Sunday 29 January 2012

To each a vision and a dream

Image from

A Moslem preacher in Saudi Arabia was recently passing on his knowledge of the “science of visions and dreams” to believers attending his lectures at a mosque in the Saudi summer resort city of Taef.

Elaph, the Arab world’s first electronic daily newspaper broke the news last October 18 under the title, “Teaching of the science of visions and dreams gets underway in Saudi Arabia.”

Elaph was founded in 2001 by Osman el-Omair, a former editor of the Saudi newspaper of records Asharq Alawsat. It identified the Saudi Islamic Affairs Ministry preacher as Youssef el-Harithi.

Harithi, talking only to Elaph, dismissed as misguided suggestions that interpreting visions and dreams violates Moslem Sharia. Teaching it, he said, is not much different from teaching the “jurisprudence and beliefs of Islam” so long as it is done by certified scholars.

Elaph said a Saudi survey shows interest in the interpretation of dreams is much greater among Saudi females than males. The survey found that females under 26 years old seek explanations of their love dreams. Those above 35 mostly search for interpretations of dreams about their family and marriage troubles. By age 40, the Saudi woman chiefly wants light shed on nightmares revolving around her husband’s existing or expected “second wife.”

A reader, commenting in Elaph under the name “Farid,” had this one-liner reaction: “The world invades space while we interpret daydreams!”

Speaking of visions and dreams, I have been looking to explain a specific one for ages.

I was in my senior year reading economics at the American University of Beirut. In the first semester, I was attending an economics course with Dr. Talha M. Yafi. Sitting next to me in the classroom was Peter Andritsakis, a fellow student from Cyprus. I asked Peter one day why he was always in a rush to leave after Dr. Yafi’s lecture.

He told me, “Because I go to a casino in Bab Edriss to play roulette. It is on the first floor right above Tanios café. It has a midday ‘séance’ from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Are you familiar with roulette?”

When I said I was not, Peter quickly explained the basics of the game: you place a minimum LL.1 bet on a number or a range of numbers between zero and 36, or on the colors red or black, or on whether the number is odd or even.

A couple of days later, I dreamed that I rolled the dice in a game of backgammon and heard someone exclaim loudly, “Le premier rouge” (French for “number one red”).

I rushed to Peter the next morning and asked him to interpret my dream. He said, “Strange, because the number one is red indeed, but there’s no dice to roll in roulette.”

Days later, on a Sunday, I decided to revise for an exam at the AUB Jafet Library, instead of at home. I took a “servees” (shared taxi) and headed to campus. Traffic forced the “servees” to stop right opposite Tanios. As if in a trance, I just paid my fare, stepped down and marched up the staircase next-door to Tanios. The casino’s doorkeeper, who was seated behind a little table, pointed the way in.

I had LL. 4 on me plus some change. I exchanged LL. 3 for three chips and headed to the roulette table and stayed maybe half an-hour or more watching what the croupier did and how people placed bets, collected winnings or lost chips. Then, without thinking or blinking, I took the first of my three chips and placed it on “number one red.” In under a minute, the roulette ball settled in the roulette wheel and the croupier announced, “Le premier rouge.”

I collected my first winnings of about LL. 35. I repeated the exercise twice at intervals of 10-15 minutes while in some sort of hypnotic state. Each time, it was “le premier rouge” and another LL. 35. I was overcome but stayed put until the croupier announced that the session’s last spin was coming.  “Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets,” he said in French. I robotically placed a chip on number 36. And 36 it was!

I walked away with a small fortune of LL 140.

Peter was not on campus when I got there. But I summoned my other colleagues and recounted the story at Feisal’s eatery opposite AUB’s Main Gate. They were in utter disbelief until I showed them the cash. One of them, my chum George T. Yacoub, convinced me to go together the following day to Alpha, a ready-to-wear shop next to the Beirut Municipality building, and buy myself a trench coat. The trench coat cost me LL. 45. Most of the balance went to my mother who thought the dream was manna from heaven.

Interpretations, please!