Jeffrey Black | Middle East Diaries


Toupé’d: Riyadh, 26th January 2008
January 26, 2008, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Saudi Arabia

Driving along King Fahd road:

Abdul Karim, 41, Taxi Driver. Looks older. Goanese – until now I had thought that the Saudi taxi driving industry was dominated by Pathans, because of their legendary ability to drive all night. But apparently, there is room for the less Herculean. Abdul Karim has been here for 20 years. He will go back next year, God willing. He has saved up–now he has a house and car and wife and two sons at home. If he makes the money, he’ll open a small shop. Indian heaven is a small shop. If someone gives him half a million, he’d go home tomorrow. Worked in Dubai nine months, but decided to come back to Saudi. He could save more here. Taxi driving is a relatively good job because it is clean and you can earn good money. I gave him a five riyal tip on a sixteen riyal drive. Probably excessive. I liked his thick red chunky sweater.

This evening, Mr Iqbal, finally.

Which was worth waiting for. But first, was he wearing a toupe? Hard to know. At any rate, journalist and professor of English at King Saud University, columnist for Jang and Urdu News, speaker of Farsi, Urdu, Arabic and perfectly idiomatic English, toupe or not, he is quite the man. Pakistan needs him, he says. Was in Iran at the time of the revolution. He was meant to be on his way to Africa. But ended up teaching English in the Ministry of Defence, which turned out to be a school for Savak. After the Shah fell, he was wanted by the revolutionaries on account of the Savak connection. A Canadian jewish man saved him, and had him spirited out of the country. Had met Idi Amin in Uganda. Claims he was the last person to interview Benazir Bhutto, in Dubai, before she was killed. Says that she was totally out of touch with reality, on a messianic mission to go back to “her people” in Pakistan. She was behaving as if she was already Prime Minister. And then the inevitable happened. Sees not much hope for Pakistan. The PPP will hibernate for seven years, until the son is old enough. Nawaz Sharif has no guts, and Musharraf is petrified of being assassinated by the Baluchis–which is a fair enough thing to be afraid of for a man that has killed so many Baluchis.

The Pakistani community in SA is formed along much the same lines as it is back home. But he said that they didn’t move from Pakistan for economic reasons, which I found hard to believe. They moved because they liked to be outside the country. And that is why the Punjabis are underrepresented here, because Punjabi mothers didn’t like their little ones being away from home.

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As we pay highest prices ever at Gas Pumps, the Saudi’s languish with stock prices moving up for the fifth straight day

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