Al Masmak

In the heart of old Riyadh there are date palms beside conical watchtowers. A spear tip embedded in a wooden door. Here Abdulaziz Al Saud once attacked the Rashids. Today tall men in white thobes and red keffiyehs welcome us, ask if we are the Finnish delegation. No I say, but here, meet my son. He is visiting from New Zealand. We pass displays and photos. 1943, the old Souq al-Haraj and Grand Mosque. 1916, Gertrude Bell with King Abdulaziz and Sir Percy Cox. An old wooden water wheel and well. Qarue, stone basins for storing water in homes and mosques.

As we leave they say the Finnish delegation has not arrived. Would my son, who is not Finnish, but visiting from New Zealand, like to be shown the King’s sitting room. Diwan. We slip off shoes, lean against soft cushions and Eastern carpets. Drink small cups of Arabic coffee poured from a traditional pot, dallah. The spout a thin crescent moon. We leave with gift packs. For the Finnish delegation, written on the front.

Marjory Woodfield is a teacher and writer. She has returned to New Zealand after living in Saudi Arabia. Her work has been published by the BBC, Nowhere, Takahē, Flash Frontier and Raven Chronicles. She is a Bath Ad Hoc Fiction winner and was long listed for the Alpine Fellowship (Venice). Her writing inspiration often derives from travel within and around Saudi Arabia.

See more of her work in 6.3 here.