Half Past Ten in the Afternoon by James Budd

By James Budd

A lot of this publication is a checklist of the time the writer spent among 1965 and 1970 as an English instructor in Aneiza – a provincial city in important Saudi Arabia. In an wonderful sequence of anecdotes, he describes the everyday life and customs of its humans, his family members with colleagues and scholars on the neighborhood secondary university, and the occasions prime as much as his ‘removal’ from town he had come to treat as domestic, his move to Riyadh, and ultimate departure from the rustic. within the Nineteen Sixties Aneiza used to be nonetheless dwelling partially within the age of Charles Doughty, the 19th-century explorer who stayed there for a few weeks within the 1870s, and architecturally town had replaced little over the intervening many years. however, its mid-20th-century population have been a great deal conscious of what was once taking place within the wider international and felt deeply concerned with occasions within the quarter. This involvement is mirrored in a bankruptcy on inter-Arab politics, the Six-Day conflict of June 1967, and its reasons and aftermath. The author’s tale doesn't lead to 1970. In ‘Journey to Makkah’ he writes of his transition from agnosticism to Islam and provides us an account of his pilgrimage to Makkah in 1996 within the corporation of 1 of his previous scholars from Aneiza. eventually, in ‘Aneiza Revisited’, he describes the city in its 21st-century incarnation in the course of his go back stopover at in 2011. regardless of Aneiza’s fabric transformation, despite the fact that, with its concrete and glass constructions and speedy nutrition retailers, he chanced on that, regardless of having a look very assorted, it had nonetheless controlled to hold its intimate social personality and crucial congeniality.

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Consequently, attitudes there were much more tolerant and enlightened than they were in neighbouring towns like Buraida – only about twenty miles to the north but an hour and a half’s drive along a mostly very rough, rocky track – where, I was told, people were flogged if they smoked a cigarette in the street or failed to go to the mosque at prayer time. 1 Al-Rihani, I was told, also reported that he had heard a number of different languages spoken there, including English, French and Hindustani, and several Arabic dialects.

The next day I made the eight-hour train journey from Dammam to Riyadh, where I spent a couple of days before flying on to my final destination. It was only when I got to Riyadh that I met people who were familiar with al-Gassim. They told me that, although it was one of the most bigoted and narrow-minded regions in Saudi Arabia, Aneiza was different. Many of its inhabitants had experience of the outside world and some of its leading families had long-established business connections in Bombay, Basra, Zubair and the Gulf.

With Abdullah’s help I bought a hurricane lantern, an iron bedstead, a cheap cotton mattress, two cushions, a blanket that smelt faintly of paraffin, four flower-patterned Chinese cotton sheets with matching pillow-cases, a kettle, a saucepan, a couple of plates, an enamel teapot, a box of little tea glasses, a bag of sugar, a bag of tea, three folding metal chairs, a metal table, some spoons and a wooden-handled kitchen knife made out of scrap metal by the Salab – a despised tribe of nomadic tinkers who lived in hair tents with their donkeys on the rocky ground below the Sangar.

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