Sand, Sun and Surprises, a book authored by Professor Enosakhare Samuel Akpata has been formally launched. The unveiling was the highpoint of Professor Akpata’s 50th wedding anniversary dinner which took place on Saturday, December 29, 2018 at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Enosakhare Akpata is a retired professor of dentistry while his wife, Mrs. Victoria Akpata is a retired microbiology professor of the University of Lagos. He taught at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for thirteen years and at Kuwait University for ten years. Before then, he was a professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Lagos for 21 years.
The memoir focuses on the writer’s experiences while living and working in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) for 23 years.
According to Professor Akpata, “after working in the Middle East for twenty-three years, I returned to my country, Nigeria in 2011. In conversation with friends at home and abroad, a topic that invariably came up was about my experiences in the Middle East. Some of them have found it astonishing that I was able to survive in Arab countries for that length of time, considering the quaint stories that they had heard about the region. Others have been curious and wanted tips on life in the Middle East, in case they emigrate, or needed to advise others who had similar plans. Hence, I decided to write this memoir.”
Published by Narrative Landscape Press the book, he further disclosed, will appeal to people who intend to go and work in the Middle East, people, who want to visit the place on holidays and people in the Middle East who wish to know what expatriates think of them.
The first chapter of ‘Sand, Sun and Surprises’ describes the author’s professional background, while the second chapter deals with the social impact of the collapse of the Nigerian economy following the fall in the world price of crude oil in the 1980s, how the bleak economic situation resulted in massive devaluation of the Naira and consequently, a steep decline in the purchasing power of Nigerians. Therefore, the middle class who had skills that were marketable outside Nigeria started to emigrate.
In the next chapter, the author gave an account of his first trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the cultural shock that he experienced during his first few weeks in Riyadh. The process endured by expatriates in finding suitable accommodation, obtaining the national identity card and driver’s license are described. The book also contains information on the fascinating dress code for men and women in the region, as well as the surprisingly impressive physical development of the region. A few of the landmark buildings such as Al-Faisaliyah center and Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as the Kuwait Tower are highlighted.
Some challenges faced by academics teaching in the Middle East are mentioned in the book. Although the medium of instruction in the universities is Arabic, professional subjects such as Medicine, Engineering and Pharmacy were taught in English in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As exposure to the English language by Arab school children was minimal, students in these professional disciplines had to grapple with lectures delivered in English, especially during the first few years of their university studies. Strategies adopted by English-speaking expatriates to contend with this problem are highlighted in the book.
A chapter of the book is devoted to various leisure activities that could make life pleasurable for expatriates in the Middle East. These included indoor and outdoor sporting activities, eating out, parties, music and even concerts.
The book also addresses the question of religious worship in the Middle East. Aspects of Islamic worship that impacted on the lives of non-Muslims are described, for example the five daily prayer times and the ‘Eid’ celebrations. The ways to manage the restriction on non-Islamic religions in some other parts of the region are described. Brief reference is also made to the problem of the religious police in the region.
While also disclosing that the book took him three years to write, Prof. Akpata spoke on some of his challenges, “One of the challenges was getting illustrations because at the time I was there, I didn’t think I was going to write this book; otherwise, I would have taken a lot of photographs. Photography wasn’t really my hobby at that time. And if I wrote to the people who are still over there, they were suspicious of what one was going to do with the pictures. Even, my close friends were rather apprehensive and were not willing to send pictures. That was the greatest challenge.