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CH. 4

Changed Life by Gerry Taylor

Chapter 4 – Yuriy Obov

Twice the following day, Wednesday, Tariq rang the

Bank to see how I was. Would he send his own personal

doctor over - it would be no trouble at all? Did I have

any after effects? Had I slept well? The questions went

on and were obviously from a genuinely concerned

person. Arab courtesy at times knows no end.

The second call was, in fact, to see if I would join

him for dinner that evening at his Palace. It had not

occurred to me to think where or how he lived. As I had

nothing on that evening I relented and finally said

‘Yes’, because otherwise I felt there would be more

phone calls of enquiry. He would send his own car to

collect me at six from the Villa where the Bank had

installed me. The Villa had been Tommy Elford’s family

home when he had been here and with six bedrooms, all

mod cons, with a driver and a cook thrown in, it was

more than spacious enough for my needs.

At five minutes to six, Tariq’s limousine arrived

and my own driver informed me as I was finishing

dressing. It had taken me an age to take a shower

without wetting the light plaster of Paris type

dressing on my wrist and I had felt dreadfully squalid

and dirty after the day of rolling in the dirt among

other things. My own driver seemed put out that he was

not driving me, the national hero, but I calmed him

down and said that he would be driving me each and

every other day.

Tariq had sent not only the limousine and driver but

also an elderly Arab in traditional dress who

introduced himself as the head of Tariq’s household.

Having made the traditional Arab of touching forehead,

lips and heart, he took my hand and raised it almost

tremblingly to his lips. The driver did likewise on

impulse, and the head of the household rebuked him with

some words I could not really hear, but I did hear the

driver reply, ‘But he is my Master’s saviour’.

It had not struck me until I was getting dressed to

go out, that six o’clock was very early for eating in

the Arab world. My Cook had said that dinner would

always be ready for me at eight at the Villa, whether I

had told him I would be there to eat or not.

The limousine surged ahead, there being little

traffic on the road and soon we had left the capital

far behind. I could have easily put a double bed in the

back with me where I was more reclining rather than

sitting. I finally pressed the intercom and asked the

head of the household, whose name turned out to be

Ahmed, how far out of the city we were going.

Ahmed replied that it was about an hour’s drive from

the city. As we were speeding along the freeway at what

appeared not less than 70 miles per hour, I felt a bit

surprised. He also said that his Master, again that

term, had spent the whole day preparing for my visit,

and I felt there was a trace of worry in his voice.

The limousine appeared to me to be hardly moving

with regards to the flat desert landscape. The only way

you knew it was moving was that cars in the distance

came closer and passed by on the other side from time

to time. With the air conditioning on in the car, there

was absolutely no outside sound, so I put an easy

listening CD in the player and sat back to enjoy the


At precisely seven, the limousine, having left the

main road some minutes previously and headed toward a

white dot on the horizon, drew up towards the gates

which must have been all of twenty feet high. The white

dot had become an equally high wall stretching away as

far as the eye could see on either side of the gates.

Inside the gates, the desert gave way to a paradise

of green vegetation, crops growing, trees, palms and

plants. It took us a full minute’s drive still at what

appeared to be almost the same speed from the gates up

to the Palace, which was equally brilliant white in


Having pulled up, I was just moving to get up out of

the seat, when the driver was around at the door

holding it open. He must have moved in less than two

seconds. Again this time, he took my left hand, my

right being in the sling the hospital had given me, and

kissed it, but this time kneeling on the ground. Ahmed

barked something, and the driver scuttled away.

Immediately, Tariq was out to greet meet followed by

three other men. He went to embrace me but seeing the

sling did not know what to do, so in true Arab style I

put out my left hand and holding his hand, I kissed him

on both cheeks.

The three other men who had been following him each

in turn kissed my hand, each saying ‘Thank you, Master,

for saving our Master’s life.’ It was not until the

surprise had worn off, that I realised that they had

each spoken in English, unlike Ahmed who apparently

only had Arabic.

Ahmed was standing to one side in the doorway of the

Palace and turning towards him, I said to him in

Arabic, remembering his worried voice earlier on,

‘Thank you, Ahmed, for bringing me safely to your

Master.’ He appeared astonished and bowed deeply from

the neck and shoulders.

If I for some reason had astonished him, on going

into the Palace I was the one to now be astonished. On

walking into the foyer of the Palace which alone was

more the size of a tennis court, everyone walking

around there, moving too and fro was totally naked,

stark bollocks naked! The second thought of

astonishment was that they were all male, of various

heights and nationalities and colours. I could not see

any what generally you might term Orientals or


I realised that Tariq was talking and I caught the

drift of what he was saying in welcoming me to his

humble home and that he and his slaves were there to

serve me. I had been so astonished at seeing the naked

members of his household, that the word ‘slaves’ did

not sink in for a moment. I thought that as he was

speaking in English, he might have misused the term

‘slaves’ when he should have used more appropriately

the word ‘servants’.

I also realised that, not only was he trying to say

thank you in the manner and custom that he knew how,

that he was doing me the courtesy of speaking in


‘Tariq, tonight one favour I ask. We are going to

speak only in Arabic. I have forgotten a lot of what I

learned in Cairo years ago, and if I do not make the

effort while in Dahra, I am never going to learn to

speak it as well as you do.’

Tariq clapped his hands with joy, and those who were

listening all started to smile. It was if a cloud had

lifted and it hit home that this guest was not going to

make life impossible for them.

I had somehow thought that dinner at Tariq’s Palace

would have been with his family or at least with some

family members present. But no, it was only the two of


I was settled on a divan of cushions by two dark

haired young men in their early twenties whom I took to

be slaves, as they were naked save for a silver

coloured bracelet on their right ankles, one of whom

placed a pile of down soft pillows under my arm and

taking the arm in the sling between his hands, as if it

were Meissen porcelain, laid it down so gently that I

did not realise it was resting on the pillows until I

glanced over at it.

I said I would take off the sling and just leave my

wrist on the cushions. The other body slave looked

frightened not knowing what to do, so I merely slipped

off sling over my head and with a smile gave it to him,

again resting my arm down on the cushions.

As I could not use my right arm, not being

ambidextrous, the two took turns in feeding me and

giving me sips to drink, while I chatted with Tariq. I

complimented him on the splendour of his home, how well

trained his household was and that he was a lucky man.

He said that in their tradition these things were

willed by Allah, and that it was not luck I was with

him the previous day.

This I now realise was a second direct intervention

of Fate in my life. I was going to ask something, but

stopped as if not finding the word. He noticed and

said, ‘Tell me about yourself and your career.’ It was

a courtesy because everyone more or less loves taking

about themselves.

I gave him the shortened version of my life,

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