In summer, old Abdul Rahman Jamaan soaks inside his rusting car in the heart of the scorching Saudi desert. In winter, he shuts the car windows, cowers inside dirty torn blankets and begins his war against the biting cold until he falls asleep.
Jamaan, in his late 60s, has been through this saga for more than 16 years although his country is the top oil exporter and home to a quarter of the world’s oil wealth. Because of poverty and loss of family, his car has become his home and the desert his world.
When he was young and married, his wife turned to be infertile, so he got another wife. When he had a son, his delight was short lived as the baby died after two years.
When his wife died, he turned to his three brothers for solace but after a few years, they all passed away, leaving behind adult children who did not want to see him.
Yet, Jamaan refused to give up and collapse under this deluge of tragedies. Nor did he allow himself to beg for help although hunger began biting into his stomach.
Jamaan had been paid SR2,000 pension a month before his pension card was legally seized by a camel owner who sold him five camels and did not get all his money. Two camels later died of hunger as Jamaan could hardly feed himself.
Living on bread brought by friendly villagers and milk from his three feeble camels, Jamaan has become accustomed to the car as his home and the desert as his world.
He suffers daily from pain, hunger, cold, wilderness and loneliness but they have also become part of his life. More than 16 years ago, Jamaan was strong enough to move around and withstand pain but not anymore.
Jamaan lives in the lifeless desert south of the northwestern town of Hail and as the days pass, he feels weaker. His waning body has become more vulnerable to the scorching summer sun and pinching desert winter cold at night. And because of this, Jamaan now feels that it is time to seek help.
When he first moved to the desert, he was strong enough to tidy up his shabby car house and organize his lonely life. He was also wandering far away to get palm wood to light a fire during the cold winter nights. But not anymore.
“I live on bread brought by some good people…I get milk from my three camels who also give me company in my lonely life although I can hardly now feed them..I’m afraid I might lose them soon….two months ago, one man brought me an extra blanket…it was ripped but gave me some warmth,” Jamaan said with tears in his eyes.
“In winter, when night comes, I wrap myself with the blankets, shut the car windows and try to sleep…I shiver for a long time before I fall asleep and wake up again….I used to get wood for a fire almost every day but now I am too old to do this…I am getting older and life is getting more difficult and crueler,” he told Alhayat newspaper.