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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Kingdom

The Kingdom, a study of Saudi Arabia published in 1981, is acknowledged as required reading for businessmen, diplomats and students all over the world.

To research The Kingdom, Robert Lacey and his wife Sandi took their family to live for eighteen months beside the Red Sea in Jeddah. Going out into the desert, this was when Robert earned his title as the "method actor" of contemporary biographers.

The Kingdom is the story of a country of astonishing contrasts: where computer print-outs open with the words 'In the name of God', where men who grew up in goat-hair tents now dominate the money markets of the world, and where murderers and adulterers are executed in the street. By its own reckoning this country is still in the fifteenth century.

I first bought this book in June 1982 in a fancy 5-star hotel in Bahrain while waiting for my visa to enter the Kingdom. I had to leave the book behind at the airport before flying out to Jeddah two weeks later after I had read on page 506 that it was banned from the Kingdom on the basis of eighty-two objections; from the reference on page 61 to the bedouin being 'fickle friends', to whole pages on Abdul Aziz's old age and the family quarrels in the reign of Sa'ud.

I have just found a very well-kept hardbound copy of this almost 30-year-old book in my favourite op-shop in Moruya and look forward to reading it all over again.

I also bought a solar light with an 'amorphous' solar panel. "Hey", I thought, "that's just what I need!" Unfortunately, on closer inspection it had nothing to do with sex.