Monday, October 31, 2005

Getting Over It

Fear and Loathing in KSA Fear and Loathing in KSA
I arrived in Dubai and booked into a hotel in deepest Deira. I phoned the flooring salesman that I’d met in Riyadh, and he picked me up and we went out on the town. I could barely handle it. Apart from the abundant beer, we finished up at a nightclub where a troupe of scantily-clad Russian dancers were gyrating onstage. Shocked I was.

The next day I moved to the Chicago Beach Hotel (which was to be demolished a few years later to make way for the Jumeirah Jumeirah Beach Hotel). I made a few phone calls and fixed up a few interviews, and within about three days I had secured what I thought was a good job offer. I arranged a flight back to the UK for the next day, and lozzed about on the beach at the hotel.

I will never forget my time in Riyadh, and while people may say I had a miserable time because I did not integrate, I have to say that I didn’t meet anybody in Riyadh who seemed prepared to help me do that. I dare say that if I had stayed longer I might have a different view of things.

I really only met one Saudi who treated me with any kind of warmth or compassion. He was Dr Client, and we actually spent a fair bit of time together over the year. I met his wife and kids a few times, went to his house, visited marble and furniture showrooms with them. It was all business-related, of course, but he called me ‘Abu Offspring’, and did the huggy-kissy thing when we met.

Mostly the Westerners I met had been there a long time and were not interested in helping a newbie – they were cold and aloof and above all, suspicious.

People talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome, and I would suggest that there is such a thing as post-Saudi stress syndrome. I was certainly deeply affected by my immersion in Riyadh, and BetterArf says it took me at least six months to even begin to get over it. I’m not suggesting that all of Saudi Arabia is as harsh as Riyadh, but that is where I spent my year, so that’s all I know about.

Ah well, we live and learn.