The call to prayer waifs over the desert sands. The winter sun warms the camel markets and bedoiun tents in the country side. A land of beauty that is closed off to the world. One cannot go to Saudi, you have to be invited. It is a closed world where women are covered, male children drive cars and camels are common.
Saudi Arabia does not celebrate Christmas. It is illegal. When non Saudis arrive in country their house hold goods are opened. If ornaments are spotted, it was not uncommon for the family to be called and made to watch as each one is smashed.
People of other beliefs are still tracked down and hung. One learned quickly not to go to the main market place on Thursdays- judgment day. Being careful of not showing your beliefs is a way of life.
Saying all of that, Christians are not often dissuaded from Christmas. A closely held secret, the emphasis becomes the mystery of a Messiah in a strange and hostile world.
And so we gathered, in the large courtyard, and enjoyed the Christmas narrative. The ten foot walls kept us in a nd prying eyes out. Our children act out a narrative that is more similar to their lives than counterparts in most of the world.
The gifts of the kings- the beginning of sharing gifts - the western take on the day- is much more understandable. Our markets are full of the sap from Myrrh and frankincense trees. They are common smells, ones are children are often "blessed with" in local markets.Gold is sold openly and given on every important occasion.
Children of the compound had mothers who traveled daily outside the walls in abyah, a long, looses,dark travel coat from the early times. Underneath such coats, local women often wore loose long dresses- as Mary is often pictured in? Western women do not have to cover their eyes, but are expected the old modesty of covering hair, as Mary is pictured as well.
They were also used to seeing men In thobe and ghutra. The long "dresses" And head coverings were the norm, not the exception.
Family outings often took us to the cliffs at the edge of the sands. Children could understand that a stable could be carved from. Cliffs, since camels and donkeys were a norm in their lives.Towns are still made of mud brick and stone.
And so the narrative began near sundown. Our children portrayed the journey of Mary and Joseph, the birth of the Christ child, and the visitors of shepherds and kings. The compound dwellers then gathered in the sound proof chapel for strands of Silent Night and hugs of joy to be able to be together in such an amazing place.
The white thread becomes indistinguishable from the black one. The call to night prayer begins. Our children know to grow quiet. With Santa, without television, it is a simple celebration of the First Christmas and a time for prayer for Christians in an islamic world.