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In the early 70’s Aramco was drilling some water wells just outside of Al Huf Huf in the Eastern Providence of Saudi Arabia. Al Huf Huf, “The Oasis”, is the largest natural oasis in the world. Civilization thrived near water. The water that flowed from this spring is truly pure. I have never seen prettier water anywhere. While exploring the area I came upon an ancient Turkish fort. Unbeknownst to me the Turks had occupied Saudi Arabia at one time many moons ago and had built these forts. The Royal Family of Saudi Arabia moved to Kuwait and stayed with their Arab brothers until they could retake their home land. The families of the rulers of Kuwait and Saudi married and created a bond that is still very evident. As an example, during the invasion of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia opened up for the refugees to come to Saudi after Iraq invaded Kuwait back in the 90’s. Eventually the Saudi’s grouped up and drove the Turks into the sea south of Al Khobar. The best book that I ever found about this is “The Kingdom of Saud”, read it.
Near one of these forts was a small lake with an old water well nearby. The well was ancient and the steps going down about 30 ft. had been worn down from use. The curved steps spiraled down to the mineral baths. These mineral baths had been used by the Kings of Saudi Arabia for years. This was the heart of the Kingdom of Saud. Life flourished from this point in every direction. This place is not somewhere that every tourist might stumble upon. I tried to explore all areas of the world where I traveled. Fortunately, I had some down time that could be used just for this.
I found out early that the standard head dress worn by all of the locals had more uses than meet the eye. One day the sand was blowing like crazy. I had been working in this crap all day and felt like I really needed a bath to wash all of the sand and dust off of me. I had to walk outside for about 50 yards over to the showers. I put on some short pants and a tee-shirt for the short trip to the showers. I was carrying my towel in my hand when I started out of the small port-a-cabin. The towel became my shield from the piercing sand that was nearly cutting my skin. By the time that I got over to the shower, the towel was wrapped around my head only allowing a small opening for me to be able to see. After my shower I returned to my room. This place ain’t no Holiday Inn. As I stated, the wind was blowing and the dust was horrific. I sat down on my bed and the dust filled the air. Now, I needed another bath. This place really sucked and it needed to be vacuumed out. Being sick and tired of being sick and tired, I just got in the bed and went to sleep in this mess.
The camp boss was from France and prepared some of the best food that I had ever eaten. The shrimp eye balls got my attention at first, I never had shrimp that were cooked whole. My French was not that good at the time but I could get my point across by eating enough of his food to feed a small army. My French never did improve until having to speak it to some roughnecks out of Zaire.
My next trip into town would include a trip to the local Souk to shop for me one of these head dresses with the ring that helps to hold it on. These O-rings they wear on top are actually designed as camel hobbles.
This turned out to be the wrong thing to do. The local Souk is the ancient market place that is built around the city center or square. The smells are out of this world. All of the spices that you ever dreamed of are present here. The locals all do their shopping here and everyone is very colorful and wonderfully helpful. I spoke no Arabic at the time but with the use of hands and feet, I got my point across to all of the merchants. I got a new red and white head rag and some sandals before the Saudi Army came into the Souk.
Months before in Abqaig, Saudi Arabia ten men had done some very horrific things to a young boy of ten years old. They stabbed him and left him alone in the dessert to die. The young man made his way to town and named all of the people that had done these terrible things to him before he died. All of these men were arrested, tried and found guilty of their crimes. The Saudi government then spread these men out into different cities all around the Kingdom to perform the punishment in front of as many people as possible. The Army came into the Souk and pushed everyone into the square with their rifle butts. The prisoner was brought out and placed on a pedestal before the crowd. I was scared half to death, not knowing just what was going to happen. The sword was swift and his head hit the ground just in front of the crowd. There was a lot of blood all over the place. I believe that I was the only person there that was not applauding this action. Justice prevails in Saudi Arabia. All ten of these men paid for their crime in the same fashion. Whether you believe this or not is inconsequential to me, all I know is that the nice people of Saudi Arabia do not break the law of the land. As I said justice is swift. There are bad apples in every culture no matter where you are and some people just don’t live their lives as God intended. The shock is tremendous when you are forced to watch such things happen. This was my last trip to the Souk in Al Huf Huf.
I mentioned the fantastic smells associated with the Souk in Al Huf Huf. They also have a fish Souk near the ocean in Al Khobar. If you have a weak stomach don’t go near this place. My friend Jesse had just that problem. Jesse and I would stay up all night drinking the homemade whiskey and playing darts until just before daylight at which time we would make a trip to the fish Souk to get the Mother Shrimp that were caught in the nets by the fishermen. At that time, they didn’t go shrimping per say, they would only keep the really big ones that were caught in the nets. There might be ten pounds and then again there may not be any but it was always worth a try. In any event, I mentioned Jesse had a problem with the smell, he would hand me his dog that went everywhere with us and then he would walk into the Souk. Jesse never made it more than just a couple of steps before returning outside where I was with his dog at which time he would throw up in the street. Once this ritual was over he was good to go. It happened the same way every time we went down there. One must really want some shrimp cocktail to endure these hardships. Jesse was the very best roommate that a fellow could have. Jesse could cook anything. He and I have stayed friends for the last 40 years.