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Correspondence

The Year of Teaching Dangerously

Somewhere in the Arabian Desert, a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit rockets along the highway under a smuggler’s moon.  The driver is a Saville Row bespoke-suited expatriate.  By day, he teaches English.  By night, he transports illegal consignments of alcohol from Bahrain to Riyadh through sandstorms of biblical dimensions and past curious Bedouin tribesmen.  Above, a small private jet en route from a camp in Iraq to a palace in Riyadh also travels toward the capital.  It is laden with drugs and guns.  The jet reaches its destination with cargo undisturbed and intact.  The expatriate is found dead in his apartment a week later.

This story of the eccentric Englishman who was a teacher by day and smuggler by night is often told by expatriate teachers in Saudi Arabia as one of several cautionary tales about the dangers of living and working in the kingdom.  William Sampson, a Canadian national who was wrongly imprisoned for two-and-a-half years and sentenced to death before being granted clemency over a car bombing resulting from an alleged alcohol-smuggling racket, is another such story.  However, the most gruesome image is of the decapitated body of American expatriate Paul Johnson, discovered in a remote area of Riyadh a few days after he was kidnapped at a fake police checkpoint and beheaded on film.

Riyadh is honeycombed with black markets in pirated goods, arms and...

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