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Saudi Diary part11
Logan's Run

Tuesday 24th June
Well, after a few glorious days of clear blue skies, the winds have picked-up again as the haze/dust/sand returns. I bought 7 CDs whilst shopping in the Faisaliah Centre, only to find on closer inspection that two of them had had their covers 'mutilated' with black felt pen obliterating anything resembling a bit of female flesh. And not just the cover, but the whole booklet inside the CD had had all relevant photos blotted out. They had even removed the CD and the CD holder so that they could get at the picture on the back of the CD case.

Take Kelly Rowland's latest album, Ms. Kelly, as you can see bare shoulders are out. Remember Elena Paparizou? She won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005 representing Greece. I bought her double cd called Iparhi Logos, and again any sign of flesh was blanked out with a felt-tip marker. In fact, both CD booklets were ruined.

And this brings me on to the Mail on Sunday and the American magazine called People. The Mail on Sunday featured Liz Hurley on page 3, wearing a low cut dress that showed off her ample bosom. Obviously a far too corrupting sight for Middle-Eastern men, as a white sticker had been stuck over her cleavage. A number of pages had also been ripped out, obviously containing far too explicit material (this is the Mail on Sunday after all!), including (as I was able to deduce) a naked Trinny and Susannah stood chest-to-chest. So there are some things to be thankful for I suppose!! Yet on one of the pages in the paper was a full page ad of a male model wearing nothing but briefs. Personally, I find it quite offensive looking at someone that well toned, but there were no stickers covering his appendages ;-)

As for People magazine, numerous pictures had had white stickers placed in strategic locations, as well as five pages having been removed. Just to show you the limits they go to, have a look on the photo pages for the 'before and after' comparisons, after I had carefully removed the stickers.

By the way, if you ever want to access a web-site they don't want you to see, this is the message you get. I wanted to access www.moviemarket.com to order a movie poster, but I couldn't access the site. I clicked on their link to try and get access opened to the web site but the Saudi government never responded back to me.

Thursday 26th June
It's the weekend, yippee!! And it's hot - 46 degrees today. We went to the top of the Faisaliah Tower today, where you get some fantastic views of Riyadh and the surrounding area. The view is better than the Kingdom Tower primarily because at the top of the Faisaliah you go outside rather than stay indoors, and are protected from falling a long way down just by a sheet of glass. The problem though is that it's 46 degrees and you can't spend too long outside!! From up here though, not only do you get a great view of Kingdom Center but also (for the plane spotters out there), a good view of Riyadh Air Base! That evening, it was dinner at one of the local Doner Kebab restaurants. They're certainly not as greasy as the ones back home.

Friday 27th June
Today, as we drove out into the wilderness during our last weekend before returning home, the temperature gauge in our car reached the grand heights of 49 degrees - yes, that's forty-nine degrees - the highest we've recorded whilst we've been here. After my reconnaissance mission the day before via the Faisaliah Tower, I decided to hand the car keys over to Tan(!) and I got him to drive slowly around the outside perimeter fence of Riyadh Air Base whilst I took photos of anything of interest. Unfortunately, most of the air base is surrounded by a 20 feet high concrete wall, but there was an entrance that had some static aircraft on display which I took some photos of before the security guard got too interested in what I was doing.

But alas today was THE day……Saudi Arabia may not have many of the things I like (alcohol, cinemas, uncensored magazines/papers/CDs, etc.), but they do have KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS!!!!!!! Yes, on the way to the air base, not only did we pass KK, but also other well known US restaurant chains of Applebee's and Chilis. So on the way back to the hotel we stopped off at Krispy Kreme and we each selected 6 of the most gorgeous do-nuts you could imagine….my life in Riyadh resembled some sort of normality in that moment. Sighhhhhhh :-)

Saturday 28th June
Back to work with a vengeance, and we received some very good customer feedback on the content of the report. Excellent news. In the evening we went to Applebee's and just got inside before the 'calling' happened. We walked in at 18:25, the place shut for prayers at 18:30. So we had five minutes to choose our order else we would have had to wait half a hour. I love going to Applebee's whenever I'm in the States, and they didn't let me down here either with my favourite Oreo Cookie Milkshake (well, actually, two of them!).

Sunday 29th June
For the fourth night in a row, I was awoken by loud music from a wedding party downstairs in the ballroom (and I'm on the 3rd floor). But tonight it was 02:15 when I was woken up, and half an hour later I was still being kept awake by the noise. So I phoned downstairs and asked the Duty Manager to do something about it. Not a lot happened, as it was about 03:15 before it all went silent. I was not happy! When we left for the office at 08:00, Riyadh was being blasted by yet another sand storm. It's amazing how much muck accumulates on the cars in this weather. Having done Applebee's the night before, tonight was the turn of Chilis. Or at least, that's what we thought. We arrived at 18:30 only to be told: "Sorry sir, the kitchen has just closed". It was that time of night again, so we headed back to the hotel to eat our favourite buffet.

Monday 30th June
We've almost made it! We handed over the final copy of the report and after adding some additional pieces it totalled 57 pages and over 19,000 words. We made sure we got to Chilis before prayer time started, but again we were rushed to select items from the menu before the kitchen closed.

Tuesday 1st July
We were flying home today but the customer had asked us to present the findings of the report to the IT Director. So we went into the office for the morning, and I spent an hour going through the report and having some healthy debate around some of the issues that need addressing and how long it's going to take to sort them all out. Still, I like a challenge!

So we got back to the hotel afterwards to finish packing, only to get a phone call from base camp in Woking that the flight from Bahrain will be delayed 2 hours and will not now take off until 03:10…..ah, yet again, the glamorous life of a consultant!! I write this update whilst sat in the terminal building at King Khaled International Airport, Riyadh, waiting for our connecting flight to Bahrain. So, I'll sign off for now. I hope you've enjoyed reading about some of our experiences, but that's it for a while. The current plan is to come out in August for 3 weeks, and then another 7 weeks in October & November. So watch out for further updates later in the year. Until then, ma'a salama…..(goodbye).

Latest update from Bahrain International Airport: We got on the Gulf Air flight at Riyadh and were greeted by a stewardess - the first female we had spoken to face-to-face for 12 days, when we were in Bahrain. Unfortunately, our flight has been delayed further and is not now due to take off until 03:45. But we've got alcohol in the airport lounge to pass away the hours.

(PS. The flight actually took off at 04:32 in the morning, over three hours late!)



  (C) 2008 Mark Sykes