Friday, October 07, 2005

Arriving in Riyadh

French Lessons in KSAFrench Lessons in KSA
I arrived in Riyadh at about 1am.

I wasn’t too impressed with the ancient one-eyed taxi driver and his equally old motorcar, but he somehow managed to get me to the hotel in one piece.

Bongo’s office had booked me a room at the Al-Khozama Hotel, and I would have had a good night’s sleep had it not been for the copulating couple in the room next door, the very thin walls and the 5am call to prayer from the huge modern mosque right across the road.

A driver from Bongo’s office picked me up at 7am, and I went to meet my new employer. The company occupied the top floor of a 3-storey building. My accommodation was across the stairwell from the office. It was a 2-bedroom apartment – recently refurbished, quite large, pink nylon carpet. I was a bit bemused by it. I had asked that I be housed in a Western compound, and Bongo had said he would see what he could do. In hindsight I realise that meant ‘not a chance, you stupid git’.

Before arriving in Riyadh I had several consultations with Charlie, who had enlightened me on a few things to do with living in the Gulf. Paramount among these was that you didn’t want to live among the hoi-polloi, you wanted to live on a Western compound. This was a strange concept for me to get my head round, but basically these compounds are like housing estates complete with shops, pools, schools and social clubs, surrounded by a wall, guarded by security guys and basically off-limits to the police and Muttawa. I thought it all sounded a bit fascist and couldn’t really see what would be so bad about living where everybody else lived. Until I got there.