The Wells of Ibn Sa'ud

The Wells of Ibn Sa'ud

The Wells of Ibn Sa'ud

The Wells of Ibn Sa'ud

Excerpt

I had never dreamt of going to Arabia. Roaming the fields and woodlands of that part of Holland where I was born and now have my home, near to Sir Philip Sidney's Zutphen and not far from the Arnhem sacred to later British soldiers, I, as a boy, thought of distant lands. But the lands I thought of were not of the Middle East but of the Far East where we Dutch had had a footing for many centuries. It was the lush green isles of Java, Sumatra, Celebes and Borneo that first called me, not the steaming coasts and the scorched, and plains of Arabia Deserta. I came from a home of devout parents and might well have felt the call to be a missionary. As it turned out I ended up as Netherlands Minister in Jedda but the career I actually embarked on, when the time came to make a choice, was in the Dutch Colonial Service.

It was thus in the second year of World War One that, fresh from the lecture-rooms of Leyden University, I found myself in the interior of northern Sumatra as a District Officer. My post was on an island in the middle of a large lake. We thought ourselves remote from war in that distant outpost but were mistaken. Muslims in the backwoods of Djambi in southern Sumatra felt the moment opportune to attack their Christian rulers, and before long the movement had spread to the then still heathen part of the Batak country in the north.

Dutch rule had penetrated that part of the Batak jungle for only a score of years or so and although it had opened a new era there and established peace and security and justice, even for the very poor, it had, inevitably, upset existing ways of life. The people resented being upset and the resulting unrest outweighed the good we had brought them. When they found that they were not to be left alone with their old beliefs and customs they . . .

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