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The Dream

Gouache on brown paper
28.3 x 20"(72 x 51 cm)

In the Saudi Arabia of 1991, it was not possible for ten young women to have a picnic in the open without their faces and bodies being fully covered. And even if they were covered, they risked a barrage of disturbances either by the religious police or curious men. But it was a cool, sunny day, and we felt daring. My friends and I even ignored the fact that it was the middle of the Iraq-Kuwait war and our country was in the line of fire -- Yemen was continuously launching Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia, and two had narrowly missed my family's residence. We all decided to throw caution to the wind, and arranged for two discreet drivers to take us outside the city to one of the only lakes in the desert.

Unsupervised by older male or female guardians, we savoured the simple pleasure of silence and the short-lived autonomy.

Sitting on our carpet on the sand, we saw a young Eritrean shepherd suddenly appear out of nowhere, followed by his flock of sheep and goats. He passed by us as a pious Muslim should, pretending that a red carpet laden with young ladies popped up in the desert every other minute.

We noticed he was carrying a small, shrivelled thing that looked like a dark wet rag. Ignoring the rule to never speak to a male stranger, one of my friends ran after him to ask what was dangling from his hand. To our surprise, it was a new-born lamb. Then, as if in a dream, he smiled and disappeared.