We are now looking forward to another visit from my parent’s and I really hope that this time I will have caught up with them in the Ex-Pat stakes. Possibly, a vain hope, maybe a pipe dream but one can try one’s damnedest, don’t you think?
On reflection, my l8 months or so in the Persian Gulf were not really much for their 9 years in Abadan in the l93Os, you definitely had to be made of stern stuff to survive that and come up smiling! My goodness, they most definitely were!
Naturally, there was excitement all round, invitations were being extended and received and their diary was filling up rather rapidly, yes, they were a very popular couple.
We, on their behalf, even received an invitation to visit Mohammed Almulla’s farm as he so grandly called it. No, it wasn’t quite on the other side of the moon, but I fear it might be just as difficult to get too, as it was somewhere deep in the desert.
Mohammed Almulla was one of a handful of venerable locals who, in the early days, had made their living pearl diving and had now gravitated to running import and export businesses. He had acquired a small fleet of Dhows which were used to ply backwards and forwards to the Sub-Continent, quite often substantial amounts of their cargo being Gold Bullion, a lucrative business indeed.
In those far off days, a British citizen was not allowed to hold Gold Bullion, ( I know not why), consequently everything about Mohammed and his ‘business’ set up seemed very daring to us!
It was as if even knowing him and being aware of some of these, possibly, clandestine operations, we too were living dangerously! The Creek could, no doubt, have told many stories whilst it ebbed and flowed towards the Gulf.
Today we were embarking on our very own adventure and it is about to begin. We set of, on a hot Friday morning, to weave our way into the desert, if I’m honest not having a clue on God’s earth how we were ever going to find this homestead!
We, no doubt, would have had a far easier journey if we had gone by camel because surely they would have been happy to follow their noses and gallop along merrily. Alas, we had to make do with a very modern camel our Toyota saloon, no four wheel drives in those days, which had to be encouraged and cajoled to make it over some of the rougher terrain, happily it did with great stoicism, I am pleased to report!
After, what seemed like an eternity of bumping, swerving, limping and spluttering, we spied a speck way in the distance, and oh please God let it be journey’s end, can’t stand this torture much longer?
Getting closer, we were not disappointed; yes indeed it was an Oasis and yes, Halleluiah, we had actually found this pin prick in the middle of nowhere, more by luck than flaming judgment, wouldn’t you agree. Big sighs of relief all round, thank you Allah!
There standing at the entrance to his hide away, was Mohammed his face wreathed in smiles, no doubt heaving a great sigh of relief that he didn’t have to send out a search party, the feeling was reciprocated! Beside him was a raggedly little Bedouin boy, who was about 6 years old.
We were told by Mohammed that this little chap was one of his son’s of the desert. It’s quite extraordinary because the majority of the Gulf Arabs are Bedouins and although these days they live in the City and have, in the main, swopped their Camels for Land Rovers they remain Bedouins at heart and the call of the desert remains very strong!
Mohammed’s desert retreat was really an up market mud-hut which was surrounded by date palms and plonk in the middle of this Oasis was a rather large swimming pool. Yes, a little incongruous but nevertheless, after our treck, it was definitely a sight for sore eyes, please, when can we jump in?
We were made very welcome, although conversation was rather limited to say the least, no chewing over the cud here, just chewing on the mutton grab feast that was produced. Our collective eyes nearly popped out of our heads, when from around the corner two coolies appeared carrying an enormous tray on which languished a cooked goat surrounded by mountains of rice. Poor thing it had, possibly, been happily galloping around a few hours earlier unaware of its impending fate. Such is life!
What a Spectacle! When you are up front and personal with such an apparition, momentarily it takes your breath away, and you are surely lost for words. Nothing can prepare one for the next part of this elaborate procedure either, they say there is a first time for everything!
No carving knife was needed as we witnessed, with utter astonishment, our host gauge out an eye ball ready to hand it to an honoured guest, one held one’s breath not knowing whether to laugh, cry or make a dash for it! Possibly head long into the pool. No time either to detect the colour of said delicacy was it Blue, Green or Brown! Actually, at that moment in time think that was the least of one’s problems!
This is exactly what happened to us, with my Mother being the honored Memsahib on this occasion, what a lucky lady she was! We starred in astonishment as she nonchalantly popped it into her mouth and swallowed it whole, how she managed it we will never know!
Would you believe she didn’t immediately turn into Billy Goat Gruff either, an amazing achievement for the Old Girl. She should definitely be in line for the highest award possible a Gold medal no less but knowing Mama think she would prefer a giant bottle of Gordon’s and my goodness she deserves every last drop!
After that little episode, knowing Mother had done her forfeit, as it were the three of us were sitting terrified as to what we might be asked to do or eat, thank goodness, we were spared and only had to eat freshly picked dates. We too rolled our eyes heaven wards realising our prayers had actually been answered! Were we lucky, or were we lucky!!
Time to head off, not to the hills but from whence we came along those dusty tracks which we hoped would, without too many diversions, lead us towards the head of the Creek and downtown Dubai, our stamping ground!
This was not before Mother’s new best friend had proffered yet another invitation. What a surprise, yes, you have guessed correctly, a nice friendly mutton grab, but this time on board his special Dhow, which would go for a gentle sail down to the mouth of the Creek before heading out into the Gulf.
Now, we were absolutely sure this would be a no, no as far as Mother was concerned because she suffers from terrible sea sickness. Well, what do you know, we were flabbergasted when we heard her saying that would be lovely can’t wait, silly women!
All arranged for the following Friday, how to waste, one’s only day off, hey ho, she who must be obeyed at all costs! Friday arrived and we set sail, the three of us in total trepidation as to how the next few hours would play out, we were not disappointed or surprised.
The Dhow had hardly cast off before Naomi started to change colour, turning a lovely shade of green. We turned a blind eye, here we go we thought, knowing it would only get worse, especially as there was a live goat on board. It didn’t take must of a wit to register that he wasn’t long for this World because, yes, you have guessed, he was our lunch and destined for the pot! Oh dear, oh dear.
On one hand the deck boys were watching the pot, and on the other peering at Naomi as she was gradually turning the colour of pea green. I must say the aromas wafting from the pot were enough to turn the strongest of Wallah’s pea green too!
As there was no where to go except overboard and swim for it, this little outing had to be endured, this we managed to do, but it most definitely put us off going on another Dhow trip for a very long time.
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived back on dry land, more or less in one piece. We then gave Naomi a very stern lecture, saying that in future she had to consult all of us before she had any more crackpot ideas! Not sure if she was listening, though!
We knew she like receiving invitations, who doesn’t, but this one had definitely been more like an endurance test and yes we were left to pick up the pieces. Please God, not to be repeated in a hurry!
We all know what curiosity does, yes, kills the cat but on this occasion it also turned the cat pea green.!