By Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko – MD
As I came out of the female quarters of the complex, they offered me a chair in the sprawling hall, in an ante-room to the Prince’s main hall. After sitting for an hour, and seeing nothing happen, I dared ask, where His Majesty could be, thinking he would like to know there and then what the injury, in my opinion, was, and what to do.
He is asleep, came the answer from one of the waiters matter-of-factly. I drove home via the hospital trying to digest the princely manner of exerting influence, or having influence exerted on his behalf.
The X-ray was taken one week later, and it was normal. But, just after having listened to all that, there came this addition: “His Majesty came to my office about a month later to thank me for having come to take care of his auntie. I must have been the envy of the doctors’ corps that day. The Prince of Makkah had come to see the Head of the Neurosurgical Unit, and to say thank you! Wow! Something additional for my CV, and there was no doubt about it.
Encounters with some princes, at the King Fahd Teaching Hospital in Jeddah were few and far between involving me, and that included another encounter with the Crown Prince, Abdallah, who was then Crown Prince as well as Regent, in those days when the health of the late King Fahd was not in its best form.
The Crown Prince was formal, and friendly. This was in contradiction to what was rumoured about, that he was tough, and did not tolerate any nonsense! The interpretations were many and varied.
One version went that King Fahd had been liberal, and too much leaning to the West. That implied he would bend towards America, if…, and not to Great Britain, which enjoyed a diplomatic shield, age-old, which favoured trade, or its preference of/to Britain.
Rolls Royce, in all its branches/types: limousines, and stretch vehicles for the royals, as well as the rich and famous, and the two groups were in Saudi Arabia, practically, one and the same thing.
Rolls/Royce sold turbine engines for all sorts of purposes, including the pumping of oil out of the subterranean layers. Talk of military might, then it was America. But, in this wise, there were distinctions.
Saudi Arabia hated America in connection with allegedly, America’s blind support for ISRAEL, but did draw confidence in/of America’s shield, or big wing, when anyone would try to bully the crown state. That came to the surface, when, in the 90s, the late Saddam Hussein (then Dictator of Iraq), tried to swallow Saudi Arabia after having invaded Kuwait, and triggering the Gulf War, which the US President, G.W. Bush Sr., led and won.
President Saddam Hussein, the Dictator of Iraq, stayed in power nevertheless. The late dessert General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the US-led forces, was ordered by the Supreme Commander, and of course, the US President, George Bush Snr, not to march to Bagdad, after removing Saddam’s troops out of Kuwait.
There was clearly an ambivalent relationship between Jeddah (later Riyadh) and Washington D.C., that way. Anyhow, some rumour held that Prince Abdullah was determined to discipline the Americans when he became King. It was only a rumour. He was to impose the strict form of Islam, “WAHABISM”, which, in this context, one could equate with strict Sharia law.
The story came to be different when he became Regent to his elder brother from his dad’s side. Just be reminded that in Saudi Arabia all the kings, from Muhammad, King Faisal’s elder brother (King Saud’s eldest son), was forced by his own brothers (his father’s sons) to abdicate.
These were sons of the 1st Saudi King, Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who reigned from 1932 until his natural death in 1957. He did not show any sign of a tough stance towards America, as expected.
The rumour continued among young Saudi intellectuals that it would not be wise, so to do. Indeed, the Crown Prince visited some nations in the mid-nineties, by starting with, or from America, The Peoples’ Republic of China, and then some relevant European countries in that order.
Those who knew about the rumour, had to wait endlessly to see the pledge put into practice. One girl, whom Prince Abdallah visited one day at the King Fahd Hospital, Jiddah, as a patient had sustained multiple injuries, and was admitted as a joint patient (Orthopedic and Neurosurgical injuries), and, therefore, a joint case for the management, i.e., joint action between Neurosurgery and Orthopedic.
On the impact of the accident, leading to her injuries, the girl had sustained fractures, among others, of the right lower limb. The Orthopedic Surgeon, a British citizen of African origin, had first seen the patient at the casualty lounge, and had written down his notes, which went like this: “His Majesty’s chauffeur-driven vehicle, in attempting to avoid a major danger, hit the young pedestrian.”
He, the Orthopedic Surgeon, was pressurised by his Head of Department to alter the statement immediately to read like this: “The young pedestrian, in an attempt to avoid an impending danger, veered off the side-lane, and in the process hit His Majesty’s limousine.”
I doubt if anybody would have any difficulty in following the need for the change of the Orthopedic Surgeon’s notes. Now and again, I pondered over the events that day. Different worlds, different manners.
What was very true also, ON THIS OTHER DAY, was that the Prince was extremely friendly! Nobody believed he had any animosity towards any culture, or religion which was different from Islam.
In some of his tours of the world as Crown Prince and Regent, he was seen in Western attires, which did show he might have had a hard time getting used to entering a three-piece-suit.
This, again, was another illustration of the danger in believing freely all that might hit one’s ear drum.
(To be continued)