel. Hans was homosexual and his love affair with a Thai boy working in the House keeping department was known to the hotel’s employees. One day, during Osamah’s shift, Al-Sheihah, the hotel’s Saudi and Shiite owner, stopped by the Front Desk. “Osamah, I know you have connections with girls in Dammam” Al-Sheihah said, while leaning over the desk to prevent himself from falling down as he was very drunk, “I want you Osamah…I want you to..to..” Osamah interjected, “But I do not know any girls, Sir”. “OK, call madam Sheihah, then” Al-Sheihah said and dragged himself towards the elevator. Osamah phoned Al-Sheihah’s home and told Mrs. Al-Sheihah that her husband desires her presence immediately. Half an hour later, Mrs. Al-Sheihah passed by the front desk wearing a full make-up. Osamah smiled and whispered to himself, “What a dedicated wife, oh, no…what a dedicated reserve!”
In his country, Osamah used to listen to a specific program called The Arabian Peninsula aired on The Voice of the Arabs radio station in Egypt. The program started with someone saying in an enthusiastic hollow and dignified voice: “The Peninsula of the Arabs; a land that God has blessed and a nation that gave birth to prophets.”
“The oil is a bless, alright” Osamah soliloquized “but the yield is not publicly distributed, not fairly divided among the people, but proportionally divided amongst the few; the royal family and their enormous number of princes, everybody according to his nearness in blood relation to the monarchy”
Osamah rolled down the window a crack. A cool draft hit face, but he scenically whispered to himself, “Before holding the reins of the kingdom, the current king of Arabia, king Fahad, was a flamboyant squandering millions of dollars on the green tables in the USA. In fair argument, one can say the people’s money. But what make things worse, after he has become the king; he gave himself the title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Give the rat the key to the pantry room! The man reeked with illiteracy and corruption” - A big statue, the kingdom was in Osamah’s mind, but by the end of his stay in the kingdom, the statue, has fallen to the ground and shattered in the muck.
A desert animal came out of the shadow of one of the sand dunes. Osamah recognized it immediately. The perking round ears, the short hinds, the thick and very short nick, and the spotted hide, all pointed to one animal; a hyena. Osamah rolled his window up and made sure that all windows and doors were locked. After the animal has disappeared in the shadow of another dune, Osamah then inhaled and exhaled slowly, and went back to his thoughts.
The next day, When Osamah woke up pinched by the Sun heat; he opened the car door and stepped out. Bathed in the sunshine, the rays penetrated his flesh. He looked at the Sun, but he had to look down quickly as the Sun rays blinded him. And before he recovered his vision, he heard a voice coming from within. Cascading from his inner most being, the voice asked him to cheer up and learn that suffering is a part of life. “The hell not. People can live in a paradise on earth, if they help each other out, stop being greedy, and fairly distribute the bakery-basket, whether on the global or the national level” ” Osamah yelled.