Now where were we.....ah, that's
right: keeping a low profile for the remainder of
our stay after the previous scares with the security
forces. Well, we have sort of - although when
we needed help most did anyone come rushing to
help..... er, no!! Read on for the story.
Before I get into the
juicy details of the out of work activities, how
about an update on the work front I hear you all
cry. Ok, for those few sad souls out there....by
close of play last Wednesday we had run 9 workshops
over 9 consecutive days to varying degrees of
success. And by success I mean for those times
that I didn't quite end up speaking to an empty
The culture is
certainly different here, people coming and going
all the time during a workshop, no-one can sit still
for more than 30 minutes before popping out for a
while (and maybe not returning), constantly being
against the clock rushing to finish before the next
prayer session. It can be very frustrating.
A couple of times I've ended-up finalising a process
workflow diagram with no one in the room from the
process side of things, just some guys from the
project office. My faux pas of the week came during
an 'all day' workshop when I said "ok, let's all
break for lunch". I was quickly corrected - "No"
came the reply, "it's prayer time". Well it
was lunchtime for me and Richard! So we're now
into 5 days of hectic activity creating documents
based upon the previous 2 weeks workshops. Exciting
And speaking of
Richard, work this one out...... So it's about 45
degrees every day, and when we walk back to the
hotel at the end of the day it's still damn hot, so
much so that you're ready for a nice cold shower (and a
nice cold beer, but we can dream about that one).
Anyway, what does Richard go and do....only goes and
has a sauna. I ask you!! He muttered
something about wanting to look his finest for the
So we get to our
final weekend in Riyadh. The Thursday is
fairly relaxed, we go out for a fast food lunch in
the shopping mall at the Faisaliah Tower after
everywhere has re-opened after the lunchtime prayer
time. I stock up on some CD's including two
Arabic ones that I haven't the foggiest what they're
going on about but they sound alright! Richard
then goes into Debenhams at the Kingdom Tower for a
new wallet (guess what, they've got a sale on!) and
ends up queuing half an hour to pay for it.
Speedy service was not on the agenda on this day.
And then we get to Friday.......
Just to set the scene; before me and Tan set off on
our expedition to Bahrain back in June our hosts had
said, whatever you do, stay on the main
roads...don't go off into the desert. Okay, no
problems with that advice, sounds sensible.
So I suggest to
Richard that we drive off for a couple of hours on
the road to Bahrain to show him how desolate it is,
the different shades of sand, see some camels, etc.
So as we set off I relay the advice our hosts gave.
All is going to plan, we see light coloured sand,
bright orange coloured sand that looks like you're
on Mars, camels in shades of white, beige and dark
brown; but after a couple of hours driving there is
no obvious place to turn around and head back to
Ah, there's a camel
bridge(!) up ahead, I say, let's go over that to
turn around. Now, although it's a bridge
primarily for herding camels over it is pretty much
a normal wide steel and concrete bridge that can
take very heavy loads - a car is no problem.
So Richard slowly pulls off the motorway, we creep
over the cattle grid and slowly make our way up a
none too convincing slip road. The tarmac was
a bit dodgy in places, but of more concern was the
amount of sand on it. Nevertheless, we
proceeded with caution and slowly made our way up
the slow incline and up to the bridge. There
were a couple of dodgy moments, but we'd made it
So we drove across
the bridge and parked at the top of the descending
slip road back to the motorway. As we swapped
positions so I could drive back to Riyadh we
discussed that the amount of sand on this slip road
seemed much more that on the other side.
Having taken a closer look we decided to give it a
go....now remember what our hosts said!!!!
We gingerly made
our way down the slope, the wheels slipping and
sliding as if driving on snow or ice and then all of
a sudden were stuck! Into reverse, stuck.
into first gear, stuck. Wheels spinning and digging
in deeper. Oh, balls - although I think some
other more meaningful words were uttered at this
stage! So we spend the next half an hour
trying to extricate ourselves from the mess that we
had got ourselves in. We were digging the sand
out with our bare hands, Richard took turns pushing
the car whilst I revved-up, then we'd change places
and try again. Don't forget, we're in the
middle of nowhere and it's 45 degrees or more in the
middle of the desert. Trying touching the
bonnet or bumper with your bare hands to push the
car in that heat. Ouch!! You could
literally fry an egg on it.
After much effort
and the use of some wood we found lying around we
managed to reverse back about six feet, but what you
can't really see in the
attached photo is that the
right rear wheel is up in the air and the left front
wheel is digging a deeper and deeper whole (for us
to climb into at some point no doubt). Anyway,
apologies for those who have just looked at the pic
and are of a nervous disposition, as I forgot to
mention that the photo included scenes of male
nudity!! This is not normally allowed in Saudi Arabia, and
any future occurrences will be severely dealt with I
am sure. Richard just wanted an excuse to show
off his manly (cough, splutter) physique.
Hello Mrs RW, he'll soon be home ;-)
Seriously, thanks to Richard for giving up his shirt
so we didn't get first degree burns touching the
outside of the car when pushing it.
Finally after half
an hour of much sweating and much heavy breathing
(in my case especially, as I did most of the pushing
- although I was the one who drove us into the
sand!), we managed to
reverse the car back out of
the sand. What a relief that was. There
were casualties though - in the process of trying to
reverse through all of that sand we managed to rip
off the protective
undercarriage of the car.
Also take note;
this is a slip road on the side of a fairly busy
motorway and we were visible to everyone driving by,
but no-one stopped to offer assistance. Still,
we didn't have to call the emergency services
(although we came close), just remember - don't try
driving through sand in a Mazda. We then went
back over the bridge, and we slowly and successfully
made our way down the slip road on the opposite side of
the road to end up once again driving away from
Riyadh. This time we kept going until we got
to a 'proper' bridge, crossed this and made our way
back to Riyadh, whilst treating the car very gently in
the process as it had been through a stressful time
And that's about
it.....we'll soon be heading back to the UK, with me
and Tan returning in October to continue the
experience. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed
reading the blog. Cheers.