Silk-garments, a convoy of riches and a charismatic smile, King Salman waves his hand, seemingly an innocuous old man, representing a kingdom which has been called “close allies of the US” by President Reagan. His cars, glistening in the desert sun, and his several sons, sporting expensive sunglasses and traditional Arabic hats, give the impression that a beautiful blend of the Oriental and the Western is embodied here. Indeed, it does seem that they are our allies. Yet, something is rumbling beneath the house of Saud. Tortured screams, bloodied swords and hysterical faces are pushing up against its green glass floor, just about ready to burst out and shower the world with the red truth of Saudi-Arabia.
But this is of no consequence to the newly founded royal house. They sweep their long white dresses around, smiling as they walk towards their western guest delegates from the US. The Americans congratulate the family’s admission into the Women’s commission, and the sentiments of tolerance and equality leave the lips of King Salman. Yet, his heart reflects no love for women. In its old caverns, one finds philosophies as old as the desert tribesmen whom the Prophet Muhammad attempted to enlighten; For the flogging of women is a practice which links King Salman and his royal ancestors through time, keeping him in touch with the unforgiving nature of their motherland.
The king enthusiastically asks his guests to follow him on a tour of the royal palace. The ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ are endless, as great sculptures and paintings reveal great men donning curved swords, seated upon the backs of colourfully decorated camels. The rich history of Saudi-Arabia is truly embodied in these works of great artists. But the harshness of their cold stone speaks of a cruelty, a cruelty which is not properly visible to the westerners. Although the sculptor of this great work surely deserves to have his work displayed in this magnificent golden hall, one can’t help but wonder about the other many splendid artists in this great land. For as one can expect, artists do indeed let their creativity flow, and for anything which leaves their minds to be manifested in painting, stone and notes. What other great artworks can be found in the small shops of Saudi-Arabia? But the cold, rough stone and empty eyes of the stone-colossus reveal nothing.
King-Salman encourages his guests to follow him and brings them into his very own personal chambers. Here, the white silk of his dress is beautifully offset by golden pillars, fountains of fruit and dates, and paintings of ambitious generals of the past. In the very middle of the room, on the meeting point of the various shapes which swirl over the rich carpet, stands a woman dressed fully in black. A tiny slit in her dress reveals a sliver of two dark-hazel eyes. King Salman brightens upon seeing her and walks past tables of mahogany and gold as if they were of no worth. He walks up to his sweetheart and puts a tender hand on her shoulder. With pride emanating from his homely smile, he presents his first wife to his guests. As the Queen and the guests exchange pleasantries, King Salman watches her with contentment. But the true sentiments behind his joy is not something the King would ever share with a Western person. For it is not pride over his wife’s beauty, or the riches of his life that she represents which gratify him.
Rather, the secret pleasure of the King emanates from her Silence. It is what he calls the Great Saudi-Arabian Silence, and it embodies a wealth that few men have known. It is the silence of the crowd, as a head rolls down the sand dunes. It is the silence of the woman who accepts beating after beating from her husband. It is the silence of a young artist, who knows only of his crime that he is to be hanged. It is the silence, not of speech, but of honesty, when the King speaks of tolerance and equality as if these are old and well-known concepts to him. It is not oil, but The Great Saudi-Arabian Silence which is the true source of King Salman’s wealth – and he delights in it more than a lion does in flesh.