My family is conservative. Perhaps, because of the environment in which we live. The people of Al-Qassim are known for their religious commitment. To the point of exaggeration sometimes.
I have always tried to convince my parents to travel to one of our neighbouring Gulf countries or even to Turkey where they can watch some of the distant Islamic monuments. But my father refused firmly. Traveling abroad for him, was such a big and unacceptable thing. So, You can imagine my happiness when he agreed for the first time to accompany me for a few days on a trip outside the Saudi border, all the way to Oman!
From the Saudi-UAE border, we sought the city of Abu Dhabi to pray at the Grand Mosque. Then we drove to Al Ain where we crossed the borders to the Omani province Ibri.
All along the way, my father did not stop praying that Allah may protect us and keep us away from any evil we may encounter in those foreign lands.
We passed through the valley of “Wadi Dum” where we enjoyed a mountain hike for about twenty minutes. We also had the opportunity to swim in the clear ponds formed by the rain on our route to Jebel Shams - the Mountain of the Sun - where I intended to take my father to a resort up the peak. The mountainous road was a great challenge for him. He seemed so worried that he kept alerting me all the way and warning me of the dangers of falling off the suspended road.
We saw a sedan car that was climbing the road very slowly. I was amazed at the presence of such a small car that is not qualified to climb such a rugged slope. The car pulled close to us and out came a man with European features accompanied by a friend.
I saluted him and complimented his excellence in driving such a vehicle up this altitude. "I did not know the road is that difficult or else I would have rented a different car," he said. “This is my first time in Oman and in the Middle East in general. I came with my friend to live an Arabian camping experience."
He was talking me while ideas were racing in my mind: “Could this be an opportunity for my father to see a world even wider than what I arranged for him!”
I invite them to share our Arabic dinner and coffee. They sat with us around the fire and shortly after we recognised that we spent for than five hours talking. We are all enjoying ourselves, and first of all my was father, who was just a few ours ago quite wary of allowing me to invite them.
None of them spoke the language of the other. And there I was in the middle, trying to bridge the gaps of language, culture and logic.
The two sides were racing to ask questions about everything. The Europeans were impressed with the simplicity of our attitude and un-curbed answers. They asked more about marriage, selling and buying, women, education, politics and social life. Which encouraged my father to manifest more of the teachings of our religion and the identity we hold dear.
I went with my father to a corner to perform the dawn prayer. After that, we shared our Qassimi and coffee with our new friends.
We said Goodbye while I am wondering how did Allah bring them to this place from the far end of the earth, so my father would spend with them his first experience abroad after 75 years he never laid foot outside the Saudi borders!
Whenever I remember this story I think of verse from surat Al-Hujurat [49:13] in Al-Quran that says: "We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other."
Since then I visited Oman with my father four times .. Do you believe that he asks me to travel every year now?!