Posted by: englishdubai | March 10, 2009


I am spending most of this week in Riyadh which is a probably a good thing following the excess of the Rugby Sevens at the weekend. The weather this morning was great – sunny, clear and about 28c. Around 10.30am we started a meeting and as it wound down a couple of hours later I glanced out the window. It was dark. This I thought was a little odd and a closer inspection it was clear that a sandstorm had whipped up outside. It was really weird, everything turned an odd shade of yellow/brown. I actually thought when I opened the door to the outside that I was wearing my sunglasses! In fact it was the fine sand particles in the air.

It was very hazardous driving with visibility cut down to a few meters in certain places, and when I first ventured outside I did not cover my mouth or nose and ended up feeling very dusty afterwards. Following that I was sure to use a tissue in my brief trips outside. I was surprised that all of a sudden a lot of people had produced surgical masks to protect them. A really wise move, but interesting that people had them to hand.

It turns out that this was no ordinary sand storm but a an absolute monster of one – possibly the largest in decades and featured on CNN this evening. There are some amazing photos showing a wall of sand sweep across Riyadh here and a video of it appeared on the BBC news website.

I did not manage to take any photos as stunning as those though I did grab a couple with my phone. It was really dense in places, these photos were taken at 12.45pm:

Most cars had their hazard lights on as traffic slowed to a crawl in central Riyadh:

The sky was obliterated from around midday:

It was odd. We spent the day going about our business but with tissues covering our noses and mouths while outside. It was only while watching the news did I realise the extent of it. The airport was closed today which I am sure means it will be very busy when I attempt to fly back tomorrow afternoon. The first thing I will do in the morning is reconfirm my seat back to Dubai.


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