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PostMemories of Mina Saud, c. 1968 (with Photos) (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 03/09/15 12:15 pm)
We have talked a lot about racism, Islam, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) and Islamophobia. I am going back in memory to my days in Mina Saud (Kuwait) and to the wonderful local people. Maybe I should relate a few episodes.
Once I went to moor and load a ship with a full British crew. This was something rare at the time, as most of the tankers had only British officers and Indian crew members. These ships were disciplined like in the Navy, while the former were not very well run.
After having completed the mooring and the connection of the hoses, my co-workers were supposed to rest in an assigned space on the main deck, remaining on stand-by for any possible emergency.
I passed by and I saw that my Arab chief squad was upset. At my request he showed me an old tub, one of those used for washing, and told me: "The Chief Officer does not want us to go inside the quarters to get fresh water from the faucets, so he gave us this tub half full of water for all seven of us. What shall we do?"
It was very simple, I took the tub and went to the Captain's office, telling to the Captain that unless my men could have, as per their contract and basic dignity, fresh water when needed, we were going to disconnect the hoses, untie the ropes, take the ship out of the berth and charge all the expenses to the owner.
The Captain shouted a command at his Chief Officers and all our demands were met. My men thanked me for days, but I had only done my duty.
The mooring of the tanker could only take place during a favourable tide. This could occur twice each day but only in daylight. The ship would first drop the starboard anchor, proceed after a while to drop the port anchor, and then with the engine going astern it was hoped that the tide would drift the ship into the right place. One afternoon our ship arrived late when daylight was almost over and the tide was slack. Anyway, I attempted the mooring but it went badly, as the ship was not going to the right place. So I called my Arab crewmen and said that it failed and we had to postpone the mooring until the next day. They answered that they would not let me fail, and working on the wire ropes, almost to the very limit of their strength and safety, they brought the ship to the proper place. So I went on record as having no failure, as due the local conditions and with no tug available, a failure was to be expected once in a while.
When my wife put together an exhibition of her paintings in Kuwait, the crew came to visit and my Eritrean friend even came with a present.
Later I departed for Italy, as the Egyptian pilot out for a couple of years was due to return. The local crew complained, as the Egyptian was the former pilot of King Farouk and had no rapport with the locals.
By the way, I had a good Morris car that I had to sell. One of the locals wanted the car, but when he showed up for a test drive someone made fun at him because, the year being 1968, my wife had painted flowers on the car. Remember the Flower Children? So this guy was reluctant to buy it but another guy reprimanded him for going back on a promise. The poor fellow knelt in front of me asking for forgiveness. He finally took the car.
I have too many episodes about the goodness (at least at that time) of the local Muslim people with whom I had the good fortune of working.
I attach three photos: the first is myself with one of the three Arab squads, the Black man on the left was the Eritrean Amin, the second photo is my wife with the squad, and the third is my wife with a Saudi Desert Patrol.
JE comments: See below. I love historic photos of WAISers, especially when they feature exotic locales. If it's not too much to ask, is there a surviving picture of the flowery Morris?
Thoughts on "Ordinary Arabs"
(Miles Seeley, USA
03/10/15 10:58 AM)
It was delightful to see Eugenio Battaglia's published account (9 March) of what the Arabic people were like when you knew and respected them. I have many stories of how I was treated in Morocco and especially Jordan. It pains me deeply to see the rise of the Islamic radicals. It does not bode well for the future of the ordinary Arab people, who in my estimation deserve much better.
JE comments: I'm always grateful for Miles Seeley's wisdom. They "deserve much better": how many peoples and cultures over the ages could this statement apply to?