People always view Saudi as a strict country, a country of no fun; however nothing could be further from the truth. The Saudi Government ensured to build compounds for Westerners (or Expats as they are fondly called). These are like small holiday villages, with tight security keeping the Expats safe, and their life styles from that of the Saudis. Most have multiple pools, sports centres, restaurants and supermarkets selling western food and products. Men and women can mix together, socialise and party and live as though they were back in their own countries.
Faris had many friends in Western compounds, some of the higher class ones, and was a regular visitor to one such compound, where his best friend Cameron lived. He was a familiar face when going through the tight security rituals to enter and became friends with the security men on the gates, until one fateful night.
That evening Faris had gone to see Cameron and his friends, they were to spend the evening playing their guitars and skateboarding at the local park, and spend time with their girlfriends. The compound was a mix of two compounds with an indoor connecting gate giving entrance to the other. As Faris walked into the security area, there was the usual shouting and laughter in Arabic as the guards sat and drank tea. Suddenly he heard shouting from one of the security guards, ordering him to leave the compound and enter by the main security gate, Faris explained he was a guest with residents, so didn’t need to leave. That evening Faris had had an argument with his girlfriend and wasn’t in the friendliest of moods and it seemed the security guard was having equally a bad night. Faris stormed into the security hut to retrieve his ID to suddenly feel a sharp blow to his back, startled; he turned ready to strike to see it was the armed guard, who had hit him with the butt of his rifle.
Oblivious to this, I was at home with Jannah , thinking Faris was safe with his friends, to suddenly receive a call from Faris; alarm and panic in his voice he informed me he had been arrested. I asked in shock “where was he?”, were he replied in a police car, I told him to stay put as I threw on my Abaya and head covering, grabbed Jannah and called my driver to take me to Faris immediately.
As I arrived at the compound gates, I couldn’t find Faris; my heart thudded loudly as I panicked where was he, was he safe?? I screamed at the security “Where was my son?”, as they looked at me as though I was crazy and pointed up the road. I called Faris’s phone to find the police where taking him to the police station and he told me the police man had told him to tell me not to call any more or they would just disappear. I saw the police in the distance and screamed at my driver to follow them, I couldn’t believe what was happening, a high speed chase though Jeddah, me actually chasing the police, if it wasn’t so scary I would of laughed at the idea.
We eventually caught up to him at the traffic lights and waved for the police to stop but they ignored us and suddenly sped off through the red lights. We couldn’t follow it was too dangerous with Jannah in the car, we drove for what seemed like eternity looking for the police car, and eventually stopped to asked where the nearest police station was. Thank god my driver spoke Arabic.
Eventually we arrived at the police station, I being the only woman to walk in, thankfully I had thought to dress as a Saudi woman, and hopefully they would show me respect. I approached the sergeants’ desk to countless men’s eyes staring at me. Even though I was covered head to foot, I felt their burning gaze. I asked if I could see my son, and was barked at harshly to go and sit in the women’s section – what section? There was a small hut with a single chair; I sat there for what seemed like hours. My driver came to me and informed me there was nothing I could do to release Faris, it had to be a male, his Uncle. How on earth could I explain to them he was at a western compound mixing with male and females and he had been arrested? I had no choice and asked my driver to call and ask for their help, and take Jannah to the car; I didn’t want her in such an area. Shame burned in my cheeks at the stares of the men, the distaste in their eyes. I bowed my head and sat staring at their ugly feet in their assorted shibshibs (Arabic sandals).The loud harsh sounds of Arabic, as prisoners were shouting from the main cell. Had no one thought to clean the police station it was dirty and smelly, people having no respect for what they dropped on the floor? The Air cons were whirring loudly and barely worked, making me feel like I was suffocating , as my face was covered, with only my eyes showing.
Eventually after a few hours the men in the police station seemed to die down and it became quieter, suddenly the sergeant barked at me to come to him. Tired confused and scared I walked to his desk and explained I wanted to see my son. He asked me for my ID; where I produced my British passport, and he looked through it. Suddenly his attitude changed and the tone of his voice changed to respect. “Liverpool….you are from Liverpool?” To which I replied confused, yes. “Ah Liverpool Football club, very good, I like Liverpool Football Club– you want to see your son?” and with a huge smile he walked me over to a quiet area to speak to Faris.
A little while later Faris uncle arrived and had him released, that evening seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t believe I had been in a high speed chase, trying to find my son, who the police had then kidnapped. I had dressed as a Saudi woman to gain their respect and in the end was allowed to see Faris all because of a Football club.