I received two letters -- not just one -- in response to this column from Mrs. Leila al-Nuamani Ali Rida about her Jeddah memoirs. It seems that Beirut, where our previous compatriot came from, no longer means to her what Jeddah does, the city where she spent her youth, gave birth to her children, and currently rejoices in her presence near her grandchildren and loved ones.
In her second letter, Mrs. al-Nuamani says: “In response to your article published on Friday, I would like to remind you that my book [Memories of the good days: the Jeddah I loved] was issued in 2009, when we were still living in the inappropriately named ‘Islamic Awakening’ era, which was an attack on the wonderful meanings both Islam and awakenings carry.
“Back then, men dared not go out with their wives without having their marriage certificate at hand. Women stayed at home where they ‘belonged’, afraid to show even the slightest bit of hair outside. Sons hated coming back home after studying abroad in the US or Europe, their only reason for coming back being family and, admittedly, the financial situation as most students went to Western universities at the expense of their rich parents. My children always said that my and their father’s days were much better than theirs.
“Today, my grandchildren happily return home after studying abroad and work enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, all thanks to the young conscious Prince Mohammed bin Salman. If I were to write a second part on Jeddah, I would entitle it The return of the good days: the Jeddah I still love.
“As for Lebanon, things are completely different. Ever since the State of Greater Lebanon was established, we haven’t had but a few good days for which we still long.
“With all my best regards and appreciation, Leila Ali Rida.”
When I spoke to Mrs. al-Nuamani to thank her for her letters, she told me that the best thing to happen to a citizen was getting reassurance about the future. She said that when she spoke with her children and grandchildren, she felt that they deeply trusted the crown prince and felt reassured. She said her grandchildren and their friends sometimes joked that the prince even dreamt for them, as every new idea they might have had was often already in the works by the crown prince.
When I asked Mrs. Nuamani where her Beirutian accent went, she said in a Saudi tongue: “Jeddah is a language, not an accent.
Those who drink from her well forget their accent.”
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.