through my papers, I found a visa issued to my father in
1929 by the U.S. Consul in Baghdad. What intrigues me is
how he managed to make the trip from Beirut to New York
with no language skills other than Arabic. Once in the U.S.
he had no difficulty as he was guided by his younger brother,
Saul, whom he had sent to New York a few years earlier to
manage the business office he had opened there.
far as I can remember, he was a seasoned traveller. In his
youth he covered the eastern coast of Arabia, with his father,
on numerous trading voyages. They must have felt safe enough
to make these trips. I recall his telling me that he once
was asked by a local Sheikh to convert to Islam, as he,
the Sheikh, wished to adopt him. He, of course, declined
the offer and remained on excellent terms with them, particularly
with Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah, the founder of the present
ruling clan of Kuwait, who had neutralised his brothers
in order to retain the "Emirate" in his own line.
the First World War, my father moved the family to Kuwait
where he was, obviously, very much at ease. My mother became
a close friend of the Sheikhs favourite wife, Um Saoud.
Among the stories I remember is the one about Um Saoud telling
my mother that she remembers being kidnapped, as a child,
while she was playing in the street in a big city whose
name she could not remember. She was brought up by her kidnappers
and somehow ended up in Kuwait. Judging by the "European"
features of her children, she was, probably from the Balkans.
We remained friends with the Sabahs until the recent events
made it difficult.
friendly relations between Moslems and Jews, was the norm
until recent events soured them. I remember when I was returning
from school in India in 1943, the ship I was on stopped
in Bahrain to pick up the ruler, Sheikh al-Khalifa, who
was on his way to Kuwait. Since I was the only Arabic speaking
passenger on a British boat, I spent a lot of time talking
to him. He showed what I can only call keen and all but
fatherly interest in my studies and future plans. Once in
Kuwait, Sheikh Fahad al Sabah, who was a close friend of
my family, came on board to receive his visitor. I asked
permission to take a picture of them, and they kindly posed
for one. I find it very sad that such good relations had
to end in the present bitterness.
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