Saudi Arabia/Pakistan: When American Bedu Realized She and Her Prince Were Entering into a Relationship

 

Going on the positive comments I have received in response to the posts I have written about Abdullah and I, I am continuing to share more experiences about our life.  This post captures my thoughts when I realized that Abdullah and I were actually in a courtship.  It was no more of us being friendly diplomats who ran in the same circles and routinely saw each other.  It was starting to become clearer that both of us were developing feelings that went deeper than a casual friendship…

Islamabad, Pakistan

2000

I realized Abdullah and I were beginning a courtship one weekend when he called me at seven o’clock in the morning wanting to know if I was up.  I had worked late night the previous evening so I was not as diplomatic with him as I could have been and simply responded, “Well I am now.” He replied, “Good.  I’m on my way over with breakfast.” When he said he was coming with breakfast I had no idea it meant five bags of groceries which included two dozen eggs, tomatoes, onions, fresh cilantro, freshly squeezed orange juice, bread, cheese and honey.  We prepared the breakfast together in my kitchen.  My kitchen was spacious as far as Pakistani kitchens go.  It was a long and narrow room with old linoleum flooring.  I had a full size refrigerator and a separate freezer unlike a typical Pakistani who may only have a small refrigerator/freezer combo.  One side of the narrow kitchen had a long countertop with cabinets above and below.  The other side of the kitchen housed the double sinks and a large gas stove.  In the center of the kitchen was a small narrow wooden table and matching wooden stool which was ideal for using to prepare meals.  

Abdullah brought the fixings for the breakfast but I quickly realized that he was not a practiced cook.  As I watched him attempt to chop an onion without first removing its outer coating, I suggested that he sit up on the kitchen countertop while I sat at the wooden stool and took over.  We chatted together in a relaxed manner as I chopped the onions, green peppers, cilantro and tomatoes.  Abdullah then instructed me on how to make scrambled eggs ‘Saudi style’ which he informed me was called ‘shashooka.’

Under Abdullah’s supervision, I put some oil into a skillet and tossed in the onions and green peppers, coating them lightly with salt and pepper.  As the aromatic smell of frying onions and peppers permeated the kitchen, Abdullah had me add the tomatoes to the mix.  As the tomatoes sizzled, Abdullah cracked the fresh eggs one by one into a large bowl.  He added milk and using a whisk, beat the eggs until there was a frothy yellow mixture in the bowl.  The eggs were then poured in with the vegetable mixture.  I took over at the stove being as I was the most familiar with it.  While the eggs scrambled, Abdullah got small plates out of the kitchen cupboards and filled the plates with dollops of honey, white creamy cheese and long flat naan bread which had been freshly made.  Just before the scrambled eggs were fully cooked, Abdullah had me toss the chopped cilantro into the pan, adding that final tasty ingredient.

     I put the scrambled egg mixture onto a large serving plate.  Together Abdullah and I carried the breakfast into the dining room, which was adjacent to the kitchen.  Due to my representational duties as a diplomat which meant I had official responsibilities to entertain, the dining room was one of the larger rooms in my house.  The dining room set was from Ethan Allen and had been shipped from America to Pakistan.  The dark cherry wood table comfortably sat twelve.  There was a matching oversize china cabinet and a side buffet.  I had purchased a 12 x 20 foot deep cherry red, black and white Bukhara Afghan carpet which contrasted nicely with the dining room set.  A white tablecloth with hand embroidered flowers at each corner and down the center adorned the table.

Abdullah and I sat at one end of the long table.  He sat at the head of the table at my insistence and I chose to sit in a chair to his left.  It was a cozy setting.  Our seating arrangement allowed both of us to gaze out the large picture window of my dining room onto my back terrace.  I had an aviary on the back terrace which contained some of the local and colorful birds.  My aviary had small brilliant green parrots, green and red lovebirds, yellow canaries and white and yellow cockatiels.  We ate our breakfast to the background accompaniment of the musical sounds made by the birds.  

We had an enjoyable time chatting as we ate our breakfast.  Since the day was still young, we decided it would be nice to take a hike in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills before the weather became too hot. The Margalla Hills are the foothills of the Himalayas and located just outside of Islamabad.  At the base of the hills outside of Islamabad are a series of footpaths and hiking trails one can follow.  Each path is marked identifying the level of difficulty and amount of time estimated to hike the entire trail.  Many of Islamabad’s residents liked to hike the Margalla Hills on weekends and especially in the morning before the rising heat made it unbearable to exert oneself with strenuous physical activity. Not only was hiking the hills great exercise but very scenic too.  The Margalla Hills were home to many different kind of foliage which attracted a wide variety of birds.  Some of the trees had narrow trunks with lush green leaves sprouting from branches.  Other trees were more like fat squat bushes and only five feet high.  The trails themselves were a combination of uneven hard dirt or in some places were made up of large stepping stones.  Hiking was a mutual interest Abdullah and I shared and enjoyed together in Pakistan.

     I was discovering that I was drawn to Abdullah.  He was always a gentleman yet I sensed if I had given him an indication that I wanted a relationship with him, he would be receptive.  I was torn.  On one hand, I had never felt so comfortable and quickly at ease with an individual, which surprised me given the differences in our countries and cultures.  I was aware that Saudi men had a reputation for being chauvinistic and controlling but I had not sensed or seen any evidence of this in Abdullah.  Yet if I were to get romantically involved with Abdullah, our romance would have few secrets from my employer.  I would be required to document our contacts to include any romantic developments. I was not sure if I was ready to subject myself to that kind of scrutiny.

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10 Responses

  1. I always hated making out contact reports! A necessary evil, true, but still, a PIA at times.

  2. The older I get and the more I learn how are goverments generally bollok up things, the more I am convinced that any secrecy at all is a bad thing. There are many things that if American Citizens knew about them, there would be quite a thrashing in store for someone. I am happy that you had good years with him. I have always wondered if you ever wore Hijab or Niqab either for him or to make things smoother?

  3. This is such a sweet story. My husband’s family makes shushuka too but with eggs cooked sunnyside up in the tomato and onion sauce. It looks lovely and tastes even better. We add a touch of cumin and cinnamon to the sauce and substitute parsley for coriander.

  4. Really beautiful. I love reading about Pakistan and Islamabad in your blogs. I love the part about how you feel about this relationship. And surely I ll try the recipe… Well written.

  5. Carol, wow it’s a small world after all! I was in Islamabad just last month to visit my fiancee who works at the embassy.

    He took me to the Murrey resort where we spent a couple of days. It was so gorgeous. My fiancee told me that it is part of Pakistani Kashmere. We visited the only govt sanctioned brewery which caters mainly to westerners with some minimal exports. Murrey Beer tasted almost like Heineken, which is my favorite.

    Our courtship has followed the same path (more or less) as your’s and Abdullah’s :)-

  6. @Gwen – I wore a hijjab when it was appropriate to do so as my preference was to not cover. I also wore a niqab a few times and disliked it. I wrote about that experience in a blog posting several years ago.

    @Kinz – I heard of sunny side up eggs in shashooka but never tried it. Your recipe sounds delicious and I’ll have to try it out!

    @Salma – Glad you enjoyed the post.

    @Rosemary – It is a small world! Murree is a wonderful place and easy drive from Islamabad.

    I lived in Pakistan at two different periods and loved both times. I could easily go on and on about all that I enjoyed there!

  7. Please, more! I was settling in to read it when it ended. How did you know?
    Best wishes,
    ness

  8. Thanks, Ness! Okay…I’ll write up some more!

  9. @American Bedu: I wore Hijab always and I felt secure. In America, only once did I have anyone get nasty because of it. I found smile and openness bridged the gap, and think that often Muslim women have trouble in America when, to the person they meet, they are not friendly. It’s an unfortunate cultural problem. Actually, in America, people very often got hostile if I wore Niqab. Americans are pretty culturally ignorant, woefully so.

  10. […] was a strange but exhilarating feeling to return to the same country where our relationship had started.   I left Pakistan the first time in 2001 wondering if Abdullah and I were really […]

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