"My Journey from Diriyah to the United States" by Saudi Writer Abdul Malik Al-Sheikh, is a biography-like book in which he wrote about a valuable experience and explored different situations and events in his life that started in a simple environment far from the sophistication of modern cities…before he moved to the crowded and lively city of New York to study.
He lived between the palms of Diriyah, the first capital of Saudi Arabia, and the old neighborhoods of Riyadh, where he witnessed the growth of his country, and its urban advancement, and studied in its schools. But, when the opportunities of studying abroad emerged, he was the first to join. He traveled to the US and started a new academic journey. After years of fatigue and bitter separation from his family and beloved ones, he returned to his home country to serve in leading positions in both the private and public sectors. Then, he decided to retire, took a break, and started recalling memories that took him back to many unforgettable scenes, which he highlighted in a book that speaks of his journey.
The writer's memory unleashed all the scenes it stored from Diriyah, his hometown, where he spent his childhood. He kept visiting the city and enjoyed spending time in it as a child, mostly in his uncles' farm "Om Jarrar", where he was born in 1955. Then, he moved to a mud house in the "Al-Bujairi" neighborhood, which has been restored and turned into a park, an open space, and a tourist landmark in the capital. He explored the challenges from his childhood, like crossing the route leading from the palace to the other side of the farm, passing by a pool currently known as "Al Litha;" and the small store that children and residents visited every day. Sweets, dinner table essentials, and parental orders were an integral part of the day in that region.
He also wrote about the children of Diriyah and their hobbies. At the time, they believed that burning one of their hands could help them hunt birds with a small tool similar to a catapult, and played a popular local game named "Tash ma Tash," during which they used to gather and open an agitated soda bottle.
Among the many things he recalled in his book were his memories in Riyadh, including the region nearby the Grand Mosque also known as Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque. It was a commercial area featuring many markets, the popular streets "Tamiri" and "Al-Wazir, and the "Dakhna" street, also known as "The Street of Scholars," in the heart of the city, where scholars and judges lived, including Saudi Arabia's Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim.
Al Sheikh recalled the Mohammadiya School established in 1953, where he studied, in Al Salam Street, in which lived Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman, the brother of King Abdul Aziz. The prince owned a palace and a farm to the west of the school, which were turned into a museum many years ago. The writer then joined an institute in the "Al Batha" neighborhood, which included a street that had the same name, and is considered one of the most prominent streets in Riyadh. He also didn't forget the capital's historic towns, and the popular hobbies in each of them.
While reading the book, you might be surprised by some situations that the author lived while studying in the United States, in 1975. New York was his first stop. He arrived in the city on a Friday, on which his country's consulate was closed. He had to wait until Monday, and spent three days in the hotel, afraid of the so-called New York criminal groups.
"I pictured Abu Al Ala' Al Ma'arri as a prisoner, and I had two choices: to stay in my room and never come out; or to get out and face my fears and assumptions regardless of the results. I decided not to waste my days with illusions, because I didn't leave my country and travel to New York to lock myself and live like a prisoner," he wrote.
He finally decided to get out and was surprised to find that all his assumptions were not true.
After returning to Saudi Arabia, he served in major posts. He represented his country's justice ministry in the Saudi-US strategic dialogue commission founded after September 11.
The commission contributed to facilitating mutual visits, in which he took part with other judges and consultants, to many US courts, including the reconciliation office, and the Minnesota Federal Court.
Al Sheikh began his writing journey after he retired from his career, and has joined the Asharq Al-Awsat family.