The Princess Diaries by Joy Fahey (8)
It’s interesting how we can so easily fall into a routine and going everyday to see the Princess was now something I felt comfortable with. Going each day and being part of this very different family has given me so many new dimensions in my understanding and thinking but I knew it was coming to an end.
I got a bit of a wakeup call today which brought the reality of this whole experience into a whole new light.
I arrived as usual at 2pm, the Princess was having her coffee, she seemed quite tired today and asked me to join her on the sofa. We chatted about the family and then her daughter in law joined us. The Princess hadn’t been eating very much as she told me she wanted to lose some weight. We had a funny conversation about diets and I suggested that to have a bit more energy ‘juicing’ might help. We looked at some recipes on her tablet and the Butler was summoned and asked to make some. I knew he didn’t really understand so I asked if I could help him.
We went off into one of the three kitchens; they actually had a juicer, which rather surprised me. He went off to gather all the ingredients from the various fridges and together I showed him what to do.
Leaving him to it I returned to the terrace where the conversation was still in full swing. The Princess told me she didn’t feel like painting today and just wanted to relax. I seem to have taken on a new role of ‘health adviser’ and we continued to talk about food and exercise, clothes and shopping. It was all light hearted and fun to be chatting to the Princess about just ‘normal’ things you’d talk to a girlfriend about.
The Butler returned with the fresh juice for all three of us, which went down very well. It’s a real energy kick for me and lovely to have someone else make it and even better to clean up the mess afterwards!
The baby arrived with the two nannies and lots of gurgling and laughter ensued for a while. I was thinking that it was no wonder the men assumed so much power and control over the women, as they were so massively indulged and spoilt by the copious amounts of attention they received as children!
They could easily believe that women were there at their beck and call and assume that that was what women were therefore! Um an interesting thought!!
Eventually we were left on our own and started talking about art and I asked her how much time she spent painting at home. She told me she usually did something every day as there wasn’t much else to do with her time. Then she said the only reason she painted, whilst she was here on holiday, was to stop her going out shopping everyday!!
I must say I was quite surprised and wasn’t sure if she was joking or not. I venture to ask ’But you enjoy painting though don’t you?’ ‘Oh yes I enjoy it and it helps me to stop getting bored, but I’d rather be going out, especially here in Marbella where there’s so much more to do’
I laughed, naturally, all be it in a rather unnatural way, and I think, surprisingly she realized what she said and qualified it by saying ‘I had another teacher before you came, but I didn’t like her very much and I was recommended to you, so that’s why I asked you to come and you’ve really helped me with my painting’
I really didn’t know what to make of it, to tell you the truth. I felt like it was obvious she liked painting but more that I was a ‘nice’ diversion to keep her occupied and out of the shops and the outside world temptations!!
I later came to understand that whilst out of their own country the women have a lot more freedom. For example, they can drive, they don’t have to have a male guardian with them, and neither do they have to wear their black veil or abaya. But the Princess still has certain things she was not permitted to do due to her position but obviously shopping wasn’t one of them!
It is difficult to understand, as a western woman, these incredible restrictions women are under. However there is a growing campaign to end the guardianship system which prevents women from doing vital tasks without the permission of a male relative. And the dress code, well eventually it will change.
My hope is, in bringing this real life experience into awareness it will give us a new understanding of the challenges women are dealing with in Saudi and what’s more give us a renewed appreciation of our own freedoms.
What’s very positive is that art, in all its forms, bridges the culture gap no matter what.
What an interesting and unexpected day it turned out be. I left with a gratitude boost and a great sense of relief I was born in the west!
Joy Fahey ‘Where Art and Life Meet’
Written and published by: Joy Fahey
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