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Ameer's Last Laugh

My wife and I were going on pilgrimage to Mecca. Our children were then in England so we arranged for them to join us in Jeddah. Our itinerary was to stay in Jeddah for a couple of days before their arrival. We had booked through a reputable travel agency in Kuala Lumpur.

 Jeddah is a beautiful port city always under renovation. We stayed in a five-star hotel. After my wife and I checked in, we were ushered into a room marked “Royalty Room”. It was pompously decorated and furnished. Food was exotic and aplenty. Service was excellent. The atmosphere was like one of the stories that I had read in “A Thousand Nights and a Night”.

On due date, we packed our baggage and came down to check out. We did not have to pay anything because we had already paid in Malaysia. When signing checkout papers, I noticed some remarks at the top reading “Royalty from Malaysia”. I then understood all the extravagant hospitality showered upon us. Hearing that we were not royalties, there was uncontrolled but good-humoured laughter among the staff members.

The reason for the confusion was that my name was Ameer Ali and my wife’s Shareafah Beevi. The Lebanese officer, who originally processed the booking order, took Ameer and Shareafah as royal titles and Ali and Beevi as names. In other words, the hotel was honoured to host an Ameer and His Excellency's consort! My wife and I laughed and laughed as we never laughed before. That was the last time I laughed.

  A week later, my dear wife died in Mecca after completing the pilgrimage. Fellow pilgrims said “Alhamdhulillah – Praise be to Allah”. Yes, but I fell into a lasting vacuum.



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