Saudi Arabia, “Order of the Blue Thumb”

Order of the Blue Thumb

Order of the Blue Thumb

After about an hour of snorkeling, I was initiated into what I call the ‘order of the blue thumb.’ We went to the ‘castle’ of one of the Saudi princes. Don’t get too impressed. There are about 5000 princes. This number is difficult to confirm but I will accept the figure. The compound was high walled and we were admitted through a security gate. There were four of us. The other three Lebanese men were planning to scuba dive and spearfish. I did not have a diving license and would snorkel. The reef was rich in fish because the waters of the Red Sea at this location were restricted. As the divers submerged and set off on their quest, I happily snorkeled around the reef. I had a small underwater camera and was attempting to gain experience in a world where the photographer and subjects were simultaneously moving three dimensionally and further hindered by water. I came up to clear my mask and found a Coast Guard lieutenant gesturing to me just outside the reef. I couldn’t climb aboard the patrol boat as they wished. He had me go back to shore and then around the point to where the adjacent walls met the other compound next door. There, three men were standing. Two of them held AK 47 rifles. As my Arabic was poor, the broken conversation revealed that the whereabouts of my companions was of utmost concern. As they surfaced, their route took them across the waters of the adjoining compound. Therein lies the concern. It was the compound of an important prince. Had he been in residence, bullets might have been in play. As it was we were detained in the local Coast Guard station while things were sorted out. We were offered tea and lunch. But the paperwork took all the rest of the day – one hour scuba/snorkel and seven hours of investigation. At one point we were possibly in danger of being detained overnight. A representative from each employer had to appear, as a Saudi national was needed to vouch for us. Later I found that my sponsor’s father knew the General in charge of the Coast Guard and could have facilitated our release. Sometimes it’s about what you know and whom you know.  At no point did I feel endangered although the rifles were a bit unnerving. Needless to say I did not take out my camera to photo the guns, coast guard station or any of the pleasant investigators. To secure release we had to confirm the police report. This required a thumbprint in multiple places on the document, hence ‘the blue thumb.’ The four of us all left with indelible ink on our thumbs.


On the other side of the wall to right is danger

The view to that compound was safe

Some great coral, it doesn't move

Scallop, it doesn't move fast

Everything, fish and photographer is moving

My pictures are bigger than the ones they speared

Colorful, hard to miss

Clinging, Julia loves this pic


6 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia, “Order of the Blue Thumb”

  1. As much as I love Bond – I also enjoyed – Medicine Man. Connery is my all-time favorite. Call me a spy wannabe. If I had to live my life over, would try for the C.I.A. Took a few moments to search Youtube, glad you enjoyed it.

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