Twenty Years in Saudi Arabia
Chapter 1. Unexpected changes
I was first called to Saudi Arabia through a gallery owner in Jackson, Tennessee, when she asked if she could exhibit and sell my collection of European pen-and-ink drawings. I did not give her my artwork, because I had always hoped the sketches of Europe would be kept together and sold as a collection to only one collector. So I offered to make her a new collection, and she agreed. Without realizing it, she inspired me to sketch visions of my future life.
At that time the song “Midnight in the Oasis” was often played on the radio, and it intrigued me. I considered converting the music to pictures, not only reifying the words describing the oasis, but also the entire context of Arabia and its environs.
Belmopan collection for Belize British Honduras
Being in Jackson without a good library, I had to rely on my imagination and memory of old movies and photographs. I’d imagine and sketch places, buildings, incidents, events, and contexts, playing with scale, light, shadow, form, building types, costumes, and architectural drawing techniques. The results were awesome. Everyone would ask if I’d been there, and I said that, unlike the European collection, these drawings were all from my imagination. Years later, when we actually were in Saudi, it was amazing to see how many of these drawings resembled actual places.
I did the sketches in 1974, during the formation of OPEC and the Arab oil embargo. We did not know then that the sketches were prophetic.
When I look back, my professional career began in an extremely promising fashion. After graduating from the Pratt Institute, where I won the “Best Portfolio” prize, a top New York firm, Designs for Business, offered me a job. After that, I worked for the famous architect, Edward Durrell Stone.
And then, after an extended journey throughout Europe to visit some 72 cities and view the architecture of cities in Sweden, Denmark, Holland,England,Luxembourg,Germany,Austria,Yugoslavia, Italy, France, and Spain, I went to Yale University to study for my master’s degree in architecture.
The pen and ink of San Marco Square is one of hundreds I made on this journey
In my first year of study in New Haven I married Christina. She had come from Germany to New York to study philosophy at Hunter College, but had then switched to Fine Art at the Art Students League and Columbia University. Her sculptures were well received, and were exhibited at the Frank Laurence Gallery on 57th Street and another on Madison Avenue.
Before we got married I had rented a house in New Haven. There was enough space to live, and to accommodate my drafting business, which enabled me to pay for my studies and support my new family. New Haven was a typical New England town. It had its Schubert Theater, where all the Broadway plays were tested. It also had Yale University, with its unique Library and fine art museums. It had a mayor who chose famous architects to design its new city buildings. It was simply an ideal place to stay after graduating to practice architecture. At least that was our plan.
For more than a year, all went well; then, in 1967, the percentage rates for loans suddenly went from 3 to 6%, which was the death-knell for the building industry. My business came to a screeching halt and, shortly before I graduated Yale, my drafting business failed. It was very disappointing, but being optimists by nature, we looked forward and not back. We struggled financially until I got my thesis in February 1968; after that I believed I would get a job and all would be well.
But to our disappointment there were no jobs available anywhere, and so we made a spontaneous but whimsical decision: we reasoned, it would be best to escape the poor job prospects and unpleasant winter in New Haven by going where it was warm, and where, hopefully, there would be a job waiting for me.
Without much planning but full of expectations, we flew to Puerto Rico. There, after I got a job, I could study and get ready to take the very difficult Architecture-License Examination.
With a few dollars in my pocket, a suitcase, some addresses, and a lot of faith we arrived in that strange new place. We caught the cheap midnight flight to San Juan, where we landed at 4 am to be greeted by the balmy tropical air of the island, and a lonely taxi, parked forlornly on the sidewalk. The driver took us to an all-night cafeteria in town where we could wait for a decent hour to make a phone call.
First, I called Bob Carpenter, who was design chief of the Conquistador Hotel for Morris Lapidus. He was on the address list I had hastily compiled before leaving. When he heard my story he told me frankly I was insane to come to Puerto Rico in the high season, because there was nowhere to stay and no jobs, but he was kind enough to let me use his office to make phone calls.
Then I called John Fernandez, president of the Yale Club, and brother of the famous Hollywood actor, Francesco Fernandez. He happened to be a Realtor. As luck would have it, he had a condominium for rent in the swanky section of Miramar. There was no furniture, only two beds, a table, and a few chairs but we didn’t care; it was great. More than that, it was a miracle.
We moved in the same day as our arrival. Some kind people lent us some pillows and blankets for the night, and there was even a connected telephone, so I could continue calling other local architects for a job. But soon it began to look hopeless.
Finally I found the courage to call the biggest architecture and engineering firm on the island. To my surprise, within days, and after only a few friendly interviews, Elloy Ruiz and his partner, Gilberto Gonzalez-Seijo, offered me a junior partnership in their firm in Rio Piedras. They bought me a brand-new Toyota Corolla and gave me a small expense account to cover meals, so I would not have to make the trip home daily for lunch. I was the young partner who went after new business, designed the most interesting projects, and negotiated design problems on their most prestigious project for the El Mundo Newspaper Company, which was managed by Peter Albi. The New York Building Management Company was Cushman and Wakefield. I designed the warehouse buildings for the Ron Rico rum company, a police station, the Cayey Vocational High School, and a department store. Wunderbar!
Also, it was easy to make friends with the hospitable people of Puerto Rico. Patty Pease, the original owner of our building, lived in the penthouse on the tenth floor. We loved visiting with her in the early evening to watch the sunset, while we enjoyed our cocktails. She told us the condominium was situated in such a way that the wind circulation made air-conditioning unnecessary. It had been designed by the island’s top German architect, Klaus Klumb, a specialist in tropical design.
Later, when we visited him at his home, and stood in the midst of a lush tropical garden, we were impressed. We had never seen a more beautiful tropical paradise; it was a perfect example of how to combine a human habitat with nature.
We had no plans to stay in Puerto Rico, but slowly we changed our minds. Christina studied Spanish and delved into the island’s cultural background. We became very active with the Yale Club. Later, Thomas Tilley, who drove an Ambassador Hudson car and was a partner in a law firm, became president. Through him, at the club, we got to know Carlos Romero Barceló, whom our club’s members helped get elected mayor of San Juan. Before him, Donna Felicia was mayor. Louis Ferre, of Ponce, was governor. We got to meet them all. It was fun and interesting.
Only one tragic event dampened our spirits. We had become good friends with Pastor Gerald Bergen and his family, because I had spent a lot of time going with him to visit the slums of San Juan. We helped the people of "La Pearla" ( sketch to the left) build and improve their primitively built, but imaginative, shacks. I made sketches of how to improve the shacks, and the newspapers did stories on my projects. The media helped us get free labor and materials to make these very clumsy, unprofessional but artistic dwellings stronger, safer and more sanitary.
Sadly, in the middle of all the activities our young and active Pastor died of a brain hemorrhage. It came as a great shock to us all. I invited Governor Ferre to our Grace English Lutheran Church, to be the guest of honor to comfort the family and congregation.
Before Pastor Bergen left us, he had recruited me to give the large parish center a new paint job and to manage this project. I got all the materials donated, and the US Army Corps of Engineers sent their young men to volunteer their time. It was this exercise that taught me what I needed to produce the first New York City Earth Day, and then build the loft for LME in New York City.
The volunteers loved to help, because the women at the church cooked the most scrumptious meals for them, and it made them feel like they were coming home to mother.
Through Christina’s friend, Beatrice Lopez-Pritchard, we got to know the city of St Germaine, a charming town on the east end of Puerto Rico, untouched by modern times and tourists. It also had the oldest Church in America. We stayed in their family’s lovely summer cottage on one of the thousands of little romantic islands on the Atlantic Ocean.
We became acquainted with many interesting people. The Puerto Rican-born architect Jose Fernandez and his wife, Maya, were so very kind to show us the history and local side of San Juan. John Vincent Kane, a US interior designer, had made his home in old San Juan and became my good friend. Jamie Cobas, a Puerto Rican, and my classmate at Yale University, showed us all the most fashionable art galleries and people. They introduced us to Pablo Casals, the famous cellist, and to the owner of a modeling agency, for which we did little modeling jobs, just for fun. We appeared in newspaper ads. I did a TV commercial for Miller’s Beer, and we were extras in a movie called Stiletto, starring Brit Ekland, who was very quiet and unassuming. It seemed that most movie stars really only lived there in their films. This was an incredible experience, and the people we met were so vital and fresh.
We still found time to complete an island-wide plan of public libraries. We had to visit all 72 municipalities by cutting through the rain forest and driving endlessly up and down the island’s rich green mountains. I met the librarians, and so many very kind and wonderful people throughout the island; many were employees of the Department of Education.
I was a member of the Collegio d’enginerios, and I did my NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) exam in Puerto Rico. My engineer, Raymond Watson, made sure I passed the structural part by tutoring me on earthquakes and seismic design.
I realized later how important it is to reach out for knowledge whenever one finds it. One never knows when it comes in handy. My knowledge of tropical architecture later qualified me for my first teaching job.
Christina was deeply involved in the creation of her fabulously imaginative collection of collages when she got the good news that her father, Max Schneider, from the city of Leipzig, which was behind the Iron Curtain then, had been granted a rare visa to leave the Russian-occupied East German zone to visit West Germany. She and her friend Patty flew to Munich immediately.
It was a tearful reunion; she had not seen her father for 12 years. After her visit Christina returned home sad and happy at the same time. She was happy she had finally been able to see her father again, but was sad he could not just stay with us permanently.
To ease her thoughts, she concentrated deeply on the creation of her artwork, and when she was just about ready to give a one-man show of her collection in one of old San Juan’s many great galleries, the unthinkable happened.
Suddenly, one of the partners of the company, Gilberto Gonzalez-Seijo, died, and my successful life came to a screeching halt. His partner, Elloy Ruiz, who was getting on in years, decided to close the business and retired immediately. I was not ready to take over that big a company, and so for us it meant curtains; we had no other choice but to return to New York. But before doing that, God favored us with a contract to complete the plan for public libraries across the island, and design Centro Modus for Armeda, the sister-in-law of my dear, deceased Gilberto. We became great friends of both Arturo and Armeda.
Also, when I came home in 1969, we became very busy; my city of New York was not kind to us. To our surprise, apartments had become expensive and hard to find. And jobs were still not readily available. But with my usual determination I found an apartment in Picasso House on East 58th Street, just a block from Bloomingdale's. And, finally, I found a drafting job. Christina worked as a designer for Vladimir Kagan, who is famous for his Plexiglas tables.
Yet all the setbacks I had experienced in the past did not destroy my dream to have my own design office. And when the first opportunity came, I grabbed it. When I got a part-time teaching position at my old school, the Pratt Institute, I decided this would give me enough free time to start my own architecture office.
I searched and prayed to find the right place to work, and for Christina to have an art studio. So, after going through the newspapers and contacting some real-estate agents, I found myself walking from street to street, and from building to building, until I came to a factory building and the office of Mr. Jose Fernandez, a Spaniard, who owned many tenements on the East Side. He also owned and operated a first-class bakery making breads and rolls for the fanciest hotels and restaurants in Manhattan.
Right above the bakery was the loft I was interested in. After begging and pleading with him, he made me an offer I could not refuse: I could lease half the third floor west of the freight elevator, an area of 4,000 square feet, for $450 a month.
The place was between Second and First Street, around the corner from “Maxwell’s Plumb,” which was owned by Warner Leroy, who had an office in our building. The fashion photographer Avidon had his brownstone house across from us. This was again a super miracle.
With time, Christina, a few friends and I transformed the huge space into an architectural experience.
We spent months building and prepping the place, getting materials donated by construction companies. Some of my Pratt students volunteered to help scrape paint and years of residue off the existing brick and wood beams above us. In the end we had exposed brick walls, which we painted a glossy white/white. The exposed wood-beam ceiling was stained dark brown, and we had several skylights. At each end of the loft were tall, gigantic double-hung windows, which went from three feet off the floor to the ceiling, which was about 14 feet high. We built double-tiered drafting tables and walkways out of 4 by 10 timbers. There were bathrooms, a kitchen, and a closet with even a sleeping loft above it, accessed by a ship’s ladder. The highlight was a sun parlor at the back, which became Christina’s studio. It had floor panels that lifted up to store our trunks, which were filled with books and antiques that came from Christina’s family in Germany.
There was a wall on which to show slides, and a small office for Christina to do the bills and write letters. The loft had a reception room and a conference area.
On the corner of our street was a great, inexpensive restaurant where we ate late at night after a hard day’s work. But we did not need to go there too much because the bakery let us and our many friends, volunteers and visitors eat as much bread and buns as we could carry home.
I had my license to practice architecture, and expected that New York City, my hometown, would not disappoint me and give me business. We had the green light and had created a base for a quality future.
The city gave me several libraries and schools to design, and my friend Gil Colgate recommended me to be the architect for the planned Ice-Hockey Stadium. It was a great beginning, and we worked hard to fulfill our obligations.
I saw him again on Earth Day, which I organized in Union Square, while he was walking around as part of Mayor Lindsay’s team coordinating community affairs. Adam was a mathematical scholar, who had long gray hair but dressed surprisingly conservatively in a suit and tie. He had a wonderful sense of humor, was articulate and brilliant, and could talk on any subject. He lived within walking distance and would come to our home in the Picasso House on 65th Street where we chatted while Christina made dinner.
Together we thought about the loft under construction and its possibilities. We knew the loft would become an exciting place, a showcase for all to see. We stipulated it would become an impressive place for the usual architectural clientele to visit, but could also become a place for young people. If we invited them, they would be inspired to see the potentials of architecture.
Finally, the first drafting tables at the loft were built. There we noisily continued our inspirational talks. I would draw the subjects we discussed, and Adam and many newcomers would stand around me and everyone would help me formulate a program that developed into the “Laboratory for Metaphoric Environments,” a not-for-profit organization.
When we were finally ready, we invited children from nearby schools and organizations, especially from Harlem, to listen to lectures and see our slides. Of course, we always had freshly baked, warm, rye-bread and rolls for all to eat.
We did well. We lifted up their spirits by showing them buildings and places of quality they had never seen before. The kids got all excited about the building profession and wanted to see more. They told us they mostly saw pictures of slums and cheap housing, so what they saw in our place was all new to them.
We showed them castles and great old buildings from Europe. The Munich Olympics Stadium, and its fantastic tent-like roofs, designed by Frei Otto , fascinated them.
These were all things worthy of looking forward to, with the hope that one day we could participate in the development of similar buildings.
Many influential people became interested in what we did. Business people and others from Wall Street noted our dedication to help make a difference with the programs we devised at LME. We had influential helpers like Livingston Bryant, Jeffery Chusid, Gamal El Zogby, Allen Lapidus, Henry Classing, Christopher Sweeney, Gilbert Colgate, Gregory Kipnis, Sarah Schiffman, Elizabeth McKay Scott, and others. Stanley Sommers, my old boss from Classic, visited us in our loft just a half block from where he had assigned me to be his representative in Classic's new Manhattan Decorators’ Center in 1957, just 14 years earlier.
We had meetings, conducted open-school classes about urbanism and the environment. We also held fund-raising parties. Henry Classon and I developed our LME prospectus. We discussed the idiosyncrasies of “Architecture is the Making of Metaphors,” a theory I had already developed with Christopher Tunnerd, Vincent Scully, Paul Wiss and others at Yale University.
I really regret not having photographed the Laboratory’s loft before and after its creation. LME and the Loft were the reification of our marriage, love, dreams, hopes and aspirations of urbanity, stylishness, timeliness, charity, status, and identity.
It was to be our vehicle for success and a manifestation of our hopes. It was where we wanted to be, and once shaped would fill itself in and become our Queen Mary.
Great, we had it made.
Wrong! Again our visions were shattered and our hopes were in vain when the impossible became possible. New York was out of money and could not pay me. I had to surrender my dream of establishing a private architectural practice, when our contract work for New York was completed; the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and could not pay me on time. I had incurred considerable expenses, and could not wait.
In addition, our landlord, Fernandez, who had helped us through many difficult times, because he loved all the exciting work we did, had a fatal accident in his new Mercedes, and now his son, a totally dull and unsympathetic individual, announced that our rent for the loft would be tripled. And so, in order not to go bankrupt myself, I had to give up all we had worked for in the past three years.
To find work in New York was hopeless. I knew I had to look for work elsewhere. This was the end; regretfully we had to begin anew. But how?
There were only a few ads for architects in the New York Times, but one tiny ad was of interest to me. A Tennessee Insurance company needed an architect for their three large vacation developments. I wrote to them. Needless to say, I got the job.
I started to wonder what in the world I was doing. After I had graduated at Pratt I had sailed into an economic free-fall that had resulted in me being dismissed or starting again over and over and over.
Before we left Manhattan I was asked to teach at University of Ohio in Athens, Ohio and co-found International Earth Day.
The impact of NYC’s near bankruptcy was leading us to Jackson, Tennessee, to yet another new life. It wasn’t south verses north, as was politely mused, but it was rather urban verses rural. Jacksonian s exuded rural values and a rural mind. Designing vacation homes and clubhouses was a far cry from big city office buildings, but I knew it would be a challenge and a new venture. I left for Jackson, Tennessee, immediately; to a place Christina called exile to a warm Siberia.
Bernard-Henri Levy pointed out that the intellect is responsible for history because he takes history seriously, and regards reasoning and man’s mind as a means to affect that history in some way.
In this secular world I have tried to make a difference. I do see consequences, cause and effects, but I began to get the distinct feeling my destiny was not in my hands.
Levy suggests he has gone to places not where the light of the media already shines and shimmers; where journalists and government advisers clamor, but to dark places in need, where the light could make a difference. Levy also points out that the intellect need not be an ongoing and perennial thing; likewise my work, in any place, whether its years of work, a moment, or only a brief visit, can have meaning.
I could not call myself a spiritual person at that time. But a pattern seems to emerge of things to come, and in this way, for a short or long-time, and to dark or needy places, Christina and I will go.
Now it was 1973; I was 36 and had started working for Peoples Protective, in Jackson Tennessee. I became their chief architect. After a while, I began to like my work and life in that little town. I designed restaurants, sport facilities, clubhouses, and vacation homes. And many times I flew in my company’s private jet from Jackson to Gatlinburg to inspect the buildings I had designed on nearby English Mountain (below see one of the house designs) . I knew there was work for many years to come. For me this was quite satisfying professionally.
Yet for Christina, leaving New York and all her contacts was the end of her hopes of becoming a known artist. But she accepted the inevitable, and got to teach art to children for the Tennessee Arts Council.
Jackson became gemuetlich, it was a cozy place, and better than we expected. I made pen-and-ink drawings and watercolor paintings. We went with our new artist friend, Kenneth Grissom, a fabulous jewelry designer, to outdoor art shows and exhibited our work.
Visitors appreciated my artwork and one of them recommended an important Memphis art gallery that bought many of my drawings.
Life became very pleasant, and so we decided to buy our first house. It was a very pretty brick house in a popular colonial style, and large enough for an addition to our family.
We moved in about December of 1973. Then, in April 1974, we heard the shocking news that the apparently solid, dependable People’s Protection Insurance Company had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection.
The Arab oil embargo had happened. Strangely, it caused the demise of the company I worked for. Reluctantly, Bob Smith iii, the owner of People’s Protection Insurance Company, had to let me go. Leaving the company and starting again without a steady income was to be another financial tumble. I could not take any more changes. I began to give up hope of ever amounting to much in my learned profession.
Little did we know that God had a purpose for me, and He prepared us for it.
It was the first in a line of events that would ultimately lead us to live and work in Saudi Arabia.
While waiting for the results of my job search letters, I did architectural work for a local business in Jackson. Thanks to God, it did not take long. I had an interview with the Golf Oil Real Estate Development Company (GOREDCO), and with it came the change I never thought would be possible. I left my first love, architecture, and went to do construction management.
Chapter 2. Off we go again.
The OPEC oil embargo continued, and the Watergate crisis resulted in Nixon’s resignation. The Seventies saw the stock market hit new lows (the Dow was around 800, and the inflation rate was very high (18-22%). We began the decade with great hopes in a New York City loft, and ended it, perplexed and puzzled, in a College Station rented house.
I worked for Gulf Oil Real Estate Development Corporation (GOREDCO) from 1974 to 1979, when new dark clouds appeared on the horizon.
I started in Reston, Virginia, in August of 1974, to work for Gulf Oil as Manager for Special Projects. My boss was Chuck Myers, a former three-star general. One year later his boss, Bill Magnus, the president of GOREDCO, called me to Houston to build mange all of the company's civil and non-oil design and construction including the Gulf computer credit card building, 2 Houston Center, Gulf Oil buildings in Midland and Odessa, Chemical plant in Victoria , and laboartoies in North Houston and Houston. incliding the Gulf Oil Chemical offices on the upper floors of the Houston Center.
Houston was a large, booming city. We were excited about the prospect of making this city our permanent home. We bought a townhouse near the Galleria. At the time, that area off Westheimer was almost the edge of the city. Not far from my home was the site of Gulf Oil’s new large Computer Center, for which I was the project manager.
This was a job which definitely changed our lives and perspectives on the corporate business world. I learned to be a corporate, middle-class American. It was a position we were to experience and enjoy until the novelty wore off.
I was on my way up. I started just below corporate vice-president and had access to bank accounts and corporate decisions about expenditures. I was really friendly with several of the company presidents I serviced. I worked hard and expected the same from all those who worked for me. My assistant, Frank Sorrels, once commented to Christina after we returned from one of our vacations, that I was the kind of project manager whose absence caused the entire contractor and design team to walk around the site as though they had eaten “cat-nip.”
I was able to be the Gulf Oil representative of Houston’s cultural societies and many charities. There was the "Theatre Under The Stars" (TUTS) in Houston in 1978, and when Helen Hayes, Eartha Kitt and Geofrey Holden visited, we dined, conversed, and partied with them before and after their performances. The musical was a black rendition of Kismet. It was excellent, and so was our time with these stars.
I played golf with Bob Herring the president of Houston Natural Gas at the River Oaks Golf Club; even I never learned to be much fond of the game.
Christina’s friend, Dorothy Thomas, introduced her to Barbara Bush. The Bushes had just come home from China and had a townhouse near us. To Christina’s surprise it was a rather modest home. But Barbara Bush was a gracious host to all the ladies she invited to her afternoon tea. At times we met the Bushes at the Yale Club and had dinner together.
In Houston Christina did not get much artwork done. She was too busy with her newly formed German Wine Society. She had been approached at one of the functions held by the visiting German Ambassador to help promote German wines, and so she did. With the help of Houston’s Bobby Sackowitz, the owner of a department store, Karl Heinz De Boir, head of the German Chamber of Commerce, the German Consul General and some other oilman she formed the society.
Soon there were wine-tasting and wine-appreciation classes, awards and, best of all, the most elegant parties on yachts and on the top floor of the Houston Petroleum Club, with food and wines especially flown in from Germany, together with appropriate wine glasses, silverware, dishes and plates.
The German, Graf Matuschka von Greifenklau, came to describe appropriate wines for every course at the seven-course dinners. Merle Oberon flew in from Acapulco, Houston’s Gene Tierney was there, as well as famous fashion-designers from Paris and Italy, whose extraordinary gowns and dresses the women wore at the occasion.
Later, in Saudi Arabia, I realized how special these events were, and that they could be matched only by the palatial diners we had at the Yale Club meetings, which were held at the Equestrian Club in Riyadh, with many of the Saudi princes present.
At smaller dinners at the US Embassy, or in private palaces of well-to-do Saudis, the food could match the very best European cuisine but not the wine, however hard they tried.
As time went on, I was busy overseeing all Golf Oil’s new projects. I tried very hard to find professional satisfaction in managing engineers and architects rather than to be the architect. I felt distinctly some creative outlet was missing. So, when at one of the charity parties we attended, the Dean of Houston University's Architecture Department ask me to teach a design class, I was very happy and agreed without a second thought.
The class I had chosen was delightful. My students and I reached for the unknown and the original of architecture right from the start. I even brought Bob Allen, the astronaut, whom I had met at the Yale Club meeting, to join me in my class. The designs reached great heights, right up into space. That is, we designed everything needed to live in space. It was a great success. The dean and my students were very excited and I thought this happy lifestyle would never end.
But again I was wrong.
It was 1977. Kuwait, the country which produced a great part of the oil for the Gulf Oil Corporation, decided its US partner was not needed any longer, and threw the company out. In addition, there were some problems at the highest level of corporate management. Suddenly Gulf Oil was no more. GOREDCO closed, and once more I was out on my own, dismissed.
At first I did not think the news was that bad. I had done my job well. I was told that I was the first manager of Gulf Oil for a long time who had finished a project before its deadline. I had saved the company millions of dollars. I had a very good reputation. I firmly believed another Fortune 500 corporation would pick me up in no time.
I networked to hundreds of companies. I flew to many places in the USA for interviews, including California and Northrup. But I was disappointed not to get one decent job offer from 2,000 letters my secretary had sent out.
During our so-called outplacement we lived on a one-year expense account gift, from the expiring Gulf Oil Corporation. I tried so hard to get a job. I talked to George Bush at the Yale Club; he was not really willing to help, but he told me there were no jobs at this time. All the major corporations were cutting down on personnel and streamlining their companies.
Finally, one day, a Realtor friend of ours, John Schumacher, encouraged us to become Realtors. He said, “I get so many calls daily, my office cannot handle them all; I wish you would come and help me.” And so we got our license to sell real estate. The first day we worked in John’s office, not a single customer came looking for a house. John did not believe it. What was going on? Little did we know that Houston’s great depression had begun. The boom was over.
At that time I was introduced to Ahmmed Dawood by the president of the local Houston branch of Mellon Bank. I was told he was one of the wealthiest men in Pakistan. Mr. Dawood asked me to make him acquainted with Houston’s business world. He also needed a little house for him and his wife. I showed him several nice, rather expensive houses, without success. I wondered why? Only later, in Saudi Arabia, when I learned to know people from the Middle and Far East did I get the answer. I simply did not know how very rich some people from Third-World countries really are.
Amhad and his wife had become our friends, and one day he invited us to his new house he had got from another broker. It was a mansion in River Oaks and looked like a small French castle. I realized that being a Realtor was not for me. I am an architect; I design buildings, I do not sell them.
Christina and I pushed and worked hard, yet with all our efforts and daily hassle we could not make ends meet. We fell into debt, which was not good.
When it comes to debts, we have adopted one principle throughout our lives, and that is never to have any. And so we decided to sell our townhouse. We knew the sale would be profitable enough to pay our debts.
In all that time, Christina was totally unhappy. Living in a rented apartment and selling real estate was not what she had hoped for. She is an artist at heart; selling is not her calling. Even so, she liked to use her gift to find just the right house to match her customers’ dreams; the market was sluggish, yet she did sell several houses pretty quickly, but was glad when we finally moved to Brian College Station because I had become an associate professor at Texas A&M. That I preferred a position at the University more then being a Realtor is understandable. I like to teach. I enjoyed my class at the University of Houston. And so, it was only reasonable to respond to a newspaper ad from Texas A&M in the Houston Chronicle.
Within days I got a call for an interview. I recall virtually being hired on the phone, because we were so broke at the time I did not want to make the trip to College Station unless I knew they were serious. The department’s chairman, Jim Marsh, interviewed me, and I was hired full time as Associate Professor, to teach Construction Law and Management, and additionally take on graduate teaching responsibilities so they could maximize my pay.
The earnings were about 25% below our expenses, and the job was doomed to fizzle. At first I also continued to teach in Houston, until they announced that I could not teach at both the University of Houston and at Texas A& M at the same time.
This was an additional blow. Not only was the reduction in my income bad enough, but the dull subject of Construction Law at A&M made it worse. I was miserable and discouraged. I was 42 and had a low income, and the future looked dismal. However, in the two years of teaching I managed to get my first book contract. Gulf Oil Corporation employed me to author its policies and procedures for building non-oil production facilities. John Wiley and Sons later contracted me to publish this book called ``Project Manual Standards” (PMS). This was a small light at the end of the tunnel.
The big light eventually came from Christina, but not before I got one more blow which brought me to my knees.
When I felt secure in my new teaching position and knew I had a small but steady income, I invested the balance of my profit from the sale of the house in silver.
Summer vacation started and we went on a little trip to explore the west of Texas. Upon our return we received nasty news. The investments I had made were lost. Silver had taken a tumble. The silver market had been crushed by the misdealing of the Hunt brothers, who then declared bankruptcy. In August of 1988 the Hunts were convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market.
I was crushed. Christina said that’s what happens when one does not listen to the Lord. From then on she handled our finances. I know now that to invest in the stock market is a gamble, and gambling is not the will of God. I did not know it then.
Now there was no more hope to design my own super-modern, Paul Rudolph-style house, or even to pay for the little “0-lot-line” dwelling we had rented with an option to buy when we moved to Bryan-College Station.
Our new home was located right on the Heitman Playing Field, backing onto a rural area with a power line. It had a double-trellised carport and a very large living room with a fireplace. We had two cats at that time and they loved this place.
It was here that I bicycled to and from work daily, except on rainy days when I used our Pacer. By then we did not have a second car.
The location of our house had an extra attraction. It was exactly across the field from where Texas A&M lit its annual bonfire. We and our friends had front seats. The fire was several storeys high before it was lit, and much higher when ablaze. It gave off lots of light and there was an atmosphere of fellowship and pride. Of course, this was not all that went on.
There was little need for Christina’s talent at College Station, so she could not help financially. But she created a nice home and, as always, she knew how to stretch the dollars so no one knew how broke we were.
Christina spent much time with her German lady friends, all wives of professors at Texas A&M., and other ladies from Bryan-College Station. They founded the Brazos County Concert Society, which hired musicians and a conductor to perform the classics. And she did a new thing: she watched TV more then usual. She had discovered the 24-hour Christian TV Station, which we could not get in Houston.
I became quite popular in my school, and even my Syrian and Lebanese students invited us to Arab club dances and food parties at the University Student Center.
Again it was a precursor of things to come.
I loved to sample all the different flavored tidbits served on large, round platters, a Middle-Eastern custom which we discovered later. The tasty food reminded me of my Grandmother , who cooked similar dishes. There were spinach pancakes, rice stuffed in vine leaves, hummus, and other familiar, yummy food. Grandmother had ten sons and two daughters, and I had many cousins to play with.
I loved my grandmother, very much. As a young boy I spent a lot of time in her home after my Grandfather had died. I guess I was her favorite.
She was a woman from the Island of Rhodes, and spoke very broken English. But this did not stop us from singing and dancing to the Greek music records she knew I loved to listen to as much as she did. She was alive, and filled with exciting ideas. When I was in high school, she showed me how to dance just like a Greek man.
Later, this knowledge came in handy when we lived in Saudi Arabia and I had Greek people working with me.
Christina and I visited my grandmother before she passed away. She was very weak and did not want to talk much, but when Christina asked her about the origin of the family she became animated and told us, “We come from a great big family, all live around the Mediterranean.’’
While teaching at Texas A&M (Agriculture and Mining) , I tried to give more meaning to my life by taking “Continuing Education” courses. It was worth my efforts. The school selected exceptionally well-known teachers, who included Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson. While others taught us how to write curriculums they taught us economics. I got to know these two mental giants very well, before I finally decided to go to Saudi Arabia.
To leave the USA was not easy for me, and Saudi Arabia was not a place I would choose to go to. I had gotten rather attractive job offers all along.
I almost wound up in Saudi in 1979. I had had a job interview with Northrop Aircraft in Hawthorne, California, to build military housing and airstrips, with FE Basil to build sports parks all over the kingdom, and or with Rashid Saad Al-Rashid and his family, to manage his architectural office in Riyadh. But instead I went to work for Texas A&M University.
My uncle Irving proclaimed Saudi as one country that had a model welfare state, and he was very anxious for me to report its virtues and victories to him. Indeed, we found out later, he was correct in all aspects - from food, housing, and fuel, to education subsidies, health and hospitalization, and childcare.
You can buy a pack of Arab pocket bread for a quarter, and fill your tank for less than $3.00; you can send sons and daughters to university, where not only are tuition, books and housing free, but where each one receives a stipend (salary) for attending.
Everyone can build a home, and get a no-interest loan. The loan must be paid when the house is complete. The houses are large three-story villas for more than one family. Usually, the third floor has walls with windows but no roof. This is how most people avoid paying - by not completing the house for a lifetime.
At the university I tried to make things work out. Even so, my dislike for my job did not diminish. My first book was soon to be published by John Wiley. We hoped it would help improve our finances, but no matter how carefully we handled our money, our debts mounted
Knowing I had to get out of debt, I kept my eyes open for a better opportunity to make money. The ups and downs of my profession had shown me I had to give up my dreams to become a great architect. All I now wanted was to provide my family with an appropriate lifestyle, according to my skills and education. I did not have to wait long for this to happen.
Ten weeks later, Jim Young from ARAMCO, the Arabian American Oil Company, came from Saudi Arabia to Texas A&M, asking for professionals to train their young Saudi employees.
Sheikh Al Turkey, the Dean of King Faisal University in Saudi had offered me a faculty position weeks earlier, but I had declined; I was simply not interested in going to that country. Now, however, I viewed Jim’s ARAMCO offer as a possibility.
I knew the grade code was too low, but the pay was high. Then again, I had no choice. There was apparently no other way to get me out of my dilemma.
Christina looked at it as an adventure, and an opportunity to travel to Europe more often. So I signed the contract. We had to leave almost immediately. We had to get our papers ready; first our passports, then our visas, for which we had to show our marriage licenses. This was as if a bomb had dropped. We could not find our marriage licenses anywhere. We went to the Saudi Consulate and assured the official that we were truly married and had been since 1966, and it was now 1981. “Sorry,’’ said the Saudi. You must go now; she stays here.”
We called the City Hall in New Haven in desperation.
“Please send us our marriage license as fast as you can.”
“Ordinarily we would do that,’’ came the answer, “but right now, we put all our documents on computers. It will take three to five months before we can send it to you.”
In desperation Christina called the City Hall of Bryan-College Station for help. She had reached the County Councilman and told him the whole predicament we were in. He listened patiently, then he said, “Officially I truly cannot help you, but unofficially I keep thinking, why don’t you marry again?’’
That was all Christina needed to hear. It was a Friday morning. She called me at school and, without going into detail, said, “I have made an appointment with a doctor; we need a blood test. Then we go to the City Hall to get married.”
I got the picture. I jumped on my bicycle and raced home. The doctor gave us a clean bill of health, and an hour later we had the elusive license. I called the pastor of our church and he happily agreed to marry us on Sunday.
When we entered our little storefront church, to our surprise the room was decorated.
An impressive-looking wedding cake graced a long table and a little girl with a shiny face handed Christina a lovely wedding bouquet.
I could not help to thinking of our wedding day 15 years earlier. Christina’s family could not be with us; they were in Germany, locked behind the Iron Curtain.
However, I had family in New York. I told my parents that we got married in New Haven’s City Hall. Right after that, we drove to New York to spend the day with them. When we got there my mother said, “ Your brother had other commitments and could not be here, and my father gave me $15 and said, “Go and get Chinese food on us”. That was then, but what does it matter; this time we had a loving father in Heaven, and over 100 caring Christian brothers and sisters all rejoicing over our union.
It became clear to me that God was not concerned with my worldly success. God’s interest was that I progress on my spiritual path. That is way he directed me to the professorship with Texas A&M, and to its nearby church - so that I had the opportunity to find my Christian family and know that He is my loving father. He also wanted to specially bless our marriage, which so far had been legalized only by the state. Why else did we have to marry again?
An American in Saudi Arabia
After boarding our Pan Am charter to Saudi Arabia, I sank back in my seat and thought about the events of the previous days.
ARAMCO had put all our personal effects safely into storage. The car was sold and we were free to travel. With us on the plane were our two cats and several large suitcases. All was right, yet I did not feel good.
Before we left, we had attended a five-day orientation with many other new hires at a very nice hotel in Houston. During this time we had met Ed and Mina Pleasance and their nine-year-old son, Ted. We would remain friends with them for many years. Both are teachers. Ed is an American; he taught in Iran where he met Mina, who was born there. Throughout the time we attended the orientation classes, the usually friendly Mina looked rather stern. We wondered why.
Could it be she did not like the tales they told about Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ?
They told us we would experience culture shock when we arrived in Saudi Arabia, unless we stayed in the American compound. We were warned not to mix and talk to the people and stay mostly in Dhahran, which, they assured us, was a pretty little home town America built for us through ARAMCO.
We guessed Mina did not like the scare tactics they used to apply at our sendoff. She knew the people from the Middle East, and found them friendly and hospitable. We also were told not to bring our Bible and other religious symbols. Christina and I were not pleased with that, but we were open-minded; we listened to the instructor’s advice, did what was right, and packed our Bible. The words of a song came to my mind: “If it had not been for the Lord on my side where would I be?”
Fifteen hours later, at 2:00 am, we arrived at Dhahran Airport. Our Pan Am plane descended quickly, banked sharply, and then after a prolonged silence, made a typical landing in the hot desert: bump, bump, lift up, then down, bump, bump, up again, then down hard, and then hard wind gushing past the flaps.
It was August 11, 1981 and it was very hot and humid; climbing out of the plane felt like stepping into a sauna. There were over 100 of us, each to be greeted by someone who would give us papers to sign.
In our case the very man who had come to College Station, Jim Young, was there and made sure we boarded the bus with all our stuff, including the cats. Then off we went north into the unknown darkness.
We had seen a sign saying Rahima, indicating a little village in the desert near the new ARAMCO town of Ras Tanura, about 80 miles north of Dammam. The Jubail/ Ras Tanura highway had not yet been built, so we drove very slowly for hours on dirt and paved roads.
Only three other couples were with us on the bus, Rosa and Vinny, Ted and Mina Pleasance, and Charley and his wife who engineered the boiler plant at the refinery at Ras Tanura…and Halfway to our destination the bus came to a screeching halt. Two soldiers with machine guns stormed in and demanded to see our Igama. We had no idea what they were talking about. But to our relief, the Philippino bus driver said something half in Arabic and half in English to the soldiers, and they departed.
Then, as we reached our destination, it was all so eerie; we saw two fiery flames like giant candles in the desert, spewing fire and black smoke. These were the Gas Oil Separating Plants, GOSPS, burning off gas from the many oil wells in the oil fields that we could barely in the dark against the polluted sky.
After having passed through two more official checkpoints, where our passports and our persons were spot-checked by Bedouin officers with machine guns, we arrived at a large iron gate, and again were greeted by little skinny men with guns. What a welcome, I thought.
We disembarked with our co-workers and were escorted in the dark to various bungalows. Christina and I were then taken by the bus through a large opening behind a high concrete wall topped with barbed wire. We were hustled out of the bus very quickly into a wooden barrack. They told us to keep the air conditioners going and get to sleep immediately, because someone would take us to work in the morning. And, indeed, that is what happened. An Arab Shiite guard had been assigned to care for us.
And so, after dressing for business quickly the next morning, I left the barrack and walked outside to see what place we were in. I realized I had simply to slip through a hole in the concrete wall where I would board one of three buses to take me to Dhahran, but never without the Shiite officer and his gun beside me.
The bus stopped at the Ras Tanura Commissary Cafeteria Building, where I was able to get breakfast. I quickly learned that the food is good in Saudi, and I sampled perhaps a little too much of all the delicate morsels.
The building had a second storey at its far end, housing a special executive dining room and a few rooms for traveling guests.
It was really a clubhouse for the ARAMCO employees, and was nicely located, directly on the beachfront. It was a pretty romantic place, with an outside dance floor, and a large library. It had a swimming pool, benches, and terraces overlooking the Gulf. It all reminded me of some old movie. Coming to this place over the years would be a source of rest and relaxation.
But on this and succeeding mornings for nearly three months I routinely had my breakfast there before the 80-mile drive to my workplace in Dhahran.
Christina was glad when I came home. She wondered what we had done. Had we really listened to the Lord when I had signed the contract to work for ARAMCO? At the time I had received other offers, including one from King Faisal University. Why had we come to this God-forsaken place? Well, it was to change later, and with our usual optimistic nature we began to see the bright side of it all.
Christina told me that after she had woken up from a very short sleep, she had glanced through the living room window and for a moment had become real scared. She had seen a large, oblong-shaped space, surrounded by a very high, sinister gray wall, topped with barbed wire. Left and right along the wall stretched a row of barracks. No one seemed to live there. And straight ahead she saw the burned down remnants of a large building. In the middle was a square filled with sand that looked like a place where prisoners had been lined up to be shot. She got the feeling that she had been caught in some twilight zone
But the cats did not give her much time to think; they wanted food, and so she walked into the kitchen. When she opened the refrigerator, to her surprise she saw it was filled with food, including cat food. Then she saw a very big carton standing prominently in a corner; she opened it, and there was an array of households items, ranging from blankets and pillows, to dishes and flatware. She found vases and many other pretty things, and got busy putting them in place.
The bedroom and living room were furnished with new Danish furniture, and when Christina opened the door at the back of the house to let the cats out, she saw a big old tree. It was the first green living thing she had seen for a long time. Well, it can’t be all that bad, she thought.
Then, I also told her what my day had been like. At first they had confiscated our passports, which made me feel naked and uneasy. Then they replaced them with an Igama - an essential document; without it one cannot stay in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the wives are registered on their husbands’ Igamas, which assures the Saudis that our wives cannot go anywhere on their own. Then, when I got to my office, on the eighth floor of a high office building, Jim Young introduced me to my co-workers and to several of my friendly Saudi trainees. Then Jim explained a bit sheepishly it was my fault that I did not get the promised house in Seaview because I had had to finish the semester at the University in Texas, and it was too late for us to fly to Saudi Arabia with ARAMCO’s own plane, which is furnished throughout with first-class seats. Also, the house designated for me was given to some other earlier arrivals. And so, until my new house was ready, we would have to stay in the British Rahima Family Camp for a while.
I must admit, it was all so new and exciting, at first I really did not mind the long ride through the desert twice a day. My work was in ARAMCO headquarters in Dhahran. When I looked around Dhahran, the town they were building for ARAMCO employees, I was glad I did not live there. I actually did have culture shock there.
I did not get culture shock from the Saudi trainees I was working with. Nor did I get culture shock from the countryside and the little towns I passed by on my way to work. I got culture shock when I saw the dismal, unimaginative design of the houses, and the landscaping and town planning done in Dhahran by my fellow Americans. I was ashamed that my countrymen had not set a better example of what a new little town can look like. I truly was not interested in moving into that place. This was especially so because Christina, while exploring her compound, had discovered a cool, clean swimming pool. She had spotted a narrow, green door in that sinister gray wall, which she had opened, and seen a tree-lined street flanked by a row of trailers.
She had walked along the road toward a very wide staircase which led up to a beautiful villa, on the top of which was a long, gray building with a flat roof. It was a cafeteria, with chairs and tables, and at the back, through the picture window of a long room, she had spotted a high, plastic corrugated roof, underneath which was a glittering, Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Some women were sitting chatting in the pool chairs, and were amused when they saw the astonished look on Christina’s face. It turned out this was a British compound, and we and a few other Americans were only temporary guests. Nevertheless, Christina made good friends with all of them, and during the day our wives enjoyed swimming in the pool.
In the evening, after the husbands returned from work at the nearby oil refineries, the pool was filled with guys playing water ball or showing off their skills diving, while the two busy Philippinos in the cafeteria kitchen cooked dinner for all those who wanted to join the party. There were even several Saudi couples and their children who were part of our happy group.
Sometimes a special bus took the women to Rahima to shop for necessities. The town was still relatively unchanged. There were narrow streets, with two-story brick houses, flat roofs and many barred windows.
The Saudi man explained that these bars had been put in to protect the women from intruders, and were, therefore, necessary. However, if there was a fire, the women would be trapped on the second floor and would burn to death, an event, the Saudi said, would be the will of Allah. I don’t think so!
The town had no supermarket, only a myriad little shops, but amazingly, for a very low price, you could find anything you could get at home at Wal-Mart. The one thing we could not find on the street or in the shops at that time was Saudi women. Occasionally we could see a ghostlike figure covered from head to toe in black, sliding along the walls of the houses like a shadow running away from its owner. Saudi Arabia is a man's country.
All the sales people are men, even those at the dress shops, and they are mostly Pakistanis or Indians. Saudis do not do demeaning work. At best, the Saudi owner of the shop will sit at the cash register. The men are friendly and helpful to the Western women, even a little amused at their behavior.
The Saudi men were also amused at the fact that these crazy western women would carry heavy grocery bags and other items to the bus in that scorching heat. Saudi women will never do that. They send their husbands and sons out in the sun to shop, and let them do the hard work, while they play with the kids in their cool air- conditioned houses.
A few days had passed. We had just gone to sleep when a loud bang woke us up. We tried to see what had happened but the lights did not work. We rushed out of the house in the dark, and when we got outside, we discovered we were wet all over. From the roof came streams of water, but it wasn’t raining. We looked up and saw stars in the sky. What was going on?
We went through the narrow green door to look for someone who had an answer. A smiling guard came along and told us that because of the exceptional humidity that night the electric wires were so wet they could not transfer electricity. Therefore, they had to flash the wires, and that was the big bang we had heard. ``No problem,’’ he said, a phrase we heard a lot in all situations. But he was right, there was not much of a problem; after about three hours the air-conditioner kicked in and the meat in the freezer was saved.
The Problems of doing business in Saudi Arabia.
One of the most alarming events that occurred was trying to transfer my Igama, which is a work permit, from King Faisel University to a private sponsor. My particular Igama was especially valuable because it allowed me to stay in the country while changing jobs. This privilege is not given to everyone. Most people must leave the country when their work contract ends. Then they must give back the Igama to the employer. However I had my one Igama that was a document similar to the U.S. Green Card, but it lacked many of the rights the Saudis have with their Green Card in the USA. Americans, for example, could not own a business, buy land, or own a house in Saudi Arabia. I was not free to travel throughout the country. Even with my special Igama, I had to surrender my American passport to my employer for so-called “safekeeping” and only hoped I could get it back when I wished to leave the Kingdom. The difference was that I had the freedom to change jobs when and as often as I wanted. That is, except for one time.
In 1995 my five-year contract with King Faisel University had ended. While I was contemplating whom to call for a new position, I remembered Azmi Hadi. I had known Azmi for many years. In 1983, when I worked for the American Saudi Oil Company, Arabian American Oil Company ARAMCO, his Consulting Design Engineering, CDE company was under contracts with my supervision. It was one of the companies I had to monitor and visit. I recall that at the exact moment I was terminated from ARAMCO in 1983, Azmi made me an offer to join his company. I had declined at that time. Yet when I again contacted CDE in 1997, Azmi remembered and reinstated his offer.
Azmi is a very charming and personable man. He’d leave the office and return after prayer times. He is small, slender, and about seventy years of age. He is a cosmopolitan person devoted to business and his family. He has three children and a kind wife. Azmi also had an office in Morocco. He preferred that office to his Saudi Arabian headquarters. He often asks me to spend time with him there. Azmi Hadi was a Palestinian but was now a naturalized Saudi.
Azmi operated his company in a typically larger-than-life fashion. There are no corporations in Saudi Arabia. It is families that own all the multi billion-dollar Saudi companies. Saudis are still tribal in many ways and they trust no one other than their own family. They also cling closely to traditions and enforce them with strict rules. The enforcement of tribal rules became uncomfortably clear at the beginning of my first arrival in that dessert country. There was a rumor that a Saudi princess had fallen in love and entertained a relationship with a Palestinian student. Her behavior was considered degrading and contrary to the tradition of the royal family. So the decision was to publicly execute both of these young lovers. It is hard to believe that this actually happened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century. After that, Saudi Arabia had no more contact with the Palestinians. Also there is one more problem. Palestine is not a nation under which to issue a visa or a passport.
Amr Khashoggi, a Saudi businessman, whom I knew well at the time when I worked in Riyadh, wrote recently in the Arab-News (the Middle East’s leading English language daily) an article stating that Saudi Arabs have to conform to the Twentieth Century.
Azmi Hadi, now a citizen of the Kingdom for a long time, finally built his one huge villa in a newly developed area of AlKhobar. All Villas that the Saudis build are large enough to house the parents and the families of one or two sons. It is a practical custom. The children can later easily care for their elders. The houses are huge, with a living, dining, and family room resembling the size and layout of a medium-sized hotel lobby. At my first visit in Azmi's house, we men were sitting on the low ottomans in the public area, when his neighbor approached me to get my advice in the design and decoration of his new marble- mansion. One needs to know the customs of the Arabs in order to design a functional house, especially in Saudi Arabia. These mansions (or small palaces) have a family or women’s section and a public area for the male guests. Usually, the ground floor has an impressive entrance hall with a wide ornamental marble stairway to the second floor. On one side of the entrance is a lavish bathroom for men only with basins to wash their feet and hands before entering a huge opulently furnished room. The washing of feet is a Moslem religious, hygienic custom based upon their life in the dessert.
The floors in all Saudi homes are invariably fashioned from Italian marble. Stretched along the walls of the big public room are low, cushioned ottomans. Baroque gold ornaments adorn small side tables and other small cabinets. All these items are produced and imported from Italy or Turkey. There is a large kitchen and the servant quarters are usually in an extra building outside in the garden. There is a second, less impressive, entrance on the side of the house for women with stairs leading to the second floor. Upstairs is a large central area for the children to play. Doors lead from the large central room to the bedrooms, bathrooms, upstairs kitchen, and into the family dining room. The windows on the second floor have bars to prevent intruders from climbing into the women’s rooms. Unfortunately they also prevent the women from escaping in the event of a fire. This happened during our stay in that country.
Women guests are allowed to roam throughout the whole house, but men must stay at the ground floor. It is fun to design a building such as that. However, these kinds of deals are usually hard work for the person who may take them with the expectation of a handsome fee. That person may be disappointed at the end of the project. There is often no pay. The Saudi smiles and says, “Got you”.
Azmi Hadi and Sons
I was glad the job with CDE happened.
We had established ourselves. Our correspondence school was running smoothly. Many depended on me, so I could not possibly leave the Eastern Province. I needed the job with CDE. The office location was ideal. The CDE Company was just a few blocks from the “Bin Jumah Bldg” where I lived. My office at CDE was on the fifth floor and my office windows faced my condominium a block away. I was aware it was God who had made it all happen. He knows that a job close by gives me more time for our family.
Our visitors came about eight o'clock at night. It is hot in Saudi Arabia, and most laborers work from early morning till noon, and then again from four to eight. For me these flexible hours made it possible to handle two jobs: His and theirs.
Every morning at CDE, when the coffee boy brought the strong sweet Turkish coffee, I visited with Azmi in his office to get his latest instructions and news. I became the architect of record for the Dhahran Academy, Saudi Japanese Pharmaceutical building, Dhahran US consulate, and I was the project manager for a museum on the Corniche. In addition, I received a fabulous Wireless Telephone Antenna contract from Lucent. It was worth millions of dollars, When Azmi left on vacation, which was quite frequently, I was in charge of all his companies, including the clinic, the chickens, and the egg farm. His brother was in charge of the company’s bank and he had a Chinese national in charge of administration. Azmi appeared to be very generous. He encouraged me to travel, stay at five-star hotels, and eat at very expensive restaurants. I had an unlimited expense account, which I rarely used. My wife, Christina, was not in the kingdom during much of this period, and I had a mission to run, so I did not eat out nor did I travel. The one luxury I allowed myself was driving Azmi’s Jaguar that he lent to me when he was out of town.
Azmi was always fair to me. But to my surprise Azmi could be actually scrupulous with others. My friend, Roy, is a good example, he got tangled up in an unfortunate situation with my boss.
I first met Roy 1985 in Riyadh’s Desert Rose Inn, at a men’s breakfast meeting. He worked for the Corps of Engineers and he arranged for us to use the Inn for our meetings.
In 1997, I was sitting in my CDE office in Al Khobar when I get a phone call from Roy who is in Oklahoma. Roy is now a recruiter for an employment agency. He saw the ad that Azmi and I had placed in the New York Times for a “telecommunication engineering specialist”. He told me he had qualified candidates to fill the position. By this time in my career in the Kingdom of God, I knew the way every company handled such things. If it came to specialists, they expected correct schooling, degrees, and licenses. What Roy told me did not sound right. I tried my best to discourage Roy’s urgings. But Roy was persistent. Finally, Frank, the successful candidate, arrived and started working for our client--Saudi ARAMCO.
Azmi went out of town a lot. His only goal in life was that his children should take over the business as soon as possible. He wanted to be free to travel. He treated his children like heirs to a throne. He gently fed and increased their responsibility. I was there as a backup. I did all I could to train and teach them. After all, I had a fond memory of Abdul Latif. I knew Azmi’s oldest son when he was a very young boy from the time I had first visited his father in the early eighties. Now he had become a man. He was married and because he was the older brother, he was destined to assume ownership and management of CDE. Abdul Latif had red hair and was very slim. He was a respectful and polite young man. He was able to speak fast, change subjects at an instant, and keep several calls going at one time. He was a chain smoker and had a huge collection of cigarette lighters. He had been educated at Miami University, and was very adroit, well-traveled, quick, and had a very good sense of humor. We had a friendly relationship with Abdul Latif and his Saudi wife. She had been a Journalist in New York before her marriage.
I thought to myself that it would be so easy for Abdul Latif to do things right. He was the one who could redeploy and hire people or get other firms to complete the work. The contracts were for design and construction engineering for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Arabian ,Japanese Pharmaceutical Company, SAJAPHCO, Dhahran Academy, French and Saudi Company in Jeddah, etc. Abdul Latif went to all the work meetings and knew that his schedule and his engineers were just about able to meet the requirements. But he did not see it the right way. But at least it was good to see that Abdul Latif was young, positive, optimistic, and extremely resourceful, and he was able to adjust himself and his company enough to carry out the work after all. I simply arranged for meetings and reports to be drawn up by Alaa and presented to Azmi for reconciliation. In the end he listened to my advice, Azmi surrendered fees and segments of work and considered phasing out the Jeddah office.
Daniel Tighe was the head of the International School and Dhahran Academy called me. At that moment he was not exactly my friend, but I had to deal with him when he wanted to add several new building to his complex. I did not like him very much because on one occasion he had confiscated my camera after I had taken pictures at a conference with Mr. Anthony’s Arab/American group. He had no right to do so.
It was a petty reason. For the sake of peace I did not make an issue out of it. I reasoned that perhaps controlling and bossing around his children all day long prevented him from controlling his behavior when he was involved in a distinctly different situation. Now that I was the Chief American Liaison to the academy for CDE, he looked to me for help, and I gave it to him. I saved the Academy over a hundred thousand dollars in design and construction costs by guiding him through the process. We later became friendlier and had several good dinners together. One was at the Mission Inn.
These facilities in Riyadh and in the eastern province where we lived where designed to give military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia a feeling of home. The Inn’s purpose was to provide a meeting place for military personal and all American expats and their guests in a club-like atmosphere.
There we ate many good breakfasts of eggs, bacon, and ham--the kind of forbidden food that is unavailable in Saudi restaurants. In AlKhobar I used the place for most of my business meetings. Its safe relaxed atmosphere was a treat for my non-American customers. Also our initial American Institute of architects/Architects International Group/Mid-East, AIA/AIG/Me meetings were held in the dining room. Christina and I attended all the special holiday dinners and dances. There we could eat delicately baked ham or scrumptious thick pork chops. Our Arabic friends, like professor Abdul Hamid Shalaby and his wife Moshera, where glad when we invited them to the Inn. They knew that in Mission Inn, men and women could feel normal and can enjoy a meal sitting together openly in a restaurant as they do all over the world--except in Saudi Arabia. There couples are shuffled to a corner of a restaurant and a big screen is set up around them.
For many of us, the Mission Inn was a home away from home. For me it was special. One of the Americans responsible for that place was a good friend of mine. This was not the only danger we faced. We had to drive often through a raging storm called Shamal(norther) , all the way to Riyadh to pick up other shipments. Driving the highways of Saudi, even though the roads were new and well engineered, is simply suicidal. We were stopped at various Saudi checkpoints along the Riyadh/Dammam highway. It was dangerous all the way. The country is under constant marshal law.
The sudden end of the oh-so-pleasant Mission Inn came when terrorists bombed the military housing in AlKhobar. Security made it necessary to close the place. Only the restaurant was moved at first to the McDonald Douglas compound on the corniche and then to the Rashid family’s eastern Province ROC compound. It now was behind concrete barricades. Parking and access to the club was through dirt and gravel. The facility lost most of its original purpose. It was now only a restaurant. It had to be moved to an in-town location at a compound I knew very well. The owner was my friend Rashid, a Saudi architect. He had built the inn in the first place, and then had leased it to the Saudi military. Now, however, the U.S. military used it. When I saw that terrorists had bombed it in 2003, I was deeply shocked. It was an unnecessary tragedy. Seeing the bombed compound, I was reminded of the water tower I had designed that was standing in a new town (Hafer al-Battan) on the Saudi Kuwait border. During the Gulf War, I was watching TV in my home in Florida when I saw that tower. I called Christina to look at my water tower. In that very moment there was a big bang and the tower was no more.
After the war when we returned to Saudi, we realized the kingdom we had known has changed. We expected to hear that Saudis were grateful that the American armies had protected them from being occupied by a foreign dictatorship. On the contrary we heard that the Kingdom had hired and overpaid our military to be there as mercenaries to fight their war. Now we Americans had no business being there any more. This was strange. Saudi people had welcomed us when we came in 1980s, so what was happening. Christina, sensed a rising hostility. The articles in the Saudi English languish newspapers clearly demonstrated their paranoia of western culture.
The Dilemma of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The longer I am away from Saudi and reflect back upon our time and experience there, it becomes clear what was obvious, that the Saudis are the victims of their own absolutism and that foreigners entering into their context are perceived as being a lot more than they really are. As elsewhere foreigners are victims of exaggerated misconceptions. For both the native and the foreigner there is a difference between absolutism and pragmatism seeing that the Saudis see their world as stagnant and historical, while the western foreigner sees opportunity and a future. The Saudi government is different from the country’s religious organizations. That is apparent and clear. The Government is tolerant, pragmatic, comparative, and relative in digesting foreign behavior and contributions. The religious Wahabbis, on the other hand, are connotative, ambiguous, and equivocal. They see their world in absolutes while the Government sees the world in relative terms proportional and according to relative good benefit and prosperity while the opposite resist growth in favor of stagnation fearing or pretending to fear change and invasion. The two are worlds of metaphors which on one level seem disparate and antagonistic. And on many other levels are supportive, similar, the same, and even identical.
The Wahabbis start out believing that they and not God can make the difference. As Christians have long trusted in God instead of the world and its money, so the Wahabbis Moslems lean upon their guile and structure as multinational to take and maintain their share of the market through their own resources. They do not depend on anything else and they see their nation as global, multiracial, national, and even religious. It is anarchy vs. cooperation and totalitarian. It is not inclusive, relative, or compatible. It establishes it’s metaphor as an insoluble ideal and projects its identity upon others through suicide jihad as a metaphoric assertion of its being and justification for life and sovereignty. With each death, bombing, and assertion comes its proclamation of sovereignty and identification. It is the distortion of faith, and not faith as the substance of things hoped for, nor things unseen. It is that man may trust in himself with what he can bring, by his own self will deeds and acts. It is a problem for a world that works to live and let live with biblical differences and choices for each person, family, community, state, and nation. The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia clearly wants to be part of this family, but has within its own family, members who oppose this adaptation? While other nations have gone through this same dilemma, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is trying to catch up and come into the Twenty-First century in philosophy as well as technology and science. Absolutes while the Government sees the world in relative terms proportional and according to relative good, benefit, and prosperity while the opposite oppose growth in favor of stagnation fearing and or pretending to fear change invasion The two are worlds of metaphors that on one level seem disparate and antagonistic, while on other levels are supportive, similar, the same, and even identical. This work shows the many people, contexts, and values where absolutes do not collide and where metaphors are shared and supported.
I remember the early 80s. I was hired for two summer semesters to teach at the University of Oil and Mineral, UPM. It was a new beautiful campus, designed by Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott, (CRS) . It was a place students and teachers where proud. I did not get the promised permanent professorship I had hoped for. But still in the early 80s, the people were joyful, friendly, hospitable, and somewhat curious about Americans, perhaps because TV was not so widely viewed, and movie houses, theaters, and concert halls were permanently forbidden. Americans were still perceived as heroes and somewhat of a mystery. Upon our return to Saudi in the 90s we realized the people there have come of age. The atmosphere at the University of Petroleum and Mineral had turned into oil and vinegar. And the people were indifferent. Many had traveled abroad. They had one house in the U.S. and their babies there born there too. I am in Saudi Arabia because it is God’s will. Period. I also help the Saudis catch up and become part of the developed countries. That is why the new communications contract from Lucent that I got for my company was a tremendous opportunity for CDE and a big step ahead for the kingdom.
Christina and I observed the Kingdom and its people where changing. They became withdrawn, almost hostile, and fearful. I noticed long before I left KFU that most of my students had little hope for the future. I used to enjoy teaching, but lately it was a drain. At King Faisel University we used to say “Happy Easter” and “Merry Christmas.” Now it was forbidden. None of the niceties were permitted even at parties and dinners--activities Saudis love so much became very scarce. Most of the Saudis felt embarrassed about the new attitude they had to display. Relationships became strained. The Saudis where encouraged by preaching of the mullahs to stay away from the “imbeciles”—non Muslims—which dirty the country with their presence. Their angry voices screaming daily over the loudspeakers on every minaret spread heat and war that is heard over many blocks. The older Saudis knew and were grateful that the Americans had come to their Kingdom in friendship. They realized the Americans had come with a sincere desire to educate and help to build up the new land they called home. They would gladly continue doing business and just living and letting the Saudis live their own lives. But now a new generation of Saudis had been indoctrinated with the destructive ideas of their Wahabbis teachers. The up and coming Wahabbis was a fundamental Islamic group whose only desire was to gain enough power to rule the world, regardless whom they kill, hurt, or destroy along the way. Their first target was the educational system. That is why I and other Americans and non-Saudis had to leave the University. I got hit very early in the game. Then they concentrated on the government. And now they try to scare all non-Moslems.
All was apparently going very well with my work in CDE. We looked forward to starting work on the Lucent communications project that I had gotten for CDE. I knew the President of Lucent Technologies John H. from Riyadh. John contacted me years ago at Al Foadia in Riyadh to ask me to do work for his ATT compound in Riyadh. Since then we had become good friends. I love to work with him. John is one of my Christian brothers and was always very helpful. Suddenly, one morning Mohammed, the government relations’ official for the company, came with disturbing news. He informed me that there is a law that someone initially contracted by the government, as in my case, is prohibited from finding non-government employment in the kingdom. Neither the management of CDE nor I realized that this law existed or what it would take to overcome it. Every large company employs a man like Mohammed. Often that man is a relative. These men must have family and friends employed by the government so that he has a chance to be employed. These men are the caretakers of passports, visas, travel letters, and other legal matters. This was the moment Mohammed had to get into action. For weeks Mohammed used all his contacts to get my Igama changed from KFU to CDE, but without success. Finally he let my employer and I know that it was not possible to transfer the Igama, and that I now have to exit the kingdom.
When Azmi saw the situation was so complicated, he decided to terminate my contract, leaving me high and dry. I was out on a limb without a salary and without a sponsor. I stayed in the kingdom illegally, but under the protection of Al-Foadia my Employer for whom I had worked in Riyadh years before.. I usually knew how to handle that myself, but this time I got caught in a snare. All our efforts were without positive results. The fact was that I had come to the university with my one Igama and they really had no right to withhold my property. We tried every legal way, only to find it becoming very complicated. I had no choice I had to leave the country and hopefully after many months of waiting for my visa, I could finally return and resume my work--if the job was still available.
This meant I had to give up my apartment filled with books, printing machine, furniture, and telephone lines, all of which had cost thousands of dollars to acquire. Or I could keep the apartment and continue to pay the rent, and hope that all would work out so that I could return in six months or a year. The decision was easy, we simply could not afford to leave.
However, the fact was that I was in a dilemma. I could not believe that I had gotten into such a seemingly hopeless situation. It was usually not so difficult to live in the Kingdom. I prayed for wisdom. Even my friends at the American Business men’s Club could not understand how the Saudis could act that way. At the end, we all sensed Saudi Arabia had reached a turning point. It became clear that the foundation of AlQuida, the Wahabbis, are now beginning to exercise their power and force their laws into the open. While the Saudis needed the Americans and the western world to develop the Kingdom, the Wahabbis had stepped back and tolerated us. Now that the Saudi development was almost complete, the Wahabbis pushed to get us out of the country.
It became apparent I stood alone fighting a rising power that most people don’t even know exists. I called all my friends. I contacted Rashid Al-Rashid, an architect friend of mine, and the head of one of the most powerful business families in Saudi Arabia. Rashid spoke to the officials at the University to take me back. No go. I called Prince Naif’s office to get an exception. I contacted the chief of protocol at the office of Prince Mohammed of the Eastern Province. Ghazi Otaibi the former president of the University gave me a hand when I needed it. He went with me personally to his cousin in Al Khobar to get my passport; only the mayor of AlKhobar can get an exception for that to happen. I spoke to my good friend Ibrahim Dooh owner of a chain of drugstores in the Kingdom, and Ibrahim Zamil in Riyadh, nothing happened. And even Abdullah Dabbagh, who was often a dinner guest in our house when we lived in Riyadh, and who is now a top leader at the Government could not help. Nothing, Nothing, Nothing.
I contacted the diplomatic quarter government office in Riyadh. They knew me because they had considered me seriously for a contract position in the past. But even their Saudi personnel manager could not help me. I kept trying to reach the Minister who knew me well, but he was on vacation. I happened to talk to a clerk who, to my surprise, remembered me and knew that he had once before helped me coordinate meetings when I visited there. I explained my situation. He said he could help get my Igama transferred. Then I contacted Yoseph Kahn in Riyadh. I asked him to coordinate payments and get the letters and the Igama I needed. Then I asked Mohammed and Azmi to extend the deadline of my departure. And then, good news, one night at a very late hour and after so many fax and phone calls, Mr. Kahn’s courier delivered the letter and the document to my door. With the help of God, I had won the battle. I could once again legally work for CDE. I had a new, transferable Igama to go full speed a head.
It was high time, as I needed to get to work. I had run low with my finances. Bills needed to be paid. The school had to go on. But this was not all. Not working for months caused losses enough, yet there was more. My car’s engine needed to be replaced. Always when I have car trouble, I go to Thugba to Chris my Philippine car mechanic and his friends. These little genius boys can practically do miracles. They fix carburetors by taking them apart. They replace the wiring in a car, and they can fix an engine. If they do not have a replacement for a broken part they make it from scratch. All the boys in Thugba liked to see me coming. They where mostly Christians from the Philippines. They never had a day off, to go to a Bible study or church service. They worked from early morning till late at night seven days a week. So they loved to hear me talk about God. I did that all the while I was waiting for them to fix my car. They worked under a corrugated metal roof, and it was hot. The Saudi owner of the business, sitting in his easy-chair could care less what we where talking about, but sometimes he liked to listen. Soon my Buick, it was the symbol of my independence, was in tiptop shape again. I loved that big old car which had carried us safely through out the country until the day when I almost lost my live.
Some of the twists and turns from other chapters
- Drivers cutting across three or four lanes of traffic to exit off highways or at intersections at red light. One must expect driver from far left or far right to cut across all lanes of traffic to make the left or right turn. Also, young teens circle four corners late at night like a race track on only two wheels. Suicidal driving can especially be seen during a Shammal (northern winds) on the highway connecting Riyadh to Eastern Province as drivers exceed 100 mph in zero visibility. One can see many vehicles with tails up in the air or submersed in sand with only rood tops showing. In 1982, I saw the dead bodies of a family of five strewn over the highway leading from Khobar to Sunset Beach where the huge Cadillac obviously had hit the concrete divider and turned over many times killing the entire family. During the early years, the highway authority left the broken cars on the sides of the road to warn drivers to drive safely. Death by auto was one of the highest causes of fatalities in the kingdom and my King Faisal University students.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona is secretive and hides where women wear veils and all the men dress in white thobs. Bank accounts and net worth are not transparent and kept very private. The result is an unreliable and weak lending and investment community without recourse to claim, lien property, estate, etc.
- · Michael S. was a Maroon Christian Lebanese in Riyadh. He later relocated his offices into our Aruba villa and was the Carrier representative for the Kingdom. He was also involved in shipments of military vehicles into Iraq. Bob Vinton came to work for Michael. Bob was taken hostage in Iraq and we saw him on TV on CNN from the United States of America. We visited Michael at his lavish Alakariah penthouse apartment in Riyadh. Six months later, we got a call from Michael that Bob had died of a heart attack at his home in Santa Fe. Bob was one of my best friends and co-worker at Arieb in Riyadh.
- · After hitting me with his car from the rear, an army lieutenant and I were taken by police heading for the jail. After some discussion in Arabic, I was released in the middle of the Riyadh city desert while the lieutenant was taken to prison. After some negotiations, he agreed to pay for repairs of my car. Some time went by and after a while, he pleased for release before the work on the car was complete promising to make good. I agreed and he was never to be found again and I had to complete the work at my own expense. Because it was his fault, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia auto insurance would not pay for any of the expense. The drama was the way he hit me in the rear; he tailed me on a route I used daily to go to work. I pulled over to let to let him pass he went behind me; I pulled to the right he changed lanes and went behind me this repeated so many times until he raced his engine and slammed into may car with such a force that it propelled my car so that I was able to just make it to my usual parking space. Immediately I entered my building where I worked for the Ministry of the Interior police, Captain Saad immediately dispensed his men to bring in the lieutenant, and then they called the civil police. The irony to all this was working for a state military organization which let me fend for myself and gave me very little advice and suggestions. Even visiting him in prison, I had no one to help me.
- · Rocky Horror Picture show live performance in Riyadh performed by western English and American players on a compound. It was very risqué and a surprise of daring and confrontation. There were neither raids nor reprisals. This theatrical group did many musicals, plays as well as symphony and choirs.
- · I prevented our house boy Sunan from committing suicide with our big kitchen knife in his room one evening. He had driven me to a dinner with US Ambassador Walter Cutler meeting at his home then in the center of Riyadh. When Sunan came to pick me up, he was late and drunk. He drove badly and after a lot of insisting finally surrendered the wheel to me. He went to his room. I later went to him and it was there that he had words with me and took the knife to himself. I wrestled with great strength and effort to separate him from the knife. That night I called Khalid El-Seif’s Uncle Farouq Arabi and had Sunan removed from our home. Sunan continued to work for the El-Seif family and we never saw him again.
- · Tanzanian workers not paid for over six months and stranded in there labor camp with our t food nor airline tickets to return home. They all face imprisonment upon return to Tanzania because they borrowed the money to pay agents fees and cannot repay the money because Saudi employer did not honor the contract.
- · Michael M. was arrested and jailed for three days and nights for stopping at a blinking yellow light on a deserted avenue in Riyadh. He had just returned from his holiday and since my car was not available, he drove me home. When he stopped, I urged him to "go: go, go …go” I said but he froze. A policeman appeared from no where and arrested him. I took the car, followed, and got the US embassy and our company to intervene, but to no avail. After paying the full fine and serving the full three day term, he was released. We learned there is little the US government can or will do in such situations.
King Faisal University Period
- · On a visit by our ABLE team to the McDonald Douglas compound on the corniche in AlKhobar in a gift shop we found derogatory defamatory trinkets, statues figures and gifts meant to jeer, defame, and cast dispersions of Saudis. We were appalled. Our ABLE team was constituted as a result Lt. Cor. Cornthwaith after the Khobar bombing who requested I gather several certified and registered counselors specializing in trauma to prepare for the next possible strike by terrorists. Before departing for alKharj Cornthwaith told me that the first time shame on you the second time shame on us and he was doing everything he could to prepare to prevent the next attack. But if it should come, the councilors would be ready. As it turned out our team was very much in demand for the affects of the Khobar Tower bombing on US and European civilian moral. He also told me that our team was registered with central command for possible future deployment.
- · Khobar towers bombing took place about two miles from our apartment in the bin Jumah building while Christina was out of the kingdom. I had heard a thud and checked to find a clear sky of a beautiful evening. Later that evening Christina phoned to give the news of what happened. Later that day I drove to find the site but could not. It was at a building a passed a thousand time to go to Thugba to fix my car. The next day One of my Kingdom of Saudi Arabia colleagues escorted me to the site. Later that day Lt Col Cornthwaith contacted me and we toured the carnage. He told me that the broken glass caused the most fatalities. Later Ishteeaque and the American Institute of Architects studied the structural and architectural construction of the towers with the cooperation of the Mayor of AlKhobar who was a King Faisal University former student and member of my architects group.
- · After conferring American Institute of Architects mid east its’ chapter status the American Institute of Architects withdrew AIA/ME chapter status and we reformed as AIG/ME getting it approved by Prince Mohammed and the Saudi Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce. It was with the encouragement and endorsement of Dean Abdul Aziz Saati and many other prominent Saudis that we started the chapter. These include a member of Sharia Court and author Zuhair H. Fayez and Dr. Sami Angawi who recently met in Jeddah with US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen P. Hughes. Angawi assessed meeting as successful while other Saudi women thought otherwise as being presumptive and insensitive. As other meetings, we had with employed and working Kingdom of Saudi Arabia professionals /Kingdom of Saudi Arabia women are rebellious and tenacious, self sufficient and resist intervention and control. They are different form my female King Faisal University students. And of course as professor, my relationship with my female students was different from a visiting foreign government dignitary. The Saudis knew my record and that I was there to serve and grow there people and county. My record is clear.
- · Attending the majalis of Prince Mohammed in the gargantuan royal hall at the Dammam Royal Palace as part of the US delegation with the dignitaries of the military and all the sheiks in there large and flowing black, brown and white capes. The red carpet lay diagonally across the hall and when the prince and his entourage entered I was the first to be escorted to him to be embraced and return embrace and kiss and be kissed by the prince. Since he had approved our American Institute of Architects meetings, it was an especially warm and welcome moment. I remember the people and hall reminding me of the halls in heaven which I will be with the “Lamb of God”. The scale and pomp of this was monumental.
- I can assure you all was as it should be!