MUZAHMIAH WAS A BEDU HICK TOWN in 1968, when my father was nine years old, and it’s a Bedu hick town now. The one-truck farming outpost twenty-five miles west of Riyadh is best known as the home of the Reem International Circuit, Saudi Arabia’s answer to the Daytona International Speedway. But back in 1968, it was not even that. My father, Mohamed, remembers that winter as “the season of the television,” when his world was dilated by the arrival of a black-and-white Sears set on a ledge overlooking my great-uncle Saleh’s courtyard. In my father’s telling of the seasons, that winter was preceded by “the season of the Hell,” when he’d encountered his first oil flare. He and Uncle Ali were hitching a ride to a relative’s camp near al-Hassa on the back of a postman’s truck. It was dusk, and the sun had settled deep into the reddening west. But oddly, there was also light coming from the east: a clean, yellow, too-bright light that threatened to bring the morning out to meet the night. My father and Ali climbed up from behind the shield of the cab and into the open, where they were buffeted by sandy gales. On the horizon there appeared a roaring flame, more brilliant than the sun. It was unfathomably large and impossibly high off the ground, exactly like a mirage—only there was no way this was an illusion.
more from Sophia Al-Maria at Triple Canopy here.