In so many ways, the reality of KAEC is nothing more than a vision or a hope for what the desert city might be in the future. And like a desert mirage, there's not much substance to that vision. Throughout A Hologram For the King, Alan quite literally builds the city in his mind, seeing amazing potential in what is actually a fledgling city being swallowed by the desert sands.
Most of Saudi Arabia, for Alan, is simply a variation on this theme. There is the persistent reality of living in a closed society: women in burqas, potential violence, and—horror!—no pubs or bars.
But there's also another reality: a Saudi Arabia on the down low, where women keep secret cell phones and moonshine flows abundantly. It's little wonder that Alan can't really find his footing here.
Questions About Visions of Saudi Arabia
- Why does Alan have such a hard time "getting a handle" on Saudi Arabia?
- Why do Yousef and Salem feel so hopeless about their lives?
- In what way are the difficulties of Saudi Arabian women key to Alan's understanding of the culture?
- How does Alan's inability to truly understand Saudi Arabian culture contribute to the outcome of his business dealings there?
Chew on This
Alan fails in his mission to Saudi Arabia because he doesn't understand the rules of the "game" that he's playing with Abdullah and his emissaries at KAEC.
Alan stays on at KAEC because it's a "clean slate"—a total lack of social context or responsibility—not just because he didn't make the money he'd hoped to.