Re-Reading “The Sheikh”: Desert Nights

I’m rereading a Thai novel, “The Sheikh”, originally published in 1987. The story follows the life of Dawid ibn Sharbaz, the only son of a murdered sheikh, through the changing times in the fictional North Africa country of Byderhabad from 1941-1970. Things to note is that while it’s international in scope, this novel was written through the lens of a Thai novelist. Also, there is a lot of political commentary and observation in the novel which is the author’s forte but I choose to focus on the drama side of it. Because, well, that’s why I’ve been rereading this book since 1992!

Where we left off: End of Part II where Dawid has just graduated from British military training.

Part III: British-controlled Northern Africa, 1948

Chapter 31-33

Desert war game under the command of Sergeant ibn Sharbaz is a success. We are three years from the last chapter. Dawid is now 22 and training at the British military academy in Benghazi.

“Man, if we’re still in a war, you’re going to make a general in a minute,” a fellow officer says. “

I’m not going to fight in any war for the Christians,” Dawid responded sternly.

“But you’re here in a British military academy in Benghazi, wearing a British uniform.”

“Because there is no Bedouin military academy. Besides, someone once told me to learn everything I can from the British so I can take the knowledge to my people and bring my tribe to the modern world.”

“Wow, an English guy tell you that?”

“No, an Italian, actually.”

(Does anyone care about the Italian Officer? No? Great! We’re not going to recap what he’s up to then. Well, let’s just say he’s regretting his life’s choices. All that he fought for, the glory of war, doing it for his country and all of that. His reward was this life of destitute. Karma, son. Karma.)

A military parade is held in honor of the visiting leaders of British-controlled North Africa at the academy. King Fahad voices his weariness of constantly being under Christian rule to other leaders. “Only if we can all stand united just as our citizens are doing down there. When are these colonies gonna rise up?”

I mean, he didn’t say that. But I can’t help inserting Hamilton reference in here. Heehee.

And all the way back in the Byderharbad desert, the old shepherd pleads with Lydia to leave the tribe and join her mother in Farwah now that they’ve gotten news that she’s doing really well. Lydia refuses.

In an empty Benghazi barrack, Dawid lays daydreaming about Lydia when he hears approaching footsteps.

“King Fahad!” Dawid scrambled to his feet to greet him.

“So, when are you done with school?”

“One more semester, your majesty.”

“Good, we need you back. A lot has happened since you left.”

///Flashback to Byderhabad, 3 years ago///

We’re back to when Dawid has just joined King Fahad’s personal guards in 1945 when he was just 19. Prince Faisal brought Lady Ann to Byderhabad. They were talking about the history of the country, and King Fahad said that if you really want to know the real Byderhabad, you need to talk to Sergeant ibn Sharbaz.

Annoyed, intimidated, AND jealous, Prince Faisal pulled the King aside and asked if it’s a good idea to have the son of Sheikh Sharbaz so close…I don’t trust this guy. The King Fahad is like, it’s good that you are suspicious of people so you don’t get taken advantage of, but I have spoken.

Chapter 34-35

Lady Ann asked Dawid to take her to see the desert. Dawid originally pushed back, saying that desert is not for tourists and that Prince Faisal should be taking her, but eventually, he relents. He drove her to the edge of the desert so they can get back before the King and Prince return from state business. Once there, Lady Ann played another damsel card and got Dawid to take her to see the nearest oasis, 80 kilometers away. But they didn’t get too far before a sandstorm whips up around them. Dawid turned around and gunned it toward home but the storm got them first.

Dawid and Lady Ann huddled next to the jeep as the storm rage over them long into the cold night. This triggered Dawid’s sandstorm PTSD and he was hiding it behind repeated prayers to Allah. Sensing his distress, Lady Ann distracted him with the story of King Arthur. (I told you, this will come back! LOL) Eventually, the storm passed but Dawid wants to wait until sunrise to start heading back.

“Thank God! I can’t believe we survived that!” Lady Ann cried tears of joy and relief.

“Thank Allah for sparing both of our lives,” Dawid exhaled and reached out instinctively to wipe the sand and tears from her face.

Their eyes met. Awkward!

Dawid pretended to go check on the engine. When he returned, Lady Ann was fast asleep, leaning on the jeep’s back wheel. Her fine golden hair escaped her head covering and cascaded down the side of her face. The way she looked under the moonlight reminded him of a story of a desert goddess his grandfather once told him.

In a full moon night, the goddess of the fairest skin and longest hair roams the desert on a ghost-white horse. When she plays the first string of her harp, the most romantic of love ballads will make whoever hears it fall madly in love with her. The second string arouses passion and lust, driving men mad with jealousy and desire. Just before dawn, the goddess would play the last string, the song of the deepest yearning, leaving the men obsessed, searching the desert for days for her.

Dawid reached over to cover Lady Ann with his uniform and caught the faint scent of her perfume. His thought rushed to the memory of how Lydia’s hair smelled of flowers as she laid naked next to him all those years ago. When he snapped out of his reverie, he found himself staring at Lady Ann. Could it be the goddess’ First String? He shook his head and settled down by the front wheel of the jeep.

Image by Pixabay

Chapter 36-37

Prince Faisal was maaaaaaad, y’all! His English girlfriend disappeared overnight with the handsome son of a sheikh. Scandalous!

“I’m done with this English slut!” he shouted.

“Are you now?” asked King Fahad. “You know if you reject her over this, the British will just push her on Dawid. They’ve already been grooming him for a leadership position, and having Lady Ann with him would solidify his tie with Britain. And where will that leave us?”

“So I don’t have a say in any of this?”

“Dearest baby brother, you haven’t had a say in this since the moment you accepted the invitation to Earl of Saxon’s rabbit hunt. Now calm the fuck down and have some coffee while we wait.”

King Fahad: 1. Prince Faisal: 0.

The moment they returned, the feverish Lady Ann was whisked away by her attendants and Dawid immediately reported to Prince Faisal and the King.

“Where the fuck did you take her?” Prince Faisal got in Dawid’s face.

“The desert, your highness.” He didn’t flinch.

“How dare you! Who the fuck do you think you are?”

Kind Fahad waved the prince off.

“Why did it take all night?” the King asked calmly.

“We were trapped in a sandstorm, your majesty.”

“You lying desert rat!” The prince got in Dawid’s face again.

“I do not lie. Bedouins live and die by our honor.” He stared the prince down once more, then to the King. “Allah as my witness, your majesty.”

King Fahad nods slowly. “Faisal, go see how Lady Ann is doing.”

“But…!”

The King shot him a look and Prince Fuckface stormed off. King Fahad then informed Dawid that he was to depart immediately for his training in Benghazi instead of leaving in a month as originally planned, and that to never return to Byderhabad again if he washes out.

///Returning to Present Day: Benghazi 1948///

Chapter 37-39

King Fahad filled Dawid in on what he’d miss.

Okay, look. I swear, I could almost make this whole novel as a Hamilton parody at this point. LOL

???????? What’d you miss? What’d you miss?
Byderhabad sweet home is coming to this.
Faisal’s been home and throwing parties
Turning Farwah into London, it’s crazy.
Then he married Lady Ann and now I’m stuck with this.

Ahem. Anyways.

Meanwhile, back in Byderhabad, Prince Faisal is getting dressed to go out. Again. Lady Ann pulls the “I don’t even see you anymore” card and he answers with “We’ll have all eternity to spend together” card. Urgh!

Now, where did Prince Fuckface dress up to go to? Taking his buddy the old General Abdul Rohim to Behar’s nightclub. The Egyptian Merchant ushers them into the VIP room where they are entertained by a harem, but Faisal is completely mesmerized by only one person in that room, the MILF dancer.

“What’s your name?”

“Behar, your highness.”

Sometime later, Lt. Colonel Clifford, King Fahad, and Prince Faisal meet with the Dutchman about drilling for oil in Byderhabad. The King asks for the royalty 4 times the amount the British are currently giving them as a colony. “Maybe one day we won’t need the British to support us anymore,” he said. Well played, King!

Faisal is definitely not happy about it. As he entertains the Dutchman back at the nightclub, a deal was struck that he’ll be paid a good amount of money upfront with profit-sharing to persuade the King to waive the royalty fee. The Dutchman is advised to go next door while Prince Faisal has a special sexy time with Behar.

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