“Ah, my dear friend Hassim, seems our paths cross once again, how fortunate for this humble Sheik.” As Abdullah spoke in his usual self deprecating manner I realized that a favor was on the tip of his tongue and that I was about to be offered a quid-pro-quo.
We were sitting crossed legged on large fat pillows with gold fringe. The tent was large with partitions dividing living, sleeping and cooking space. It was made from heavy cotton canvas erected on thick poles in the center giving the structure a peaked circus tent appearance. The women serving us were young, wearing harem pants low on their hips with cropped gauze tops made from sheer silk. Their exposed midriffs were flat and toned, their belly buttons were decorated in precious stones that glittered in the torch light as they moved. They were bare footed with stacks of gold ankle bracelets making the only sound we heard as they kept our glasses filled with fresh sweet tea and our communal serving trays piled high with dates and sugar incrusted sweets of undetermined origin.
Abdullah took no notice of these women, his nonchalance intrigued me as I was obviously having trouble keeping my mind focused on the discussion at hand, this was all part of the Arab way, when it came to negotiation they had no peers.
“So my dear friend, tell me, the region is on fire is there a solution?”
I spoke in a deliberate and flat tone, little emotion just concern, one friend to another.
“We were shocked by the American response in Egypt and Libya, never had we seen them move so fast with such efficiency. The fall of Gadaffi was unexpected and Mubarak’s fate stunned us; he had been a staunch supporter of the US in this region we fully expected the Obama administration to prop him up one more time, as they had done so many times in the past.”
I looked carefully at Abdullah,