Saturday, March 20, 2004

U.S.: Marley rules, even in Saudi

We sat down, and I asked them to tell me about themselves. There were two reporters named Hasan—Hasan Baswaid and Hasan Hatrash—but they were strikingly different. Baswaid, thirty-four, was tall and broad-shouldered, with sideburns and curly black hair, and omnipresent earphones for his mobile phone, which rang every few minutes, playing the theme from “Mission: Impossible.” He wore jeans and a partly buttoned, untucked white shirt. His handsome face belonged on the cover of a romance novel. Hatrash, twenty-eight, was slight and short; he wore traditional Saudi clothes, a trim black goatee, and black glasses that tended to be at half-mast on his nose. Under his head scarf, however, there was a snaky mass of dreadlocks. At heart, Hatrash said, he was a musician, but that was a hopeless career choice in such a puritanical society. Both men had been working at the Gazette for several years; the third reporter, Mamdouh al-Harthy, had joined the staff only about an hour before I arrived.

“How do you like working here?” I asked them.

The two Hasans shrugged and looked away. “Maybe we can talk about this later, mon,” Hatrash said. It was several weeks before I learned why he had a West Indian accent: he had honed his English by listening to Bob Marley songs.
Yah, mon!


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