Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The People you Meet - Jordan

Now here is the story of someone I met which I felt was compelling enough to tell. This is in fact the second such story I've heard regarding the same type of situation, so I am detecting a theme with the subject country, Saudia Arabia.

Now, not that this blog is infamous (it's only tops on the web these days, actually), but it is floating around the intraspace, so I'll change a few details just for good measure.

I met an interesting Jordanian guy in Amman, in his 30s or 40s, with fantastic English. We'll call him Wal, a popular Jordanian name. Wal has spent quite a bit of time outside Jordan. At first he just wasn't satisfied with the lifestyle and the attitudes of Jordanian people. So he left. He spent somewhere around 10 years between Saudia Arabia, Europe, and Asia, and had lots of enthusiastic stories about life abroad to tell me.

This particular story begins and ends in Saudia Arabia. Wal went there to make money...Saudia Arabia pays fantastic. Wal had previously received some sort of cooking/chef/baking certification, so there he was picked up by a catering company/deli.

Now, being a single male and a foreigner in Saudia Arabia, you have the odds stacked against you at meeting any women, even for a chat. It is a completely closed culture when it comes to any interaction between men and women, and with foreigners, forget about it. If done the 'normal' way, men and women usually meet through friends of relatives. A women does not show her face until marriage, or maybe just before, in the privacy of a home. So Wal said he felt he was living the life of a priest for the first 2.5 years there. Pretty much no contact with women, except those who would come into the deli to buy some things.

The deli is the key to the story, as he got to meet women there. The first 2.5 years he wouldn't dare talk to Saudi women, out of fear their husbands might suspect something. The penalties are stiff. So after 2.5 years of priesthood, he said somehow he arranged a rendezvous with one of his clients. Married, of course. He managed to make it to her house when her husband was gone, and so they had an affair.

After this, he had an instantaneous 180 degree turn in his lifestyle. The woman passed his name around the neighborhood, and he became something like a gigolo, bouncing from house to house as needed. He was the foreign and unusual Jordanian guy that all the Saudi woman wanted to be with. Being a fairly typical middle eastern man, this obviously was no problem for him.

Now, the way he conducted these affairs is ridiculous. Extremely secretive least begins to describe it. First, he would arrive to the house in the truck, which was owned and marked by the deli. It was a coordinated delivery...of a cake, some desserts, some food, and whatnot. Nobody could suspect much out of this. He would go with one of his co-workers, and Indian guy. Trustworthy, someone who didn't give much of a crap about the personal goings on of Wal. Wal and his co-worker would walk up in their deli clothes with the delivery and ring the doorbell. The wife of course knew they were coming. When the door opened Wal would slip in immediately, leaving the Indian guy to go back to the deli truck and drive off.

Now, this guy said every time he did this he was scared shitless. It was the end of him if he got caught. Blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. He had to take 1-2 hours after he got inside just to calm down, relax, have a drink, etc. After this, he would stay 4-5 hours and leave before the first prayer time of the day, when nobody was out in the streets. Leaving was another challenge. If when he was leaving a broom fell, the trees whistled loudly, or a cat appeared, he would nearly have a heart attack on the off-chance that it might be a neighbor who has spotted him. That would probably be the end of him and the women as well.

After awhile this came more normal and part of daily life for him for a year or so. On one particularly rough day, he pulled up in the truck to a house, and as he was preparing to open the car door and step out, when he saw in the mirror one of his neighbors pull up behind him. Heart beating and knowing he couldn't be seen, he ducked below the steering wheel and hid. He stayed crouched in that tiny pocket in front of the drivers seat for an hour! When he felt it might be safe to proceed, he opened the door, and with the coast clear, rushed inside. Inside, he was still so scared that he hid in a closet for 2 hours!!

A few weeks later, he saw a program on satellite TV about a woman being stoned to death in Saudia Arabia. Seeing that, and knowing very well that he would be executed if he was caught cheating on a Saudi's wife, he became tense and scared. He said every day he felt like everywhere he looked someone might suspect something. From the day he saw that program, he began planning his departure from Saudi Arabia. One month after that program aired, he was gone, leaving only with a carry on bag.

So I don't know what the moral of this story should be, but I can definitely say that guy is crazy, and Saudi Arabian culture is nutty.

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