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Logan's Run

Wednesday 6th August
Well, after five weeks back home is was time to head back out to Saudi Arabia and phase 2 of the project, which includes running 9 workshops and creating lots of documentation.  This time Tan has been replaced by Richard, A) because I'm still a nervous wreck from Tan's driving and B) because Tan is off to Thailand on hols.  Alright, that's unfair - it's purely because Tan is off on a well deserved holiday!  Tan, I hope you have a great time.

The flight out of Heathrow was delayed an hour after the pilot found a dent in one of the cargo doors!  This meant he had to get an engineer to check it out before we could take off.  Finally we got the all clear and headed off to the alcohol free zone called.....Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  We arrived just as the weekend started, so we had a couple of days to acclimatise to the heat and for me to show Richard some of the sights of Riyadh.

Friday 8th August
Today we went up to the top of the Faisaliah Tower.  It had been a been a glorious day with clear blue skies, so we got to see a lovely sunset and I took some nice photos with my new Canon EOS 450D digital camera.  A strange sight on the outside ledge was the headdress of a Saudi, a keffiyeh.  We assumed that the wind had blown it there rather than someone scaling the glass wall and jumping off!

Wednesday 13th August
The hotel, as with most, holds various events such as conferences and training, etc. during the week.  One particular course that caught the eye this week was called "Ethical Hacking" - an oxymoron if ever there was one!  A company called MARCOM was also doing some training on ITIL - hmmm, I wonder what that one was about!!!

Tonight with both the Blades and Arsenal in footie action, we decided on Chinese as the pre-match meal.  Buffet style, it was very good although the crispy Peking duck was missing - as were the rest of the diners.  With not much water around, I suppose there aren't that many ducks in Riyadh!!

Thursday 14th August
The first week at work has gone well, four workshops have been completed, and the weekend quickly comes around again.  We've been fortunate with the weather so far, with blue skies every day even when it's been windy.  Back in June, whenever it was breezy the skies were murky with dust and sand, but not this time.  So we headed up to the top of the Kingdom Tower.  The first lift takes you up to the 77th floor, you then take a second lift up to the 99th floor and the 'Skybridge' observation area, a mere 300 metres above ground level.  It provides a great view of the surrounding areas of Riyadh, unless you suffer from vertigo!

Whilst watching the Muslim equivalent of MTV in my hotel later that afternoon, prayer time came along and all of a sudden mid-video we switch to a mosque for 5 minutes of prayers.  Then the coverage switches back to the music videos of scantily-clad women.  Bizarre!!

That evening, after stuffing our face with pizza, I suggested we go and take some photos of the UFO building, otherwise known as the Ministry of the Interior.  It's an amazing piece of architecture and looks so much like a UFO at night that now I have my new digital camera I've been itching to take some pics of it. 

As with any government building security is tight, and road blocks are in place all around the complex.  So Richard, my getaway driver(!), pulls into a side road and keeps the engine running whilst I get out and take my photos under the cover of darkness.  No problems.  Back in the car Richard then suggests we go down this other road and get a closer look.  Okay then....

I get out of the car (Richard keeps the engine running) and take a couple of pics......the next moment I hear shouting....a guard in full battle fatigues and armed with a semi-automatic machine gun is walking towards me.  Oops!!  So I quickly hop back into the car and Richard makes a quick u-turn and makes off.  The guard then starts running off in the opposite direction, seemingly either to summon assistance or to get into his jeep and follow us.  So we cut through various back roads ensuring that no one is following us.  Needless to say we went the long way round back to the hotel to avoid going through the roadblock again, just in case!!!!  Back at the hotel, fearing the Saudi forces will come storming through my door at any moment, I quickly upload photos of the UFO to the server back in the UK.  Hah, I've foiled them :-)

Friday 15th August
It's Friday, (equivalent to our Sunday) so it's very quiet outside.  We have a drive around downtown and then out into the Industrial City area where the cement and concrete factories are.  The exciting life we have in Riyadh, eh!  Whilst downtown I take Richard to the As Sa'ah Square, the home of the 'General Presidency of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vices'.  Yes, quite a mouthful that!  Next door is also the Massmak Palace and a mosque.

So as I do(!), I'm busily snapping away having noted that the one security car resident in the square is empty.  I then spot an approaching security car from the opposite direction.  Looking all innocent (or at least trying to), I point up at the architecture of the building telling Richard how nice it is, etc.  Mr. Security Man drives slowly past.....we continue walking around admiring the buildings and lamp posts (which are actually very nice).  I'm then taking a photo of one of these lamp posts and the next moment there is tooting of a horn.  The security guard is heading our way, pulls over and requests (or should I say 'instructs') that I stop taking photos.  It wasn't the lamp post that was the issue, but the building in the background.  So, after having two close shaves in the last two days, I put my camera away until we're back in the car.

By the way, it has been hot today....one electronic temperature display we passed whilst driving around showed the big 50 DEGREES!!  Whilst it may have been slightly inaccurate, it was damn hot today.

That's all until the next time, providing I don't get arrested or thrown out of the country in the meantime....




  (C) 2008 Mark Sykes