WITH all the turmoil in the world. Not the least the Middle East, I thought this week and next I’d give you a few light hearted paragraphs of my third book. Something of a trailer, (plug plug!). This particular situation arose some 35 years ago, when I had just come to the end of a disastrous business venture in Saudi Arabia.
At that time, to most people Saudi was a land akin to the movie Lawrence of Arabia – Islam and Mohamed merely vague references in the bible and Mecca the name of the local amusement arcade!
This extract, can also I feel, give a little insight to my credentials when I discuss Islam and Mid East hypocrisies in this column. At this point in the story I had found myself staying, totally broke, at a villa in Jeddah with a number of long distance truck drivers. A few were engaged in the then rampant illicit booze trade.
One of them, TJ, had actually attended public school. He was a large man, slightly running to fat and was indeed a lovable rogue. One day he pulled me to one side. ‘Listen dear boy’, he whispered conspiratorially. I’ve a dozen cases of Johnny Walker to deliver to a Sheik’s office in the middle of town. Do you think you could give me a hand?’ I readily agreed.
After all money was money and as I was utterly broke, it was a case of any port, or whiskey in the storm! The next morning we duly loaded the cases on to the back of his Toyota truck and took off across town. When we arrived at the office block, I stayed in the cab while TJ went up to see the Sheik. They both came back down together. I couldn’t quite believe it when the Sheik offered to help. That was not Saudi like at all.
I still retain the picture of him on that particularly windy day, white Thoub and Ghutrah billowing behind, as he humped a case of whiskey along the pavement and in through the door of his office block. That however was all the help we did get. He then informed us he had to go and pray!
Could we handle the rest ourselves? We assured him we could. I need to mention here, that so the whiskey would fit into the false smuggling compartments, they had to be re boxed in slightly shallower cartons. These had unsealed, rather loose lids and the bottles were prone to rattle a bit. We loaded four boxes into the rather ancient lift. Just as we were about to press the button to our floor, we looked up.
Two men, gesturing us to wait, hurried forward and into the lift. One was in traditional robes and the other in the uniform of a very high ranking police officer… And that I’m afraid is where I run out of space.
Tune in next week folks.
Keep the Faith