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Part09
It's been a couple of weeks since the last update, so here goes….

Wednesday 29th October
After work we headed straight off to Bahrain, a 300-mile trip. As with all the rental cars that we've had over here, once you reach the motorway speed limit of 120kmph a beeping noise starts, so you can't do more than 120 for very long before the beeping gets on your nerves - even if you turn the music up loud. For the trip we had just 1 cd - Santana's "Ultimate Santana" - which although a great cd, after about 5 successive plays it begins to drag a bit!!

We managed to get past the six checkpoints this time around (3 to get out of Saudi, 3 to get into Bahrain) without any problems, although the first Saudi checkpoint gave me a scare when the guard said we didn't have the right piece of printed paper - but he just sat there and printed one for us. It still took an hour or so to get through all the checkpoints, so it was about 22:30 before we arrived at our hotel and were able to taste alcohol for the first time in 3 weeks.

Thursday 30th October
Waking up with a bad head (wimp - I only had 3 pints!), we ventured into the warm but very humid weather of Manama, Bahrain. There is an amazing new 2-tower structure nearing completion, with 3 wind turbines in between the two towers which is a bizarre sight. We then took a drive down to the Bahrain International Circuit where they stage the F1 Grand Prix, and then visited the nearby Jazayer Beach. This was relatively quiet but of the few women that were there all but two of them were wearing burkhas. A strange sight on the beach indeed!

It was then back to the hotel for a rest before the night ahead. Our Days Inn hotel had great views over the water, but was lacking in entertainment so in the evening we walked over to the Crowne Plaza. We had a drink in the sports bar to begin with, but this had a total of 4 guys in it, including me and Tan. They didn't sell bitter, so after one pint of lager if was off to their 'English pub', the Harvester's. This was fairly crowded as people waited for the night's entertainment to start.

The four musicians on stage performed the first song as an instrumental, which was okay, but the night was transformed when, as the second song started, four girls walked on stage and started singing. In what can only be described as the Filipino equivalent of the Pussycat Dolls, they sang and gyrated their way through 3 sets, each time coming out wearing less and less. The pub had a few Saudis present, most of them happily drinking alcohol. There was a wonderful 'Kodak moment' when one Saudi was on his feet, a bit the worse for wear, waving a bottle of Budweiser in the air. In my new life of trying to keep a low profile(!) I didn't think it appropriate to try and take a snap, but it was a classic moment. We had a good evening in the pub, staying until the band, called Trapped In a Box finished at around 2am.

Two Fox IT consultants. Four Filipino girls. Trapped In A Box. Now there's a thought!!

Saturday 1st November
After the long drive back to Riyadh the day before, it's the start of week 4. Today would just be a normal day with nothing to report, but Gordon Brown flies into town for a meeting with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah (yes, that's his real title). We don't bump him into him though.

Sunday 2nd November
Today was a shock as we saw the first heavy rain in Riyadh - and it was HEAVY. This meant not only was it a taxi to work in the morning, but also a taxi back to the hotel at the end of the day.

Monday 3rd November
The second day of heavy rain. You can see how wet it is here. We felt right at home!

Tuesday 4th November
Today I ran a training session on Service Level Management. My female Service Level Manager was present, as was another lady but she had a full veil on with only the eyes visible, called a niqāb. This was the first time I had been in any type of workshop or training session with a lady wearing a niqāb. Whilst respecting her decision to wear the veil, I found it a bit disconcerting not being able to tell whether or not she was understanding what I was talking about. Especially when one gets the impression that females don't tend to ask many questions in the male-dominated world of Saudi Arabia.

Yet more rain today, and here's the view of the Faisaliah Tower from my office to show how bad the weather is.

Wednesday 5th November
Today's training session was on Business Relationship Management and my veiled lady was back, and on her own today as the Service Level Manager didn't attend. Having not spoken to her yesterday, I made a conscious decision to go out of my way to introduce myself to her and to find out her name, role, etc. We had a brief chat, and I think at one point I raised a smile out of her - but who knows!

The weather was back to desert standards today!  Here's today's view of the Faisaliah Tower from my office.

And Finally....Well, if it's good enough for the News At Ten, it's good enough for me...
There has been a recent campaign to get people to stop smoking - Saudi being the world's heaviest smoking nation, probably as a result of it being the only vice that they can get away with!

Anyway, me and Tan reckon that something has got lost in translation somewhere along the way when the marketing people came up with the slogan - surely it should be Put It Out.

Okay, that's it for this update. Only 3 more weeks before we come home, so not many more updates to come. Take care.

 

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  (C) 2008 Mark Sykes