Posted by: englishdubai | September 13, 2006

Saudi Syndrome

I made my first visit to Saudi Arabia – my third visit to a new country for me in as many weeks. I flew to Riyadh on Saudi Arabian Airlines – which was more “east end” than “west end”. It did give me a chance to read the Saudi Arabian English newspaper the “Arab News” – I was quite taken by the green colored paper on the front and back pages. Also Saudi Air provide a prayer area at the rear of the large 777 plane – a nice touch for the majority of their customers.

I stayed in the very nice Al Faisaliah hotel – the room was really impressive with a simply huge walk in shower and bath tub in the elegant bathroom. The service was also excellent with each floor having a dedicated “Butler” – it was late and I was in urgent need of an ironed shirt. The Butler arrived quickly and took my shirt and asked me when I wanted a wake up call – I replied 7.30am. Sure enough at said time, the room phone rang and not 60 seconds later a chap was knocking on my door with a crisply ironed shirt. Service to make me smile.

The people I met in Riyadh were all very warm and friendly – I had to agree with them that Riyadha was quite, more relaxed and a little cooler than Dubai. However it was not until I was on the flight back to Dubai that I noticed a distinct lack of a few things in Saudi Arabia:

1. Booze – I noticed a large number of my fellow passengers joined me in Dubai Duty free
2. Women – I saw none other than on the plane
3. Music – there was none playing in public anywhere I visited
4. Radio – there was none in any of the cabs we took
5. Billboards – none that I could see outside – I did see one in a shopping mall and the woman’s face had been digitized out
6. Mannequin heads – they had all lost theirs

A friend of mine lived in Jeddah for almost 4 years – I can see now why he claims it was the ultimate health farm. With no booze and plenty of time to work out he lost a considerable amount of weight. I however found myself suffering from “Saudi syndrome” and all I wanted to do when I got back to Dubai was have a beer and 3G – “Girls, Gambling and Games” – nothing new there then…


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