Sunday, October 30, 2005


Free at Last in KSA Free at Last in KSA
The day I actually left was probably one of the most stressful of my life. I had a plan that said I was going to spend a few days in Dubai trying to find a job before heading back to the UK. I had bought myself a ticket to Dubai, and had booked several flights spread over 3-4 days after the end of my contract because I had no idea how long it would take Bongo & Co to finalise the formalities. Surprisingly, everything happened on time. On my last day at work, I got my pay cheque. It was, of course, too late to cash it, so the next morning I was up bright and early, expecting to be out of there by the end of the day.

As it happened, one of the engineers was also leaving that day, on vacation. He was a good guy, an Egyptian, and we headed off to the local bank together with our pay cheques. Naturally, their computer system was down, so they could not verify if there was any money in Bongo’s account to cover these cheques. We decided to head downtown to the main branch of this bank where the account actually lived. When we got there it was complete chaos. Because the computer was down, of course. We stomped into the manager’s office and I told him that I had to get this cheque cashed because I was leaving in two hours. Somehow it happened, but they were absolutely not going to give my Egyptian friend any money. I can’t remember the exact details, possibly he didn’t have his passport with him or he was Egyptian or something, but I signed a bit of paper that said I knew him and they could come and beat me up if it turned out they’d given the money to the wrong guy. Weird.

Anyhoo, loaded down with cash, we head back to the office. Now I have to get Ibrahim, the world’s laziest PRO, to take me to the airport. He has to do this because they have a piece of paper from the Government that needs to be signed and stamped as I leave.

Riyadh Airport is quite a way from the city. We are halfway there when Ibrahim realises he’s forgotten the piece of paper. We turn round and go back to the office to get it. When we arrive at the airport there’s only about an hour and a half before my flight leaves. I head for the check-in desk for Dubai. Ibrahim is deeply puzzled. As far as he’s concerned I’m supposed to go to London.

The check-in clerk tells me that I don’t have a booking. I explain that I most certainly do, and he tells me that I did have one, but the travel agent cancelled it. Damn! I ask him if there are any empty seats on the plane, and he says there are lots. So I suggest that maybe I can have one of those?

Sure, he says. No problem at all.

It was the best flight of my entire life. Ma’salamah Riyadh.