National Geographic : 1954 Apr
Troubled Waters East of Suez Into the islands and cliffs jutting out from the coast on each side of the town to form the hourglass harbor, forts have been built so that natural rock and man-built walls blend completely. In the last century sailors originated the custom of painting the name of their ship on these sheer cliffs that surround Masqat harbor. I picked out those of my current flagship and of the Isla de Luzon. We spent one rugged day climbing the cliff and repaint ing these two (page 504). The Isla de Luzon was captured at Manila Bay during the Span ish-American War and stopped at Masqat on her way to the United States. Of all the places we visited, Masqat is least touched by modern influence. The sultan still maintains his barge of state with gaily decked boatmen wielding leaf-shaped oars. Tribesmen of the interior are insepa rable from their rifles, and wear daggers in silver, J-shaped scabbards. Returning to Bahrein, Arabia's oil island, I called on Sheik Sir Salman bin Hamed al Khalifa. Gracious, courteous, and dignified, he wore the mien of a good ruler on his face and the precepts in his heart. Precepts of a Philosopher-prince "A ruler," he said, "is the father of his people. He has duties to them; they have duties to him. He must give them good schools and hospitals, and a stable, peaceful government under which they can work hon estly. They must give him loyalty and good conduct, as to a father." Here is a philosopher-prince who puts his beliefs into practice. The results prove them selves. Under this ruler of an ancient island filled with myriad grave mounds of forgotten peo ples, tremendous progress has been made in bringing the benefits of modern civilization to the people. Good roads run through the mounds past the ruins of a 400-year-old fort from which the Portuguese once commanded these seas. Date gardens are lush and green.* Oil royalties have gone into schools and government hospitals, which ably supplement those of the Bahrein Petroleum Company and the Arabia Mission of the Dutch Re formed Church in America. From this mis sion Dr. and Mrs. Harold Storm and their colleagues have spread good in much of Arabia. Some of Bahrein's springs well up in the sea itself. Divers may fill their goatskin bags with sweet water in the midst of salt. Tiny Kuwait, treeless and desert ringed, is nevertheless a land to which one wants often to return. Opportunity and duty brought me to this walled city at the head of the Persian Gulf by air from Iraq, again by desert trail through the disputed Neutral Territory between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and several times by sea. Kuwait's Oil Pier Is World's Largest Here in the desert by the edge of the sea is Burghan Field, noted throughout oildom for the fabulous thickness and richness of its oil-bearing sands. Kuwait's 150 wells tap reserves equal to about two-thirds those of the entire United States. A third of a billion barrels of oil annually go out of the little principality from the largest oil-loading pier in the world.t Whenever I visited Kuwait I called on Sheik Abdullah as Salim as Subah. He, like his counterpart in Bahrein, is investing his royalties in the welfare of his people. On each visit I sat with British Col. H. R. P. Dickson on his veranda overlooking the for est of masts in the Kuwait dhow harbor. I learned that Dickson understands and loves Arabs better than any other among the many wise and sincerely interested Europeans I came to know. Born in the East, suckled by an Arab woman, and considered a blood member of her tribe, each spring with his wife he abandons Kuwait to join Arab friends and become a nomad of the desert. Men as far apart in station as a camel driver in the Dahna sands and the late King Ibn Saud spoke of Colonel Dickson with respect. Desert Recalls Biblical Scenes In the Biblical land of Arabia, words from the Old Testament often came to mind. I understood "a shadow from the heat," after we stopped under a lone tree beside the sun scorched Tuwaiq mountains. Returning from the desert, we stopped in the old walled city of Hofuf to see Saud ibn Jiluwi's fine Arab steeds. We dined on the roof of his palace, and I took away as pres ents two soft-eyed gazelles with hoofs no * See "Bahrein: Port of Pearls and Petroleum," by Maynard Owen Williams, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1946. t See "Boom Time in Kuwait," by Paul Edward Case, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1952.