goodbye, king abdullah.

January 29, 2015

I’m starting to think I have some sort of weird sixth sense about predicting the death of royalty.

When I was fourteen, my family went to Branson for Labor Day weekend (because as a child of the Ozarks, it’s not summer without at least one visit to Branson). On Sunday evening, after a day of fun at Silver Dollar City, we went back to our hotel room to change and head out for dinner. As I waited for my parents to finish getting ready, I sat in front of the TV, watching CNN. The big news story was that Diana, Princess of Wales, had been in a car accident in a tunnel in Paris. There wasn’t much information available about Diana’s condition at that point; the news report said that the princess was conscious and talking to paramedics, and that she had been taken to a local hospital for treatment.

“Let’s go, sis,” my dad said, turning off the TV.

“I hope she doesn’t die,” I thought, somewhat flippantly, because I mean, of course Princess Diana wasn’t going to die. The news had just said she was talking and she was at the hospital. She was fine. So I have no clue where that thought came from. I just remember thinking, “I hope she doesn’t die.”

I got up and went out with my family and didn’t worry about Princess Diana again until we got back to the hotel room, when we turned on the TV and found out…well, you know.

Last week, when I was writing my previous post about the Whole30 and not being allowed to drive, there was one line where I wrote that me not being able to drive was “no one’s fault…except maybe King Abdullah.” When I typed that, I thought offhandedly, “I hope he doesn’t die.” Involuntarily, and a bit flippantly, just as I had when I first saw news of Princess Diana’s car accident. But I couldn’t imagine that King Abdullah was about to pass away. For weeks, it had been in the news that King Abdullah had been in and out of the hospital, and every time we later got news that he was just fine.

So you can imagine my shock when just a few hours later, as we were laying in bed, Mr. Mostafa announced while looking at his phone, “They’re saying on Twitter that King Abdullah died.”

What?” I said, sitting up in bed.

“Yeah. No official news yet, though.” He turned off the bedside lamp and nestled into bed. Within a few minutes, he was snoring gently.

I couldn’t relax, though. I could only think about how I’d just blamed King Abdullah for my driving frustration in the blog post I’d just written. And about Princess Diana. Of course, I knew (and know) that any of my mental foreshadowing of these two royal deaths was just a weird coincidence. Only God has any control over when people die. Still, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have me freaked out. Which is why I couldn’t sleep until I found out about King Abdullah for sure.

I kept checking every source I knew in an effort to get a reliable confirmation or denial of the news. Finally, it was official. King Abdullah was gone.

I nudged Mr. Mostafa awake and told him the news. Everyone in the house was awake. Awake and sad.

This king was loved by his people. The sadness was palpable in the days following his death. For many, it was hard to say goodbye to him and difficult to imagine a future in which King Abdullah was not on the throne. “He was a good man, very good man,” my mother-in-law told me mournfully.

If you read about the death of King Abdullah, you’ll mostly hear two sides–to some, he was a great reformer who loved his people, promoted education, and in general brought Saudi Arabia further toward modernity than any other Saudi monarch. To others, he was a brutal dictator who ruthlessly curtailed free speech, jailed and flogged dissidents, and withheld basic equality to Saudi women.

The truth is, I think, somewhere in between, as these sorts of things almost always are.

But I’m not going to get into that, really. I don’t have any comparison to what life in Saudi Arabia was like under previous monarchs, and I’m certainly not an expert in Middle Eastern politics. I can say that I wish King Abdullah had seen fit to issue a royal decree allowing women to drive. And naturally, the concept of bloggers being jailed and lashed is an incredibly scary thing to me. There are so many things about Saudi Arabian government that I wish I could change.

And yet another unavoidable truth is that without King Abdullah, I probably never would have met my husband.

See, Mr. Mostafa came to Missouri State University back in 2008 on a scholarship from the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which was established in 2005. To this day, the program sends Saudi students to universities all around the world to pursue higher education, both graduate and undergraduate. Hundreds of thousands of Saudis have studied on this scholarship. Recipients of the scholarship have their tuition fully paid. They also receive a living stipend and full health insurance. It’s a pretty amazing program, and if anything like it had been offered to me by my own American government, you can bet that I would have been relentlessly pursuing the opportunity to study wherever the scholarship program wanted to send me.

The King Abdullah Scholarship Program sent Mr. Mostafa to Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri to pursue his MBA. The rest is history.

Whatever else may be true about King Abdullah, the fact remains that without his dedication to education, my life would look drastically different right about now. The two other people who make my life brighter by the second would not be in my club now. And I can’t imagine that. I don’t want to imagine that.

Mr. Mostafa got a day off from work after the king died, as his company was closed on the first workday of this week in honor of King Abdullah’s passing. We spent the day playing together as a family, and as I watched Mr. Mostafa and Lavender roll around on the living room floor, giggling and roughhousing, I thought about King Abdullah and placed my hand over my heart as though it were literally bursting with love for my family and gratitude to the king who, however inadvertently, assured my family would come into existence. May God have mercy on his soul, and may he rest in peace.



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  • sal bo

    Dear Rainbow Girl-
    I feel the same exact way. I lived in Saudi before Abdullah was king, and I remember him telling the world he was going to drag Saudi into the correct century. I realize that all there are still issues that make members of the country feel bad, but wow, I see so many positive wonderful changes that have come to the country. From arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1985 to present day, the changes, benefits and opportunities are amazing.
    Also, our entire family (including myself) were blessed with the benefits of having the Scholarship.. It provided the opportunities for undergraduate and masters degrees for our entire family. A huge thank you and loads of appreciation to King Abdullah.

    • Nicole

      mashallah, sal! <3

  • Risi

    The American press has moved on. Now we get to hear about what Michelle did or didn’t wear on her head. Ad Nauseum. Oh, and ” American Sniper”.

    • Nicole

      that whole thing has been so hilarious/frustrating to many of us here…the misinformation being thrown around is just staggering (“she’s a foreigner, so she doesn’t have to cover her head!” “only saudi women must cover their faces!” “if she were outside of the palace, she’d have to cover her head!”). not to mention, it was a complete non-issue here. no one cared about what michelle obama did or didn’t wear on her head. but apparently, americans really, really want to think that michelle taught those backward saudis a lesson.

      don’t get me started on american sniper.

  • Risi

    Yeah, not to beat a dead horse, but I was actually waiting for someone like you to put up a big old op-ed on what a non-issue it was there…. because around here it was like the Energizer Bunny and just kept going and going….and, of course, I just had to look at the comments on the articles. Always a bad idea.

  • Courtney Kincaid

    An excellent post with some valuable in formation. I’m currently studying social work, and we’ve just covered the importance of not having a “single story”, meaning that there are always two sides to every story. I love that you have said that King Abdullah is a combination of both of the sides being told, not just one or the other. I think that the world today is on a dangerous path of saying it’s either one stereotype or the other. In reality, stereotypes can sometimes be true, but are always incomplete in depicting a person. You did a wonderful job of covering this!