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Dhow symbol which was incorporated into the Union Jack
to form Aden Colony flag.

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Founder
Dr. A. Al Sayyari
(Saudi Arabia)


Editors:
Dr. Shihab Ghanem
(UAE)

Ashraf Girgrah, B.A. B.Ed
(Canada)


Design :
Ashraf Girgrah

 

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Last update June 2020  التحديث الاخير في
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المؤسس
الدكتور عبدالله السياري
(السعودية)

أسرة التحرير
الدكتور شهاب غانم
(ألامارات المتحدة)
أشرف جرجره
ب.ع. آداب، ب.ع. تدريس
(كندا)


التصميم
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A Teenager’s First Days in a Foreign Land (Part One)
Abdulla Ahmed Al Sayyari

“You will need to wear a straw hat, black shoes and socks, blue blazer with the school emblem sewn on its pocket. The shirt has to be white with a navy blue and gold tie and no other tie should be worn. Remember you will have to wear all these whenever you go to town. You are not to be seen in the town wearing any other gear”

“Where can I get all of this stuff?” I asked.

“’ Sir; you should address me as sir” said Mr. Patrick Sherwood the Latin Language teacher housemaster to the "International Center".  “Go to the town’s High Street. You will find a tailor shop called “Horncastles” Tell them that you are a school pupil who is a “house boarder” at the “international Center”. They would give you what you need”

“Thank you, sir,”

“And another thing. You will need to shave off your moustache”

“Do I really have to? Why is that, sir?”

“School rule. Only senior perfects are allowed to grow mustaches, if they wish”.

That was my first day at school. I immediately learned that there were rules I need to abide by whether they made sense to me or not. There were a lot more of them to come.

I walked to High street which was not far from the school. I felt a grim feeling, sadness and loneliness crept in to my body.

I remembered my parents and sisters. I come from large family which lived together in harmony and love. I have always wondered with awe and admiration how my parents managed to keep us all so happy and healthy. They would often welcome relatives and village folks who would arrive unannounced to town. It always amazed me that there seems to be always ample space and enough food for them all.

I miss my parents and my lovely town terribly. A slight tear seeped gently and ever so slowly down my cheek. I immediately rubbed it off and looked the other way from passersby. I cannot be seen to be weak. Oh, how I longed to go back home. Again I felt a heavy wave of utter sadness. “Pull yourself together, boy” I spoke to myself. “you promised your parents you will come back as a doctor. There is no way you would not keep to your |
promise.” I began to feel defiant and a strong energy replaced my sadness.

I remembered a short conversation I had with a chap sitting next to me in the Alitalia plane travelling out of Aden for the first time. I knew this chap from School. He was two or three years ahead of me. He asked me what I was planning for the future.
“I will do my A levels in the UK and then join
a British University to study Medicine”
He laughed loudly and with a smirk on his face
he said “don’t raise your hopes too much as you are unlikely to make it. For s start you will not understand the English way of speaking”!

I remembered this conversation as I walked down the High Street and this filled me with determination and defiance. I smiled as the sun rays light up the High Street.
I learnt 3 months later that my neighbor in the airplane had to
return back to Aden because of his ill health. He could not withstand the cold weather. I sincerely felt sorry for him.

I approached 66, High Street. I found the shop, I read the sign on the door “Horncastles Tailors” Established in 1888- Specialist in School Uniforms.Next to the shop stood a building with a big garden full of colorful flowers and green shrubs. I read the sign on its front wall “Nursing & Home Care for the Elderly’. I had no idea, then, that I would make many visits to this place in the months to come.

The old man inside the shop at 66 High Street was full of kindness and understanding. He measured me up and provided me with two of each straw hats, white shirts blue blazer, back socks and shoes and a navy blue and gold tie which I learnt later was the tie of “The International Center” in which I was a boarder.

With a big smile and much affection, the old man asked me to sign the bill which was later sent to the “British Council” for payment. The British Council were the sponsors of my scholarship to the UK.

“Funny “, I thought to myself, ” Only last week I was walking by Gold Mohur beach in beautiful Tawahi with my father before he took me to the Crescent Street where he bought me my first suit ever from the tailor shop run by an Indian family . He chose a black colored suit as this “would be suitable for all occasions, my son”!
My father visited the UK  in two occasions  to lead the Aden Protectorate Levies Contingent  in the "Victory" and "Coronation" and " parades held in London.

I smiled as I recalled that when I arrived in London Airport, a mere few days ago,  I – with another Aden student- Ghanem- were singled out for a long interview. By the time we finished with this all our friends who were with us in thegroup left with the chap who came to collect us.

We simply did not know what to do and where to go for help which arrived unexpectedly. However, this -as well as the other interesting rules I had to abide by at school will be in other episodes.

First Days in a foreign Land (Part two)
Abdulla Ahmed Al Sayyari

I felt totally exhausted and cold when I saw a deer eating the green velvety grass. I was doing my weekly obligatory cross country run in the beautiful Knole Park adjacent to my new school. Knole Park is a famous Park in which deer have roamed  since 1456.

"I wonder if you -like me-  originate from the  Arabian Peninsula?”  I asked the deer- in Arabic - who  ignored me.  Perhaps –I thought- he has forgotten the old language after all those centuries living in an English speaking land!

Doing  a weekly 5-mile cross country run was one of the rules I had to obey in my new school.

Mr. Patrick Sherwood, the Latin language teacher and House Master was, yesterday, addressing all the new students.

“You can choose any sport you want to take part in. However, there are two sports you have no choice but to participate in,  rugby and cross country running." He continued:

“Moreover you will need to do cadet training every other Wednesday afternoon and do some form of social work in town on the alternate Wednesday afternoons” concluded Mr. Sherwood in an exceedingly serious tone.

I also had to take turns with the other students in washing the dishes and serve food to the other pupils at the boarding house.  I had to do this once a week. Service and  humility was part of the tradition of this public school. I really did not mind doing this. 

I particularly disliked playing rugby because it was rather too rough for my thin non-athletically built body, not to mention the  stench emanating from armpits filled with sweat and mud that one has to endure  when interlocking  with the opposing team members during that part of the game they call "scrum".

I suspect that my thin body was the reason I was picked on at London Airport the other day to have a medical check and chest X-ray. I suppose they needed to make sure that I was not importing a nasty bug to their shores

I always wondered why the students at the school were obliged to play rugby and run cross country. It was only later on that I became to know why. I thought one reason was that sports required endurance and therefore were possibly effective in character building. The other reason could possibly be that sports are quintessentially British. Character building and patriotism were essential component of the vision of British Public Schools. Remember, the school that I just enrolled in is over five centuries old. That was traditionally inherited to its core. 

Besides seeing the deer in my run through Knole Park, I would occasionally saw herds of sheep and cows grazing. Their sight uplifted my spirits. I have always- and still do- get a sense of happiness in seeing sheep and cows.

I have always felt that this is  a strictly Pavlovian reflex on my part. I have always suspected that this goes back to my childhood, when I used to enjoy enormously the Eid holidays which I often I spent in my family's  ancestral village watching cows and sheep graze in the open fields. Whether this happy Pavlovian reflex emanates from a fondness for the place (the village) or the circumstances (Eid occasion and being off school)  has always a question I was never able to answer to my full satisfaction.

Within a few days of joining the school, I developed another - Pavlovian reflex  but negative in nature. This reflex remained  with me until now. It is the sensation of distress and tightness which grip my chest whenever I hear church bells ringing. I have always put this down to the fact  that my first year in a foreign land was unhappy and filled with a feeling of loneliness. I would wake up - in an unhappy mood - every day - during that first year with the sound of bells ringing in my ears from the nearby church. 

Because I had been delayed in the Airport due to the medical checkup I had to undergo, when I did eventually come out I found no sign of my traveling colleagues or the guide who was supposed to take us to where we were supposed to go. There was only my colleague Mohamed Ghanem who with me.

We were lost and did not know what to do.

Suddenly we heard an Adeni-accent sweet words coming from a smiling young man. " Are you boys from Aden?  You seem lost. Not to worry I will  give you a ride to where I know you need to go”. He did so in his Morris  Mini-Minor.

He took us to a massive red brick building in Knightsbridge at the heart of London near to the famous Harrods store.

There were lots of laughing African and serious looking Indian young men gathered in groups just in the streets outside its entrance. I read the  address label by the entrance. It read 1, Hans Crescent.

That night I – together  with  more than 30 foreign students- watched on TV-with awe and admiration, Mohamed Ali Clay beat the German boxer Karl Mildenberger. That was  my first introduction to a long and fond association with British Television.

The First days in a Foreign Land (Part 4)
Abdulla Ahmed Al Sayyari
(in memory of my friend Isam Ghanem)

The porter sat at his desk clearly bored with life when he saw us walking in.
“Where do you come from, boys” he asked. 
“Aden”. We said. He looked for our names in a list hung on a board behind him.
“Right, lads, carry your bags and follow me’’. He led us down to the basement in No other than 1, Hans Crescent!

1, Hans Crescent was a spectacular looking red brick building in the prime area of Kensington London. It was adjacent to the famous Harrods Store which was an upmarket department store.

Harrods in London belonged to the House of Fraser, but later was  owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, an Egyptian entrepreneur and later - and until now- is owned by Qatar Investment Authority.  An interesting change of property ownership in London. It is not surprising that one often reads nowadays, "The Arabs are buying big chunks of London". 

It is really interesting how demographics of countries change over a short period of time. This is largely due to global trade and open markets which is taking place all over the world driven by economic and employment needs. When I arrived in London,  there were not many  Arab students. I was one of only four overseas students in my class at the medical college. Five years ago I made an unannounced visit to the lecture hall in my old medical college and was struck by the large numbers of non-British background and non-European medical students. What is more, unlike me, they spoke with perfect regional English accents. Mastering the local accent is so important in the process of societal assimilation and acceptance of émigrés. 

It is amazing how people of the same ethnic background are attracted towards each other in a foreign land as the English saying "birds of a feather flock together”.

The Pakistani, Indian and West Indians arrived in large numbers to the British shores. It was obvious to me in my first early to see them work in the underground, railway and bus services.

The Indians congregated in Slough, the Pakistanis in Bradford and the West Indians in Brixton. I guess each community felt comfortable to live in familiar surroundings, to see familiar faces and to speak the same language.

In many residence halls in the Universities, Arab students lived together, laughed together, ate together and some even went to discos together. I attributed this to the wonderful unifying effect of the Arab Language and to the universal songs of Um Kalthoum.

Our small group included the son of the Anglican Bishop of Khartoum who was studying Engineering , my dear friend Mohamed Laja’am from Shibam, Hadhramout who studied Medicine and a Libyan friend who was studying at the Institute of Education. I have learnt later that he became a Deputy Minister of Education in his country.

Mohamed Ghanem and I - entered the basement in 1 Hans Crescent. We were led by a grumpy old porter. We came to a large hall and were shown our beds. There were about 40 other beds next to each  separated only by a mere couple of feet.

What a way to start an exciting new future journey, I thought. It was not the discomfort which bothered me, it was more the lack of personal privacy. I did not know that this would be something I had to endure in the years to come - sharing bathrooms, sharing  sleeping rooms, sharing showers and so on. It was interesting how the meaning of personal privacy meant to different cultures. The English do not give this aspect of privacy much weight. It is also amazing how a human being seems to be able to adapt with time.
I only stayed for one week at Hans Crescent, but will always remember it as it is the first place, in the UK, that I ever slept in, ate porridge and kippers for breakfast and  watched “Top of the Pops on BBC”. I remember seeing a strange looking person with strange accent presenting this program with many beautiful girls around him. I, honestly did not like him  from the word go.  I later learnt   that his name was Jimmy Savile. In 2012, one year after his death at the age 84 years, this Jimmy Savile was exposed as having been the most florid serial sex offender in the history of the
UK.

I only learnt quite recently, through reading  an interesting essay by my friend Farooq Aman (published in our Aden College Website) about his fascinating experience at 1 Hans Crescent that it was actually a student hostel in which he and my friend Farooq Murshed stayed for a few years of their lives.

At the end of that week, I was accompanied by a very nice lady (alas I cannot remember her name) from Aden Office in Park Lane,  Mayfair, to my new school in Kent. It was nice gesture from her to drive me down there but I, now, suspect that it was school rule that the boarding student needed to be accompanied formally at the school by a parent or a guardian.

During that first week in London, I discovered two great British Institutions, the glory and fascination of the London underground which despite its complexities, was pretty easy to use. I memorized all its six lines by heart. I used the Northern Line, frequently, in my first year in London from Charring cross train station to Goodge street station which is nearest to my alma mater, University College London.

Once as I was leaving Warren Street station into Tottenham Court Road, I suddenly recognized  a familiar handsome smiling face. It was Isam Ghanem who was a well-known star student in Aden College - though a few years ahead of  me.

"Hi, how are you doing in your medical studies" he asked. All Adenis studying in the UK eagerly followed the news of each other.

"I am really enjoying it" I said, truthfully. "What about you, how is you engineering course at Aberdeen University going" I asked.

"Oh I moved from Aberdeen to Birmingham University where I am doing Law. It is really what I always wanted".
Isam went on to become a well-known lawyer and obtained a PhD in Law from London University. He also became a legal scholar with many publications under his belt. That was the very last time I ever saw Isam. He sadly died a couple of years ago in Aden which he adored immensely. However, for many years before his death we communicated very frequently and got to know each other closely  and have aided each other in developing the Aden College website and other activities in Aden.

The other London Institution I learnt about with fascination in my first week was the vastly entertaining “Hyde Park Corner" the site of free speech. 
"Please wait until I put on my dark glasses on", the Nigerian speaker standing on a wooden box said to the audience of whom I was one. He does so and says" Ah, that is better. Now I feel at home seeing all these brown faces instead of those pale bloody faces I was seeing before I put the glasses on”

"Well, If you want to really feel at home why don’t just get your stupid self-back to where you came from, you wog" responded an irate English man.

In my very first morning in London, I woke up early and the weather was surprising good.  “Let us go out and discover a bit of London”  Mohammed Ghanem said to me excitedly. We soon passed by Harrods entrance, the largest Department store in  the whole of Europe which claims that you can buy in it anything under the sun. As I was standing at its entrance, I thought of the many people who must have walked on that very spot I was standing at that moment in time, people of various social status and different intentions for being there. This thought mesmerized me. I thought, sadly “Alas Abdulla you cannot think of an instance to say about any place where you come from”.

I smiled to myself saying, “Now, that is simply is not true at all. Have you forgotten the ancient Aden Tanks in Aden and the old Elb tree in your father’s land in your ancestral village. You can bet that as you stood by the Tanks, you probably stood right at the same place where Ibn Battuta, Captain Haines,  Rambo, your father and Mr. Mohamed Ali Luqman stood many, many years ago.” Similarly as I stood under the shade of “Elb Sunbalah” in my ancestral land in my ancestral village, I must have, surely, stood right were my grandfather and great  grandfathers stood and played as children and where they picked the trees fruits (doom). Surely I must have stood where the men passed as they went to or came from battle during the war which came to be known forever as “The calamity of Shamma”. 

There is one other place that I used to love to go to with my cousin Abubaker every opportunity we could. That was simply because we had opportunities to meet many of our Adeni friends. In one glorious occasion I had a long chat recounting memories with my Aden College class mates Afdhal Khan and Anwar sahooly. They both, if I can recall correctly, were studying Engineering.

I recall also the presence of a pretty highly intelligent and young Adeni student who was at the illustrious and famous London School of Economics. Later, she became a rising star as a lawyer and reformer of the legal system in Aden.
She was Raqia Humaidan. 

The First Few days in a Foreign Land (Part 6)
Abdulla Ahmed Al Sayyari
(In memory of my mother and brother Mohammed)

In the evening the second day I arrived to London, I, with my friend Mohammed
Ghanem, went to movie theatre in the West End of London. There were
cinemas, stage theaters and night life was at its peak. It was the first time I ever visited a cinema in my life. In fact my children -who are accustomed to going to cinemas now - laugh heartily as they hear my story of that night when I was directed to my seat by an usher in the dark. We arrived late after the film has already started. Iit took me time to pull down the upright. I did not know how to lower the seat down to sit on. It a while, after somebody from the back row  shouted that he could not see the movie.

In writing this memory, I recall my dear mother.
My mother had a strong personality. She was immensely generous but unwavering
in telling it as it is. As a child I thought of my mother as the most courageous lady I knew. I still do even after I grew old and came across many formidable ladies of all ethnicities, professions and backgrounds.
She was the core, the center and the soul of her family of six daughters and three sons- a real beloved matriarch. My mother never went to school but she had a common sense approach to life and ethics which tended to be almost Kantian (deontological) in nature. She had a simple philosophy in life when it comes to dealing with people “love me, yes, and I shall adore you passionately back with more vigor; ignore me, yes, and I shall ignore you more”.

My mother, as she lay dying, and in pain at home and knowing she was dying,
would not accept to go to the hospital because , she insisted “ I want to die at home with my children around me. I want to die in the same place where Ahmed Al Khader Al Sayyari ( my dad) died”
Even now whenever I have a weak or cowardly thought occuring to me, I get a
sustaining spirit by thinking of my mother.

As I became a physician, a father and more recently a grandfather I can see with
amazing clarity what a wonderful human being my mother was and how much love
and obedient loving support she gave to my father until the very day he died.
May Allah bestow His mercy on the soul of my mother Fatima Bint Al Khader Al-
Merhli Al Maisary Al Alahy Al Methhaji.
Now my mother vehemently felt it is unbecoming and improper to go to a cinema.
We were absolutely banned from ever doing so. That was the prevailing view within the family.

Social habits and views - like social demographics- change over a short time. More so now than in the past as the world truly becomes like a small village. I never thought-then -that one day I will have a two-year old granddaughter whose favorite tune that she insists on listening to all the time would be “London Bridge is Falling Down”.
There were other taboos in my family then- no smoking, no Kat chewing, no
Shammah (tobacco placement under the lips). Even eating outside in a restaurant or parting your hair on cutting it or combing it were not good ideas according to my family's home rules.
Now there were two interesting observations I have to make, here because there are immensely relevant in revealing the whole picture These ideas were imprinted and passed on to us by example and conduct and not by preaching ; otherwise it would not have worked. Secondly my dad, God bless his soul, was never ever judgmental about these issues at all. We had relatives and friends who indulged in these habits in front of him without me ever hearing him admonish, criticize or lecture them.

Many years later, after I became a father, my dad saw me trying to chew Kat. He sat next to me and he even took one single Kat branch from me and started chewing as if telling me “It is OK Abdulla I am not upset with you”.

Back to the story of the cinema and my mum.
Many, many years after my visit to that London cinema I had a chance to meet my mother again in Aden. I told her about the story of my first visit to the cinema in London and my battle with the upright seat.
She paused for a while as she kept looking at me and a sweet beautiful smile spread across  her beautiful face and said “Let me tell you a story, son”.
As she did so, I noticed tears seeping from her eyes down her cheeks but she kept talking in a normal steady voice with the smile never ever leaving her glorious face.
“Your older brother Mohamed, may Allah have mercy on his soul, arrived home
Late one night. I asked him “where have you been Mohamed?” she continued.
He hesitated for a couple of seconds then timidly said “I was watching a film in 
Cinema Regal”.
“I have to tell you Abdulla, Mohamed was by then already married and was already a lieutenant in the army”. She paused, continued to smile with tears in her eyes and said, “I pulled his stiff Army Officer's belt and commenced belting him all over is body.” “hard with it”
“ Do you you remember, how stiff those army belts were, Abdulla?”
“Yes I do so, mother” I said
She said, “You know; while I was belting him, Mohamed, never protested, never moved, never begged to be spared the beating and never raised his arms to prevent the belt from hitting him”.
“What is more, when I finished belting him he kissed my hands and the top of my
head and whispered softly “I shall not do this again, mother, I promise you” she
finished her tale still smiling.
By then I found myself crying with my mother. In fact I do so now as I write this.
My brother Mohammed was the first Adeni to become an Army Officer. He joined
the army after attending the primary school in Sheikh Othman, the intermediate
school in the “Rozmeet”, Crater and the Maalla Technical Institute. Later on, he
became the first officer to graduate from the British Staff College in Camberley and later was instrumental in the Independence movement and a member of the Geneva independence delegation.
Looking back at it now, I have always felt that my strict home rules helped me
enormously in the first years in the UK, indeed throughout my life. It was not necessarily the "content" of the rules, per se, but "the process".

I miss my mother and my brother.

The film we went to see that evening in the West End was “Waco” starring Howard Keel and Jane Russell.

The First few months in a Foreign land (part 10)
Abdulla Ahmed A Sayyari

(In memory of my face to face encounter with Jeremy Bentham a century after his death & in memory of my mentor in the Science of Biochemistry Prof. Prakash Dattaا)Alsayyari museum copy

In the British educational system then - and I believe it still is - for the pupils in their final A-level year (advanced level) is to apply for University admission and there were six possible universities to apply for in the order of their preference and priority . They do so even before they sit their A-level examination following the 2 year A-level course. The universities may, reject the pupil’s application offhand or they may ask him to come for an interview.
Following the interview, you may be rejected or offered a conditional place at the University; meaning that they would accept you to study in the University on the condition that you would attain certain grades (scores) in your A level final examination in the subjects you were studying. As I was hoping to join a medical college I was studying chemistry, biology and physics. I also did the Arabic language A - level exam out of interest and to improve the prospects of my CV.

If it occurs to you, then, that students are given differing conditional offers for university admission, you would be quite right and this often depends on how you performed at the interview. I am not sure that it is entirely fair to expect that a 15-minute interview should decide one’s future in education or in job selection; but it often does. The assumption is that interviewers can work out one’s needed personal traits – to make a good doctor in the future -by asking relevant questions. Of couse it does not always work out that way and the interviewer’s own prejudices, judgmental values and mindsets can and does affect the nature of the choice of the successful candidate.

Moreover there are now ways to coach a candidate to do well at an interview- including ones that are available free on-line.
Be as it may, I need to stress that entry to medical schools at British Universities demands a requirement of very high passing grades (marks) at A-level.

As it happened, I was talking only yesterday to our medical residents on how best to perform a job interview and gain acceptance
“Remember to dress well, don’t cross your legs, don’t speak too loudly or softly, don’t avoid eye contact and make sure that you distribute your glare equally between all the interviewers and not only the chairman of the committee specially if it was not him who asked the question, and for goodness sake look interested and not utterly bored” I told them in the way of body language preparedness.

I added “Arriving late at the interview leaves a very bad impression and it will not do to say that you lost your way as it is your duty to check and ascertain the way beforehand. Make sure that you do not make spelling mistakes on your submitted CV and, for goodness sake, be prepared to be asked for details about anything you write in your CV. Don’t lie or even exaggerate your abilities. If you write that you are extremely interested in Um Kalthoum’s songs be sure to know some of them and who composed those”

I concludeded by saying “you should be prepared to answer the classic questions in a convincing manner such as “why you chose this path for your future     career ?”, “Why did you specifically choose our institution to apply to?, and the usual final question of an interview which is “ do you have any questions to ask us before you leave?”

To avoid being lost I found the location in which the interview was being conducted the day before its date. I remember disembarking at Goodge street station, crossing Tottenham Court Road, down University Street to University College Hospital Medical school building.

The last 3 universities I put on my application list immediately rejected me offhand, possibly because they felt insulted that I put them at the bottom of my priority list and possibly because I was simply not good enough to even be granted an interview.

I did not specifically want to do Medicine when I was studying at Aden College. I was more inclined to do chemical engineering. However after I passed my O level examination my six sisters were adamant that I do Medicine
“We want to have a doctor in the family, Abdulla” they would say and I am glad I listened to them.

I cannot remember the details of the interview I had but I do remember that it took place in a cramped room in the fourth floor of the College Building. I also remember that one of the interviewers was Professor Harris who taught me medical human genetics a few years later.

I also recall the most nerve raking moments I had while opening the envelope which contained my A-level exam results. I was then at the Aden Office in Park Lane, London (the address I gave for delivery of the results).

I remember my first day at the University very well. I had to register in the main entrance hall (the so called cloisters) of University College, London in Gower Street
On my way to register, I came face to face with the famous English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham over a century after his death.
Jeremy Bentham is thought to have been the person behind mobilizing the ultimately successful efforts to establish University College, London (originally called University of London) as a lighthouse and beating heart for liberal thinking and make university education available to women and Jews who were not allowed to be admitted to Oxford and Cambridge Universities at that time. He insisted that this newly formed University College will have nothing to do with any religious teaching or any commitment to religion . As a result it has been traditional to call its students (until now) the ”Godless students of Gower Street”.

Jeremy Bentham instructed in his will that his body be embalmed and displayed in the university cloisters in a glass box.
This is how I came to meet him face to face in my first day at the University.

The first two years at medical school are spent studying basic medical sciences without seeing any patient and that was why it was called the “pre-clinical course ”.

It ends up with a crucial bottle-neck exam which allows you, if successful, to join the “clinical course” and start seeing patients. During that period I was taught by three Noble Prize winners in Physiology and Medicine: Professor Crick (who received the Prize in 1962, for studying the structure of the DNA) , Professor Huxley (who received the Prize in 1963, for studying the electrical transmission between nerves) and Professor Katz, (who received the Prize in 1970 for studying the chemical transmission between nerves).

I was also taught by two other professors who ought to have won the Nobel Prizes themselves; the eccentric and extremely amusing long haired Professor “JZ” young (the anatomist and neuroscientist) and Professor Walls (the father of the Gate Theory of Pain).

I can tell you this, being a genius does not necessarily make you an excellent teacher.

In the evening of that day I learnt that I passed the end of the “preclinical course” exam, I went celebrating with two of my successful student friends to an Indian restaurant located 200 yards West of Goodge Street Station and just south of Euston Road. While eating and feeling quite pleased with ourselves, there walked the Head of the Biochemistry Department. Professor Prakash Datta.

He came straight to us saying,“ Congratulations, boys. It should be an easy ride from now on”.
Standing up as he approached us, we said “Thank you, Prof.”
Then he looked at me and said, “You know you did well in the Biochemistry exam, don’t you?”.
 “Yes sir. Thank you” I said as the list of those who passed and their scores were displayed on the College Board that morning.
“So, I assume that you are planning to stay behind and do a Bachelor Degree in Biochemistry (BSc) and delay your move to the “clinical course” until you finish with it”.
“I would like to, sir, but I can’t as I am on a scholarship by the British Council to study Medicine only”.
He said, “You are an Arab, aren’t you? Surely, your family must be owning one or two oil wells to enable them to finance you through this Biochemistry degree course”.
 “I wish that was true, sir”.
“OK, don’t worry” He said with confidence, “I shall write to the British Council to extend your scholarship to cover the BSc course in Biochemistry. I am pretty sure that I can convince them”.
And so, it came to pass that I did a Bachelor Degree in Biochemistry before proceeding to finish my medical studies.

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