Important Notice

It is not my intention to denigrate Saudi Arabia or its people. It’s like everywhere else, there is good and there is bad. I would rather focus on the unusual and the humourous. Offence is not intended.

“The country is not perfect. The media cannot be trusted, mistreatment of religious minorities is common and there are some that live in fear.” You can decide for yourself whether that statement is about Saudi Arabia, the UK, or any country for that matter.

To quote the Joker, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

That is all I will say about either subject.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Brown Hole

Whilst heading home last Wednesday my wife called me to say drive carefully because there was a bad sand storm at home. I looked at the sky sceptically. There was some sand in the air but it looked no different from the last week when we'd had sand storms and "normal" storms simultaneously. To have a sand storm combined with thunder, lightning and torrential rain seemed a bit like showing off, as if a child had been let loose in the special effects room.
I agreed to drive carefully and continued onwards. Then I saw it. The brown cloud. It hung in the air ahead of me on the freeway, sucking light and cars into it where they were never seen again (possibly). It brought night into day and inspired such awe that even the weavers slowed down from 140km/h to 125km/h, changing lanes now only sporadically.
There was no avoiding it, so into it I drove. The car began to rattle and shake in the intense wind, the aircon stank the smell of rancid sand and my nerves began to jitter. My wife wasn't exaggerating, this storm was incredible! I could only just make out the car in front of me (at the agreed Saudi stopping distance of about six feet).

Two things occurred to me at this point.

1) The fact that so many drivers put their hazard lights on is a tacit admission that they never use their indicators on the freeway. How do you know when they're going to change lanes? In one of two ways:
a) The Saudi Swerve. They cut in front of you with barely an inch to spare. Don't be alarmed and don't be enraged. It's not an act of rudeness or aggression, it just.... "is".
b) The Saudi Drift. The laid back option for the modern man in touch with his feminine side. Rather than indicate the driver begins a slow, inexorable migration into your lane. You can speed up or slow down to avoid a crash, the choice is entirely yours.

2) How did people survive in this environment before science and modernisation came to the rescue? It's a testament to the human spirit in general and the Arab spirit in particular that people could thrive in such an incredibly inhospitable environment.
As an Englishman I have no comprehension of how this shapes one's character. During our first drive into the desert we got lost and had no phone signal. In England you'd probably only get wet (and maybe a bit of hypothermia), but out here a cock-up like this can be life threatening.

As proof of just how bad it was, this was the view from an apartment as the sand storm raged. It was taken during daylight hours.

During the Storm

You have to feel some sympathy for the cleaners.


Saudi Jawa said...

Being stuck in a sand storm can get pretty scary. I experienced one of the worst while I was cruising the Makkah-Jeddah expressway. The only thing I could see were the hazard lights of the car immediately in front of me. Makes one appreciate modern technology and lifestyles.

Anonymous said...

Drift in saudi arabia