The Time I Almost Became A Middle Eastern Princess

As a little girl raised on a sucrose-rich diet of Disney movies and the color pink, my main ambition in life was to become a princess. I tried to convince myself that I already was a princess who got inexplicably separated from my regal family, but would one day be reunited and get to sleep in a canopy bed. (I considered a canopy bed the absolute pinnacle of luxury.) The whole thing was very Anastasia.

Then, once upon a time, it finally happened! (Well, not exactly as described, but with a little encouragement I tumbled right back into those childish escapisms.)

I was visiting a Middle Eastern country where they toss out life sentences like parking tickets, which is why I’m not addressing it by name. It was an extended stopover that my friends and I decided to splurge on en route to a friend’s wedding in Asia (as if that wasn’t a splurge enough).

To cut costs, we were sneaking five people into a standard hotel room. My friends, all female and commonly classified with adjectives including “blue-eyed,” “loud,” “blond,” or “redhead,” made doing anything sneaky an impossibility. Despite our relative exoticism we managed to get by hotel security every time.

On our first night, we stayed true to character as post-collegiate westerners, and went to the nearest hotel bar, as they only serve alcohol at hotels. We proceeded to get canned on happy hour (read: free) bullfrogs: acid blue cocktails served in hurricane glasses.

Blue tongued and wasted, we shamelessly flayed on the dance floor to a band that was straight out of College Town, USA. Some things don’t change. No matter where you are in the world there will always be bars with sticky floors; cheap, sugary drinks; and crap cover bands singing, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

My redheaded friend — let’s call her Ginger just because I know she won’t like it — started making out with someone in the thick crowd of the dance floor.

“You should stop your friend. You know you can get arrested for doing that here,” a girl said to me in an English accent. Ronda was British, but currently living in the Middle East teaching English.

She helped me corral Ginger, and then introduced us to her friends. “That one,” she whispered to me pointing to a tall guy drinking a coke and smoking a cigarette.

“He asked me to talk to you. He’s kind of a big deal,” she snuck in before he came over on praying mantis legs, all skinny and boyish.

At first, Rashid would only speak Arabic to Ronda, and have her translate. It turns out he was shy.

“He wants me to ask you if you know who the ruler of this country is.”

Luckily Ginger knew.

“He is my father,” said Rashid, this time in clear English. Turns out he was educated in the finest boarding schools Europe, and spoke perfect English. Also, it turns out he wasn’t that shy. I thought he was lying, but over the next few days the privilege and special treatment that surrounded him revealed it to be the truth. Plus, you know, he was addressed as “your highness” and traveled through public areas with a security squad.

It was a whirlwind romance: not of me falling in love with him, but of me falling in love with the idea of him. Yet like any holiday romance tinged in champagne-tone sunshine, it would never work in the real word. But what was the harm in pretending for a few days, right?

My friends and I would hang out with Rashid in the garish presidential suites of five-star resorts where we’d drink tea with heads of security looming. The resorts were dripping in real gold and conspicuous consumption: It was like Donatella Versace vomited all over the place.

Rashid acted like a little prince with manners most dignified. He never made me feel uncomfortable, and he never touched me. (Well, he did call me “beautiful” and pinch my cheek one day. My facial cheek that is.)

When we were strolling through the malls — a bona fide tourist attraction, all shiny, new, and frosty with recycled air — Rashid asked with faint apology if I’d mind walking behind him. I chalked it up to a “when in Rome” situation. But there were other differences, like when he told me he spent every single day of a violently hot August at a water park, which made me remember that our dissimilarities were more than just cultural.

Despite his politeness, he did make it clear that he was interested in me by casually promising me things like a visa, a car, and a house if I wanted to stay in the Middle East longer.

While sitting in epic traffic amongst candy red Ferraris, Rashid started talking to me about religion. “You must try this for me,” he asked in that awkward, non-native syntax that allowed you to chalk up even suggestions of religious conversion to a language barrier, “You pray to Allah once a day, then you call me, and tell me how you feel.”

“I don’t know about that, Rashid.” I tried to be noncommittal.

“You must try it. You will feel so good! This I promise.”

From the backseat I hear Ginger hiss a little too loudly to one of the others, “He’s trying to covert her: We’re gonna be rich!”

“Ok, Rashid, maybe I’ll try it.” I said, distracted.

When it was time to leave for my friend’s wedding, Rashid tried to get me to stay, but of course I left anyway. He gave me a paper that I still have with at least seven contact numbers on it.

“I’m guessing you’re not on Facebook.” I said, examining the paper.

“Anytime you want to come back to my country. You tell Rashid. You can ring me, and I will send the plane.”

Over time, the tale has been mythologized in the shared history of our circle of friends.

Most commonly it’s immortalized as a playful criticism: “If you hadn’t been so uptight about accepting wedding camels, the rest of us would be slugging back bullfrogs poolside by now!”

And other times, when I’m feeling helplessly self-indulgent, it’s another daydream: I fantasize about calling Rashid and asking him to “send the plane.” I could be an ex-pat Sheikha in Italian sunglasses and a burqa bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. It would be a life of summering in the Budva Riviera. Hell, I’d take any life of using the word “summer” as verb. And I’m pretty sure I could swing a canopy bed out of the deal.

Then there is the haughty, self-righteous trump card of knowing I passed on Middle Eastern royalty. And for a brief moment I get to feel like hot sh-t, until I subsequently conclude that if I ever did call him, he would most likely have no idea who I was, and hang up the phone on me.

The enduring and best inheritance from the tale is that it’s a good story and a nice fantasy — for the both of us. TC mark

image – Shelley Panzarella

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  • Sonia Thomas

    I hope you remain alive if “Rashid” ever sees this. 

  • http://twitter.com/moedabbagh ✖ ɥbɐqqɐp ✖ ǝoɯ ✖

    Ummmmm you’re such a dummy for passing that up. 

  • :)

    I’m Middle Eastern and probably from the same country you’re “addressing”. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but there is no way he would have married you or even sustained the relationship for longer than a few days. The way you’ve structured this article just shows how ignorant you are of the culture and social norms…you did not pass up royalty because royalty doesn’t even allow marriages with non Arabs. :)

  • Tammy

    Is there anywhere other than the UAE this would happen? Only thing that has me stumped is that I don’t think they hand out life sentences like parking tickets to foreigners there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Reiter/9306438 Eric Reiter

    I’m going out on a limp (although I am pretty certain, with the liquor laws and fancy cars) that you were in Dubai.  All you would have had to do is pay lip service to Allah and you could be royalty… utterly shocked.

    • Melissa

      lol. limp.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Reiter/9306438 Eric Reiter

        Yeah, I caught that after the fact.  Let no one say I know how to type.

  • Anonymous

    I highly doubt the romance would’ve led anywhere, as Arab royalty only marry Arabs.. and your ignorance of the culture is quite shocking. We don’t have “wedding camels”. *facepalm*

  • electricboogaloo

    Most likely wanted you to be his fuck buddy…not his wife. Would have disposed of you the minute you got wrinkly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046820072 Dalia Asfoor

      Arabs don’t have “fuck buddies”. That’s why they’re always so angry. 

      • Bass

        This coming from a woman called Dalia Asfoor, (very Arab sounding name). Or what do you not consider yourself Arab? Phoenician perhaps ? Who knows!
        So what’s the solution? I’m intrigued..
        Maybe Arabs don’t have fuck buddies because sex is more than a pleasurable activity to them. At least they’ve held onto their dignity. Then again I’m probably preaching to the wrong choir since I doubt you believe fucking “buddies” is an immoral act! trash

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046820072 Dalia Asfoor

         Arabs also cannot take jokes :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/limitedrapture Jen Anderson

    Yeah… I gotta go with the general consensus here; you would have been, at best, a mistress. An idle amusement until he was married or you aged, then cast aside.

    Also, to the person that said that the comment about wedding camels shows cultural ignorance, you’re kind of a moron. She didn’t actually *say* that there was a wedding camel involved, but rather that her friends would crack jokes like that. Sheesh.

  • Shatha H.

    The part about converting you!! i assure you it doesn’t go that way! Islam as a religion is far more than just “pray and tell me how you feel”! How would you think if someone asked you to go to a church light a candle and tell me how you feel about it! religions no matter which (Islam, Christianity or Jewish) has deeper roots and its a belief not just simple actions! before slamming religions (any religion) you should realize its not about the outer actions, there’s more than just praying or chanting for instance! 

    The whole article displays how ignorant you are of middle eastern culture, which by the way varies from one country to another, and for your information…if such prince proposed to a girl, he would bring her diamonds or gold, which is too far from your camel theory! 

    Cheers :)

  • leila

    see, the thing is, this hideous display of cultural ignorance/racism is only acceptable when directed toward arabs. ever. if i have have to hear the gag about all arabs selling their daughters for camels one more time i’mma have a conniption fit. also, you should know that not all arabs are exorbitantly wealthy, a misconception that always baffles me, considering what you SHOULD be seeing on the news. finally, these ostentatious displays of wealth, while off-putting, exist largely because the parameters of what is considered culturally ‘sophisticated” have long been established by the west, most significantly by the usa. in my experience, the majority of these wealthy ‘princes,’ are trying to embody a western notion of what it means to be enlightened. it’s not something that’s developed internally, and you can thank colonialism/globalization for that. THANKS ANYWAY GRRL.

    p.s. did sex and the city 2 inspire this? such a good movie, MY GOD

  • Guest

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read on TC. 

    • Anlon

       The fuck bro. This article was refreshing and humorous, and I didn’t see a list anywhere.

  • Vianca Pandit

     Why is everyone freaking out? Relax. It’s cute, it’s funny and like she says it makes for a good story. Leave it at that.

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  • I love Arabs

    I love all the comments about your “cultural ignorance”. Geez, this is an article, not a fucking thesis.

    • Anonymous

       Alright, I’ll make a funny article about how stupid americans are and how they can’t point out a country on a map, and don’t you dare call me ignorant of how the american people truly are. It’s not a fucking thesis, right?

  • Anonymous

    Hooray!I loved this article.I too had a marriage proposal from the Middle East..well the dude asked my parents for me in exchange for 20,000 camels  and I was like 14 but hey at least I know what I’m worth!:P

  • http://twitter.com/gypzAndy AndreaCarmona

     This is now a new fantasy of mine. How fabulous. Except for the whole walking behind him and changing religions thing. But still!

  • Anonymous

    My guess is that you’re talking about HH Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (current Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, and constitutional monarch of Dubai). The country you visited was likely Dubai.  

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