I went out with Michael yesterday and we went by the Christian bookstore since I had a 33% off coupon due to it being President's Day. I purchased "Tea With Hezbollah" which recounts Ted Dekker's and Carl Medearis' journey through parts of the Middle East. Late last month I watched a webcast featuring these men along with former SC governor David Beasley. They held a Q&A session in Colorado. Samer and Andrew saw it as well and urged me to buy the book. "So you can read it to me," Samer explained. Sooooo that's what happened yesterday. I bought the book and read the first 44 pages to him.
I thought I might jot down a few things that either stood out to me, to him or things we discussed briefly while I was reading.
Ted mentioned a lovely place - a private resort area - in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia where one would never know they were in KSA. He said you could find about anything and listed some examples. "Women in bikinis in Saudi Arabia?" Samer questioned with surprise. I was suspect of Ted's assessment that women truly ruled in that country. He said while men seemed to rule the streets since women were not seen there as much, he stated that most things were done inside and that's where women ruled. My opinion is that Ted met some powerful women in KSA, but I don't know that they represent the vast majority. Perhaps, but I've read quite a bit on blogs and never got that impression. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. It often is.
When Ted talked about going through security at the airport in Saudi Arabia, he wondered why the guard wouldn't allow him through. Finally Carl translated the gesture and said the man wanted money. So Ted gave him some and the man wanted more so Ted gave him all that he had in his wallet. Ted wondered if he looked the part of the naive rich Westerner. Samer shook his head at this although it was familiar with him as his hometown friends had also had to pay bribes when traveling to KSA for various reasons. Samer said there is hadith about paying bribes and asking for them and neither is good. I think people believe Saudis should not be so anti-Islam since some of them often hold themselves higher than others because KSA is the land of the holy mosques and such things.
While they were in Egypt, Ted mentioned meeting a boat captain who longed to marry, but even at age fifty he wasn't rich enough to build/buy a house which seemed to be the requirement for marrying. Ted felt sad for him and the overwhelming poverty in Cairo. By contrast the places he visited in Saudi Arabia were niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.
Mohammed the Egyptian mentioned above was asked his impression of America and Ted said this was the sentiments of nearly every layperson they spoke with during their trip. Mohammed said, "America is controlling the whole world. They treat no one fairly, and if I told you anything else, I would be lying." (pg. 20) Samer agreed that this was truly the average thought in the Arab world about the United States.
Ted mentioned their meeting the vice president of the University of Al-Azhar and how that university was "the world's undisputed think tank for Islamic theology, particularly among the Sunni, who account for roughly 85 percent of all Muslims." He said, "when Al-Azhar speaks, the world of Islam listens...with rapt attention." (pg. 14) The thing is, Samer disputed this. He said Al-Azhar has in recent years become more influenced by the corrupt Egyptian government so a lot of people didn't give the university the attention they enjoyed in the past. Apparently Egypt is building a wall between them and the Gazans and while most imams and Arabs dispute this, Al-Azhar came out in favor of it so that even an Egyptian imam in Germany recently mentioned this horrible Al-Azhar ruling in his Friday sermon. So maybe Ted over-estimated the importance of Al-Azhar these days and maybe this university isn't the bastion of admirable Islamic thought as they once were.
Other things of note to me -- how the price of wheat in the US was blamed for the starvation in Egypt, Samir's laughing comment about there is little planning in the Middle East, how the Arabs believed Americans thought of them.
If anyone has any questions or comments about these notes, feel free to ask.