The year Faris, became 18 he saw an amazing truck for sale on one of the car lots that Saudis sold their cars privately on, he came home bouncing and full of excitement on how he saw this truck and wanted it so badly. Christmas wasn’t far away and he had begun working for Glaxo Smith Kline, so we came to an agreement, if he saved up enough for half the truck, as a Christmas gift I would pay the rest. The Truck was a GMC Sierra, manufactured in 1989; the same year Faris was born. What a great idea to have a truck that he could spend his time doing up: every boy deserves the opportunity to do that. Little was I to know it was going to be a beast of a truck , a Monster Truck in fact! This beast was the only one in Saudi Arabia a GMC Sierra Z-71 Bigfoot, the tires alone cost 20,000sr (around £3,000) per tire and had to be imported from Dubai (Damn my son had good taste ) The owner was a Saudi Politician who had bought the truck from the States, to add to his collection of cars, but had decided he didn’t have the time or inclination to restore it. Our Monster Truck This beast needed a special license to be on the roads and we were pulled up many times by the police. Soon they knew us by sight: the western woman and her son driving the only Monster truck in Jeddah and we became a side show when ever we drove out in her. Occasionally we would be stopped at security check points but once they saw a blonde western female in it – they knew it would cause more attention if they made me climb out of the truck and they always let us go 🙂 we had many adventures in the truck, but none would compare to the day we were held by the National Guard with guns to our heads and our very lives hanging by a thread.
That day in question, my youngest daughter Jannah, was earning her brown belt at a martial arts ceremony; I had enrolled her into Kuntaw, a Philippine martial arts, and we were excited to see her reach this mile stone. Jannah was already in the compound ( a walled in community for Expats to live in freely as in the West) and we were to follow later. I had decided I wanted to travel in the Monster Truck, and afterwards we could all go the beach to celebrate and have ice cream. The compound that the ceremony was at was the one where I worked at as the headmistress of the school for Expat children , so I was there daily and had a special pass to enter the compound, as I was known as the Madam of the School (Madam is a show of respect to a female in authority ) We decided to enter the back entrance to avoid the visitors gate which would have tail backs. (When Expat or visitors enter Western compounds, they go through vigorous security checks, your car is checked with bomb detectors and your boot checked along with showing your ID to prove who you are). As we passed through the security the guard raised his hand, as we did in return as greeting. As we sped through the compound suddenly there was lots of Police cars racing through the compound, I turned and laughed to Faris saying “Oh Oh, some one is in trouble”, little did I realise it was US!!!!! Suddenly Police sirens were blaring around us and forcing us to stop ” What the….” A stern soldier barked orders at us to return to security aiming their guns at us, thankfully Faris’s grasp of Arabic was good and we returned in shock to the security gates. A small set soldier began screaming at us, as I tried to explain who I was and I was authorised to enter the compound – showing him my security pass, but he wouldn’t listen, you could see the distaste for me as a woman and a western woman who dared to answer him back. Two soldiers were standing behind us with guns aimed at our heads as I pleaded the with head of security, who apologised but informed me it was out of his hands. The recent spate of terrorist attacks had tightened up security and it was now the National Guard who were in control of security, no longer the private security owned by the compound. I explained that, as we drove through, usually the original security always waved me through. and I begged to speak to some one in authority. I could see the fear in Faris’s eyes as I tried to stay strong but respectful. My mind was racing; how could I get us out of this mess, what would happen, would this trigger happy soldier’s finger slip and shoot one of us dead, would Jannah become an orphan??
Suddenly a tall commanding man approached us, decked out in full uniform, I could tell from his air of command he was in charge. He showed me respect and I explained the situation to him, who I was, and the misunderstanding. I tried to stay calm, but there was no mistake of the trembling in my voice and demeanour. He screamed in Arabic at the smaller stout soldier who had an air of defiance but eventually stepped back and the Colonel ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. He apologised and told us to go on our way. The relief in me made me want to faint, my legs were like jelly, as I thanked him and walked away with Faris. We climbed into the Monster truck and drove away, as I turned and looked back I saw the Colonel slap the small sturdy soldier in the face, and I began to laugh uncontrollably, served him right!!! Its funny how you are effected in dangerous situations, the adrenaline courses though your body and you begin laughing till you cannot stop.
We arrived at Jannahs ceremony shaking and laughing to continue our evening , watching proudly as Jannah became a Brown belt in Kuntaw, later we drove to the beach to enjoy our treat of Baskin Robbins Ice cream.