Friday, June 8, 2012

A Saudi Day

What a Saudi kind of day!

It started out with my first trip to Jeddah to get some things for the house, and mainly my first Jeddah experience. Jeddah is about 3.5 million people and the metropolitan location that you go to get those things that you just can't find in the local area. My friend was trying to confirm a cruise to Egypt that he is planning to take in a few weeks so he offered to take me along and I was glad to go. He sent me a message that he would be ready to go around 9:15, so after a a quick run through a community garage sale (didn't really find anything) I met up with him and another friend from work and we headed on the adventure that started out in true Saudi style.

When he had picked up the Tahoe at the rental agency they requested that he get an updated sticker at the security gate. Now me, I would sort of think that is the kind of thing car rental company would usually do that rather than clients, but many things are unique for me, so I wasn't to surprised. So we did so and headed to Jeddah.

The trip there was pretty uneventful, but you could feel that defensive driving is important. On the cool side I did see a couple of herds of camels with a couple running along side the road at one point. So we get into Jeddah and the irony of me not being able to drive because I don't have a Saudi license yet seems kind of humorous (I guess they will be quizzing me on things such as not using turn signals or making sure that I understand solid white and yellow lines alongside the road are simply optional).

So Jerry is driving along and taking it all in stride, but he is not actually 100% sure where we are headed. He had Googled the location and thought that he had it down, but it didn't work out quite that way. We drove around a number of areas that we thought it was supposed to be, but no luck. After awhile (and some spicy chicken from a great little chain) Jerry decided it wasn't worth it and will work with the travel agent here on campus.

We then started to head back to KAUST with the intent to stop off at a SOCO store (like the illegitimate spawn of Dollar General and Lowe's). Not really high end stuff, mostly housewares and outdoor rec., but SOME reasonably priced stuff. I bought a dust mop and some other stuff and headed out the door. We next went to grocery store that is in the same mall, but they don't open the gate to the hall so you have to go clear out and come back in on the other end of the building. In this store I found a dust mop for about 25% of the price and some other things like camel steak (at a later date I will tell you how that comes out). We leave and head back to SOCO to return my high priced dust mop.

The return wasn't as bad as I had expected, with the only difference being that you have to get an invoice and then take it to a cash register to actually get your money. I mean who doesn't feel ripped off if you only got to stand in ONE line. Fortunate for me the register that I went to only had 5's so he couldn't give me the refund and I got to stand in a 3rd line (I know your jealous, but that is how I roll). While I am waiting in my 2nd line I see one of the guys come in and I assume he is looking for me since he heads to the customer service counter. I get his attention so that he knows I am standing in a different line. He tells me that someone had just backed into the truck an he was trying to get a police officer to come fill out a report.

I finish up my line standing and go out to see what is going on. A few people standing around waiting on the cops and a suburban bashed into us and the car next to us.

We're the silver one
After a few more phone calls we find out that the police aren't coming. The guy who backs into us acted like he was drunk, (which is interesting in a country without booze). He decides he has been there long enough and proceeds to drive off. He about aces the ATM that is near us and takes off. We stick around for a bit and finally call the rental place and they are alright with us just bringing it back since we have a number of pictures.

Once on campus, things start to go the other Saudi way. I get invited over to visit a family that is KAUST. On my way over there I get some shots of the Red Sea and campus.

Red Sea looking through the harbor out to the Red Sea

The canal that separates "the Island" from the mainland

Looking across the beach towards the Red Sea

 Looking across the beach towards the Red Sea

Looking across the beach towards the Red Sea

Red Sea sunset

Following these shots I met up at Discovery Square and had some good dinner and conversation.

The irony of Saudi Arabia was truly on display. It included large portions of bureaucracy but ended with fantastic views and great people. I think the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses and I really am going to enjoy it here.

Best wishes to all,

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