Ever wonder what it would be like to visit a Saudi businessman’s farm house? Me neither. Let me tell you a story…
In the middle of the dusty desert, there is an oasis. As you and your companions voyage to this place of respite, you know something will be there to quench your thirst, rest your achy bones, and fill your empty belly, but you expect nothing more than a break from the elements. You travel down a dirt road several miles from the highway, past Bedouins, past camels, past unexplainable piles of used tires. Your eyes are weary of old sights and are eager to see something new. There are only so many shades of tan and brown that can color a landscape before it becomes a vision of God’s lazy expression. As you approach the large gates, men in white thobes and red headdresses open the doors and wave you through.
Suddenly the picture changes.
Generous green trees form a kind of tunnel overhead and shade your path. They lead you for a while along with large carousel horses posed intermittently and in varying stances. Some are lying down, regal and relaxed, some bucking, leaping, and dancing. Occasionally a mother and foal watch as you pass by. Then with the kind of attention seeking for which they are known, bright faced yellow sunflowers spring out here and there to say “look at me!” Well look at you.
At the end of the road, large marble houses with Arabic calligraphy scrawled on the walls meet you around the corner. You crane your neck to try and comprehend this wonderland. Luxury off road vehicles sit to the side waiting for their moment of glory in the wild.
A man with dark eyes and a black robe greets you at the door with confidence and benevolence. He ushers you inside where he plans to shower you with attention and hospitality until the day is done. One room after the next is as large and ostentatious as a five star hotel lobby. Lush rugs, pillows, couches, displays of cascading fresh fruits, baskets of chips and cookies and candies, fresh pastries, and attendants bringing Arabic coffee, cappuccinos, and tea. In the corner, two cooks work with a wood fire oven, pulling out fresh pizzas and calzones. You are invited to relax and enjoy the home.
He notices you have children, out come fifteen nannies – three for each child. A pillow fight ensues amongst them. You wonder how this place could be real.
An incomplete tour of the home reveals three GIANT sitting rooms each the size of a gymnasium; a large banquet hall; a guest quarters with fifteen hotel rooms, common room, and bar; an entertainment room complete with a stage, dancing floor, dining tables and chairs, and balcony seating to overlook it all; another guest quarters with multiple floors and innumerable suites; fifty single wide trailer homes from the Gulf war, most in original condition; and finally an indoor wave pool with a 3D ceiling of birds, dolphins, shellfish, and a vintage disco ball “like the one from Saturday Night Fever.”
And since this is a farm house – duh – your host wants to show you his farm. Your group piles into the waiting SUVs and caravans into the desert to view the greenhouses, shooting range, another home where people are gathered playing cards, camels, and ostriches, and to go digging in the desert for faga, a Saudi truffle.
Upon returning from the excursion, your host has arranged for lunch. He leads you into the banquet hall where at least ten chefs from around the world are preparing their regional cuisine: Middle Eastern, French, Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese. With so much to choose from, you try to eat it all but there is no way. Asparagus soup, smoked salmon, peking duck, shrimp tempura, chicken in mushroom cream sauce, roast beef, beef tenderloin with blue cheese, warm bread. They bring over the fresh faga cooked with rice and lamb. You eat until you can’t eat anymore – and then you head for dessert. Chocolate mousse, oum ali with rose water, tiramisu, crème brulee, éclairs, cream puffs, carrot cake, chocolate bomb cakes with Chantilly cream, a designated chef for making fresh crepes, and fresh from the oven orange and chocolate soufflés with vanilla ice cream. It is the most extravagant meal and you don’t want to leave. You attempt to grow a second stomach so you can go back for more.
Some of your companions have to move on and continue their journey back to the desert. Your group is more reluctant to say goodbye. The host senses the hesitation and eagerly exploits it by offering you hookah in the garden while the sun sets and a fire dance after it gets dark. Neither disappoints.
Finally it is time to be on your way, you have delayed your departure long enough. You decline invitations to stay in the hotel rooms because, alas, your journey cannot wait any longer. They load down your van with gifts of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and bell peppers. Your host hands you a box of miswak to chew on as you leave, something to savor the glow. And as you wave goodbye, fireworks explode in the sky, following you as you head down that tree-lined horse-guided path back to the entrance.
Laughing hysterically, you wonder what was this place? And as you continue on further into the desert you think maybe it was a mirage…
Nope. You have pictures. 🙂