At a get-together, this past weekend to celebrate the dawn of the New Year, a group of multinationals were actively socialising along with discussing the events of the day.
The recently concluded World Cup in all its glory was a primary subject as was the economic recession being felt in most countries.
As each one chatted away mindlessly, a question was posed to the gathering that asked for those little trivial items that have evolved since the turn of the new century here in Jeddah that may have brought some measure of comfort to the individual members of the group.
“Mobile phones,” cried out Irene, a victim of a long-standing and yet-to-be ratified application for a land phone line. At least for now, she did not feel cut off from the rest of the world, and her dear mother back in the US.
“Cinemas and Virgin bookstore,” yelled out Wilfredo, a Filipino from Cebu. It was a joy for him to spend an evening at the movies or perusing at the bookstore over the goodies there and purchasing large quantities of greeting cards for his family. That drew several nods of assent from the group.
Deli section at a popular supermarket
Andrea, a Greek, ventured to add that the produce and deli section at a popular supermarket brought her great joy, and she would spend a good deal of time sampling the various delicacies from all corners of the world before making her purchase.
The selection was enormous and far more appealing than even at the deli in Selfridges of London. Judging by her slim build, one would imagine that she took small portions of each delicacy.
“Air-conditioned mosques,” blurted Ismail. He remembered the days of stifling heat of yesteryears. Especially during the congregation for Friday prayers, when the mosque he attended was packed to overflowing.
“Women driving and drive-thru restaurants,” added Marcelle, the lone Frenchwoman in the crowd. No longer did she have to wait around for a driver to cart all of her and her kids. This way, she made it through the driveway for convenience.
“ATM machines’” said Karim, a Tunisian. Many nodded their heads at how convenient it has become to spend or send money, just by visiting one of these machines.
“E-mail, and communications in general,” piped in Marriam who dutifully keeps in touch with her family somewhere in South America.
“NFL streaming football on ESPN,” growled Robert, an African-American, whose physique took the form of a professional linebacker or boxer.
“Cricket on Ten Sports,” uttered Amjad, a Pakistani noted. He was a diehard supporter in spite of the recent drubbing his team suffered under the English squad.
“The resorts on the Red Sea,” declared Pasquale, a native of landlocked Milan. It gave him a chance to work on his windsurfing and his tan.
Drive and fishing on the Corniche
“A drive and fishing on the Corniche,” added Hani, a rotund Jordanian. Following the massive developments sweeping Jeddah’s coastline, it afforded him a place to clear his head of muddled thoughts, as he surveyed the serene and soothing view.
“The hamburgers at Happy Days”, squeaked Lillian, a shy Venezuelan. Besides, they had a great Mexican menu, she added timidly. A couple of nasty glances from Fuddruckers’s die-hards in the group forced her to sink deeper into the large couch.
Yes indeed, these were among the many areas of comfort and conveniences brought by changes since the beginning of the new century but most of those folks there that evening felt that was not enough. They clamoured for more.
I reminded them of an old Persian proverb that went something like this; I had no shoes, therefore I wept. Until I saw a man with no feet.
Happy New Year!
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena