Though I hesitate to say so, I do believe that I have learned more about Saudi Arabia from Osama bin Laden than from our exchange student, Mamdouh al-Shammari.
Why? Because in two months I have seen Mamdouh only about as many times as I can count on two hands. And of course seeing him is not the same as talking to him. One can just as often see a newspaper photo of bin Laden.
On the other hand, who has really seen bin Laden in the flesh?
These Saudis are elusive. They are like the wind, originating from who knows where, and going who knows where. Chimeras and specters, whispers in the night.
What do I know from Mamdouh of Saudi Arabia. It never rains. Saudis like Americans. Saudis hate Osama bin Laden. They hated Saddam Hussein. They think that Whats-His-Name, the President of Iran, is a lunatic.
This is what Mamdouh has told me. This is all I know.
Other than that, as regards information, a travel guide is much to be preferred.
It is snowing here in Portland. The streets are covered with snow. Mamdouh has never before in his life seen snow, much less driven a car on it. And yet he drives. How is it that he knows how to drive in the snow.
It is but another in a catalog or mysteries.