We had hoped that by some miracle King Abdullah would live for some time yet, but 'The One Who Knows Best' decided it was time for him to go, so go he did. Now we have a new King and nobody is really sure how good, or otherwise, the new bloke and his advisers are going to be. Certainly there is a lot of rumour circulating about what kind of king is now in the palace. And if you read the newspapers there is even more speculation about the leadership potential of the next couple of blokes in line as the Al Sauds attempt to clear the murky succession waters.
We had planned an excursion to the desert last Friday morning, but as I was packing the last lot of sandwiches into the chilly bin (esky to you Ozzies), Hubster came back from gassing up the car and broke the news of King Abdullah's death.
'Oh...sugar plum pie!' I said, in lieu of something more slang like that I could have said but children were present. 'That's not good news.'
'Miss Louise thinks we should cancel the desert trip', he said. 'There's no telling how people might react to this news.' (Miss Louise has lived here for a few decades and has seen a King or two come and go.) I looked at the chilly bin and thermos and various other food related items laid out in the lounge ready to be packed into the car while the kids were running round all excited for their first trip into the Saudi desert.
'What do you think?' said Hubster.
We were standing at the front door having this conversation and as I looked out over the garden wondering what to do, it occurred to me how quiet the city felt. Granted Friday's are usually quiet early in the morning, but this was a different quiet. The sky was a beautiful blue. The air was cool. And the city was unusually still.
Our grandson had a balloon in the shape of a helicopter (given to him by Madam Lily), and took it outside to play with while Hubster and I looked at each other, contemplating our options. Grandson had managed to keep the balloon inflated and anchored to the ground for almost a week. That morning he snapped the string and the balloon floated up and away with him vainly calling for it to come back. We watched it on its skyward journey floating straight up into the cloudless, hushed blue sky, no breath of air shifting it from its upward path.
'Wow, look how straight that's going', I said.
'I hope a Saudi doesn't see that and think we're celebrating', said Hubster.
We cancelled our desert trip. We figured it wouldn't be right to have a couple of expats bar-b-queing in the sand dunes while most of the country either mourned or pondered the country's future. And given the unrest in the region, I could imagine some drop kick might have decided that last Friday was the right moment to pull a coup and other drop kicks would have gone gun happy stupid at the idea, popping off a couple of desert picnicking expats while they were at it...(OK, so maybe I watch too many movies...)
Almost a week later, we still aren't certain how happy, or otherwise, everyone is. Discussion of ones emotions re: Saudi ruling parties isn't something you do in public, and certainly not in front of strangers!
Tonight, while we were out at a nearby bar-b-q joint for dinner, I looked around at the groups of people dining.
Young men sitting in the outdoor chairs.
And the mood on the streets was low key.
I got a sense that, though we are all carrying on as normal, everybody is waiting to see what, if any, changes may be afoot once the new King settles in.