My readers might have been bemoaning my lack of writing over the last couple of weeks, comparing my output to that of the manufacturing industry in Australia. But the fact is that I have been in Saudi Arabia for various adventures of a sanguine nature. This was my first trip to that country and to the Middle East in general, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I arrived back home yesterday morning after catching the 3am flight, an experience made even worse by having to travel with the Dutch national airline, KLM. The herring eating cloddites packed us into the plane like the proverbial sardines, and then over the seven hour flight did their very best to not provide any service while lecturing us on the horrible risks of the pretend Chinese pox.
At one point a pained blonde stewardess who had the look of a woman who has been around the block with every co-pilot in existence had the temerity to lecture me that my mask was not aligned correctly with my facial features. I was too tired to go into verbal combat so I settled for making my solitary can of Heineken last the entire flight, thus negating the requirement for the ridiculous pretend PPE. Every time she ventured in my direction, I raised the green can to my lips and pretended to take a sip, while smiling in that special way which generally translates as, ‘go fuck yourself’. As we exited the plane she attempted to force me into thanking her for the special effort she had made during the flight, which had consisted of her sitting down the back in the unused galley and cackling with her colleagues like a bunch of demented seagulls. All I can say is that I hope their lousy airline goes bust and that they all lose their jobs.
But back to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have to be the most polite and friendly people that I have ever experienced in their own country. Yes, I know that we are supposed to hate them, that they flew planes into buildings, human rights, blah blah blah. Listen, I couldn’t care less anymore. They were delightful. After the overt narcissism of the West it is just so refreshing to go to a country that has its own culture and protects it. I respect the Saudis because they don’t give a hoot what the rest of the world thinks of them. The do things their way, and if their way means cutting the hands off people who steal things then that’s fine with me. You could leave a packed stack of hundred dollar bills on top of your car anywhere in that country and it would still be there when you got back.
They also have this weird and unique cultural trait which I call ‘service’. It’s rather strange but let me try to explain it with an example. What happens is that you go to a large shop to buy something but you’re not sure where an item that you want is located. So you approach someone who is working there and they happily and graciously stop what they are doing and they take you to the object of your desire. Then they take it off the shelf and hand it to you. But it doesn’t end there. When you go to pay there are numerous checkout lanes that are open so you don’t have to wait for a length of time equivalent to attempting to read a modern novel by a progressive author. And this next bit will blow your minds but while you’re paying, another staff member will place the items that you have purchased into bags. Far out, right?
Unlike the Netherlands which has decided that eating and drinking in public is no longer allowed for the plebs of the world, bars and restaurants were all open in Saudi Arabia. Well, I say bars but I mean coffee shops as they don’t have the awful alcohol over there, at least not officially. The local food was rather good, and you won’t get dysentery if you eat the salad or have a drink with ice in it. And everywhere we went people were genuinely pleased to see us. Yes, if I were an Indian national I am quite sure that the welcome would have been rather less salubrious, but the Indians are the most racist people on the planet so what do I care about what happens to them?
The only negative point of my experience was the driving, as on the roads the Saudis lose their sense of politeness and decorum and replace it with deranged aggression and outright lunacy. It wasn’t as bad as Uganda as the roads are of much better condition, but we experienced some hair-raising moments, including witnessing a truck roll over directly in front of us in exquisite slow motion. But this didn’t worry us too much as we simply drove around the wreckage and continued on our journey. Inshallah.
Anyway, I fell into bed yesterday afternoon at 2pm and I woke up at 6am this morning. 16 hours of sleep should give you some indication of how hard we worked over there, but it was a great experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. So hats off to the Saudis for upholding their culture in a world which only wants to turn everything into a grey NPC oblivion. Oh, and the chicks were pretty hot too, at least what I could discern under the piles of black fabric.