Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Don't Crash Into Date Palms

Date Palm centerpiece upgrade in progress....

Don't crash into the date palms.

Running into date palms in Saudi is, so we've been told, a costly experience.

The government department responsible for the aesthetics of Saudi roadways expects to be recompensed for the effort it takes to line the centerpieces of the highways and by-ways with fully grown date palms.

If you run into one of the trees you are expected to repay said department the total cost of obtaining the palm tree and all costs associated with maintaining the palm tree for the length of time the tree has been growing in the space you just munted.

So maybe, don't crash into old, well established date palm trees..

The finished Date Palm centerpiece

Friday, 13 July 2012

Royal Saudi Air Force Museum Riyadh

Visit the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum in Riyadh, known in Arabic as Saqr Al-Jazira.  It's a pleasant way to spend an afternoon looking at various aircraft from Saudi's short aircraft history to present day.

While surfing the net one day I read a small piece about an Aircraft Museum in Saudi, though no details were given on where it was and no amount of Googling brought forth any other mention of the place.  Hubster has a dream to own a spitfire so I presumed he'd love fossicking around an Aircraft Museum for something to do in Riyadh and determined to find Saqr Al-Jazira.

I came across it by accident after a day trip to Al Kharj with Haya Tours.  The bus was cruising along the Eastern Ring Road and I happened to be telling the lady sitting next to me about my search for the Aircraft Museum when what should we drive past but a very large passenger aircraft (I later discovered it's a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar) sitting behind a wall next to the highway.  I remember saying, 'Why is there an airplane by the road?', then the penny dropped.  I looked at her, she looked at me and we laughed - I'd found my museum.  If I hadn't been on that bus that day with the advantage of height, I might still be searching!

The plane in the back is visible from the Ring Road.
That weekend Mr Noor delivered us to the gate in the wall and the guard directed us to the museum entrance which is not on the ring road itself, but just around the corner.

Knowing nothing about engines or aircraft I just nosied around while Hubster roamed among the craft sitting on the tarmac admiring them for....well, for whatever men admire displayed aircraft for.  There's also an indoor display and we headed there when a dust cloud decided to blow over and the dust started to get a bit thick outdoors.  The static displays allow a close look at some reconstructions, a sit in a pilot seat and also a 3D simulation flight.  All quite well done I thought.

Here are some pics of our visit:

The Royal Saudi Air Force Museum is located on the Eastern Ring Road between exits 10 and 11. Keep an eye out for the Saudia Lockheed Tristar still parked by the highway!  Opening hours for the Saudi Royal Air Force Museum are typical of Saudi - 9:00am to 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm to 9:00pm.  From memory admission is 10SAR for adults. I believe kids are 5SAR.

Location of the Riyadh Aviation Museum

If you, or your kids, are into looking at airplanes or airplane motors then the Saudi Royal Air Force Museum is definitely a place you should visit.

Ka Kite,

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Drifting in Saudi

Drifting has become known as a Saudi youth pass time.  There are loads of videos' on You Tube, one of the most recent is horrific with bodies and their bits and pieces flying everywhere.

The Saudi boys might think drifting is fun.  Drifting in Saudi is dangerous.

In case you aren't up to the play with Saudi youth recreational activity and don't spend your spare time surfing You Tube, Drifting (or joy riding) involves trying to make your car skid or spin across the road while you're driving it at very high speed, like in this video (don't worry - no body parts are flying around here):


We have ridden our bikes past a highway lined with eager drifting spectators on more than one occasion.  I've wanted to stay on the bridge and watch but Hubster, at times being the more sensible person in this relationship, was happy to get the hell out of there.

The boys in Saudi take to drifting largely because there isn't much else for a young bloke to do in this country.

What about football? I hear you say. Yep, they love football but I don't think participation in Weekend Sport is as ingrained in Saudi culture as rugby or netball is back home. 
Weekend Sport
The Saudi male, according to my gym chiseled friend, just isn't that physical. So Saudi boys find other things to amuse themselves.

The Powers That Be want to discourage Drifting using a combination of fines, vehicle impounding and jail terms for repeat offenders.  Unless you run someone over while drifting, as recently happened (again).  The driver in this case has been sentenced to beheading though when, or if, this eventually happens is unknown.

You have to admit for the guys that are good at Drifting there is a bit of skill involved.   Neither Hubster or I are averse to watching a good Drift  - except when we're on the bike.  'Woohoo.  Crazy mother'  is not an uncommon phrase when we do see the boys in action.  The problem with Drifting in Saudi is that it is not controlled.   What's worse is that the blokes are often Drifting amongst traffic that didn't choose to part of their activity - they were just driving down the highway as in this vid (again nothing gruesome).

The potential for innocent people to get hurt in these situations is extremely high.  (I don't consider spectators lining a highway in anticipation of some action as innocent people. If you choose to be where danger takes place and you might get hurt - that's your choice).

This latest article to Recognise Drifting As A Sport as it is in other parts of the world is not a new idea.  If the Powers That Be eventually do follow this suggestion they will have to make sure the sport is highly accessible (as in cheap as petrol, which in this country is cheaper than chips) or the young men may not be keen to participate. 

People wonder why Saudi boys put their lives and the lives of others at risk through drifting.  Maybe the trouble is testoserone.  The last paragraph of that article suits Saudi and Drifting to a T:
"Many societies have found ways to channel the self-centered and aggressive impulses of high testosterone young men into socially useful niches like the military or sports. Those that don't face a plethora of selfish and destructive behaviors."

Ka Kite,

Photo Credit:MiddleEast

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Riyadhs Run Out Of My Meds

Riyadh has run out of my meds. 

This is not a situation I'm happy about. I need my meds.  Without them my heart rate hits the roof just because I stand up.  The condition also makes me a little tetchy.

I'm sure Riyadh running out of thyroid meds is not a situation a lot of people are happy about.  We wondered, Hubster and I, what all the other Riyadh residents suffering from hyperthryroidism are doing about their condition.  The pharmacists we spoke to at the hospitals (because I've been to more than one) just shrugged their shoulders when we asked what am I supposed to do now.  

Apparently only one Agent is responsible for importing this particular pharmaceutical to the country and it seems said Agent just hasn't gotten round to doing his job yet. He, Mr Agent, hasn't got around to it for the last 4 months according to some pharmacies. Me thinks someone should sack the fucker have a word with him.

Why does only one Agent hold such responsibility?  Because in Saudi that's how things work.
One family line has dibs on all the top roles and top income earning products and businesses.
And in each family only 1 man is the decision maker.  Everyone else is a wanna be.

The 'One Man for the Job' attitude filters down to the lower levels of Saudi society too.  In my friends job, for example, only one man holds the key to employees passports and if he decides to take a day off when you want to get your passport because you're going on vacation, tough tiddles.

It shouldn't be a surprise that one agent is holding up medications in Riyadh.  No surprise at all.  It's just hard to believe that Riyadh, the country's capital city, the shining example of Saudi  progress has runs out of my meds and there's nothing I can do about it.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Canned Service Charge Increases Prices.

The ruckus that raged over service charges only a few months ago has seen the service charges canned and the restaurant food prices astronomically increased.

Today it cost me over 115SAR for salad, coffee and a lemon mint drink.  Before the service charge ruckus I could eat exactly the same food at this diner for just under 90SAR. That's a major price hike. (22% according to Hubster, Maths Master extraordinaire)

Me thinks that restaurant owners are being greedy little gremlins.


Ealier this year the Ministry of Commerce and Industry banned restaurants and coffee shops across the Kingdom from levying any service charges on their bills after receiving complaints from customers about the inconsistency of the the amounts charged.

I can understand a fuss being made about increasing service charges in Riyadh.  After all, a service charge is supposed to cover the cost of extra services provided by the restaurant. Which begs the question which extra services were we getting.  The pictures on the menu's were not always reflective of the meal arriving on the plate.  No wine is ever opened at the table in Riyadh.  And trying to get the waiter to provide something not on the menu or to think outside the square is often like pulling teeth. 

'I'm sorry madam, the meal only comes with juice.  You can't have tea.  There's no price button for the meal with tea.'

(Granted I can understand the nervousness of many of the staff here.  One mistake and the manager will be breathing down your neck with threats of that same neck being broken for not doing the job as stated, no deviations, no thinking, no providing anything without a button).

Me thinks restaurant owners figured they should increase the service charges because they were pissed (a phrase that means 'somewhat annoyed') that staff were getting tips.  The owners wanted a method of cashing in on that.   After all, far be it for the lowly staff to be making any money. That activity should only be reserved for the owners of restaurants.  (Or greedy troll like managers who used to scaremonger the staff into handing over all tips and keeping it all for themselves - and if you get to know enough staff you hear all about those kind of managers).

The Ministry decided there was no good reason for restaurants having a service charge and that it was in the consumers' interests that prices of goods were clearly stated and they also wanted to curb price rises. 

Well, the prices are definitely clear but they sure as heck aren't curbed.  Anyone who is surprised at this move by restaurant owners must be living in la la land.  The writing, as they say, was on the wall.  The only thing we are surprised about (and having lived here for a while we really shouldn't be) is how much the prices have increased.  I have rarely given a 22% tip.  

There is, apparently, a Consumer Protection Association in Riyadh but as the Arab News scathingly states in this article Saudi Restaurants: Hot Menus, Flaming Prices most of them are collaborators with, one presumes, restaurant owners.

The bottom line - Canning the service charges has only increased restaurant dining prices and eating at home is beginning to look a lot more inviting.

Ka Kite,

Monday, 2 July 2012

Cultural Difference on the Squash Court.

Last week I watched cultural difference on the squash court.  A few of the western Blokes on our compound, Hubster included, play squash on the compound court most nights.   In the four years Hubster has lived here neither he nor the other Blokes has ever had to book the squash court which says something about their ability to get along, or get themselves organised, as our compound only boasts 1 squash court.  

The other day a couple of The Blokes were about to go on the court when an Arab expat said, 'T'he court is booked. 
I have booked the court.
Who books the court?
I have.
From 7 till 8.  (Clock is checked.  It's 6.50pm)
Ok, so we have 10 minutes.  We'll just have a quick game, it'll only take 10 minutes.

Mr Arab Man says OK
The Blokes go on court.

Five minutes later I overhear Mr Arab Man, who is a new squash player though not a new tenant, say he is going to ring security if The Blokes don't come off the court on time.
Five minutes after that he rings security.
Security duly comes racing over to tell The Blokes the court is booked by someone else.
The Blokes get a bit ratty and shitty.  Not because Someone Else had booked the court but because he rang security.

Who the hell rings security to tell you to get off the squash court?
Just knock on the bloody door.  You're standing right there.  It's a glass door.  In fact the entire back wall of the court is glass.  You can see right through it.   So just knock, wave or otherwise gesture.

But no.

We have learnt that lots of people in Saudi of non-western persuasion don't really like confrontation.   They like other people to do the confronting for them.  Though, bugger me, I'm not quite sure whats confronting about saying , 'My coach is here now, time for you guys to get off the court.' 

It might have helped, of course, if Mr Arab had mentioned he'd booked the court for a squash lesson.  (This information was passed on by security in response to some verbal argy bargy).  The Blokes may have been a bit less... ummm...irritated about the whole affair if they'd known the situation at the start of their 10 - 15 minutes.  They conceded (three days later) that they wouldn't want a couple of Blokes wasting their precious lesson time if they'd booked a coach. 

But at the time, without such information, The Blokes presumed Mr Arab would do what the other squash players on the compound have always done when someone else has taken to the court.  They Wait.  Usually long enough for the game to be played out.  (Which in the case of the two players in question doesn't take very long).

While waiting, they either watch the game or take a seat, drink a healthy beverage and chinwag. 
If it's a competitive match they often comment. 
If it's not a competitive match they usually joke and laugh about how soon they'll be on the court.
They Warm up.
All the while making it known behind the glass wall that they are ready to go on court as soon as the other Blokes are done.
They sure as heck don't go ring security.

Yes, it's interesting watching cultural differences play out on the squash court.

Ka Kite,

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