First, there was a dream—written in black ink in a spiral notebook—Northwestern University printed in purple across the cover.
My husband tells me that an ancient women’s creed part of the Koran is being carried across the desert by two women on horseback and coming into town. He orders me to get the story.
I climb into a small white pickup truck and drive a long way into the desert on a road heavily fenced on either side. It is sweltering hot—my hair is in a pony tail, but sweat drips from my bangs and runs down my face. At the end of the road is a checkpoint with three male guards who make me sign off the road. They give me clipboard and a pen, but the pen isn’t working and it takes me three attempts to sign my name.
After the checkpoint, I mount a horse and ride across the desert until I arrive at a ranch. There, I wait and watch until the two women ride up on horses. The women are very old. White scarves wrap their heads, framing tan, wizened faces. White flowing clothing covers their arms and legs and they wear leather sandals. They ride up to me and stop. Their dark eyes regard me silently. After looking me up and down, they exchange glances then solemnly pass me a colorful woven bag containing the piece of the Koran.
The dream is dated October 17, 1985. Twenty-eight years ago today. Four years before I went to Saudi Arabia. Before I knew Saudi was in my future. Before I had any exposure to Islam or understanding of the Koran.