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Twenty Years in Saudi Arabia

By

Barie Fez-Barringten

www.bariefez-barringten.com


The ultimate cultural  shock wave of our time is yet to come from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is silently in the throws of a great change. I believe this change will manifest politically, socially and economically as it unfolds making these observations  important to prepare for what is to come.

What is astonishes me about the kingdom is the rapid pace from which it has come from its own medieval times to engage “the future”. I am in awe of its ability to manage its people through social, economic and political upheavals in a calm and orderly fashion.  It both cherishes family values and relationships while being ecstatic about western technology, life style, social and economic affluence. It is a country without being a country and a kingdom without traditional despotism. It is politely ruled by a disciplined ruling family and offset by a hairline balance between religion and civil order. Take the matter of eminent domain and re planning its cities. Take the way it distributes its oil wealth amongst its people and educates and provides health and other services. Take the way it contracts and employees experts, planners, investors, banks, governments and people from so many nations. This feat alone is phenomenal.

Unfortunately early in its inception the Saud family made deals with the wrong people on its way to “becoming” which now haunt its future. One was to welcome Wahhab and to relocate the capital of Islam from Jerusalem to Mecca. According to a Saudi scholar, there was a time when the worship of Allah was toward a shrine in Jerusalem.

Its Arab character and personality have both been eclipsed and subordinated and now it faces efforts to retrofit itself into a world of pluralism and forward thinking with precepts which strongly  cherish history and the past and hold dearly to its distinctives, singular ideals and unique place in history . It s like the teaching my students design when they get some of these clichés and themes and will not let them go and ruin there own designs because they can’t let go. They have got it in them but hold on to triviality believing they can do both.

Having said this in many ways they have the big picture in mind and are forging a nation state despite these contradictions and handicaps. These may even be the very glue that is bringing it through these changes and transitions. It may be the secret ingredient which in time it will shed to emerge a bright desert diamond. At the moment the world views them in relation to oil, terrorism and religion. However the kingdom is progressing and overtaking other countries in key commercial, social and economic sectors. They manage to keep themselves from war and civil strife and distance themselves form fanatical and chaotic behavior.

They have been a steady and sure economic ally and sure venue for oil production and output. There finances are far from transparent and they keep secrets. But they always step up to bat when it comes to oil production to stabilize world oil prices. They do so in there own interest as they are heavily invested in United States of America and world markets. There main product is after all denominated in dollars and there Riyal has never changed from it s current exchange rate of 3.75 Saudi Riyal to one dollar.

Our stay in Saudi dramatically highlighted the difference between the urban and non-urban mind. Particularly the difference between our experience with the plethora of the typical expat from small USA villages and towns. We found ourselves easily received by any class and economic status so long as they were from the major metropolitan areas of their country. We were in the crossroads of Islam, Wahabism and the silent globalization.

Our biggest social and compatibility problems came from the US small town provincial expats even at University of Ohio and Texas A&M. These provincials were uninterested in fashion, sophistication or education; as a matter of fact: “well educated professional people made them feel uncomfortably provincial”. They knew they had a limited perspective that was narrow and self centered but this is who they were and people not like them were not welcome.

So they shunned and rejected us. Because we were cosmopolitan and what we did seemed to challenge and confront.  We did not confront but they believed we did.

I was already accustomed to this because it is exactly what happened to me as a boy with my parents, family and childhood friends. Christina comments that because the restaurants and most other commercial facilities cater to men that Dammam is a male dominated city while she observed that Riyadh and AlKhobar catered to the needs and wishes of married couples. Saudis distinguish service and access by gender in all things. The gender difference is pronounced by a kind of macho and chauvinism. In fact the male is quit lost as a beatnik was in the USA in the fifties and sixties. Many males can be found loitering in various offices and shops. Unemployment, useless career s, and lack of jobs for natives are in excess of world standards.

Being as how I was about forty  when starting work in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (August 11,1981 I was exactly 43. 75) and about sixty  (just turning 62) when completing my last day and returning to the United Sates of America on November 11,1999 Saudi Arabia occupied about a third of my life to that point.

It was also a place in which I had no apriori and real interest. I’d much rather been in Europe, China, or Japan. Certainly not anywhere in the mid-east, Africa, nor, India. Indeed it was the money, and more, the ability to continue my professional career in less than a bankrupt economic climate. For all its worth, my chosen profession, without a second income, could not be sustained as a private practice and, since the 1978 the construction/real estate industry was in its worst downturn in over a decade. We could not make ends meet as faculty of Texas A&M and the offers from Saudi Arabia finally were convincing enough to get our undivided attention.

It was also not a place in which I would find my identity or develop an Arab insignia. Unlike most other countries I had lived and visited Saudi’s kept infidels an d strangers at an arms distance. So even though I spent nearly twenty years in Saudi I had new memories and experiences.

I had, for the moment lost either flesh or spiritual urge “to be” or “not be”. I could only think of being on a “hand- to –mouth” and mundane nature. It was not unfamiliar territory, because I had scrimped and saved to get through Pratt; and, then, Yale. There were bankruptcies and failures all around me; and the world economy seemed on the brink of an implosion. No, Saudi Arabia was not my choice, I had resisted it for several years, but it seemed that God was presenting this place as his sanctuary to deliver us from economic disaster. Our debt had mounted and was near the threshold of impossibility; soon our debt payments would be greater than our income, let alone paying for daily needs.

Years later when itinerating to various churches, zealous young potential missionaries would come up to me either wishing to return with us or them selves go to KSA. They wanted my advice and suggestions. I could only be truthful and answer them in the context of my personal experience. Much like my experience as a design professional I couldn’t boast or give them a great and fantastic testimony of a “call” to go to this specific venue and profession.

It was God bringing us to a place for healing and repair. A place in the wilderness, away from our “world” to where He alone could do HIS work. We certainly knew this to be the truth. It was a mission for us (as to Ezekiel, Job, and Abraham), not to the place or people we were headed for. Was this the truth to tell some enthusiastic missionary?


This period was filled with the stress of living and working in a war zone and separated from the continental U.S. without our passport. Upon arrival our passports were always kept by our employer or sponsor in exchange for an Igama or letter saying that the Igama was applied for and in process.

The work and the living conditions were made needlessly challenging and we experienced what most other expats do, which is an initial period of adjustment (shock and awe). Below you will find a great deal of specific detail about the contracts jobs and works provided by God. When you look at my CV/resume you will find a wide variety of business, professional, technical and administrative positions marketing, designing, building, recruiting, managing, supervising, writing, and teaching.

When we  divide this 20-year period in two we see that the first half was being spent between the eastern and central province while the second solely residing in the eastern province (we made many visits to Riyadh promoting ICI and networking before 1993). It too was distinguished by the first where we had a second home in Kitzbuhel, Austria while the second making trips to Christina’s home town of Leipzig, Germany.

Because of the times we live in and because my experience was so diverse, long and complex I dare not try to out guess the issues you may find important that I did not address. I was sure during this period, as I am now that God is sovereign and fully capable. Our job is to Love, obey and follow Him and let Him prevail. The stories you will read below are only the highlights; for practically every day was eventful, special and contained some supernatural acts of God.

God showed us His authority by revealing professorship at  Texas A&M University and King Faisel University;the US Embassy and Consulate; Architect founding AIA Chapter and Provider of continuing education and Plans examiner in Lee County.

Most of the Saudi people I worked for were either Sheiks or members of the Royal family. They would refer to me as sheik as well because of my seniority, commitment to serve, and education.

Special Purpose in Saudi Arabia

From the time I arrived both times I would try to expose my self to key persons in anticipation that God might have sent me here for some special purpose beyond earning money. Of course so many things opened up and we did whatever crossed our path but there was always that sense of unfinished business and possibility that we might be needed by the royal family or some key Saudi to perform a special assignment.

This is documentation of historical facts that occurred between 1981 and 1999 (Eighteen Years) in Saudi Arabia.

While Saudis yearn for WTO status the leaders of the Saudi Royal family are ailing while the kingdom is challenged by terrorism and the talk about terrorism,

The entire period includes our presence in Saudi, Kitzbuhel, Lee County, India, Philippines, South Africa, and Leipzig. While chapter one. This chapter,  is more about the period than about the kingdom subsequent chapters describe Saudi Arabia in detail.


Later that same year on August 11 we arrived in Saudi Arabia to begin employment with ARAMCO.

I had already rejected several offers to go to Saudi in 1979 and one in 1981 to teach at King Faisel University. I was very pessimistic and skeptical about getting paid, options and the freedom to return to the USA.

Was there an effect on us after living in KSA for nearly twenty years? In particular, would there have been any difference between living in Saudi and the USA for the same period? One of the factors to be considered in such a consideration would have to be the stress and subtle impact of the differences. One of the differences surely strained our every move was being a non-resident alien living full time without passport and no access to any due process. Always looming over our head and predicating our decisions and reactions was that someone for any legitimate or pretended reason could complain and have us ousted, imprisoned or worse.

As one adapts and understands the realities one develops the ability to survive and negotiate pathways; the stress is covered with activity and initiatives designed to provide cover, escape, and create a semblance of normality. Yes, eventually everything is Saudi became quit normal to us and it is this normalcy that I present in this work.

Another side effect of the experience has been our choice of the place and way we now live. Our choices for work, residence and recreation are totally disoriented to the ongoing roles and mores of our original urban New York and Leipzig contexts. We have chosen to live in a place and amongst people very different from those we would before we left and in a life style and type housing we would never have considered before.

The twenty years taught us to sense and appreciate differently. I do believe some of our old friends and family are quite bewildered by our current choices. Today our activities are very limited and we notice that the more we limit our activities and enjoy equipoise our health improves and further adjust to acceptability.

Difficult Situations:

When I first am provided a fully furnished residence I must review its contents and sign an inventory of the contents. When the contract is complete and before I vacate the premise the inventory is reviewed by the company’s “government representative” and he and I must sign the inventory. This is one of the documents the company must provide immigration before I leave the kingdom or transfer sponsorship that the sponsor has no claims against me.  This frees the government to issue an exit visa or transfer my Igama to a new sponsor. It one of the tedious formalities which reminds you that you are a stranger in a foreign land. Even though I had spent so many years education there royalty and common people and assessing build their economy; I was treated as a stranger and equal with every other worker from street sweeper to corporate president. All of this did not have a leveling effect letting you have no delusions that you were any different nor had any special privilege, social rank or inner place. In fact as we originally immigrated August 11, 1981 so we departed November 11, 1999, as strangers.

Changed Perspectives

God made time for extraordinary secular, civic, and professional works to write and publish monographs in learned journals, found a chapter of the AIA, publish a monthly newsletter; serve in various capacities to the American Business Men’s Groups in Riyadh and Dhahran.  I was able to assume professorship role at Texas A&M and King Faisel University; represent America amongst Saudi companies and in  US Embassy, consulates, and schools; as architect and sworn to serve county officials.

Our own experience was portrayed very well in a film by deCaprio called “Lost in Translation” demonstrating what happens when you bridge two languages using a computer to translate. The result is a disassociated conglomeration of out of context metaphors correct to a thesaurus but inconsistent and irrelevant to the time, circumstance or the sense of the conversation and intended meanings.

The film shows how strangers to their own and original circumstances can meet and interact in there own language without really touching each other similar to the untouched when people of two different languages do not touch each other because of the gibberish exchanged between them .The film had a Kubrick-like quality and very deCaprio in is photographic and pictorial excellence and use of symbols, architecture and costume to communicate the anomi, tragedy and complexity.

Because of Wahabism in Saudi the usual love and passion exhibited when traveling to other countries is totally lacking in this experience because of the Wahabi restrictions, protocols and limitations. Had the time been spent in most other countries language would be overcome and used successfully to live and work.

When I traveled in most other countries I’d communicate in the native language in a very short time because of the native s intense interest to welcome and invite me into their world. They would be proud and happy to expose themselves and their vulnerabilities hoping their love of me would be returned by my love of them. They wished to exchange their humanity and participate in my life.

Commercial development, retail stores and Western support facilities provided a semblance of familiar western couture manifest in very luxurious hotels, clubs, restaurants, sports clubs, radio stations, English language newspapers, markets and claims by the Saudi’s about the similarity between our conception of God and commonality of Abraham (they call him Ibrahim)

Either because of price or availability these places have excellent menus, chiefs, and ingredients and served in the world’s highest standards. All of this to form a western metaphoric that alien environment as a facade to hide the life of the Saudi which takes place behind the veil, walls, desert, mosques, etc. They too have adopted and blended to the western metaphor and some have adapted to western culture. The alien westerner can compare the differences and knows that the trappings of all these elements are missing freedom, rights, and causal access. However, one does adapt and gives the term networking new meaning. Everything is networked and the facilities and opportunities are one metaphor strung together by networking and know where, when and how to access. For example, commerce shuts down at prayer time, certain places are known to be very heavily guarded and monitored, it is easy to pretend and romanticize. One adopts and focuses on the symbols, accouterments, and facades. One remembers, and with the assistance of the cliche  and contents of music, videos, etc one’s perceives the message of equipoise embodied in products, decoration, architecture, landscaping, media, and display materials. These pages are remnants of the memories of those elements and like their western fountain and authors are designed to remind us of our origins and contexts.

I learned in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the importance of showing and declaring presence In a way that is invisible to authorities but visible to believers and seekers. I did this with AIG/ME; I learned the value of incurring no debt, using buildings which were unoccupied and free or where paying to keep costs at minimum and achieve maximum contact. I also learned to work in teams and in AIG/ME; American Institute of Architects would open every meeting with “together we can do what alone we cannot”. I learned from my own life and God’s dispensation  of fellowship,walking in the streets that one many can make a difference. That each of us are very unique and it is only Satan who teaches in business corporations the expend-ability of the unique and individually talented person. The world teaches that we are dispensable and throw away while the word of God teaches that even our hairs are counted and cared for by our creator.

Prayer Time

Salah five times a day you can hear prayer call bellowing from loud speakers at close by mosque. And, on Friday you can hear hours of preaching in Arabic. From window in Arieb villa it was especially loud because it right opposite and on line with my bedroom window. From Bin Jumah building we could see congregations straggling to and fro. We could also see Christian worshipers going to and from underground

Bread:

Arabic Bakeries are subsidized by the government and the bread is very inexpensive. Arabic bread comes in many sizes varieties and styles. All Arabic bread is baked in the same pottery pot kiln at very high temperatures by placing a rolled and tossed dough by hand to stick on the side of the pot through an opening on the top. It bakes until it becomes a balloon, drops to the floor of the pot, and is scoped up by the baker. Arabic breads are distinctive in tastes from Saudi, Iraqi, Syrian, etc. The Iraqi is a very large and another small tasting like a New York Bialy. The key to its taste is the poppy seeds and other spices. Further, each bakery made its own kind of pizza with the Arabic bread spiced with a covering of zata or goat cheese, or “pate”, etc. Each so tasty. Then there are the Indian beads best referred to Naan bread which is also spiced with poppy and or sesame. Of course all these when served warm and fresh is enticing and delicious.

Another bread that we would seek out was German bread baked locally with ingredients and by bakers imported form Germany. This included rye, pumpernickel, etc. We found a very good bakery in Riyadh and in hotels and special bakers in the Eastern Province and Riyadh. The Alghosiabi hotel and Dhahran International baked especially for us.

Banking

I have had accounts in NCB (National commerce Bank) which included ATM privileges through its affiliate al-Ahli electronic banking services; Al-Raji for currency exchange when traveling to Germany, India, France, Austria or Philippines; alFranzi with there new offices in downtown Khobar ;Saudi British Bank on King Abdul Aziz Blvd ;and Saudi American Bank (a subsidiary of Citi-Corp.) I had many dealings with a variety of banks for business and personal reasons. I had American, Indian, British and other national friends working for these banks and stock broker corporations including a bank in Riyadh where I spend several evenings with the American chief financial officer who was a Gideon. I was a juror of a competition to design a new Saudi American Bank, I participated with Mr. Jizawi and Mr. Kahn to provide the janitorial and food services for both the Saudi British and Sam banks. I also helped Mr. Jizawi with some contract work for the Egyptian Bank. Prince Faisel alSudairi was beholding to several banks and I met with there USA representatives to discuss there work-out proposals for the Prince. In Riyadh our USA ABGR had several US officers hosting our breakfasts at the banks executive facilities. Banks and banking played an important part of the life in KSA. However inviting and helpful are all the banks and there ability to facilitate exchange, deposits, write transfers and letters of credit when it came to Saudi open transparency and financial status reporting International rating agency such as Standards and Poor ,etc. still gives Saudi and less than acceptable rating for being invited to the World trade Organization.

With each employer I’d add anew account with a new Bank so as to expedite automatic check deposits and wire transfers to Christina. Our last bank was NCB on King Abdul Aziz and King Khalid where I would handle my business. This was n new branch in which one of bankers from Bahrain carried out his management functions. Being that AlFoadia did all there maintenance I could always go in the back door to see someone or have access during prayer time. This was also true of the US embassy, US School and consulate. Experts assess Saudi Arabia’s effort to join the World Trade Organization. Today, Saudi Arabia is facing the prospect of enormous economic and social change

As it seeks membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), a step that will enable the Kingdom to participate in the dramatic globalization that has transformed the world since the end of the Cold War.


Houseboys

Many of the niceties and polite practices we carried out in our home as well as the homes and offices we worked and visited were due to our houseboys, tea boys and servants. They were happy for the work and welcomed being trained.  Christina taught ours how and with what to clean, setting the table, cooking, washing cloths and setting the table.  Some liked to sew and iron cloths.  Washing and waxing the car. Small repairs around the house. Sunan was a great cook but he used too many chilies. Murti learned to cook very well and eventually enjoyed eating our food.


Bigotry, Discrimination, Prejudice alive and well in KSA

For example, I do not share the attitudes of my fellow expatriates about our Saudi hosts.  Such attitudes were even commercialized and marketed in on e of thje US compounds selling toys presenting the Saudi’s in a very bad way. I have never liked such things in America about nationalities, races, etc and I certainly did not appreciate seeing such things sold in Saudi about the Saudis by Americans.  It just seemed like a very distasteful and dangerous idea. However, once the bombings began, the salespeople thought twice about the wisdom of displaying such things. Our psychiatric counselors however looked at the artifacts as symptoms of the residents we had to serve and calm. The problems perceived by the expat community wax pale against the more sinister problems, which underlie the silly aberrations upon which they play.

Repatriation Trips

Preparation, planning and communicating about exit and reentry occupied a great deal of time and resources. One of the best businesses in the kingdom is the Travel agency. All of social, economic status, educational level, and us from every country returned home or made some trip every year. The exception was the poor janitors and TCN labor whose single status contracts paid for only one trip for as long as every three years.

After Christina settled in Florida I corresponded with her by fax to prepare for my joining her in Naples where she would be visiting the Tatums’. I was flying through Frankfurt and told Christina I‘d buy a gift there for them and us. I wore the sheepskin jacket we had bought in the Riyadh market and brought them a gift of candle with glass from the “Kinder-Mart” I had a great time shopping and seeing the lights, shops and shop keepers. In a fax to Christina I commented about how Murthy had prepared a great authentic Indian meal and Edwardo was getting the fax machine fixed. During those years and having Murthy and Edwardo when I left to come to the states It was so casual and easy to leave the apartment with them knowing that they would be caring for everything and having it perfectly in order when we returned.

Of course my visit s to the states were always a so different from what I left and once in Florida in the green and company of friends I forgot about every thing and enjoyed the Florida peace and ease of driving, communicating and routines.

The attempt at perverting Saudi’s urban people is being eroded by an impetuous of the government to quench attacks against its way of life. These attacks dramatically pose the Saudis with choosing between urbanism and the values of the civilized world or returning to feudalism, anarchy, and poverty. The choice was  clear.

For years before leaving Saudi we watched the Oasis compound being built by a construction and real estate company owned by the son-in-law of al_Khosisbi.  Christina and I went to the gala opening of the facilities and especially the Italian restaurant which was managed by the father of one of my students who had managed the Alghosiabi restaurant and had gotten us a 50% discount pass to the Alghosiabi.  He gave us the same privileges in the new Oasis restaurant as well.  Also, the developer accountant was an n American who tried to get me a job with the owner and I visited him several times on compound filled with animals across for the Oasis.  The compound was a bunch of engineered boxes with over decorated cementous facades.  The engineer running the design of these boxes met with me and frankly told me he needed only Philippino CAD  operators to reconfigure the boxes and do overlays for the various utilities and detail modifications.  Any way Christina and I both had friends who finally moved in to the Oasis which soon become the leading high price address in AlKhobar.  Inhabited mostly by the new wave of non-American or newly immigrated American s for counties like Pakistani, India, etc. who would receive lower wages but get good family housing. David Raines and I had lunch in one of the restaurants at the ground floor. It was a very nice facility with indoor pool, Spa, exercise, massage, and beauty treatments for ladies, etc.  Charlene McClaren and her husband who worked for National Commerce Bank lived there.

Resident Alien:

For twenty years in KSA we were there, but visiting; not connected: We learned to live accordingly. They’re with roots and rights elsewhere.

Non-resident alien in KSA with and Igama; having physical presence in KSA and for many years passing the IRS non-physical presence test for Non-resident tax status.

All visitors to Saudi Arabia must hold a valid passport. Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates do not require visas for entry into Saudi Arabia. All other citizens require a valid visa. There are two types of visa – Entry and Transit. Exit visas are also required. For business an entry visa is mandatory since Transit visas are only valid for 3 days.

All prospective visitors must obtain a No Objection Certificate or letter of invitation in the first instance, issued through a local sponsor. Visa applications should be made to Saudi embassies abroad. Visitors’ passports should be valid for at least three months and must be accompanied by photographs, sponsor’s NOC or letter of invitation and a supporting letter from the visitors employer. Multiple re-entry visas are not usually granted.

In the first seven year and two month period we arrived August 11, 1981 and I returned to join Christina in the USA October 1988. For two years and eleven months (35 months) we lived, ministered, and worked in the USA. Then, in September 1991 we began the second eight year and two month period, which lasted till November 11, 1999.

This spans over an eighteen year and three month period and aside from the thirty  five  month pause it includes a total of 608 (1.6 year) days out side of the kingdom consisting of two hundred and fifty seven days in the first period and four hundred and fifty one days in the second for a total of 1.6 years. This is significant because it precipitated twenty-seven round trips in and out of the kingdom encountering airport customs and police. ARAMCO granted me leave for 30 days; Suhaimi to get visa, International Associates 14 ,elSeif  21; Arieb to get visa 30; and AlFoadia to get visa and some vacation 141 days. Additionally, 400 for vacation and normal Ramadan and Eid holidays from KFU, 21 from RSAL and 30 from alMuhaidib.

This included 16 one-way trips in the first period and thirty-eight one-way trips in the second.  Trips were made on such carriers as Saudia, Pan Am, Delta, Swiss Air, Lufthansa and Philippine Air to the USA, Kitzbuhel, South Africa, India, Philippines, and Leipzig.

During this period I made about twenty in-kingdom air trips on Saudia to Jeddah, Riyadh, Tabuk, and Dhahran. We also made about five round trips to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates.  This does not include the many auto trips to Riyadh, Khobar, Jubail, Abquiq, alHasa, Ras Tanura, and alKharj.

I have occasionally used public transportation in Saudi including the city busses but never the rail between Dammam and Riyadh. My friend Elias and others did so and they enjoyed the trip. The only inconvenience had to buy the ticket a day in advance so as to assure your seat and the company they had enough passengers to warrant running the train.

We abided in the Kingdom thirteen years and eight months, which is 4920 days or 164 months, which includes 656 weeks and weekends and there fore times to preach, teach and hold services.

I have challenged my self to have the intellectual chutzpah to trumpet the implications of this work. I hope that people may desire to read this work because it is very interesting but also that:” this changes everything”!

This is my testimony of what I have witnessed and is the evidence of the reader may use to determine the facts to judge according law as given by God. In this way it may be interesting and compelling as a body of factual reporting.

Metaphors, as life, are admixtures and can be lived and read as a work of art. Part of the mix includes special places and events and these vary in significance, interest and affects. In my case, as with many others, my most important accomplishment is being forgiven and given the gift of eternal life and it not even something I worked to accomplish, it was given to me as a gift from God.

In the first seven year and two month period we arrived August 11, 1981 and I returned to the USA October 1988. For two years and eleven months we lived and worked in the USA. Then, in September 1991 we began the second eight year and two month period, which lasted till November 11, 1999.

This spans over an eighteen year and three month period and includes a total of 608 days out side of the kingdom consisting of two hundred and fifty seven days in the first period and four hundred and fifty one days in the second for a total of 1.6 years.

This is significant because it precipitated twenty-seven round trips in and out of the kingdom encountering airport customs and police. ARAMCO granted me leave for 30 days;

Suhaimi to get visa; 21 days

  • IA; 14 days  ,
  • elSeif :21 days ;
  • Arieb to get visa; 30 days ;
  • and’ AlFoadia to get visa and some vacation;  141 days.
  • Additionally, 400  days for vacation and normal Ramadan and Eid holidays from KFU, 21 days  from RSAL and 30 days  from alMuhaidib.

This included 16 (sixteen) one-way trips in the first period and thirty-eight one-way trips in the second.  Trips were made on such carriers as Saudia, Pan Am, Delta, Swiss Air, Lufthansa and Philippine Air to the USA, Kitzbuhel, South Africa, India, Philippines, and Leipzig.

During this period I made about twenty in-kingdom air trips on Saudia to Jeddah, Riyadh, Tabuk, and Dhahran. We also made about five round trips to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates.  This does not include the many auto trips to Riyadh, Khobar, Jubail, Abquiq, alHasa, Ras Tanura, and alKharj.

I have occasionally used public transportation in Saudi including the city buses but never the rail between Dammam and Riyadh. My friend Elias (deceased) and others did so and they enjoyed the trip. The only inconvenience had to buy the ticket a day in advance so as to assure your seat and the company they had enough passengers to warrant running the train.

We abided in the Kingdom thirteen years and eight months, which is 4920 days or 164 months, which includes 656 weeks and weekends and there fore times to preach, teach and hold services.

Several of our trips back into Saudi were flown in the “black”. No lights, shades closed; any lights in the cabin. Occasionally we flew over a war zone or hostile fire was expected.

In 1996  my contract for employment was terminated  by the president of King Faisel University and I started with CDE

In 1997 I made a trip to Jeddah and the saw the Blakeslee’s.

Barry and Betty had been with us Riyadh. These trips were paid for by Saudi Projacs as part of the consulting work they contracted with me to review the design work for the Ministry of parliament designed by Zuhair Fayez. I was hosed in a very fine Swiss hotel downtown.

A long cry from my first visits being interviewed by Idea center some fourteen years earlier. I had already phoned Barry so he knew I was coming.

I called him from the hotel and he picked me up with Betty in the front seat.  I kissed her on the check after entering the car. She smiled and answered Barry, as he would ask her questions.

Barry filled me in on the Betty’s already deter iterated disease which has now rendered her immobile.

He must do everything.

When he is at work he has someone sitting with her. He told me he was already planning to go back to England where he will get the kind of care Betty needs.

When we reached our destination and he lifted and carried her into the villa I was devastated.

I met the young couple who was our host and an older brother and another young Indian couple.

It turns out that the host worked for Zuhair Fayez in an information technology department. Before leaving we were able to eat snacks and fellowship. Barry carried Betty back out to the car and he drove me back to the hotel. The trip each way took a little under one hour to a very remote part of Jeddah.  The villa and this employee worked  for a member of the Shoura council who by the way was also a member of AIG/ME.

Barry and I were both very big. Betty used to call me big Barie. I learned something from this visit, which will last me a lifetime.  What Christian love and care actually looks like. Barry’s joy and compassion caring for his dear wife was not a hard thing for Barry and never once the whole evening did he make any slightest gesture or remark of impatience or despair.  His love and compassion flowed and exuded.  This was one of the rare moments in my life to know some one for such along time, to see and experience such deterioration in health and the care given by Barry.  I was this bit with my Uncle Irving toward Aunt Shirley. He too, was very compassionate. But, Barry, to do all of this as a Christian all these years and with Betty in this condition was truly a work of God.  Barry’s commitment to serve his wife with steadfast love was remarkable and a show of God’s salvation.

In 1997 I worked for Full Time for CDE involved in the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Charity foundation Science and Technology Center on the Corniche in AlKhobar for HOK/Tampa, Florida as Sr. Project Manager; SAJAPHCO and Saudi American Dhahran Academy .


On the Corniche in Saudi Arabia I met a young Saudi named Khalid who had many brothers and sisters and was part of a big tribe. He worked as a fireman for ARAMCO so he had lots of free time, as did I, and, would come along and sit on the rocks opposite me and talk about so many subjects.  Due to my health problems he one day breached the discussion of the difference between Arab and western families. The basic difference was incest and the intermarrying of family members. We discussed the differences and the pros and cons of both.  He pointed out that the reason Arabs are, as he thought stronger and better is because the death of many that results in death leaves superior living beings. Whereas non-incest results in weakness. I only mention this subject here to point out that while I totally disagreed with Khalid, as I did on most of his points, the subject of how we fulfill our instinctive mission to continue our species plays an important part of the role of the family.  It is where many of the western customs started and how we even gave importance to the family unit in the first place.

For most of my life I have not relied upon my family for either security or resources. I have departed from them and turned to world democracy where I have had authority over my self and relied upon elected officials to do the right thing.  I have enjoyed free choice and was able to experience the world and its properties. I appreciate what God created and awed by His power. I have always thought of my family as I enjoyed any of God’s blessings wishing they were with me or hoping we could share or experiences of His wonder together.  God gave me this experience early in my childhood and then with my dear wife Christina.

I have never missed my family because they have always been in my thoughts and minds eye.

As the life of the flesh is in the blood

Tribes:

As a  family we don’t carry people from our past to our future.

We observed this between Catholics and Protestants; Pentecostals and other main line denominations; ARAMCO and independent ministries; etc.

This is because tribes are a unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent. I can see this now as I visit from one to another of my cousins and there children and grandchildren.  What took to be of extreme importance, our family heritage and close connections they regard with little to no fanfare at all.

In a world where Islamicists are trying to make a difference by returning to the status quo of there history in sacrifice of the future of there lives, the west cataclysmically destroy s and looks toward a workable future.

My life encapsulates the evolution of this end- time phenomenon. The consequences of looking toward the future and leaving the past.

Identity fusion

Sociologist has identified a pattern in which bi-cultural or multicultural children combine their  different identities into one.

It is not Yale verses Harvard but lawyers verses doctors, architects and engineers. For a moment in time it seemed that Information technology and computer wizardry would over take the rest until the numbers , nationalities and markets of these services was absorbed and globalized.


They saw the fusion of the God’s spirit and the world of Adam.

I was Jesus in Adams world.

The cultural fusion was useful and brought widespread success.

It is exactly what God ordained.

Mindful of  the scale and proportion of dynasties to the meager wealth amongst the milieu I have been reluctant to change or alter my course. Little anyone could offer short of control of a dynasty would be creative and rich in God’s called authority.  If God called me to create , manage or control such  a dynasty he would so call me.  At best I have grazed the and entered some dynasties in service and support as the bible’s Joseph and Daniel in Saudi for several families such as El-Seif; Sudairy; Jizawi; Hadi; al-Muhaidib,  etc.

Our experiences with specific features of Saudi were the bond between our hosts and us. The heat, sand, weather, souks, corniche, parks, airport, Safeway, Rashid mall and other malls, sidewalks, eating, prayer call, and driving are amongst the key activities and elements, which we all dealt with on a regular basis.  I will not list the government or regular police because we did not have regular contact with them. Unlike many I did have a great deal of contact working for and with Saudis. They were my students and teachers, friends and hosts; adversaries and surrogates; source of income and threat of financial loss. Our very first glimpse of Saudi was from the same airport we departed for the last time however full of a treasure of memorable fragrances, tastes, faces, names, vocabulary, and customs. I would be one of American guys that lasted for two decades and had won the respect of the Saudis for giving more than I got and sharing there world. Sharing there pride and there shame; sharing there strengths and there weaknesses and enduring there admittedly backward and dysfunctional society. We like shared in there rich customs and traditions and learned to respect and understand that they are as much a victim of there culture and its limitations as many other traditions and customs on this planet. All of this took place amidst aspects of Saudi which are described below:

Heat:

The heat combined with humidity was our immediate first impression as we came off the plane on our initial arrival at the Dhahran airport 2:00 AM, August 11, 1981. The impact was immediate and overwhelming, permeating ones cloths and resting on the skin. One does not walk fast in such a heat. This is the heat we lived with until we relocated to Riyadh but returned to in 1991 till 1999. It is a heat, which produces a huge amount of condensation on windows, roofs and car’s windshields. It pervades the climate for at least six months and then dramatically subsides making ways for six months of beautiful spring like weather. The climate changes other than the excessive temperatures and humidity are much as Florida’s’.

During the day the combination of sun and humidity produces dangerous conditions, which warrant caution and keeping indoors.  If going out, be brief and well covered. It’s the kind of condition, which let’s petrol stations permit keeping the car and ac running while filling up and cars running when parked to keep cool.

The air conditioner is a very valuable and necessary item. Indeed there are other methods the Arabs have invented for keeping the air flowing which is a an giant rectangular air exhaust shaft on the roof in the center of the house opening to below to facilitate cross ventilation.

This, along with shrubs and palms keep traditional houses comfortable.

However, the apartments and villas constructed and occupied by over ninety five percent of the population rely upon air conditioners.

The most inconvenient one we experienced were in the Bin Jumah building where we resided for the first year and the last eight years of our stay.  They were always broke and getting spare parts was very difficult.  This difficulty compounded by our building janitorial and mechanical crew being subject to give priority to repair Mansour Bin Jumah’s residence made us focus on the maintenance and repair.  It also, affected our life style having to use the rooms that were air-conditioned.

The noise of air conditioners working is pervasive and a welcome sound where ever you go.

Recreation in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Corniche/Strand/Waterfront/Beach

Summer or winter, the attraction to either the Red Sea or Arabian Gulf in Saudi is irritable and an occasion for recreation and escape from the normal desert. Living on either coast is considered a very big plus. We scuba dived with the ARAMCO dive-group off of alKharj Island north of Jubail in 1982. We saw many various colored tropical fish at a sight where there was a boat wreck and sponge encrustation’s. We took many photographs off of which Christina made a painting of the boatman.  We were raided and searched by the coast guard but were let to go about our business after a while.

Seeing the Arabia Sea from the air displays geodetic plates which explains the shallow water for such a great distance from the shore and why big boats can only marginally sail in the center of the gulf from one end to the other. From the air the plates are like my cardboard site model cutouts in segmented amebic form layers jutting out from the land to the sea overlapping and undulating.  The water is so clear you can see all the way to the center of the sea when it gets dark and blurred because of the depth. There are also wild birds and one time we saved a mature crane by calling and managing to get the wildlife preservation to capture and restore the crane. He was stranded on the Khobar corniche.

We also swam in the Red Sea as part of a weekend vacation where we stayed at the Red Sea Hotel.

The corniche changed over the total period of time we lived in Saudi. From 1981 to 1988 the eastern province shoreline was undeveloped and the numbers of any Arabs using the beach to swim or picnic was nil. In this early period we swam in the Arabian Gulf’s very warm and calm waters every weakened. When we moved from Rahima to AlKhobar we would drive to Mina and Ed’s and sleep over their house and swim.  We did this only in the summer when the water was warm.  At first they lived out side of the ARAMCO camp and later moved in to there own two-story villa. They were superb hosts and we loved them and our visits. They always cooked Persian food and the combination of swimming; eating and amiable conversation made our recreational time just lovely.

The corniche of AlKhobar was rough and crude sixth black sand and even sunset beach was unusable and brackish. We never would visit the AlKhobar Corniche and only drove to sunset beach to see the salt lakes and dunes.

When we moved to Sea view our house was directly on the water, but soon the dredging for landfill began.

By the time we returned to reside again in the eastern province the landfill was completed, a new seashore highway built and beautiful seaside parks built in Dammam, AlKhobar and Sunset Beach. Even Jubail, which we had visited and stayed at the Sheraton (now Holiday Inn) Hotel to swim in the gulf in 1982, was now fully developed and complete with boating and locker facilities.

Khalid and my Syrian friends who helped me buy my Buick to swim in Sunset beach portion of the gulf invited me.  It was incredible to see the way the Arabs had discovered and used the facilities.  Of course all the taboos of males and females exposing themselves prevailed and they dressed in cumbersome black ling pants and the women in full dresses, etc.

Even more spectacular were the changes in Ras Tanura, which was now well occupied by various Arabs, including Saudi Arabs.  They not only swam, but also walked along the corniche full covered in Abayas and other large dark colored capes. It was awesome.  Because of there presence, gone were the bikinis and open western style dress. Now where should westerners go to swim?

The University and the US consulate opened up a beach for expats only.  The University’s was still conservative and restrictive while the consulates were well guarded and open.  A private company opened up a beach house and welcomed expats.  That was pretty interesting and I knew these two brothers personally, as they were Azmi’s neighbors in the Khoderi Building in AlKhobar.

The other aspect of the corniche, which was the one we used most often, was the AlKhobar Corniche Park. A former student of KFU was its project manager and I was able to get first hand details of its design.  He gave lectures at our AIG/ME meetings showing slides of the way it was formed by rocks, dredging, etc. When Christina was not in Saudi I would walk and sit on our bench at least once if not twice daily. I’d bring my bible and walk and sit on the bench and read.

Some times a Saudi named Khalid would sit on the rocks opposite me and discuss so many things. Khalid was a fireman working for ARAMCO and would tell me about his beliefs in Islam and discuss his ideas of democracy, etc. A topic, which made a lasting impression on me and my understanding of the Muslims and Arabs, was his theory on why incest is superior then the western system.  It is superior because of the deaths it causes due to inbreeding. It is the deaths of weak siblings that ultimately yield a superior, stronger and ultimately healthier race.  That is why incest amongst the Arabs is a basic practice amongst Saudis.  It is what Khalid taught me.  I argued for weeks with him but he was sure I was mistaken and this fundamental belief was why western people are not as strong as Arabs are.

He liked to exercise his English with me. Knowing I was suffering from some sickness he gave us a gift of a large and expensive jar of Honey.

Then there were the many cat who befriended us and whom we fed daily. For a few years there was one cat and her children who would hear us coming from far an away come running so as to walk and purr and rub up against us.  She was so sweet and Christina and I would be faithfully there each evening or morning to feed her and her children.  Her children grew and so did the others. I had a special blanket and pillows we kept in the trunk of our car for a cushion and protection to sit on the bench.  We some times sat on different benches depending on the direction of the sun and views of the sky, birds, etc, There e=[were always the migrating birds and the other birds which lived in t the trees. When I worked for the University I could come in the weekday mornings and would meet an older Saudi gentleman dressed in his sparkling clean white thob who took his walk on my route daily.  We always nodded and greeted each other: “Becher”, etc. We’d go in the winter so Christina could get sun and light.  In the day it was usually empty so we could sit in private and get the sun.  We’d always talk about so many things, and when she was not with me I’d make recordings and we’d listen and speak on tapes.

The evenings were so wonderful when the lights went down we’d sit around the side facing the road and see the colorful vertical reflections of the road lights.  On our usual bench we could see the reflections of the whole city in the water.  Occasionally we’d see the birds

I noticed the way the trees aligned them and wanted to photograph or paint what I saw but did not. Likewise I wanted to photograph or paint the women with there children. The women in there black

Abayas and the children in there special play cloths; the girls in with frilly dresses and the boys in pants and shirts.  There was a windy season when the families would come out with their kites and another time when a vendor came with his decorated camels and gave the children rides.

In the evenings and weekends the whole family came out with pots of food and the barbecue fires were going radiating the smells of kebobs, chicken, stakes, etc.

I always managed to park in the same place, right next to the start of the circular path, which meandered with the five fingers jutting out into the sea.  There often fisherman and one would chat and see the catches of the day.  Fro our apartment we could see the restaurant called the casino.  We even ate there occasionally.  I used their rest room occasionally.  One day Ghazi  took some of the faculty working on the campus plan for a nice dinner.  The was a new fish restaurant that opened and you pick the fish and order how they should cook the fish. The manager and I had a big squabble, which I finally won after several years about the bight floods light w he used to show his building. It also killed the nice peaceful views of the streetlights. Finally, he turned them off. I did also complain to my Saudi students in the municipality.

To us the corniche was an extension of our apartment and besides the occasional alternative visit to malls etc; the corniche was destination of choice.

Another part of the Arab gulf we loved visiting was an Island off of Dammam in which fishing boats were stored and used by Indian and Arab fisherman.  I was able to take the most extraordinary photographs of the boats when the tide was very low with them stuck in the sand. They are beautiful hands built Dows and the fishermen who sail them are living in this Island. I had several students living n this Island and over the years visited and watch it as the little fisher village deteriorated and even the famous Turkish fort finally was let totally destroyed by the weather. We were able to meet the most extraordinary man who has dedicated himself to the restoration and preservation of his village and its artifacts.  It is with his sentiment and love that I too am writing this autobiography to preserve, at least in print the images and beauty of a world, which is deteriorating. Years before we visited the place and took photographs of the beautiful nets they use to fish.  Today, they still use the same nets. There is an artist living on the Island who is painting the boats and landmarks. We have a collection of all their books and leaflets along with handwritten descriptions and recollections of current residents. I was hoping someday someone would be interested to see these photographs and know about this tiny island in the Arabian Gulf.

Desert:

Unlike the Bedouins and our boys and girls in the military we spent little time directly in and on the desert. In all the time we lived in Saudi, probably more sand came into our rooms through cracks in the window and doors and air conditioners then we directly experienced.  The exceptions are our drives to and from Riyadh and especially when we drove on the desert with our Oldsmobile.  Oh how wonderful that was. The guard at Sea view took us to specific destinations and we got hooked on this thrilling experience.  It was like being in a speedboat.  You have to keep up your speed and you bounce and glide over the short dunes as you would over water.  WE would visit various ruins I the desert.

The other desert experienced we had was visiting the Rube Chali (Empty Quarter or red desert) on an ARAMCO cargo plane. It was all red sand and we walked and slid down the dunes. We traveled on a cargo plane and landed on salt flats and were I by buggies and brought tot the camp.  Wee were fed in air-conditioned pre engineered manufactured buildings. It was splendid. Another tremendous experience was being taken by Mohammed to his family’s desert farm.  There we danced with the farmers and shepherds; we experienced a sandstorm, known as: “Shammal” and saw a large flock of camels, a large mixed flock of sheep and goats. This was an exciting event which we were able to video tape and later add music.

Other events included a trip with the “hash Harriers” where we walked over sand in the desert of the eastern province.  I have worked in the desert as the project engineer building a sports park stadium for the Presidency of Youth welfare and when I first arrived and worked for ARAMCO many of our facilities were located in the desert. Many of the concerts we attended were at compounds in the desert. Our ministries were often in the desert, particularly surrounding Riyadh where about 1000 Christian’s believers gathered to praise and worship God.

UPM in a desert context and many of our friends had desert locations.  The desert is one of God’s awesome creations. Just as the Alps, Rockies, and other mountains; as the Sea and lakes, as the tundra on the plains and the great coasts of South Africa’s Cape Town or the ocean drive on the California coast.  The desert is awesome both from the air and land.  It welcome forbids and inspires. It can be a place of tragedy as it was for our friend Roger Standish who died on his desert trek. Its sands can sand blast a windshield and fill a car’s motors.

Social customs include the one where when invited for a meal one talks and drinks and converses for a very long time; however, after completing the very big feast one politely gets up washes and leaves.

The other, is the custom of visiting someone while he may be entertaining another and be kept waiting, even they’re in their presence until he has completed. Related to that custom is “custom” being invited and visiting but not returning the favor? The host is using you to build his Harem and majalis without really having any regard for you personally but only as a measure of his accomplishment and power.  So while you may be invited and entertained very well by your hoist, he will never visit you. I also noticed this custom reaching Europe and America with my relative’s .So long as I called and visited my parents welcomed us; but they would not call or write to us. Yes, in response to a call or letter, but they would not initiate a contact.

Rightfully, the Saudi religious authorities and writers have published many articles about the negative influence of commerce on the spiritual and family life. On the other hand, these urban commercial institutions and natural wonders is the key to life and distinctive urbanity of Saudi.  It is in their complaint and thought that I find my self in perfect agreement that urbanity and its operational elements are opposing our spiritual natures and reality. Indeed they are worldly and becoming even more worldly.

The argument goes back to the time of John the Baptist and the Essennes whose idea of holiness was separation from the mundane and fleshly nature of the world.  The word of God has taught us to be in, but not of the world. But the concern is real and the epidemic is growing as Saudi now has met the franchise craze and begun to add Popeye, McDonalds, Wendy, Pisa Hut, etc. chains to the shopping malls and strips. Suks are being engulfed with modernity and the restaurants and hotels are only growing in number and quality.

However, it all of these things in contracts and combination which gives Saudi its unique and peculiar urban identity. The freedom of pedestrian movement and limited relations between the sexes and restrictions on meetings, etc is off set by these other strong natural and commercial elements.  It is where the “UR”-like Arabic derivative nature manifests and we see the stirrings of vitality and life in a kingdom, which has no public movie theatres (but, every home has a video and rents and buys tapes); no nightclubs, dance halls, orchestra, dance halls, and other forms of entertainment,

Suks in Saudi Arabia is one of the urban landmarks of each major community and defines the city context as urban. Although each souk takes of the distinguishing characteristics of its city geographical and ethnic mix they are all similar.  I can only describe the ones we have visited which are located in Jeddah, Riyadh, Car souks, Dammam, Khobar’s women suk, Al Khobar and Abquiq. The suk is where you not only see a plethora of goods displayed but also have opportunity for the most. Intense urban transactional communications you will face in your entire life.  Proprietors beckon and make claims about you and their products as you pass and if you slow or stop continue to size you up and discern your personality and nature.  It is a constant exercise in flirting, recognition, and open scrutiny in the kingdom. It is here that all the taboos governing women to men and men to women break down. Shopkeepers will beckon abaya-clad ladies as well as men.  Of course they have a special treatment for the non-Arab or foreigner.

The souk defines the Arab Urban context in its social framework being the place where the religious police tolerate open interactions so long as the rules are followed.  The most dominant rule is that women are fully covered.  If they’re not they will scold and hit the disobedient. These events are the cause of much controversy and government intervention.  It is of interest to no one when the Mitawas get over zealous or carry out their duties with too much enthusiasm.

One ambulates through a souk slowly so as to see the many displays, which are usually grouped by product types.

This model of grouping permeates most of the Arab planning of commercial centers. So all the carpets, dresses, luggage, appliances, crafts, foods, etc will be grouped together.  In this were vendors competing about price and, design, size, color, etc? When you get a price on an item is understood that you will continue shopping and haggling. The one you buy from usually realizes you are with him because his is the “last price” lowest of all; or, perhaps the same as others except that you may like the way he behaved or presented his articles.  Many traders will offer and serve you hot Saudi coffee out of a traditional pitcher into very tiny coffee cups. The coffee looks like tea.  It is clear and taste somewhat sour.  It is probably sweetened and usually you will be very please to have a chance to rest and enjoy the coffee and the hospitality.  Of course, this helps to induce your ability to buy at this place.

The Jeddah suk is mixed between traditional Jeddah buildings and is covered with a beautiful and huge tent like covering.  It meanders but has a main concourse lined with out door coffee shops and humbly bubblies.

The Dammam Suk is in downtown Dammam behind the governor’s palace. It is within buildings and totally covered in carpets and wares. Like the Riyadh site you can amble away from the souk and into the normal market.

The Riyadh souk in separate building and under the highway. Overpass. This is the souk in which I bought my wife’s abaya that I insisted she wear. She bought and began wearing them under protest.

These souks and the many markets are different from each other.  The many retail shops strewn throughout each city are not souks and no bargaining is normal in these places with notable exception.  The downtown shops for electronics is simply a matter of going from one to another for the lowest price offered.  Once reached the last proprietor will often lower his price below his competitor to win your business.

The ladies souk is peculiar in that male shoppers are not welcome and discouraged unless you are obviously an older and married man shopping to buy something for your wife who does not happen to be with you at the moment.  Maybe she is home or out of the kingdom, but certainly walking down the streets and potentially talking to the ladies is a “no-no” (haram).

The car souks are an auction-taking place on the desert where there are hundreds of dealers and many sales and repair shops. The cars are brought in and parked and can be seen prior to the evening auction.  These events are daily and dynamic. All over the area there are gauntlets where you can drive or the car is drive by standing still and racing the motor and testing the brakes and the transmission. If the car passes your test you make an offer, which is either accepted or rejected.  If accepted the seller and buyer goes to one of the huge shops which has an agent who for a standard fee transfers the title, get the plates, etc. the car is paid in full there and he keeps the car. Once all the formalities are complete you call each other and get the car.

Another kind of souks about cars is the auto repair souks, which I have detailed in my description of Thugba.  Suffice it to say that the car repair souks in Jeddah, Riyadh and Thugba are e about the same. One metal building after the other with dirt floors and many streets in which you can find repairman and parts for just about any make and model of car or truck. The repairman are from all over the planet and they can take disassemble and reassemble and automobile part in any car. This includes engines, carburetors, transmissions, starters, etc. I know because I have spent countless hours watching and waiting while they repaired the many problems with my cars.

There are Safeway’s all over the kingdom. Now there are many other supermarkets, which have recently opened and serve the public as an American or European supermarket. Stores such as Euromarche and Giant have expanded their basis of operations but still Safeway is still the best.  However it is more famous for being a center of urban activity in each of the cities.  A place where westerner’s can find other westerners, etc.  The brands are familiar to European shoppers and US and there are Saudis who like wise like the brands and style of shopping.  Safeway must observe the salah times and there fore must either close or lock you in during the Salah period. Many have been the time when we have arrived a bit too early and had to wait outside parked in our car with other s waiting for the Safeway to open.  It is the Safeway I have often met people who I have not seen for a long time.  Around each Safeway have grown shopping centers and restaurants catering to the western tastes.

If you like to eat and dine out Saudi Arabia is the place to live. Regardless of the city men alone or with other men and women with their husbands will find an endless supply of excellent five stars, gourmet, or greasy spoon simple kitchens to eat.  Restaurants are located in hotels compounds, shopping centers, corniche, universities and company work compounds, and of course in the Suks, market places, etc.  The bakeries around and town are subsidized and excellent for any Arabic bread.  Of course the staple, pita in white or wheat is served right from the special ovens where you can watch these balloon like breads coming out and standing before they’re wrapped and sold to you.  Then there is zata and other coverings, which can be, applies and then there are the different national breads which have very special seasoning such as Iraqi, Lebanese, Persian, Indian (nam bread), etc. We even found a bakery in Riyadh that had fresh German bread made by a German baker with German ingredients.

Our favorite places were various Chinese and Indian restaurants, Oberoi hotel, Marriott Hotel, Meridian Hotel, Silver Tower restaurant, Alghosiabi Hotel, USMTM club, many men only fish and broasting restaurants, many chicken and rice take out restaurants, Arabic Lebanese banqueting restaurants both indoor and out, Oasis restaurant in Eastern Province which is no longer operational, ARAMCO dining halls, KFU dining hall, Saudi British Bank dining hall, street kabob and shwarma stands (a shwarma is pita bread around chicken or beef with slices and mayonnaise), Hyatt hotel Saudi British Bankdining, Dhahran International Hotel dinning room, special banquets and halls, Riyadh Intercontinental hotels dining halls, and so many others just too numerous to  mention.  The man buffets where you eat all you can is a Saudi tradition in most of the hotel, camps and community centers. And, of course the hospitality of many friends who prepared great meals In there homes for every country in the world including Philippines, Eritrean, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, French, German, Italian, Persian, Korean, etc. People who have not been abroad always ask about the food expecting our answer to be one thing when it is the other.

Living as a pilgrim in a city and on this planet but separate and a part from the “sticks and stones” of this earth has been learned and cultured. I have been weaned away from co dependence on society, man and world to dependence upon God. In doing this I have been become independent and borderline “anti-social” I mean really very careful not to be unequally yoked or dependent upon man and his institutions.  At an early age I became “objective” and clinical.

However, I am still thrilled and can recall Manhattan in Central Park in the snow. I remember its stillness and smell. I can see the condense clouds I breath and feel the cold on my cheeks. I am in but of the world and yet the world I know is beautiful and lovely. I am glad God has given me so much to experience of His world and I‘d welcome these perceptions again, but I am neither those things nor perceptions of those things. My value is based upon God’s values and gifts not man’s trophies.

Communications:

As part of our organizing AIG/Me we bought a business fax machine with a built in answering machine. We communicated by Fax to each other when Christina was out of the kingdom. We had bought a fax machine at DelTura as well. We faxed to all the AIG/Me board and members to invite them for meetings, etc. I used the fax for job searches to send letters and resumes and when I had the trouble transferring my Igama it was use to send documents. When we got ready to leave we used the fax to advertise the sale of our personal effects. It was priceless communicating to USA ICI and vice versa for registering our students and keeping up with their grades.

We had several phones throughout the apartment and in the last year had access to the Internet and our own email address. Christina communicated a great deal by cassette tapes where I would record while many things in progress and she would listen and the n respond. We were able to delve deeply into a variety of subjects and save a lot of money on long distance telephone calls. Many in kingdom calls were kept brief and in code when discussing our Christina events because there was always the possibility that our calls were screened by the religious police. We were even able to listen in ON others people’s conversations that had cell phones.

The Indian Restaurant between in Riyadh between Airport and Sateen accessible only from University because so many of the streets ended at the sidewalks of sateen.  Bari Paul originally introduced the restaurant to me and I took Christina there. It was hard to get to and mysterious set in an Indian neighborhood. There were many such places all over Saudi Arabia and for different times and occasions. The fact is that we learned to live in Saudi with the job and mission coming second but spending a lot of time and effort on life support and social circumstances. I resided in the Batha Hotel; in the Riyadh hotel when our apartment was not ready; in the Marriott Hotel on visiting form ARAMCO and then when we started at IA; at the alKhosama hotel and at the Intercontinental when visiting with Tawfiq when I worked for alMuhaidib. I ate in every Royal Chinese restaurant in the kingdom including the first one in Riyadh next to the zoo in Riyadh.  Bob Vinton and I had a lunch there where I basically had a job interview with him; he was over one hour late. The Riyadh equestrian club is where we had our Yale University Club meetings; The Japanese restaurant in Riyadh is where we spent one New Years Eve. Where we ran into the Pollen’s doing the same thing. In a variety of

Chinese restaurants in Riyadh in a base of an big office and apartment building in the Batha; another China Royal in Olaya; a big Chinese restaurant in Olaya; our favorite in Olaya where they served a wonderful sesame oil soup similar to the noodle soup we got in the basement Chinese restaurant in AlKhobar and the Shanghai restaurant in down town AlKhobar.

Between 1984 and 1988 Bassam’s bakery was where we bought German rye bread and rolls. They also sold cakes and many different German cold cuts, coffee and fish. It was a wonderful place located in its own building in front of Aldreez office and filling station on the

Dammam /Riyadh Highway at Sateen Street. I learned just where to park which was at the curb. Reluctantly I’d park in the provided parking area, which was more trouble. We’d often arrive during prayer and have to wait outside. They later added a second story for cloths, etc. Unfortunately when we returned to visit Riyadh in 1992 it was closed.

Oberoi Chinese in penthouse and coffee shop, which offered excellent service and special gourmet buffets including charcoal, broiled African lobster tails and many other delicacies. The view of the Dammam corniche was great, as was its men’s room with wall to wall and floor to ceiling glass window overlooking the corniche near the urinals. The dinning tables were covered in tablecloths and we often dinned here with friends or alone. We dinned here with Abdul Hamid and Moshera, Kim and Sunheh, Howard and Jackie, Zed and Randy, etc. The lobby of the hotel was so attractive and the coffee shop below had great buffet, which we enjoyed. Mr Jizawi and/or Mr Kahn would often have me attend his company’s luncheons with me as his honored guest. It was very splendid. Christina and I often visited this buffet when the y had gourmet dinners with Thai, German or the national guest chefs. We sometimes sat or stroll in the lobby and visited its shops to look in the windows. I would often smoke a cigar on the way home driving in our very comfortable Buick Park Ave. from Dammam to AlKhobar at 140 Kilo/hr. Depending on the occasion Christina would dress up because the environments was so beautiful and interesting.

Meridian Hotel on Corniche in AlKhobar was a milestone in our life in the Eastern Province where we attended American business Men’s luncheon and dinner events and sometime sat in the lobby to have coffee. In Christina’s absence I sat there and met an American who I befriended and later he recommended me and I got my first job working in Riyadh. The lobby was a place to socialize and relax. When people visited we’d meet in the lobby and being that it was so close to our apartment could easily reach the place. We could see it from our window in the distance. It had plenty of places to park but was very tight. Mr. Khan loved to invite me to dine with him when he visited, as did others. They too had a famous but expensive buffet. The airlines used the hotel to house pilots and stewardess.

Riyadh Women’s Group:

Christina and I enjoyed the many meetings and diner parties with a lady who was it president and good friend, Freda S. Her husband Milton was the head surgeon of a military hospital and they lived in a large villa. They were Greek and very nominal Christina’s. He once embarrassed me at a diner party at his home by telling me to not give his wife such music to play in his home. The club met monthly in an elaborate “conference Palace” in Riyadh where I and/or our houseboy would bring and collect Christina. The final meeting which ended the club’s existence featured a Syrian American who had married a Saudi and she showed in detail the eating and cooking habits of the family.  By the time the meeting closed police and religious police were waiting to escort the presenter to jail and some of the leaders to detention. I recall whisking Christina away to the safety of our nearby villa. Later Christina and Freda remained close friends and tried to do what ever they could to have gatherings of women, couples, etc. Christian held parties at our villa and encouraged other executives to do the same.

The AlKhobar corniche fish restaurant:

Newly built on the rocks jutting into the Gulf was the strange shaped building? Of course we all heard and saw it and son we too visited. They had a long counter with a wide variety of fresh fish exhibited, which customers selected and they prepared to your instructions. The service was excellent any even had buffets. They offered our favorite shrimp tempura, which we’d order and eat till we were busting. The Maitre’d been
Egyptian and the waiters and cooks were from Pakistan and other Arabs. They then added the brightest halon light to the exterior, which destroyed the view from the benches near the restaurant. I complained but the Maitre’d would not remove them. Finally after I bought it to the attention of the Saudi engineer in charge of the corniche it was finally removed. The engineer was one of the visits I took my class for a couple of years in the governor’s office and then a speaker at my AIG/ME meetings.

I had three experiences with the Saudi Police: Once in AlKhobar for driving in an extreme right curb where my car was confiscated and I was brought to the ARAMCO gate police to pay an SR 800 fine and more to get my car and license back

The other was at the airport where I brought in my suitcase a stomach medicine containing alcohol I bought in Vienna at my favorite grocery store.

The third was in Riyadh where an army lieutenant hit my car from the rear and where I was able to cruise to my usual parking space on the side of the Ministry of Interior building in which worked. Fortunately the perpetrator stopped in front of our building which was filled with MOI police and they quickly contacted the city police who arrested the two of us and put us into there squad car to take us top jail. On the way and in the middle of the dessert after the lieutenant confessed that I had done 100% nothing and he everything they stopped the car and commanded me to get out. I did so in the middle of the Riyadh desert. The very spot which is now the where the largest hospital in the kingdom is located. I walked back to my office and proceeded d to see about getting my car fixed and paid for the damages. It turned out that the lieutenant convinced me to release him even though my car was not fixed to my satisfaction saying that he would see to it that they fixed it correctly. He did nothing once he was released and I learned an important and expensive lesson when making agreements In Saudi.

Christmas in Saudi Arabia

The first Christmas in Saudi Arabia was spent alone in Bin Juma building with us standing on our balcony overlooking King Abdul Aziz Blvd. Wishing and praying because we were alone and not invited to any thing.  Several days later we were invited and traveled to Bahrain to spend the holidays in a beautiful hotel and had a grand dinner with all the fixings including a beautiful Indian girl who sold and she lit my cigar after dipping it in Grand Mariner. It was very nice. There was Christmas music and se toured the Island. The Griffith organized the trip. Everything was so special in Saudi about Christmas. We would go to the souks and King Khalid Blvd and Ghazzas had to buy gifts including glasses, cloths and carpets.

In the early eighties we invited our ARAMCO group to turkey dinners and later our church groups to dinners. We shopped in the malls.

In 1991 I spent my Christmas in Saudi without Christina and was invited by Jan V.  to his home for Christmas Eve where his wife and daughter where very hospitable and we exchanged gifts. They introduced me to the Christmas dinners at the corps of Eng. desert in at the airport where I later spent many holidays with our groups and friends. They served turkey and ham with all the fixings including a Christmas tree, lights and music. Unfortunately Mrs. V. , a Lebanese, was so aggressive and hostile one evening insisting I get her husband a job at the University and challenging why I could be employed at the University and not her husband. Jan and I were always friends but I avoided his wife. Jan later invited me to join him to visit the Prince and royal family for Ramadan holiday.

In Riyadh we prepared a wonderful Christmas dinner for Alfonso DeMatteis and his secret girl friend attended by Michael Murray and served by Sunan in our el-Seif villa.

In  Riyadh we shopped in Ghazzas on  Sateen Street and the Riyadh souks. We had found a German bakery so we always had excellent bread and German Cakes. Our friends made Christmas dinner party at the desert Inn and there was the Christmas choir and performances at the desert Inn and later at the US Embassy. We also attended Christmas celebrations at the Riyadh and Dhahran US consulate. Those parties included alcoholic beverages and while Bill Brew was in office we were invited to his home for sumptuous Christmas dinner. The Inter coin hotel manager once invited us for a great dinner at his home in Riyadh and the Boyhans invited us fro a proper English dinner at here villa in Seaview.

Christmas was always a dangerous time in Saudi because the religious police liked to invade our gatherings.

At King Faisel University I was invited to give a lecture on Metaphors to the whole school on Christmas Eve and jested with the Iraqi/American organizer that I’d show up in Santa Claus outfit; he was so worried that I would and kept begging me to reconsider.

Another Christmas I entered a room filled with my Saudi colleges and quietly wished them a merry Christmas to which one of the faculty reprimanded me and warned me not to ever do this again was a great lesson in the value and privilege we have in the USA to have the freedom to practice our faith openly. We do not want to ban this practice in the USA.

During the time when Christmas coincided with the Ramadan holidays the holidays were particularly festive.

There were stores In Khobar, which specialized in selling Christmas cards, treats and lights to us heathen/expats. They had there wares in back rooms, up stairs and hidden from the view of the public and the search of the religious police. It was so interesting to visit their shops. We bought a tree and cards. There was Arab stores, which sold hand painted cards disguised with Arab scenes but writing “merry Christmas” or “seasons greetings”.

Our celebrations were usually festive and carried out judiciously. In our Khobar home during the nineties we’d have songbooks prepared and gather in the back prayer room where we’d sing songs accompanied by Christina. Later we’d prey and eat the turkey. The fellowship and camaraderie during these many years in both the Desert Inn Rose, embassies, consulates and our home and villas was wonderful.

There were rare occasions when we were able to get out for the holidays to Germany or Kitzbuhel and these were very special as well.

We sometime brought home the US and British military and I met several officers at Ian’s’. Later we invited chaplains to our home for Christmas dinner. I once preached to the soldiers in their undergoing church for Christmas in Khobar Towers. One Christmas when the main streets were decorated with lights and arches over the streets because the king was due to visit and how often the light were strung around the Khobar water tower during Christmases. There was always a courtesy paid to us westerners to give us the time off to quietly celebrate. There was nothing said but we all knew.

Several of my employers would openly wish me a merry Christmas being proud that they could and shared their generosity of spirit with me. The ladies would always make Christmas parties and invite Christina and me to their homes in both Riyadh and Eastern Province.

I especially liked exchanging gifts with Tony from Lebanon and where each of brought gifts and were exchanged them in our home between brothers and sisters from so many countries including Nigeria, India, Philippines, England, ,etc. I recall a Christmas party with our French School master and his wife. There were also nice Christmas parties at the home of Günter B. , then manger of the Dhahran International Hotel.

In the mid eighties I was given the name of a friend who was one of the organizers of the orchestra and after a very clandestine conversation he agreed to let me meet him at his office. It was there he invited me to their first concert. Now there are hired and paid conductors and leaders bought in from the outside to do these jobs. Oh yes, there is also a Theater group which performs and gives awards to best play, show actor ,etc. called the “desert rose Awards”

Riyadh’s orchestra and choral group was the most spectacular giving Christmas concerts in embassy and other special venues.  The British did there share on New Years Eve to give us the flag waving “Night at the Proms” concerts including bagpipes. It seems that westerners did more than they could to recall the holidays in Saudi. It was so precious!

Enforcing dietary Restrictions in Saudi Arabia:

People are arrested at borders and if not when carrying contraband items rejoice as though accomplishing some great work. So many smuggle bibles, pornography, ham, bacon, alcohol and alcoholic products, dope, marijuana, cocaine, guns, etc.

There are raids and inspections as well as border searches and people stopped on streets. The consequences can be imprisonment, deportation, fines, and worse. Even the military, diplomatic and ARAMCO commissaries which are permitted areas are subject to investigations and raids during Christmas celebrations mostly searching to see if native Saudi nationals are participating. Airport and road searches are horrendous and stressful Christina often brought in bibles and Christian tapes on the top of her goods inside trunks and overlooked by customs. I once had a bottle filled with my notes taken and another time arrested for alcoholic stomach medicine I bought in Vienna. However, when we had a fire in our apartment and the fireman and police searched my house while I was absent not a word was mentioned about our many bibles and Christian materials. I even personally went to the neighborhood security inspectors to sign a final release to discuss their search and they were only kind and friendly. We were often given hams and pork products to prepare at home by friends and hid it well in the event our place was searched. I recall living off ARAMCO compound and taking home ham in our car’s trunk fearing we’d be stopped or have an auto accident and then found with this off the ARAMCO permitted grounds. Going from our car to our apartment was just as dangerous and we were very careful. We’d wrap bibles in plain paper and carry them in shopping bags. After a while we learned it was all talk and that house searches were forbidden. In other words if you had something in your home it was accepted. But getting it there was the problem.

Immigration to Saudi Arabia:

With all of the recent negative press surrounding the kingdom it is hard for outsiders to realize that many desire to immigrate and become Saudi citizens. They wasn’t to make Saudi Arabia there home. They see Saudi as having a promise of a future and improved living conditions for them and there families for not and the future. Many are from other Muslim countries or those already trading with Saudi. They convert to Islam and learn Arabic. They get a stipend from the government when they come and then are fully supported by  the government.  Once a subject they fully participate in a all the welfare the kingdom offers. They are from Indonesia, Africa, Asia, China, Central Europe, and even the USA and Europe. The kingdom is rather measured about accepting these applications and meters these rights very sparingly. There was a time when many for Palestine, Yemen, Spain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Syria, and India were open. The current Saudi population has many persons who can trace there families origins and education back to these roots.

Saudi Arab had heart attack on plane

I was sitting on the aisle and across from me was a Saudi Arab together with many ladies in abaya and face gear with a few babies in the center aisle. He was a chain smoker and they did not stop eating and talking. Later in the evening when we were all sleeping suddenly the ladies screams rang out and i reached across and sure enough the man had stopped breathing I shouted for the steward, the light were snapped to full brightness and from somewhere an expert in heart attacks appeared fully equipped to rescue and save the man’s life.  The dying man did not speak English but we were able to communicate. I later talked to the heart medical expert who told me that he was on this flight heading for another location.  It was the Saudi man’s good fortune.

Guess what, later, after the man had recovered and breakfast was being served, he took out a cigarette and began smoking. I scolded his women and him.  He put it out.  But a half-hour later he was back to chain smoking.  I stood over the clan and talked to them and told them that “god had rescued him and that they should now take care. There answer to me was something along the lines that if he was to die it would be God’s will so he will continue smoking. Later I again saw the medical rescue man and encouraged him to see his new patient. He did and then told me that he see this all the time.

Saudi Projacs: November 1, 1997: On one assignment to Jeddah I was in the steam room and talking to a young Saudi. He asked me so many questions including my work history in the kingdom. I told him as much as I could remember including my short time with the University of Petroleum minerals; he suddenly blurted “Professor Barie Fez-Barringten”, explaining that he was one of students. That was fourteen years ago, I was rather surprised but pleased that he remembered. He was now in charge of construction and design projects for the city of Jeddah. I later was to meet many of my students who had become either mayors, directors of municipalities and public works. Others for banks, manufacturers, commissions and within ARAMCO. Many of them have children and now grandchildren. I would meet them from time to time in the office as I pursued my work in the kingdom. Of course they were always very kind and helpful.

My small vocabulary

  • Hadi: do you have; I have
  • Marahaba: hello
  • Moaleem: wife
  • Mucher
  • Shukran: thanks
  • Shukran jazeera: thank you very much
  • Shoula: flame; there was a shopping mall in Riyadh and alKhobar bearing the name the Shoula Mall. However, the Shoula Mall in Khobar was closed following a fire. It was soon popular with its roof top parking and three floors of shopping. It was famous for finding everything and a hangout for Philippinos and other expats TCN workers. We shopped there often for necessary items such as luggage, tapes, etc. It did not exist in 1983 and by the fire shutting it down occurred just before we left in 1998/99. Christina and I liked to browse the windows and see the people. It was also a nice place to possibly see familiar faces and say hello.
  • Afwan: you are welcome or welcome
  • Ahalan: welcome
  • Becher: good
  • Saba al cher: good day
  • Nasar bacher: good darkness
  • Saba a noor: good light
  • Tusba ala cher: wishing you well
  • Fe aman ela: hello
  • Kwais: excellent
  • Zain: super
  • Kabir: big
  • Sagquar: small
  • Hum du le ala: thank God
  • Min futlag: please
  • Sarraya: car
  • Jamaiat University
  • Muhandis: engineer
  • Muhandeseen:
  • Beyt: house
  • Moaleem: wife
  • Itneen: one
  • Talata: two
  • Talata: three
  • Arba: four
  • Zeft: zero
  • Yani:”like”;”you know”

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