The Good Saudi
The priest walked up to the lectern and opened the bible. ‘The lesson this morning is taken from the Gospel according to St Kalaki, Chapter 10, Verse 25 to 37, otherwise known as the Parable of the Good Saudi.
‘A man lay stripped and bleeding at the side of the road to
. An ayatollah happened to be driving down that road, but he accelerated past, pretending not to see. Then came a busload of Palestinian pilgrims, but the driver said We have no time to stop, we shall be late for our prayers in Mecca . Mecca
‘Then along came a rich Saudi in his Cadillac. He stopped his car, lifted the poor man onto the back seat, took him back to his palace, bandaged his wounds and gave him antibiotics. And when he was well, he asked the man for his story.
‘I am a Yemeni, he explained, and I have been working as a watchman at an oil well for the past ten years. I had managed to save ten thousand dollars to take back to develop my village, to buy goats and plant olive trees, and to save my starving people. But I have been robbed and beaten, and now I might as well die, for my village will surely die.
‘Now the Saudi prince, who had never previously done a good deed in his life, suddenly saw a good chance to get to Heaven. My dear friend, he said, here is another ten thousand dollars to replace what you have lost, and another five hundred on top as transport money. Go back and develop your village. And if you have any more problems, just let me know.’
‘What is the moral of this story?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘We don’t have to worry about that,’ she replied, ‘the priest is employed to explain everything.’
‘And so it came to pass,’ continued the priest, ‘that a few years later the Good Saudi got an e-mail saying Village now doing better, exporting goats to Djibouti, but need village school for increasing number of children.
‘Now the Saudi saw the chance of an even better house in His Father’s Mansion, so he sent another ten thousand dollars. And so, as time went by, the Saudi had sent money for the borehole, for the clinic, and even a hundred thousand dollars to improve the road to Al Adan.
‘Hadn’t he read Dambisa Moyo’s book?’ I whispered to Sara.
‘All this happened before she was born,’ she replied.
‘And with the fullness of time, the good Saudi grew into an old man, and thought he’d better check on his direct foreign investment in Heaven. So he took a plane from Jiddah to Al Adan, and then a taxi to the
, up in the hills of the Hadramawi. village of Nyama El Soya
And there, in the middle of the Empty Quarter, he found a sign saying
Paradise on Earth, Funded by Prince El Riyal Bin Difid. He drove up a long palm drive, and came to a huge white marble mansion. A white uniformed servant opened the carved door into the mansion, and ushered him into a lush green garden. There he found his old Yemeni friend, now grossly fat, wearing only a towel, roasting a suckling pig on a huge mbaula. Round the huge swimming pool, fat old men were chasing naked young women.
‘Come in, come in, cried Nyama El Soya. Welcome! Another customer from
! Taking a rest from the Haj! Ha ha! Have a glass of champagne! Sit down and choose your girl! Freshly imported from the Reed Market in Manzini! Only five hundred dollars a day! Ten thousand for take away! Mecca
‘Then the Good Saudi roared with indignation. Don’t you know who I am? I’m the one who saved your life, and invested in the development of your village. Where is the road, I found only desert? Where is the school and the clinic? Where are the goats and olive trees! You are a liar and a crook! I demand my money back!
‘Then the Yemeni roared with equal indignation. Don’t you come here poking your nose into my business! Yemen is a sovereign country, and we don’t want colonial foreigners telling us what to do! Pack your bags and go quickly, before I have you thrown out!’
Now the priest finally looked up from the Holy Book. ‘What,’ he asked, ‘do we think is the moral of this parable?’
Suggestions were quick to come from amongst the congregation…
‘Don’t try to help strangers.’
‘Don’t give money to crooks!’
‘Foreigners should be deported.’
‘Don’t try to buy a place in Heaven!’
‘Only rich people can help the poor.’
‘Foreign aid is the cause of corruption!’
‘Foreigners can’t understand the local culture!’
‘We must love our neighbours, especially the Swazi girls!’
‘No,’ said priest. ‘You’re all wrong, as usual. The moral of this story is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Now, the collection plate is coming round, and I invite you to contribute to the bishop’s new church.’
‘Not me,’ I whispered to Sara. ‘He might be building a swimming pool!’