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Just a note that you can get all four episodes of the Runaway Princesses ad-free right now at newyorker. Com/dark. Princess Shamsa hasn't been seen in public since the day her father's men captured her on a street in England, and she was flown back to Dubai in a private jet. Pictures of other members of Dubai's royal family show up on social media and in magazines that cover royals. You can see Sheik Muhammad's wives and sons and daughters participating in Olympic events or going skydiving or watching horses race at Ascott, but not Shamsa. Shamsa's sister Latifa has said in writings and recordings that after Shamsa was caught, she was kept drugged, and she was watched constantly. Latifa wasn't allowed to see her. As the months went by, it became clear to Latifa that no one from the outside world was coming to help. So two years after Shamsa was abducted and brought back to Dubai, Latifa decided to take matters into her own hands.


I decided, I'm going to escape. I'm going to leave UAE. I'm going to find a lawyer in another country. I'm going to go to Oman. I'm going to just go there and I'm going to find a lawyer or something, and I'm going to help Shamza. And the worst case scenario, if they catch me, they're going to put me with her. I'm going to be in prison with her, so at least I can see her, and I'm happy, and she has her sister with her.


In 2002, when she was just 16, Latifa made her first attempt. My colleague, Heidi Blake, at the New Yorker, obtained Princess Latifa's written account of what happened next.


I escaped from my mother's house in the early hours of June 15, 2002. I used a ladder to scale the wall of the garden. I was wearing a black dish dash and had a large, thick jacket on top. Despite the heat, I didn't want to be recognized as a girl or draw attention to myself. I was wearing pants underneath and blue-gray Skechers shoes. I cut my hair very short, maybe one inch of the hair on my head remained. I began walking the dark streets looking for a taxi. I remember the driver said, Where are you going, mom? And my heart sank. Despite my outfit and shabbiness, I still looked like a girl. Everything was so new. I'd never been in a taxi or outside alone. I was in an area close to Amman. He dropped me off on a street. I could see the night was disappearing and the sunrise was close. I think I had a flint. I also had a sharp knife, the type you hold in your knuckles. I also remember having wire cutters with me and using it to go through a fence. I remember walking on the sand near a road.


Then a big army car came up to me, and men in camouflage outfits told me to stop.


She was caught.


And she was punished.


You're listening to the Runaway Princess from In the Dark and the New Yorker. It's the story of why the women in Sheik Muhammad binashid's family keep trying to run away and what happens to them when they do. This is episode 2. Escape. Heidi Blake pieced together Latifa's story from letters the princess wrote, along with audio and video recordings and interviews with people in her life. Heidi, tell me what happens next after these men catch Latifa.


Latifa was taken home where she was brutally beaten by her father's guards. There's a detail in her account of this that I find really striking, which is that her mother was there during this beating. She remembered that her mother had a full face of makeup on and she was wearing this frosty-coloured lilyet lipstick. Latifa figured that her mother must have been expecting her father to visit because she was all dressed up that way. Her mother watched as Latifa was beaten until blood poured out of her nose.


My father's right-hand man put me in prison under my father's orders. They put me in prison and they tortured me.


She was taken to a prison in the desert called Al-Aweer, and she'd hoped that she'd be placed with Shamsah, but she wasn't. She was held in a solitary cell and sometimes in complete darkness. She remembered that she had a filthy blood-stained mattress, and she wasn't given any soap or toothbrush. She had no clean clothes. She remembered night after night that she was yanked from her bed and dragged away to be beaten. She talked about how the guards beat her feet with a heavy wooden cane so badly that all the bones in her feet were shattered and she couldn't walk, and she had to drag herself to the toilet and drink from a tap on the floor.


The He told me that your father told us to beat you until we kill you. That's his orders, your father's orders. Your father, the ruler of Dubai, that's what he said.


Back in her cell, Latifa remembered shoving her mangled feet into her sketches, hoping that they'd act as some a cast. I should say that Sheik Muhammad's attorneys deny that he imprisoned or mistreated Latifa. Then after about a year in prison, Latifa was suddenly released. When she got back to her mother's house, she showered again and again.


There was warm water, there was soap, there was a towel, there was toothbrush, there was clothes.


I couldn't believe But she wasn't out for long. After about a week, she suddenly broke down. She just screamed over and over again that she wanted to see her sister, Shamsa. She was sedated and sent back to prison. And this time, they held her there for more than two years. When she finally got out, she was 19.


Did Latifa realize she was risking that punishment when she ran away?


Well, she certainly realized that defiance from women was not going be tolerated in her family. She knew, of course, what had happened to her sister, Shamsa. She had another lesson in just how risky defying her father could be, from watching what happened to another princess named Bushra. Bushra was a prominent member of Dubai's royal family. At one point, she was basically the first lady of Dubai. She was married to the man who was the ruler of Dubai before Sheik Muhammad, his older brother, Sheik Moktoum.


So she was Princess Latifa's aunt.


Exactly. Bushra had married into Dubai's royal family very young. She was still a teenager when she married Sheik Moktoum, who was almost 30 years older. In 2000, which was the same year Shamza escaped, Bushra went to London with her three young sons, and she made some pretty bold moves. She gave an interview to Hello magazine, they ran a whole spread of photos of her, in which she declared that women should have more rights. She said that she wanted the women in her country to have the marriage to show what they could do, not to be shy, not to be timid. These are inflammatory pronouncements for the wife of the then ruler. Her behavior obviously crossed a major line because in the spring of 2000, Shea Gabusha was kidnapped. Kidnapped. Yeah. We now have another Emirati woman who was kidnapped from the United Kingdom in the year of 2000. This was just a few months before Shamsat was kidnapped. It's another occasion, by the way, when the British authorities totally look the other way and allow this to happen. So Boucher thought that she was taking a trip to Paris with her husband to go and watch the horse racing, and she got on his private jet.


But when she got on, it turned out she wasn't going to France for the races. She was being taken back to Dubai. And at the same time, a bunch of Emirati guards showed up to take her sons. Their nanny called the police, and police tracked them to the airport, and they stormed onto the runway, surrounded the jet, and stopped it from leaving. The Dubai authorities now have this major problem. The British police are holding up the ruler's plane. So they get on the phone to their ambassador, the ambassador to the UK, and they tell him, Get the police to get out of the way and let that plane take off. And so he picks up the phone to Britain's ambassador to UAE, a guy called Patrick Nixon.


In the middle of the night, the UAE ambassador to London called me in Abu Dhabi.


Patrick Nixon is retired now, but when I phoned him, he still remembered getting this call about the standoff at the airport.


The ambassador wanted me to get in touch with the police and say, Tell them to clear off. I said, I can't possibly tell the police what to do. The police have every right to do what they want to do.


He was pretty close with me, and that was the end of it. This is a rare moment in this story where a British official says, No, I'm not going to do that. Patrick Nixon says, I'm not going to help you. If you've got a problem, you can take it up with the Foreign Office. As far as we know, the ambassador then did call the Foreign Office. The next thing that happened was, lo and behold, the plane was indeed allowed to take off. I know that that wife was then locked up in a villa in Dubai for a very long time. One source with close ties to the royal family told me they made her house prisoner, and they would just keep drugging her with tranquilizers to say that she's crazy. Then, in 2006, Bushra's husband, Sheik Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, died, and his brother, Sheik Mohamed, came to power.


And Sheik Muhammad is Latifa's father.


Exactly. And soon after he ascended, Bushra suddenly died. She was only 34 years old, and No official statement was ever made by the Dubai royal family about her death. No explanation was given. Rumors were circulated that she'd somehow died in her sleep. But Latifa believed firmly that her father had had his brother's wife killed.


After my uncle died, he killed one of his wives. He killed her. Everyone knows about it, the Moroccan one, because her behavior was too outrageous. I think she just talked too much, and he felt threatened by her, so he just killed her.


Sheik Muhammad's lawyers deny this, but Latifa's account of Bushra's death was supported by two sources close to the royal family. One of them told me, They had no mercy. They killed her because she was a problem for them. She was a strong woman who would stand for her rights. A former member of the Sheikh's personal staff told me, She was killed off. Here, one minute, gone the next. Latifa said in a letter to a friend that Bushra had been beaten to death by one of the same guards who'd caned her in prison. After Bushra died, Latifa's mother said to her, See what could have happened to you? You're lucky you're alive.


What I'm not quite understanding about all these stories, Shamsa, Latifa, Bushra, is the why. What is the reason for kidnapping these women and then maybe even killing one of them?


I think what happens to Bushra is this really chilling example of what happens to a woman in the royal family in Dubai who threatens this narrative Sheik Muhammad is so keen to project that he is this benevolent ruler, but one who exerts absolute power over his people and therefore over the women in his family. Women in Dubai's royal family occupy this really wrenching dual role, where on the one hand, they're held up as props in Sheik Muhammad's narrative, whereby he wants to portray himself as a champion of women's rights in the region, as a progressive leader. This is so key to his presentation of himself in the West and in his dealings on the international stage. But at the same time at home in UAE, he needs to project himself as a traditional Arab leader and therefore somebody who exerts a great deal of authority over his subjects and over the women in his family. When women step out of line, they need to be dealt with swiftly and publicly. One expert I spoke to described this to me as a performative patriarchy. It's almost as if Sheik Muhammad is saying, You want to watch me deal with the women in my family?


Well, here you go.


Latifa gets out of prison. Her aunt, Bushra, dies just after Then what happens?


Well, in the years after she got out of jail, she wasn't allowed to travel. She wasn't allowed to study, and she was kept on a constant guard. She was allowed, gradually, to start to pursue some activities so she could go shopping with chaperones, and eventually she was allowed to take up sports like scuba diving and sky diving, but never unsupervised. One of the men who was assigned to guard her was the guy who'd helped to torture her in prison. She'd be out at the races or scuba diving at the beach. There he'd be, this guy who'd held her down as her feet were caned until all the bones were broken.


It might look like she was free, but really she was still being watched incredibly closely.




What about Latifa's sister, Shamza? What's happening with her during all this?


So about three years after Latifa was released from prison and eight years after Shamza had initially escaped, Shamza was finally released from prison and allowed to come home to their mother's house. Latifa had just longed for this moment, but when it came, the reunion was really, really agonizing. She wrote that Shamza was only a shell of her former self with all the willpower tortured out of her. Latifa wrote in one letter, She was like a zombie with all the drugs they forced her to take. For a few years after she came out of prison, she didn't even open her eyes properly because she used to just lie in bed all day. She had to have someone hold her hand and walk her around. That's how much they damaged her. And she also had suicide attempts. Latifa wrote that she really struggled to get close to Shamsa again, and she found herself grappling with a lot of feelings of anger towards her sister for the mistakes that she'd made when she tried to escape for calling one of her father's guards and for other things she did that Latifa thought were reckless. It was almost like Latifa started to blame Shamsa for her own feeling that she had to escape to save her sister and all of awful consequences that had followed from that for her, the years of imprisonment and the torture that she'd suffered.


She felt that she'd done all of that for Shamsha, and she felt incredibly frustrated with her sister, but she also loved her desperately and still wanted to help her. Latifa wrote in one letter, I think I find it hard getting close to her as we were best friends before 2000, and she was taken away from me for eight years. I think it's hard to put myself through that again because I almost died and ruined my life for her, and I'm still upset that she was so reckless. I don't know if I can trust her with anything, but at the same time, she has no one else who will fight for her. This is the hardest decision of my life.


The hardest decision of her life What did she mean by that?


Well, what she was trying to decide was whether to try to escape again. In the end, she decided it was the only way to get help for Shamza and to free herself. She began working on a plan. Recording there. That's me setting my iPhone on the table at a cafe in London, where I met up with a close friend of Latifa's. Her name is Tina Yajaina. Do you want to order something? Do you want it before we start?


Yes. Just coffee, oh, goodness. Definitely a coffee.


It's definitely a coffee.




Tina Latifa ordered an almond milk latte. I found out later that after she became friends with Latifa, she also became vegan. Latifa didn't eat any meat or dairy. She was a huge animal lover. Tina was a fascinating character. She was very poised and powerful beautifully built, wearing all black, a jumper, jeans, and boots. She has white blonde hair and these really frank blue eyes.


How did Tina end up meeting Latifa?


Well, Tina told me she grew up on a flower farm in Finland, in this tiny town surrounded by scores of lakes. It was really claustrophobic. She was desperate to get away and desperate to travel and see the world. She moved to Dubai in 2001. Initially, she worked in the hotel industry. But she started getting interested in Kaipura, which is a martial art. She became the administrator for a local Kuaipoeira group.


In 2010, I remember getting this email from this girl who said, Oh, I'm an Arab female. I would like to learn capoeira.


But this person didn't want to come to classes, which is how Tina says you would usually go about learning capoeira. You practice together. Eventually, the two of them arranged to meet, and Tina got an address. It wasn't until she got there that she realized that she'd been sent to a private recreation complex, which was connected to stables owned by Sheik Muhammad.


We met at the stables, and then I realized that, Oh, my gosh, she must be part of this ruling family or something.


The place where they were going to practice was this huge echoing space surrounded by pictures of Sheik Muhammad and favored children. Latifa showed up there with guards who swept the complex to make sure there were no men inside before she was allowed to enter.


How did Latifa seem to Tina?


Tina said Latifa struck her as small and unassuming. She struggled to make eye contact, but she was struck by how fiercely Latifa threw herself into the training. She was obsessed and wanted to work out every single day.


She was very determined. We did hour and a half sessions, and she would be wanting to do them every day, even on weekends. Really? Yes.


I was like, Well, that's big.


I do want to say that's quite a lot.


Latifa was working out so intensively, and Tina noticed it was almost as if she didn't want to show that she was capable of getting tired. But eventually, when she began to get worn out, she would ask if maybe they could stop and just chat for a while. Then they'd order food and just sit and talk. Latifa seemed so curious about what seemed like really mundane aspects of Tina's life. During breaks, she'd ask for things like what Tina ate for breakfast. When she found out that Tina had never tried exotic fruits that she loved, like star fruit or mustard apples, she'd bring them in next time for Tina to try.


I thought it was so sweet. So somehow we just started hanging out a bit more.


Tina found out that Latifa was really good fun. She was a great adventure partner. She was always up for something new and interesting, right?


So I like that a lot about her.


Latifa took Tina skiing on Dubai's ski slope, the one with the live penguins, and then they started skydiving together. And Latifa seemed fearless. At their first class, she was the only person to jump solo without an instructor in tandem. And then after that, she just jumped again and again and again. She started wingsuit flying and then jumping out of hot air balloons. And soon enough, Tina and Latifa were spending nearly every single day together. Tina said they got really close. It was almost as if they were sisters. But still, Latifa seemed to be keeping secrets from her for years. And then one day, about seven years after they first met- How did… To tell me about how she started to open up to you. They were having lunch?


Yes, we were in this restaurant called Saladicious.


Saladicious? And Latifa had started telling Tina what had happened to Shamza, how she'd run away and then been kidnapped. And since then, Latifa told Tina that Shamsha had been guarded and sedated around the clock. And she told her how she'd tried to escape herself to help her sister, and how Latifa herself had then been caught and imprisoned for years. Tina was shocked, and she asked Latifa, Why didn't you tell me this before?


It's almost like she was embarrassed, even if this It's the other way around because I think they had made her feel that she had done something wrong, whereas all she just wanted to be free, or a helpless system.


By the time Latifa finished telling the story, Tina remembers that both women were crying.


I felt much closer to her, and I felt so much anger towards the people who had done it to her. I really felt for her Oh, my God, your life has been so horrible.


Latifa told Tina that now she was planning to try again to escape from Dubai.


She was like, Can you help me with this? I was like, Yeah, I'd love to be there. I want to be there.


Was all of this, this seven-year friendship, the classes, the training, the exotic fruit sharing, was this all part of a plan? Was Latifa all along recruiting Tina? Yeah.


Now it begins to make more sense why Latifa was so determined to learn martial arts and to practice so hard. Even her interest in scuba diving begins to make more sense because actually, Latifa had been planning this escape for years by now. She was in her early 30s, and she'd spent her entire adult life trying to figure out how to get away. The idea she had was that she would get to India or Sri Lanka by boat, and then she'd fly to the US and seek asylum. She'd already obtained a fake Irish passport. She thought initially about whether she should take Shamsa, but she decided that Shamsa was just in too fragile a state.


Do we know if Shamsa even still wanted to escape?


Well, apparently she did, because right around the same time, while Latifa and Tina were working on their plan, Shamsha tried again to get help. By now, she was 36. It was 17 years since she'd run away and been kidnapped in England. Somehow, she got hold of another secret phone, and she used it to call police in Cambridge, the English city where she'd been abducted.


Wow. After all that time, she still wanted to get out.


Yeah, she still hadn't given up. But the detective she talked to years earlier had retired. And the police told me in a statement that though they made new lines of inquiry, they decided there wasn't enough evidence to pursue what they called a uniquely challenging and complex case. Latifa wrote that soon afterwards, Shams's rooms were searched and her phone was confiscated. She was placed in a separate wing of the residence, and her sedatives were increased. Latifa's plan was that she would leave so that she could get help for Shamza from the outside world. She was absolutely determined that she was not going to make the same mistakes that Shamza had made when she tried to escape. She was going to make a water-type plan. This is what she wrote at the time. I must identify every possible single point of failure and have a plan for every scenario that can go awry. If I get caught in the act, I am not willing to submit to more years of torture, dehumanization, and hopelessness. She wrote that for her, it was freedom or death. Absolutely nothing, nothing in between. And Latifa already had another conspirator.


Another Another one. Who's this person?


While she was trying to figure out how to get out of the country, Latifa had heard about a guy who'd managed to flee Dubai himself. His name was Hervé Jaubert, and he was a French-American Marine engineer and former naval officer in his 50s who'd fled Dubai to escape embezzlement charges, which he insisted were false. He claimed to have worked under cover in the French secret service, and he cultivated a air of mystery. He had this shiny black hair and coarse stubble and a heavy French accent. The way he managed to get out was to take an inflatable dingy to a boat that was waiting in international waters. By now, he was living in Manila when Latifa managed to track him down.


After I escaped from Dubai, I published a book, 10 years ago or something, and Latifa found my book.


Herve Jaubert and I talked extensively, and here he is giving an interview to another podcast about his role in Latifa's escape.


It was banned in Dubai. It still is But she managed to find a book. When she saw that, number one, I did escape, and number two, I was a former secret operative, so she believed I could help her to get out of there.


Latifa thought that Hervé Jaubert could help her do something like what he'd managed to do. I have their email correspondence in which they'd made plans for more than seven years before Latifa brought Tina into what she was planning. In that time, by Latifa's reckoning, she'd He sent Hervé more than $500,000. She wasn't allowed to have a bank account, so she'd saved up her pocket money in cash to give to him. Hervé told me that any funds he'd received from Latifa up to that point were just to cover his expenses, but he did expect to profit eventually. As soon as Latifa was free, he intended to send her a hefty bill for tens of millions of dollars for his role in her escape.


How did she get him all that cash without her family noticing?


She managed to slip away from her chaperone on shopping trips and to pass bundles of cash to an envoy who was sent by her, Herve. Then she put Tina and Hervé in touch with each other. The first problem they faced was how to get Latifa out of Dubai. The border was heavily guarded. So one plan involved her swimming over the border into Oman, the country next door, underwater. That is a really long swim. She was going to do it using a reb breather and an underwater scooter.


Okay, you have to tell me what are both of those things? What is a reb breather? What's an underwater scooter?


A reb breather is a scuba device that helps you recycle some of the air that you exhale while you're underwater so that you need less supplemental oxygen, and then you can go further. An underwater scooter is this handheld propeller that helps to scoot you along under the water so that you can cover a much further distance than any human being would actually be able to swim.


This definitely seems like something out of a movie, like some way that the spies get out of the country undetected. I guess I could see why Latifa was into it because it sounds It's like you could just, instead of having to bob your head above water and have someone see, you can just stay under and just get as far away as possible.


Exactly. These are literally the tools that are used in covert spy operations, which I do think was a big part of the appeal for Latifa. Herve was impressed. Latifa had done a lot of research about what he called spy stuff, and she was genuinely knowledgeable. He really liked her idea for getting to Oman underwater.


If you cross the border underwater, it is safe. It was Latifa's idea, actually. I like this idea because it's very safe, it's indetectable. Even if somebody saw you, you just could be diving, you just got lost or something.


The idea was that after the underwater swim, Latifa would be met by an inflatable dingy, and then she'd use that dingy to reach Hervé's yacht in international waters. He would take Latifa to India, which is nearly a thousand miles away by sea, and she would fly from there to the US and seek asylum. Tina began to meet up with Hervé in Manila. She shuttled cash to him, and she also brought him a set of diamond jewelry that she says Latifa was planning to sell when she got to America to make some money to get on her feet. Tina started traveling around the world to make more preparations and assemble equipment. She went to Sri Lanka and the US and Singapore.


What equipment is she buying?


She bought a dingy motor and scuba gear and Garmin satellite navigators and two powerful underwater scooters. She told me her apartment got so full of all this stuff that she couldn't invite people over anymore because it would be so suspicious. Then Tina enlisted another conspirator.


My name is Christian de Lombo. I'm a sports performance coach, which is including martial arts instruction as much as physical training.


Christian Alambo was a friend of Tina's. He's this powerfully-built French guy. He owned a number of training gyms, and he'd actually been Tina's own capoeira instructor. When I caught up with him recently, he was at a hotel in Turkey. He told me that one day, when he was living in Oman, Tina came to see him, and she told him about her friend, the princess.


Basically, what she told me, long story short, that girl is in the golden cage. She's definitely not happy, and I want to help her to break free. I said, Yeah, I believe that, too. She should break free.


Christian said Tina told him that they were planning an escape.


She explained me what she was preparing to do. She asked me for my help. I didn't even think. Before even she finished, I think I said yes.


This was an incredibly big risk for Christian, but he said he just couldn't say no.


Of course, I knew I could have been arrested. I could be, I knew that I was risking all the things that I had. I put my life on the line. I knew.


This is just so remarkable to me that You have this really seemingly unlikely crew of conspirators that Latifa has assembled. It's two martial arts instructors and this mysterious guy who fled Dubai by sea to avoid criminal charges. But with Christian, it just sounds like for him, he just thought, This is wrong, and so I've got to help. He's so matter of fact about it, even though he's about to try to do something that whole governments have looked the other way about, to try to rescue this princess from under the watchful eyes of her father.


Right, totally. Yeah. Global governments have singularly failed to step in and do anything to help these imprisoned princesses. But big shout out to the martial arts community of Dubai, because it turns out these are the people who are going to step in.


Right, exactly. They will not tolerate this. Okay, so Tina and Herve come to Christian. They have this plan to use this rebreath. What does Christian think about that?


Christian actually thought that that was a really terrible idea. He just thought it was too elaborate, like two James He was like, he would need years of training to pull something like that off. Latifa was really determined to try it. But then when she practiced with the rebreather, she got really sick and dizzy.


Okay, so Latifa is under guard the whole time. Where in the world is she able to practice using this rebreath device with?


They were actually practicing this in the pool at her mother's palace.


Okay, so how do you explain that? If your mother peeks out into the pool and sees you with this weird item trying to underwater.


It does seem crazy, I know. But I think that basically by this point, Latifa had done a really good job of convincing her family into thinking that she'd just lost all her fighting spirit, like that they'd just broken her will completely. This was years and years after she first attempted to escape. And so no one was really watching her all that closely anymore. She was still under chaperone, but she was with Tina. People trusted Tina. People thought that she wasn't going to try and pull anything off. She wrote, The image my guardians have of me now is that I went through a period of rebelliousness and insanity as a teenager. I'm now cautious, obedient, scared of stepping out of line because I'll go through that ordeal again. They think I've been broken and that they've terrified me enough not to attempt anything like this. The truth is, yes, I am more cautious, but I have not been broken because I am not afraid of death.


My God. I mean, I just think Just imagine being her for a second in this moment and spending years like this, trying to convince your whole family that you're docile, you're never going to do this, and yet secretly continuing for all that time. It's incredible. So what do they decide to do then when this reb breather doesn't work?


So Christian had another He thought that they should just keep it simple. They should just drive Latifa over the border, hidden inside the trunk of an SUV.


I told them the simplest thing was to empty the compartment of an SUV because it has a big tire normally. Put some blanket or something, some cushions so she can lay down for a certain time. Make sure that there's a boat, put solid, put some furniture on top.


Hervé Jaubert thought that that plan sounded too risky.


I told Tina, If you get caught at the border with the daughter of the ruler hidden in the trunk of the car, that's a bullet in the head, right there in the desert.


A bullet to the head, right there in the desert.


Right. That was the fear. But ultimately, that was the plan they decided to go with.


We'll be right back.


Before she left, Latifa did one more thing to try to make sure that her escape would go better than Shams's had done. She snuck over to Tina's apartment, and she made a video, and she sent it to various people with instructions to release it if she got caught. If that happened, she wanted to make sure that everybody knew her version of the story, and she figured it would make it harder for her father to quietly make her disappear or to kill her.


If I don't make it out alive, at least there's a video. I really hope I don't need this video.


She looks young and wide-eyed in this Pale Blue T-shirt with her hair and this loose ponytail, like there are strands falling all around her face.


Pretty soon, I'm going to be leaving somehow. I'm not so sure of the outcome, but I'm 99% positive if it will work.


She speaks carefully with the details about who she is, and she makes it absolutely clear that all she wants is to be free.


I don't know how I'll feel just waking up in the morning and thinking, I can do whatever I want today. I can go wherever I want. I have all the choices in the world like anyone does. There'll be such a new It's a different feeling. That'd be amazing.


The day of the escape was set for a Saturday in February of 2018. That morning, Latifa left the palace at dawn and was driven downtown to a café on Sheik Muhammad bin Rachid Boulevard to meet Tina. By that time, the two women had spent so much time together, with Tina teaching Latifa Kupuera, that she'd come to be seen as a chaperone in her own by the palace, so they were allowed to meet up alone.


Nobody would have ever imagined we did what we did.


What you did.


Wow. Because even that morning, the driver dropped her off, and obviously, they saw me waiting outside the café. Fine. Drop off. Nobody could have thought that there was any abnormal plans for that day, right?


You have a really mischievous, glowing smile when you talk about that. That day Anyway, Tina borrowed Christian's car. They'd taken out the spare tire, and now Latifa climbed into its compartment in the trunk. Tina covered it, and then she piled blue bags full of unbuilt IKEA furniture on top. They set off for the border between Dubai and Oman. They'd worked out this signal. Tina would play music as she drove, and then when the music stopped, that would mean that they were at the border, and Latifa shouldn't make a sound.


Do you know what the music was?


She told me that it was cold play. Sky full of stars. She said Latifa was always teasing her about her cheesy-tasted music. Tina told me that she was worried Latifa wouldn't be able to breathe in that little space with all of that stuff piled on top of her. But they figured that the guards wouldn't want to move all that heavy furniture to check what was underneath, and it felt like the best way to get her across the border undetected. They got to the border, and Tina pulled into the line of cars waiting to cross. Her heart was pounding. When it was her turn, the border guards opened all the doors, and then they opened the trunk. Tina was so nervous, she felt dizzy. But the The lads didn't move the bags. They let her drive on into Oman. Still, it took a lot longer than Tina had hoped to get through the border. When she finally was able to pull over and open the trunk, she was terrified that she was going to find her friend dead. But Latifa jumped out full of excitement. She got into the passenger seat and they snapped a selfie.


Oh, this looks like just a road trip, like two girls on an exciting road trip.


Right. It has Thelma and Louise vibes.


Yeah, two girls in a car with sunglasses. Tina has this almost like a little smirk on her face. Yeah. But Latifa has this huge smile.


Yeah, totally. Latifa is just grinning all over. Tina has this impish grin, like she's really proud of for pulling this off. They met up with Christian at his flat in Oman. He tried to play host and offered them food, but they were just too nervous.


They were starting to talk about some of the possibilities of things going wrong, and I was just like, Well, things can go wrong, but for now, everything is still okay. No one is so relaxed. You guys done your part. I've done my part. Everything is ready downstairs.


He already had the dingy all inflated and ready to go on a trailer, and he'd piled some fishing gear on board to make it look like they were just on an ordinary outing. They'd packed small backpacks with cash and Latifa's fake passport and her laptop and a few spare clothes. They had Garmin satellite navigators so Irvay could track their location and send them GPS coordinates so that they could see where the boat was waiting for them. It was about 16 miles offshore in international waters. They drove down to the ocean, but when they got there, the sea was really rough. A storm was coming, and fishermen were running up the beach saying to Christian, Don't go out in that. It's too risky.


The sea was rough. I've been sailing sometimes. I've been driving boats and playing and having fun, but I've never seen the sea so rough. But I knew I couldn't go back. It wasn't possible to say, Okay, well, let's change the plan. As frightened as everyone were, the only option was to go through it.


They jumped in and Christian steered the boat out into these churning waves, and it was just lurching around. He said it was almost as if the boat was standing on end, these waves were so steep. He told Latifa to lean on the front of the boat to try to help keep the nose down, but the sea just kept pushing them back. He said the engine wasn't strong enough, so the going was really slow.


That was like a nightmare. Many times I thought the boat is just going to flip one of the waves, it's just going to put everyone down. Like, Latifa was frightened.


Latifa was just clinging to the side of the boat as it pitched on the waves and it was taking on water. Tina was still trying to send satellite coordinates to Herve so he could see where they were. They traveled miles out into the ocean, but they were going so slowly, they were running late. And so the crew from the yacht eventually came out to pick them up on jet skis.


I was seeing one jet ski then two.


When the jet skis reached the boat, Tina and Latifa tried to clamber on board, but they fell in the water, and all of their clothes and possessions got soaked through. Eventually, they managed to clamber on, and they said goodbye to Christian.


Yeah, that moment, I was just thinking of making it back. So we just said, Okay, We'll talk later. We'll keep in touch.


Christian waved them goodbye as they zoomed away. The jet skis took them to Hervé's yacht, which was called Nostromo. They climbed on board, and now they were in international waters on a US-flagged boat. Latifa was free. Christian motored the dingy back to shore. Then he took his girlfriend out for a celebratory seafood dinner, and he called his sister in Europe to tell her he was coming home to see her. He needed to get out of Oman.


I told her that I have helped the daughter of Dubai ruler to leave the country, and I might be in a lot of trouble.


He might be in a lot of trouble.


Yes. Just before he was scheduled to get on the plane, he was driving in his car, and suddenly, he was blocked on all sides by police. He remembers dozens of guns pointing at him. The officers took to the solitary wing of an Omanai jail, and soon, officials arrived to interrogate him. They wanted to know, where is the princess?


That's next time on The Runaway Princesses. The Runaway Princesses was written and produced by Katherine Winter and Heidi Blake. It was edited by Samara Freemark, Willing Davidson, and me, Madelyne Baron. Sound designed by Chris Julen and Samara Freemark, with original music by Chris Julen. Our art is by Malika Favre. Additional editing and production by Natalie Jablonsky. Fact-checking by Elen Warner and Theresa Matthew. Art Direction by Aviva Michalow. Legal Review by Fabio Bertoni and Kamisha Lawrie. Our Managing Editor is Julia Rothschild. The head of Global Audio for CondeNast is Chris Bannon. The editor of The New Yorker is David Remnick. The third episode of The Runway Princesses will be released in the In the Dark feed soon, so stay to make sure you don't miss it. But if you want to listen to the last two episodes right now, ad free, we've got a special offer for you. Go to newyorker. Com/dark and subscribe to The New Yorker for just $1 a week. You'll be able to unlock the remaining episodes of The Runaway Princesses right away, and you'll get full access to everything else The New Yorker publishes. That's newyorker. Com/dark. If you're already a subscriber, just download the New Yorker app to listen to every episode of The Runaway Princesses ad-free right now.


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