It was a day of double celebrations for Professor Enosakhare Samuel Akpata and his wife, Professor Victoria Akpata, as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and the launch of their book, Sand, Sun and Surprises, 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 13 years and at Kuwait University for 10 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 23 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, would appeal to people intending to go and work in the Middle East; those 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. Hence, the middle class who had skills that were marketable outside Nigeria started to emigrate.
In the next chapter, the author gives 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 Centre 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
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.
While also disclosing that the book took him three years to write, Prof. Akpata said, “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.”