From public execution sites to glittering shopping malls, from desert wadis to soaring five-star hotels, the modern Middle East is a study in contrasts. This winter, I shed my hat as a political advisor and went as a tourist -- to get a bit of sun before heading back to Yale University to teach a course on Middle East politics, but also to see how the Arab Spring has touched the monarchies of the region. I had toured some of the republics -- Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia -- in 2011, and
I found them in various stages of revolt against their rulers. This time, I headed to Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Jordan to hear what their people thought of their leaders and to try to get a sense of whether
the kings and sultans of the Arab world still feel safe on their thrones. This is my journey.
"Here is Chop Chop Square," my
Bangladeshi escort informed me, pointing to a square that was so named because it was the site of
previous executions. We were exiting the museum at Masmak fort, which Ibn Saud
had captured in 1902, thereby reasserting his family's control over their ancestral
home of Riyadh. He went on in 1922 to conquer the Nejd, the center of the
Arabian Peninsula, and in 1925 to take the Hejaz, the western coast that includes
the holy cities of Mecca and Medina -- establishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
in 1932 out of these dominions.
Ibn Saud fathered 45 sons (as well
as numerous daughters), and following his death in 1953 up until today, the
kings of Saudi Arabia have all been sons of Ibn Saud.
I had never previously visited the
kingdom -- nor had I desired to, frankly. My earliest image of the country had
been formed by watching Death of a Princess, a 1980 docudrama about a
Saudi princess who was executed in the square for adultery. But friends of
mine had recently moved to Saudi Arabia. And how can one try to understand the
Middle East's past -- or its potential futures -- without visiting the country
where Islam began?
I checked the buttons on my abaya to ensure I was fully covered
before striding onward into the square. I had purchased the simple black robe a
month earlier in Brooklyn. The shop owner had proudly shown me the latest
fashions, embroidered with glitz and bling. I insisted that I was only looking
for a functional garment.
"I am going to Saudi," I told him. "I just need a black cloak
to throw over my clothes." Disappointed,
he took me to the backroom to view the cheap abayas. I tried one on. "It looks
beautiful on you," the shop owner insisted. "We can take it in at the sides to
show your figure more."
I told him it would not be necessary. "It's
a burqa, for goodness sake. I am not going to Saudi in search of a husband!" An
old Arab woman, seated in the corner of the store and dressed in full Muslim
garb, laughed out loud.
As a woman, I was not permitted to venture out on my
own in Saudi Arabia. I was supposed to always be accompanied by a husband or
male relative. However, for reasons that I did not want to fathom, Asian men are
allowed to escort foreign women. The country is awash with Asian workers,
brought in to do the jobs that Saudis regard as beneath them. The government, faced with a demographic youth bulge
and growing unemployment, had recently embarked on a policy of Saudization,
using tax incentives to encourage firms to employ Saudis and cut down on the
numbers of foreign workers.
My Bangladeshi escort showed me around Riyadh. I was
expecting it to be like cutting-edge Dubai,
and I was surprised that the city was not more modern. The public spaces were
not well cared for, and the roads were poorly maintained. Yet there was
considerable wealth in private spaces: Over tall walls, I could peep at opulent
mansions -- substantial buildings, two or three stories high. Saudi Arabia's GDP per capita stands at
$24,000, but that figure gives no sense of the gulf between rich and poor.
We visited Dariya, an old neighborhood of Riyadh, in
which the houses were made out of mud. The area was being restored, but the
Saudi foreman allowed me to wander through the dusty streets. I took photos
with my brand-new iPad mini, which I showed to the foreman expecting to impress
him with the latest technology. The foreman took out his iPhone 5, grinning at
me. All the latest Apple products were already available in Saudi Arabia.
* * *
By chance, I was invited to ladies tea one afternoon
and had a glimpse of life behind the walls. I discarded my abaya immediately on
entering the house, and soon my eyes were bulging at the apparel of my fellow
guests -- cleavage-revealing tops, Prada handbags, 3-inch heels. In an effort to have us all mingle, the host proposed "speed-dating." So I found myself
moving from sofa to sofa, while grabbing mouthfuls of food and gulping tea.
One woman told me how her divorced husband had
prevented her children from traveling outside the country. He had received a
text from the airport authorities when she and her children had tried to fly
out of Riyadh.
I asked her why women in Saudi Arabia put up with all
these restrictions on their lives. "King Abdullah is a modernizer, but he is
pushing against traditional forces which are very resistant to change," she
explained. "Women were not so much scared of the mutawwa [religious police] but feared being ostracized by their
families. The alternative to the monarchy is religious conservatives -- and
that would make the position of women even worse."
She told me that Saudi society had not been so strict
when she was growing up. Things changed, however, after Islamist dissidents
seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 during the annual hajj (pilgrimage). The two-week battle left over 200 dead. In
its aftermath, the monarchy chose to co-opt its Islamist opponents by enforcing
stricter Islamic codes.
Despite the kingdom's great wealth, its education
system was a disaster, and as a result, King Abdullah established a
scholarship program, run by the Ministry of Higher Education, to send tens of
thousands of Saudis overseas for undergraduate and postgraduate study. Now
they were returning to Saudi. "This
is bound to have an impact on the society one way or another," my tea companion
A beautiful young woman told me she was convinced that
change was coming to Saudi Arabia. "The country cannot withstand the influence
of the Arab Spring," she said. "However, we do not look at Egypt as the model."
Saudis, skeptical of the chaos in Cairo and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood,
largely do not see any good coming from the overthrow of the kingdom's old
ally, Hosni Mubarak.
This allergy to revolution is part and parcel of Saudi
society. Sitting in a cafe in an
international compound -- where it was forbidden to wear an abaya -- a Western
diplomat explained to me how the national religion of Saudi Arabia, Salafism,
is "quietist," encouraging Saudis to support the maintenance of the status
quo. The monarchy is hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, viewing it as a shadowy
underground movement that aims to upend the status quo across the Middle East,
including in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leaders view the Arab Spring as a conspiracy --
backed by the West -- to bring the Brotherhood to power.
At dinner one evening, an Arab diplomat told me that
Saudi Arabia sees the world differently from its Arab brothers because it was never colonized by European powers. "The king," he said, "was fearful of
Iran and its ambitions. He believes Iran was trying to destabilize the Saudi
regime through its Shiite population."
The Arab diplomat told me that this obsession with
Iran defines how Saudi Arabia sees the Middle East. The king is hostile toward Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki not because he is Shiite but because he has not fulfilled a promise
to move forward with reconciliation with Iraqi Sunnis -- and because the king regards Maliki as a puppet of Iran. Former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad
maintained cordial relations with the king, and before he died in 2000 had even
asked the Saudi monarch to look after his son, Bashar. The king, however, has
turned against Bashar for not reining in Hezbollah, for Syria's alleged
involvement in the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri, and for maintaining close ties with Iran.
* * *
A trip to Riyadh would not be complete without a trip
to the mall. It was a bizarre experience: All the stores were Western --
McDonald's, Marks & Spencer, Zara, Karen Millen. But the mannequins had all
been decapitated, in deference to Wahhabi sensibilities. And there were no
changing rooms in the shops for women. I had only been in Saudi Arabia a few
days, but the place was already having an effect on me. I bought a tight-fitting, low-cut dress, covered in a bright print of women's heads.
Headless mannequins at the mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
I spoke about the contradictions I had seen one
evening to a Western diplomat. "Modernity for Saudis," he suggested, "is a
commodity that you can buy. It is Baskin-Robbins; it is the iPhone."
"Modernity for us," he reflected, "is Hobbes,
Descartes, Hume … the French Revolution. We are cognitively modern, but we ache
for the past. They are cognitively pre-modern, but they ache for the future."
I went to bed wondering whether he was right. Cultural
explanations about the Middle East had for years been discounted as
"Orientalist," with economic and political explanations gaining greater
credence. But Saudi Arabia was weird -- seriously weird. As far as I could make
out, the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy came from the family's history of
conquest, its deal with the Wahhabis -- and the fear of the alternative. The
regime had been able to sustain itself through oil-based patronage, all the
while leaning on a strong internal intelligence system to monitor opposition.
The biggest threat to the Saudi regime appeared not to come from the public,
but from within the monarchy itself, because disputes over succession could come to
a head once Ibn Saud's sons were all dead.
Nothing in Saudi was as it appeared. I was glad I had
visited the kingdom. But I was also happy to get on the plane to Oman.
Sitting next to me on the flight to Muscat was a
Palestinian man in his late 20s who worked for an American high-tech
company and lived between Bahrain and Jordan. "What is the Arab Spring
bringing?" he asked me rhetorically. "Nothing except for insecurity. I am so
worried for the future of my children. I thought it was safe for them in
Bahrain, but when the demonstrations broke out there, I sent them back to
Jordan. And now there are growing problems in Jordan. I know this is going to
sound crazy, but the safest place for them at the moment is in Ramallah in the
I had lunch on my first day in Muscat with a young
Omani journalist. He told me that he had been involved in the protests in 2011,
which had been small-scale but still
surprised the regime. "We called for better governance and an end to corruption
-- not the overthrow of the regime," he said.
I asked him whether the demonstrations had any lasting
impact. "There were some protesters killed,"
he told me. "But Sultan Qaboos
made some changes: Ministers were replaced, and some new jobs were created.
This calmed things down." He told me
that Oman had a parliament of sorts, the Majlis al-Shura, with 83 elected
members. But it was the sultan who wielded real authority.
After the restrictions of Saudi Arabia, it was a
relief to discard my abaya in Oman. Feeling free, I jumped in a taxi and headed
down to Muttrah, the old part of town. I walked through the markets, eying the
silver daggers, inhaling the frankincense. I wandered through the back streets,
looking past the whitewashed houses to the fortresses perched on top of the
mountains. I strolled along the corniche, sprayed by the waves crashing against
the harbor wall.
I stopped in the vegetable market to admire the local
produce. "Where are you from?" the old vegetable seller asked me. I told him I
hailed from Britain.
"It is good there," the old man nodded. "There is no
chaos. Do you have rain?"
"Yes," I said, "plenty of rain -- too much, in fact." I told him it was my first visit to
Oman and that his country was beautiful. "We have security here," he told me.
"It is safe. The sultan is a good man."
To explore Oman further, I hired a guide,
Abdullah, who owned his own four-wheel drive car. He was in his late 40s
and, like most Omanis, wore a white dishdasha (a long white robe) with a kumar (cap) on his head. On our first
day out, we headed westward toward Jebel Akhdar, the "Green Mountain,"
apparently so named due to the flora and fauna that sprouts up after it rains.
Abdullah showed me the irrigation system, which was established 500 years ago
and must have been among the most sophisticated in the world at the time. We
left the car to head off on foot into the remote villages, built out of mud on rocky
Ruins of Birkat al-Mouz in Oman's Jebel Akhdar.
Every village, no matter how remote, had electricity
around the clock. Abdullah pointed to places where the sultan camped out in
order to hear the needs of the people. As I was to discover during my stay in
Oman, Sultan Qaboos is extremely popular.
"We are mostly Ibadis -- not Sunni or Shiite," Abdullah
told me. I asked him how Ibadis differed from other Muslims. He was not really
able to answer the question, just
saying, "We are very moderate and tolerant. We have good relations with
everyone. We are the only Arab country to have good relations with Iran."
Indeed, Oman has often acted as an intermediary
between Iran and its Arab and Western antagonists. It played a crucial role in
the release of three American hikers detained in Iran in 2011 -- and in the
papers that December morning, I read
how the country had helped secure the release of an Iranian who had been
detained a few years earlier in Britain as part of an American sting operation.
The roads were very good. Abdullah had downloaded an
app on his smartphone that tracked
our route. "She's a good girl," he said, decreasing speed when the female voice
warned him of speed cameras. "She has saved me a lot of money." We had the
radio on in the car. Abdullah sang along to the songs; I kept the rhythm by
clapping my hands and drumming on the dashboard.
A day or so later, I flew down to Salalah, close to
the border with Yemen. The climate was tropical -- not like anything I had ever
experienced in the Middle East. I walked through a banana and coconut
plantation and waved at the workers who invited me over to share a meal with
them. I emerged from the plantation at a market, which was closed for Friday
prayers. I wandered down to the sea, drawn by the sound of the ocean. Stretched
out in front of me were miles of fine, pale yellow sand. I sat on the beach,
alone with the birds. I was in paradise.
The next day, at the Samhuram
museum, I watched a video that showed the great strides Oman
has made since Sultan Qaboos took power in 1970, sending his father into exile
in London. At the time, Oman was poor and faced an insurgency in this southern part
of the country, known as the Dhofar. Sultan Qaboos had made a historic speech when
he began his reign, saying that Oman
had once been at the forefront of the Arab world and that it could become
great again. He had toured the country, spending weeks sleeping in a large tent
so that people could come to him to express their concerns and needs. He had
offered an amnesty to the Dhofar rebels, cutting their supplies, eroding their
support, and allowing those who surrendered to form irregular units. While Oman
did not have the extravagant wealth of other Gulf countries, its oil revenues
have enabled the country to emerge from poverty. Oman today has infrastructure
that would make any Western country proud.
At the museum, I struck up a conversation with an
American couple from Seattle in their late 60s or early 70s. As
travelers are wont to do, we exchanged tales of previous journeys. I told them
of how Salalah brought back memories of a trip I had made a quarter-century ago, when I had hitchhiked alone from Morocco across the Algerian
Sahara in an effort to reach Timbuktu. I hadn't been able to get there due to
fighting, so instead had continued south through Benin, until I reached the
coast. I had spent the night on the beach. I squirmed when the American man
asked me where I was staying in Salalah. "The Hilton, but I got a
good rate," I admitted, trying to somehow negate my sense of guilt at my metamorphosis from
backpacker to tourist.
"You know," the American man told me, "I made it to
Timbuktu in the 70s. Do you want to shake my hand?" I grabbed it. They
had seen so much of the world and had once followed the hippie trail. "George
W. Bush," the woman announced, "destroyed the hope of the new century. Now
Americans are so frightened of the world and don't travel so much."
My guide in Salalah was Asi, an Indian from Kerala. I had
been expecting an Omani guide. "Omanis," Asi informed me, "are never on time.
And that is why I am your guide."
Asi told me that Kerala was just like Salalah, with
the same climate -- coconut plantations everywhere. As we drove, I listened to
tales of life in India, of black magic, of mischievous spirits, and of an elephant
who had once chased Asi up a tree. Suddenly, as we were going downhill, Asi
stopped the car, put it in neutral without the hand brake, and turned off the
engine. The car began reversing up the hill on its own accord.
"You know why this is?" Asi asked. I shook my head. I
was expecting him to tell me that the car was possessed by jinn. "It is because of the magnetic
field," he proudly announced.
With no other explanation, he turned on the engine,
and we continued our drive up to Jebel Samhan, the tallest mountain in Salalah,
avoiding the camels and cattle that continually crossed the road. Asi told me he
had previously worked in Qatar. The money there was better, but Asians were
treated like slaves. He liked Oman. People here were poorer, but treated Asians
with greater respect.
The next morning we drove westward along the
beautiful, jagged coastline before ascending up Jebel Qamar, the Mountain of
the Moon. Frankincense trees grew among the ragged rocks. Beyond lay the Empty
Quarter -- an expanse of endless desert leading into Saudi Arabia and Yemen that had
once attracted intrepid travelers such as the British explorer and travel
writer Wilfred Thesiger. Asi
snapped photos on his smartphone, which he immediately sent to his wife in
Kerala. He told me that they were newlyweds. It had been an arranged marriage.
His family had sent photos of her, he had liked them, and he had paid a visit home to
marry her a few months earlier. He was going to bring her to live in Salalah,
where he was allowed to rent -- but not buy -- a place.
"What happens if you find out that you don't like each
other?" I asked.
Asi turned to me, saying sharply: "That is not our
culture. We are not like in the West. We have different expectations. The
marriage will of course work."
He quickly moved the discussion to new technological
developments such as driverless cars and trips to the moon. He told me how his
father had lived a life similar to that of his grandfather -- but how now, thanks to modern
technology, his own life was very different than his father's. Before I left, Asi
made me promise to return to Salalah during the khareef season from July to October, when warm rains turned the
I flew back to Muscat, where I explored more of the city and spoke with Omanis. Khaled, in his
mid-30s, had once worked for the sultan, and he spoke of the sultan with great
respect. He told me that the sultan was very popular among Omanis due to his
care for his subjects. In 2007, he told me, a storm had flattened much of
Muscat. The sultan visited the damaged sites and assured people that they
would receive help.
Khaled told me it is unclear who will succeed the sultan,
as he does not have any children. Khaled said the sultan had put the name of his
proposed successor in a white book, which will be opened by the family after
his death. If the family agrees with this name, then this person will be the new
sultan. If there is no consensus, then they are supposed to find a different
candidate they can agree on.
"Omanis want jobs and money to buy material goods,"
Khaled told me. "They are not so interested in political freedoms and
democracy." Although Oman is a much
wealthier country than it was in the past, Khaled said that his
grandparents had told him that life had been better before -- families spent
more time together. Now, they said, people only connected on the phone.
On Christmas day, I drove with Abdullah to Wadi Shaab,
about two hours south of Muscat. A small boat ferried us across the water. From
there we hiked for 45 minutes through the spectacular valley until we arrived
at the pools. I left my daypack with Abdullah, climbed down into the pools in
my shorts, and swam through the turquoise water.
An Omani man appeared out of nowhere. "Hello, my name
is Juma," he told me. "Follow me, it is this way."
I swam behind him. "Watch the rock here, be careful
there," he instructed. He spoke with such certainty that I followed his orders.
We swam through a narrow keyhole into a covered cave, surrounded by glistening
rocks. At one end, water cascaded down a waterfall. "You want to climb up?"
Juma asked, "I will help you."
Against my better judgment, I found myself following
Juma, using a rope to help climb up the side of the waterfall. It was
incredibly slippery, but Juma appeared to be half man and half fish, and
advised me where to put my feet. Somehow, I emerged at the top of the
waterfall, looking up at the steep sides of the wadi. I caught my breath and
savored the view for about 10 minutes before climbing back down the waterfall
and jumping into the water below.
I spent my last day in Oman at a market in the dusty
town of Ibri, where Bedouin came to trade camels and goats and to buy food and
guns. The women there had their faces covered with a strange contraption that
looked like a leather thong, which was apparently supposed to block the sun. In
the evening, I went to the opera house in Muscat to see The Nutcracker performed
by a Russian production company.
I was sad to leave Oman after two weeks traveling
around the country. It was the most beautiful country that I had ever visited
in the Middle East -- with the nicest people. It was clean. There was no
hassle. It was safe. Its diverse peoples -- the legacy of an empire that had
once included Zanzibar and Somalia -- identified as Omanis. And Sultan Qaboos
appeared to be the best sort of leader that an oil rich country could hope for.
But what will happen once he is gone?
"We are a monarchy, madam, not a republic," the taxi
driver responded when I asked him about the impact of the Arab Spring, as if
that inoculated Jordan against the upheaval seizing the Middle East.
"We do not have ‘shaab
yurid,'" he said, referring to the opening line of the slogan of the Arab
Spring: "The people want..."
"Everyone loves the monarch. When King Hussein died,
all the leaders of the world came to his funeral," he said, before quickly reverting back to a topic of
conversation with which he was happier -- soccer.
"I love Manchester United!" he said. "England is
number one in the world for football hooligans!" Some images remain hard to
I drank tea in a café in a trendy part of Amman with a
brilliant analyst, a young American in search of his Jordanian roots. Iraq's
President Nouri al-Maliki had visited Jordan the previous week, ostensibly to
agree to extend an oil pipeline through Jordan, thereby making Iraq less
dependent on Turkey and Saudi Arabia for exports. Maliki had also offered
Jordan 100,000 barrels of oil for free, as a goodwill gesture.
While this only amounted to one day's consumption for
Jordan, it was significant all the same. The Arab Gulf countries had promised
Jordan $1 billion a year over five years to help the country with its economic
crisis. However, only the Kuwaitis had paid up. The Saudis and Qataris had been
withholding their aid, pressuring Jordan to play a stronger role in helping
overthrow the Syrian regime.
The Maliki visit prompted a response. The fear that
Iraq -- and by extension, Iran -- was buying Jordanian neutrality on Syria
apparently propelled Saudi Arabia to cough up the $250 million it had promised
Jordan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also visited on the same
day as Maliki to discuss Syria's chemical and biological weapons. While the
"secret" visit had been all over the Israeli media, the average Jordanian remained
unaware of it.
The young analyst noted that a rise in fuel prices had
led to protests recently in Jordan. While a few had publicly called for the
overthrow of the king, most in the kingdom remained supportive of the monarchy.
They did not want Jordan to end up like Syria -- bring down King Abdullah, and
who knows what would come next.
Abdullah gained his legitimacy from the legacy of his
father, but he lacks Hussein's personal connection with the people as well
as his diplomatic skills, which allowed Hussein to manage the elites. The analyst
felt that the young king had missed the opportunity to implement reforms that
would empower moderate, secular forces. Instead, he had unintentionally
strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood. Across Amman, the streets were plastered
with campaign posters for the Jan. 23 parliamentary elections. The contest marked the
first time in Jordan's history that the parliament -- rather than the monarch
-- would choose the prime minister.
Over dinner, a well-connected Jordanian reinforced the
point that citizens were not looking to foment a revolution. "No one wants the
overthrow of the monarchy," he said. "The opposition only go as far as saying
they would like him to reign rather than rule."
Conspiratorially, he leaned toward me. "There is a new
Sykes-Picot agreement being planned," he said, referring to the post-World War
I deal that divided up the Middle East. "They are seeking to create a large
Sunni region in Jordan, the West Bank, western Iraq, and Syria. That is why
Maliki came to Jordan -- he wanted to stop it."
He did not elaborate on who "they" were.
I met up with an Iraqi general, and traveled with him
and his family down to the Dead Sea. The general had rented a minivan and was
excited to be driving us. I, however, was less excited given that senior
military officers are used to having drivers, and hence their skills behind
the wheel usually wane.
True to form, the general viewed speed bumps as beach
heads to be assaulted -- and sped up every time he approached one, laughing out
loud as his passengers were thrown around the vehicle. We went to the Jordan River and the site of Jesus's baptism. On the other side of the river -- two
strides away -- were crowds of Christian tourists singing songs and shaking
tambourines beneath Israeli flags. The general noted that the Israeli side had
restaurants, bathrooms, palm trees, and no visible security. The Jordanian side
had rudimentary shacks.
Springs of Hammamat Ma'in, near the Dead Sea in Jordan.
A bunch of Jordanian soldiers sat on wooden benches
sheltered under a rickety cover from the winter sun. "Ah, the Arabs," the
general muttered. "Why haven't we built anything?"
I spent New Year's Eve with the general and his
family. His 10-year old relative showed me the different functions on my iPad
mini. He downloaded the Viber app. "This will enable you to phone anywhere in
the world using a local number," he said. "You will soon be able to use it with Wi-Fi from your iPad."
I looked at him with loathing. Shouldn't he be playing
with Legos? I drowned my sense of pending old age by drinking wine and singing
with my Muslim friends by their Christmas tree.
Back in my hotel, the Christmas tree had pride of
place and Christmas carols blared out. Nearly all the guests were Arabs.
Jordanians, like so many across the Arab world, seemed to love the bright
lights, the gaudy decorations, and the joy associated with Christmas.
On my way to the airport, I chatted with my taxi driver
who told me he was Jordanian but of Palestinian origin. He admitted there had
been some demonstrations in Jordan. "Those calling for regime change are
Jordanian Jordanians -- mostly Brotherhood," he said. "There are no Palestinian
Jordanians calling for regime change. As Palestinians, where on Earth would we
go if Jordan collapsed?!"
* * *
As I departed the Middle East after a month of
travels, I reflected on how -- for many of those living
under the monarchies -- the Arab Spring was not viewed as a movement toward
greater freedom and democracy, but rather as the breakdown of society into
violence and chaos. People in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Jordan were very
concerned about corruption and wanted more transparent government. They wanted
jobs and greater incomes to look after their families and buy consumer goods. But
on my travels, I heard few speak about political freedoms.
In fact, most would have heartily agreed
with the famous Islamic scholar and philosopher al-Ghazali, who said, "The
tyranny of a sultan for 100 years causes less damage than one year's tyranny
exercised by the subjects against one another." And they would have related to
the medieval Islamic scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, who was born in the 13th century
in Syria during the Mongol invasions, when he said, "Better 60 years
of tyranny than one night of anarchy."