ContactPakistan.com

I came, I saw, I stayed
Courtesy of Shaeen Nazar (Saudi Gazette)

For this expat, already way past his prime, no other city beats Jeddah as the best place to spend the rest of his life. And no other country beats Saudi Arabia in its cultural uniqueness and its rapid pace of development.
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He has seen all of the Kingdom's rules from King Abdul Aziz, King Saud, King Khalid, King Faisal to King Fahad. He witnessed the fast pace that the Kingdom has taken from being a fragmented community that sparsely dotted a desert landscape into a great nation that, in turn, embraced millions of people from other nations. Today, he has spent more than two thirds of his life in Saudi Arabia. But he's not a Saudi.

A.G. Khan, is a full blooded Pakistani. He was only 22 when he landed in Jeddah on October 4, 1948. Today he is well past 70. He leads a retired life with his children and grandchildren in this city by the Red sea. But he is not an ordinary old man. He is a mine of information about Jeddah, about the Kingdom, about Pakistan and about the World in general. He has seen Jeddah and the whole of Saudi Arabia transformed from a sprawling desert landscape into a modern city and an important country in the community of nations.
"Saudi Arabia," he says, has no parallel in the World in the sense that in has developed at a fast pace, leaving other countries which began developing along with it far behind.
With an almost photographic memory, he can talk to people for hours without letup. Khan remembers in graphic details the first day of his arrival in the Kingdom 50 years back.
He came here from Lahore as the representative of Pak-Air with the first Haj flight of a newly-created country. When the plane landed in Jeddah, there was no apparent sign of a conventional airport.
Just a small building a little away from the tarmac. Beyond that it was only desert. There was no ladder that could let passengers down from the plane.
He and other members of the crew as well as the 50 odd passengers jumped from the plane with the help of a rope tied to the plane. Two people in a jeep came up to the aircraft to receive them.
Keep that picture in mind and compare it with today's king Abdul Aziz International Airport which has got three separate terminals-Saudi, International and the Haj terminal-with all possible facilities which a modern airport is supposed to have. This, he said, speaks a lot about the pace of infrastructure development achieved by the Kingdom.
The first person Khan met in Jeddah was Abdullah Solaiman, the first Saudi Finance Minister. In fact, Khan was carrying a parcel and a letter for the minister. It was from Saudi Arabia's first ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Hameed Khateeb with whom Khan had cordial relations.
Khan still remembers the first sip of qahwa (Arabian coffee) with Solaiman. He had never tasted qahwa before. The first sip left a bitter aftertaste. He managed to finish it. "But as soon as I placed the cup back on the table, the servant filled it up again," he recalls.
ourtesy called for grace under pressure and he finished that second cup too- only to discover that the teaboy promptly refilled it again. The minister noticed his discomfort and smilingly prompted the servant not to fill it up anymore as Khan put the cup back on the table.
When Khan landed here, it was also a historic day in the life of Pakistan-Saudi relations. Two hours after he arrived, the new Pakistani diplomatic mission was inaugurated. Solaiman was kind enough to send him to the ceremony in his personal car.
Khan had a unique experience that day. As a devout Muslim, first thing he did after the ceremony was to visit Makkah to perform Umrah. He went there with his new friends in the afternoon and fixed up the time of 4 O'clock to be picked up by them from the Haram. After performing Umrah and saying Asr prayer he began to look out for his friends. They did not come. Maghreb prayer was over and even the Isha prayer was performed. He was a little worried but had no choice. He remained in the Haram. Then exactly at 10 O'clock they turned up. He was upset. But his friends insisted that they had come on the appointed time and explained that the local people followed the sunset system which had a difference of six hours as compared to the international system. He checked their watches. It was 4 O'clock. He changed the time in his watch as well.
Khan liked the people and the place so much that he never thought of going anywhere else in the World. For the first year after he arrived, he worked with the local agents of Pak-Air. Then he joined the Saudi Arabian Markets as a manager of shipping and aviation division. In 1958, he became the general manager of Shell BP Aviation Services.
From 1977 until his retirement in 1982, he was sales and administration manager and secretary of board of directors of Peninsular Aviation Services Co, a joint venture of Shell BP and markets. From 1982 to 1988 he also worked as finance manager in local travel and tourism agency in Jeddah.
Hailing from Lucknow in northern India, Khan migrated to Pakistan after doing his master's degree from the Aligarh Muslim University in 1947.
He stayed in the newly created Islamic republic for hardly one year but never forgot his homeland. He says, he came to the Kingdom with the mission of promoting relations between the two brotherly Islamic countries.
He has done everything possible to strengthen the Pak Saudi ties.
He coordinated the first international football match between the Pakistani mission and Al Ittihad Club on August 14, 1950 in which he himself played as a full back. He was one of the initiators of cricket in Jeddah and the captain of the Jeddah Cricket Club for about 10 years from 1957.
Khan also played a pivotal role in the establishment of Pakistan School in Jeddah. As an active member of Pakistan embassy's Haj committee and president of Anjuman Khoddamul Hujjaj, he and his colleagues rendered services to the pilgrims from Pakistan as well as from other countries.
In due recognition of his services, Khan was awarded Tamgha-e-Pakistan in 1970 by the Government of Pakistan.
Khan says that when he came here in 1948, Pakistan was little known in the Kingdom- so much so that shop owners were reluctant to accept Pakistani rupee. He would deliberately go to different shops and restaurants and spend Pakistani rupee in order to popularize the currency and the country as well.
Khan says that the best part of the Kingdom is its rule of law. Unlike the sub-continent and most of the Third World countries where law in only an ordinary piece of paper, here it is strictly followed .
"The Saudi society is based on justice. Everyone is equal in the eyes of law. That's why the crime rate is almost zero if compared to world standards," he says.
According to him, in the beginning, Iqama rule was not that strict. He blames expatriates whose unruly behavior and everyday violations have forced the Saudi authorities to tighten the residency rule. Khan also likes the way religious practices are enforced by the Mutawwas.
Saudi Arabia is the seat of Islam. Its strict adherence to religious duties is a role model for other Islamic countries," he said.
Khan feels, though, that the old generation of Saudis are more courteous than the present ones. He mentioned his neighbors and old Saudi friends who are always willing and able to lend a hand. They have full regard and respect for each other.
But now that quality has become close to extinction, he opines, as the new generation behaves arrogantly. In the old days, he said, the resources were limited but people were more generous. But today, the values are changed.