Saudi Arabia and the Kupsa that Saved the Day

I always enjoy discussions with Moudy, my Saudi mother-in-law. Each and every time I sit and speak with her I learn more about life and traditions of Saudi Arabia both present and past.  She shared an experience about the olden times when soldiers in the Saudi Army used to not only be paid in cash, but the Saudi currency at the time were silver coins instead of the paper riyals of today.


In the early days when the Kingdom was newly established (circa 1940’s) it was not unusual for Saudi Army personnel who were posted in remote areas of the Kingdom to go three to four months without pay.  There was a primary individual with the army whose job was to deliver the payroll to these remote outposts.  He would travel with a group of soldiers whose job was to protect him and the payroll.  In those times they traveled slowly in dilapidated Army trucks which were prone to break downs (kind of similar to army vehicles of today’s times as well).  This was a dangerous task as the man would be traveling with such large amounts of cash and  a trip to an Army outpost in Najran for example would take several days to reach.  Thieves and bandits were known to lurk along these routes.


During one such trip to Najran when the man was responsible for the payroll and was bringing Najran personnel four months of back pay his convoy set up camp enroute to their destination.  They would prepare their evening meal in the traditional way building a fire and placing a large pot atop the fire in order to cook  one of Saudi’s most traditional and popular dishes, kupsa.  While the kupsa was cooking atop the fire the men noticed an approaching group who appeared to be bandits and greatly outnumbered that of their own group of men.  The man, thinking quickly on his feet, did not want the bandits to steal the payroll. 


The payroll of silver coins was transported in a large bag very similar to the ones used to carry rice.  The man quickly opened the bag and threw all the coins into the big pot with the cooking kupsa, stirring the pot so the coins disappeared down into the bottom of the pot.  As they expected, armed bandits arrived wanting their money.  The man told them that they had no money, they had already dispensed the payroll and were now on their return but stopping to have their dinner.  All they had were the arms which they carried for protection.  The bandits were disappointed but on searching through the various bags and boxes believed the man was telling the truth and after some grumbling and taking weapons, the bandits left the area.


Once the man was certain the bandits were gone and out of earshot he instructed his men to retrieve all the silver coins from the kupsa pot and proceed on their way to Najran.  The payroll was successfully delivered thanks to the Kupsa that saved the day.


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