Faithful readers are all too aware of the fact that I have assumed a new role in life. If you are confused, think of how I feel? I am the designated Ambassador of Eish’ha Tours and I can barely say the name (nor spell it for that matter). I became aware of the honor (and perhaps the awesome responsibility) on August 2, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. AK and his colleague (who does not have a nickname as yet) announced that three presents would be forthcoming prior to my Qatar Air departure. This blog shall speak of the first present, do remember there are two more to come.
The first gift was, not one, but two boxes of business cards. Oh so professional, oh so technical are these cards. Take a photo of the square thing and you are transported to my blog and/or to Eish’ha Tours Instagram. The cards were not a total surprise as I had received a ‘draft’ for my approval days before. But it was an absolute miracle to see them, completed in stunning form by departure eve.
Sent photos to Computer Guru Chris, who sent an immediate and utterly appropriate response.
He: Wow, Nice, ambassador!
Me: Classy you gotta admit. I am class! Hey, if you are about can I send you a blog to post???
He: Yeah sure! It is done.
Me: Great to have you on board. Will send one late tonight for tomorrow morning post.
He: Ok, all done, post is up. I’m gonna keep an eye on stats for the next say 10 days, see if we can see any patterns!
Me: Wow wow wow great idea!!!! I am slightly rethinking things but everything is on board. May not move lock- stock- and -barrel right now. Rent is not that expensive, leave the stuff, work on the business and return. Then when some programs are in place return to be the ambassador of something. Love the idea of watching the trends. Should get AK handing them out in Saudi Arabia as well, I guess. Will see.
In the meantime had a fabulous conversation with AK about our evolving plans. We work very well together for many reasons. He is like the brother I never had. I tease him all of the time, as I did with my two real brothers. But AK is kind, most considerate and surrounded by a matrix of good women who are supportive of him. He has an amazing mother, a respected educator who raised her children with strictness coupled with compassion. Most importantly AK is Muslim. (More about why it is important for me to be around Muslims in a later blog.) This is an excerpt from the conversation between the two of us.
(An excerpt is a short extract from a film, broadcast, or piece of music or writing. Simple synonyms are: part, portion, fragment, snippet, canto)
Me: I have an idea. I am thinking that I need to do some research on ambassador, That will help me understand what I am supposed to be doing. I can explain and understand better if I write. So I will do that and send it to you.
He: That sounds like a good idea. Then we can define your role better – one that we both agree upon.
Me: Glad to see we agree again. We are a good team. Watch out Saudi Arabia.
He: Watch out world!
Me: You win!! You are right.
Now it begins. What is an ambassador? The best definition, for our purposes is a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity. These are the preferred synonyms: exponent, proponent, advocate, champion, supporter, backer, upholder, booster.
Wikipedia also has something to say: “The word is also used informally for people who are known, without national appointment, to represent certain professions, activities, and fields of endeavor, such as sales.” The role of informal ambassadors is discussed: Another result of the increase in foreign travel is the growth of trade between nations. For most countries, the national economy is now part of the global economy. This means increased opportunities to sell and trade with other nations. When two nations are conducting a trade, it is usually advantageous to both parties to have an ambassador and perhaps a small staff living in the other land, where they act as an intermediary between cooperative businesses.
This is beginning to make sense. I work as an intermediary between the counties of the traveling tourists and the host country (in this instance, Saudi Arabia). AK and I have already discussed the possibility of establishing tours to Canada for Saudis.
I see my role relating to other Western non Muslim countries, rather like an Ambassador-at-Large.
“An ambassador-at-large is a diplomat of the highest rank or a minister who is accredited to represent their country. But unlike the ambassador-in-residence, who is usually limited to a country or embassy, the ambassador-at-large can be appointed to operate in several usually neighbouring countries, a region or sometimes a seat of international organizations such as the United Nations or European Union. In some cases, an ambassador-at-large may even be specifically assigned a role to advise and assist the state or government in particular issues.Historically, presidents or prime ministers have commissioned special diplomatic envoys for specific assignments, primarily overseas but sometimes also within the country as ambassadors-at-large.”
“In a less formal sense, the phrase is used for high-profile non-diplomatic representatives of various entities (rarely states), mainly cultural and charitable organizations, often as willing figureheads to attract media attention; for example, film and pop stars make appeals to the public at large for United Nations activities, sometimes during press-swarmed visits in the foreign country. Public figures are sometimes nominated or invited to endorse events designated as ambassadors, brand ambassadors, and goodwill ambassadors. Many times, international agencies like United Nations also appoint ambassadors to achieve the objectives of a particular mission, like the appointment of goodwill ambassador Bollywood film actress Priyanka Chopra for UNICEF. Japan adopted the cartoon character Hello Kitty as their official goodwill and tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong in 2008. According to Brain, the job of a brand ambassador was undertaken typically by a celebrity or someone of a well-known presence, who was often voluntary or paid considerably for their time and effort. In French-speaking regions such as metropolitan France, Guadeloupe, Réunion, Quebec, or Wallonia, the title of ambassadeur personne is used. Further, in the United States of America, senior career officers of the U.S. Foreign Service may be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to the rank of Career Ambassador as professional achievement.
Perhaps I could serve in this capacity for the United States. After all I am a US citizen, lived there for fifty years, derive retirement income from my County of Marin, California employment, therefore pay hefty taxes to both Canada and the USA.
I suddenly remember an absolutely unique experience which took place on July 31, 2023 at the King Fahad National Library in Riyadh. Never do I remember feeling more privileged, I was treated as a dignitary, almost like Royalty. It served to illustrate the importance of being an Ambassador at Large, serving the United States and Saudi Arabia.
This was a return trip to the Library, the previous trip had been transportive in many way. Details of that experience shall be told on a later blog. AK, his colleague (with no nickname) nt and I travelled to the library, two days before my departure to Canada retracing our steps, reacquainting ourselves to the vast library, continuing the search for the truth, acting like detectives. The sleuthing proved impossible as the head of that particular department was not at work. Instead were were assisted by what appeared to be the entire staff of that vast library. . All were helpful, involved, courteous, solicitous, – opening the doors to collections and sights not viewed by the general public. everything was mine for the looking. A recent exhibit had been closed but we were allowed entry, and provided with an English speaking guide. The exhibit with huge photographs lovingly, thoroughly and and beautifully displayed the Dr. William Polk collection. Dr. William Polk, I was to discover later, was the best very best example of an Ambassador at Large. His service to the Middle East exemplary, making an enormous difference.
At the time I did not realize the significance of the man, his life and his work. Now I do and so shall you. Information was gleaned from an April 20, 2020 New York Times obituary
“William R. Polk, a longtime historian, diplomat and noted Middle East scholar who helped negotiate resolutions to several conflicts, including the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, died on April 6 at his home in Vence, in southeast France near the Mediterranean Sea. He was 91.
Over six decades, Mr. Polk delved into multiple careers, working in and out of government, writing, co-writing or editing more than two-dozen books and traveling the globe, often to hot spots.
His academic background was in Middle East studies. In the late 1950s, he started writing articles in The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs and other publications detailing what he saw as the failures of American policy in the region. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy put him in charge of planning policy for most of the Islamic world.
He also served on Kennedy’s three-man “crisis management committee” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Lyndon B. Johnson called him back to the White House during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War to write a draft of a peace treaty. He also helped bring about a resolution to the Algerian War and in 1970 negotiated a cease-fire in the Suez Canal.
One of his best-known books was one of his last, “Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North” (2018).”
The obituary went onto describe the subject of the exhibit – the 1971 caravan across the desert and the joyous reunion of the participants years and years later .
“Though he was a historian, William Polk was no armchair academic. In 1971 he spent a month crossing, by camel, the shifting red sands of the great Nefud Desert in the Arabian Peninsula to capture the vanishing way of life of the Bedouin and to better understand an ancient poem, the “Golden Ode,” by Labid Ibn Rabiah, a pre-Islamic Arab poet. His small caravan traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Amman, Jordan, an arduous 1,200-mile excursion that had not been done by camel in more than 50 years.
Mr. Polk wrote about the journey in his book “Passing Brave” (1971), and he published his translation of the poem, with his commentary, in “The Golden Ode” (1974). Both books featured photographs by William J. Mares, who had accompanied him.
“There was always more to learn, more truth to be ferreted out from among the facts,” his son, George, said in an email. “As he wrote, ‘I end with curiosity still racing merrily ahead as my occasional answers limp slowly behind.’”
The all of this, the totality of the awesome reception at the Library, along with learning of Dr. Polk’s life has been, for me, rather life-changing. I have met tens, if not hundred of Saudis. All want the story of their country told, revealed to the world. Now there are only lies and misinformation, promulgated by Western media. I can do this – I have this blog, the cooperation and support of scores or Saudis, the time to pursue this quest. The search for truth has motivated my life. I have always found there is more to learn, I shall make Dr. Polk’s motto mine: “I end with curiosity still racing merrily ahead as my occasional answers limp slowly behind.”
Photographs taken at the Library. Two of the exhibit, the other a sunset peeking through a window. You shall see more photos of the vast library and hear of my my discoveries, “attempting to ferret out more truths from the facts.”