So, it's now March 2009 and I'm back
in Saudi Arabia for more 'punishment'. In fact, I
was back in Riyadh for a week in January and also a
week in February, but now I'm mid-way through a
4-week stint (and working solo on this occasion). I
must say, after the novelty wore off last year, a
week is just about as much as I can take nowadays,
so I'm currently going cold turkey!
I never got around to posting a final
update when I left at the end of last November, but
I did write some stuff so here's a recap.....
28th November 2008
I've just arrived home after 7 weeks away, and it's
great to be back. Overall the project has gone well,
albeit progress has been very slow at times. Not a
lot has happened in recent weeks, as there's not
much to do outside of work - unless you're part of a
family. Being single you feel fairly ostracised from
being able to get involved in life out here. For
example, museums and other 'entertainment' are
usually only open to families at weekends, which is
the only time we can go. Even the shopping malls are
'families only' at weekends!
Alan came over from the UK for 10 days to do some
training whilst Tan and I concentrated on the
consultancy. So on our weekend together we showed
Alan some of the sights and highlights in and around
Riyadh, although I must say that Alan did a good job
of that himself when we weren't around.
So we drove out to the desert to an area that Tan
had explored before, and I was amazed at what we
saw. The drive from Riyadh to Bahrain is just 300
miles of driving through flat, featureless desert;
but as you can see from the
there are valleys and canyons that bring back
memories of the Grand Canyon, if not on the same
We also got up close and personal with some
camels!! This was a bizarre area, just off the
main highway and near an immense drop into the
valley below, there were carcasses of dead animals
everywhere. It just seemed to be some sort dumping
ground. And let me tell you, when the wind blows in
the right direction the smell is not a pleasant
experience!! We passed my favourite bridge, and a
very impressive security checkpoint that had this
structure for an office. Obviously as you can
see from this
pic, Alan became a bit overcome with the
excitement of it all :-)
Now a while back, a few of my readers expressed
concern that I was going to get myself into even
more trouble(!) with my crusade for Saudi women.
Well fear not, my concerns have eased…..
It has been refreshing being able to speak openly
to my female acquaintance, the Service Level
Manager. Although a Muslim, she was actually born in
the USA and went to one of the top American
universities. She has openly talked about the issues
women face, both inside the workplace and outside. I
raised the issue of the apparently homeless women I
had seen begging in the street, some of them with
young children in their arms.
It transpires that the majority are not Saudi
women at all, but are in the country having
overstayed their Visas. Many of them are married and
it’s the husbands who send them out to beg on the
basis that females are likely to garner more
sympathy. That is also one of the reasons for them
having children with them. This sounds a bit like
some of the female beggars in central London that
have come from various eastern European countries.
Many of those use young kids to enhance their cause.
She also said that it is not unknown for it not to
be a woman at all, but a man under the abaya and
niqāb. So my crusade is on hold for now...
bigger than yours" is no doubt what one security
guard was saying to the other when I was watching
So that's about it. Thanks for the feedback, it
is much appreciated. I've got to come here for
1-week visits in January, February and March so
hopefully I can continue to keep out of trouble.
Until the next time, take care, and bye for now.
19th March 2009
Did I really say that I'd be coming back for one
week in March? Well, unfortunately(!), I did such a
good job that the customer asked me to come back to
do phase 2 of the project. So having spent a total
of 14 weeks out here in 2008, I've got to do another
14 weeks in 2009.
Before I go any further, I'd just like to say
that I'm a great fan of
Battlestar Galactica (the 21st century version
that is on Sky1). To get around the US TV censors,
they invented a new 'F-word' called 'frack' -
it means the same as Gordon Ramsay's version of the
f-word, but as frack doesn't really exist it also
means they can use it liberally. So I've decided to
use it as well!
Here I am two weeks into my latest four week
'tour of duty' and life is just the same. I get
fracked-off when the air raid siren (oops sorry, I
mean the call to prayer!) sounds about 04:30 in a
morning. I then get even more fracked-off when it
sounds again about 6am. Even with double-glazing in
the hotel, I here the sounds from the local mosque
more often than not.
The fight goes on in the Arab News for women
service staff in lingerie stores - there still
aren't any. Last week I happened to walk through the
cosmetics department of Harvey Nichols, where (as
everywhere) all the customer service assistants were
male. Then there were all the female customers who
had got veils on. The two situations combined was a
bizarre site. By the way, I don't think I've
mentioned this before but there are no changing
rooms allowed in clothes stores!
The highlight of my stay this month occurred on
Tuesday 10th March - the worst sandstorm to hit
Riyadh for 32 years. I was sat in my office at
lunchtime thinking 'it's going a bit dark in here'.
I look outside and see half the sky is blue and half
is orange. The next moment the whole sky is awash
with sand and outside resembles a scene from
And finally, one of the things that really fracks
me off is reading articles like
this. Some of the things I read in the Arab News
makes me never want to come back to this country,
its barbaric and archaic practices have no place in
the modern world. (Although, by the way,
hand-holding in public has just been outlawed in
Until the next time...... "I'm a consultant, get
me the frack out of here!!!!!"