A Saudi Cocktail

A run into Saudi to renew my visa starts with a tense breakfast.  The tension only diminishes when we see the Bahraini shore.

As my mere black-enveloped presence in the Immigration Office might cause a riot, Mojo drops me off at my place of choice while he takes care of business.

I used to wait at a nearby Starbucks and read, but two trips before a mutawa, a religious “policeman”, knocked on the locked door during prayer.  A lone man, he marched into the family section to berate the Saudi women who were not praying and who allowed their scarves to slide off their hair.  He did not speak to me but he scolded the baristas.  The last visit the staff kicked me out during prayer.  I stood outside sweating after they locked the doors.

Driving in Saudi Arabia is not known to be a relaxing experience.  An everyday commute is more like a NASCAR race than the jammed, but orderly, Los Angeles freeways.  The constant vigil for sober drivers in the right lane deciding to take a left turn in front of you to chase down women on the other side of the three lane highway combined with road construction are the first ingredients for a Saudi Cocktail.

After an hour of sipping that cocktail, even the most agreeable couples explode.

Running late as usual meant we arrived an hour before mid-morning prayer.  The Dhahran/Khobar road was under construction in both directions without any exits or signs.  After driving twenty minutes in a circle that took us no where, Mojo shouted.

“Just drop me off at the Dhahran Mall,” I shouted back unable to stand the tension any longer.

He did only to find his ten-minute drive took seventy-five minutes due to a three car collision.  When I got his first text that he had just arrived I had barely walked halfway around the huge mall.  As I rounded Gate 9, prayer was called and all the businesses shut down.  I sat down and there across the aisle was the newly opened Pottery Barn.  Ah – a taste of home.

After prayer I rushed over to buy picture frames before Mojo showed up.  I was the only woman in a store with ten male salesmen who did not know the merchandise and one old Bangladeshi man who had the unenviable job of dusting the thousands of glass items on display.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  I walked through the store and discovered Thanksgiving turkey dishes I would never find again.  Finally I found the gallery frames way in the back behind the rugs.

Loading my items on the counter, I got another text.

“Eight guys ahead of me.  What are you doing?”

“Pottery Barn opened here.”

“Uh oh” was his response.

I still had time.

I raced to see the king-sized sheets.

Another text.

“Three guys ahead of me.  Officer decided to take a break.”

Still more time.  I circled around again and discovered even more things I never knew we needed.  Thirty-seven items in eight shopping bags later, I got the final text.

“On way, meet you at Gate 3.”

“Sorry,” I texted back, “ you MUST meet me at Gate 9.  I have too much stuff.”

He pulled up and the man with the trolley loaded the trunk.  As Mojo complained about his experience all the way home, we got to the middle of the causeway where immigration and customs met.

Still on the Saudi side, I pointed out the line with only one car but the immigration officer’s window would be on my side, the passenger side.

“You are willing to hand him the passports?” Mojo asked.

“Sure,” I said.  “It doesn’t bother me.”

As I rolled down my window, Mojo reached across me and handed the passports over to the young uniformed man.

“I didn’t want to insult him,” he whispered.

Just breathe, I said to myself.  I omitted the OM in case that might insult someone.

On the Bahrain side, 75% of the customs lanes were closed as they did something to the roads.  Like a herd of cattle being prodded with electric pokers, all the beeping cars funneled into the two open lanes.  Thinking of the trunk full of packages, I decided it was time to lift my sunglasses and wave to the customs officer when he bent over to tell Mojo to pop the trunk.

Mojo got out to review my purchases with the officer.  It did not take any time at all.

“Funny,” Mojo said.  “I remember you saying just this morning before we left how you were not going to buy anything.  You want to be able to walk away from everything we have.  And now you bought all this stuff.”

“That was before you screamed at me.”

“I screamed at you?  I didn’t scream at you.  I was screaming in frustration.”

“But I was the only one in the car….”

And that’s how our outing across the bridge ended – with a Saudi cocktail.


A Mojo Two Degrees of Separation Story

We cruised the Fiesta food stalls contemplating the Mexican fare.  When Mojo was told “we are out of shark jerky”, the dedicated carnivore set out to track down the beef ribs.

By the time our fish tacos were ready, Mojo was sharing a table and chopping on ribs.  The other diners scooted closer together to make room for our plates.

We started chatting and discovered the Filipino couple lived in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.  They worked for the same oil company Mojo had worked for many years.  Like us, they were vacationing in Santa Barbara to escape the summer heat.

Of the 20 odd tables Mojo could have chosen to sit at, he gravitated to the one most connected to him.

Saudi Women’s Progress in the Health Sector Webinar March 14th

If you are curious about nursing in Saudi Arabia, or women’s healthcare in Saudi Arabia, this Wednesday March 14th (I know it is late notice) Dr. Elham Al Ateeq, the Dean of the Nursing College at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia is presenting a one-hour webinar.  A Webinar is similar to a radio show.


I think this is a great opportunity for those interested in these issues to listen to a woman based in Saudi Arabia.


Dr. Al Ateeq has a Masters in Nursing Administration from Northeastern University and a Ph. D. in Nursing from George Mason University.  She will be speaking on Saudi Women’s Progress in the Health Sector.  The interview is to include an overview of the past and present positions of Saudi women in the health sector and a comparison of their progress in the health sector versus other industries in Saudi Arabia.


This offering is through the Fielding Graduate Institute’ Worldwide Network for Gender Empowerment.  My friend Fariba Enteshari just shared this event information with me.


I don’t have any experience with this type of seminar but it appears to be open to interested parties by simply accessing the following links.


The Webinar is at 9:30am Pacific Standard Time (GMT -07:00)


For more information go to http://wnge-gendernet.ning.com/

Or try this link to WNGE – Wednesday Webinar.



Lessons from the Najd – How to Live in a Sandstorm

Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Sa'ud's Farm

As we are the middle of a sandstorm, I changed my theory.  I think walls around Middle Eastern houses help to keep the desert from taking over the front yard.

Living in an older section of the island, our compound is surrounded by a wall.  Inside we hardly notice the sandstorms.  But many of my friends have moved out to the new golf development in the middle of the desert.  Designed to appeal to westerners, neither the houses nor the development have perimeter walls.  My friends are complaining the sand is piling up in mini-dunes around their homes and they cannot open their windows with all the swirling sand.

Several years ago Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa’ud invited Mojo to his renovated, al-Udhaibat farm outside of Riyadh.  The farm retained its traditional Najdi architecture which enabled people to live in the desert before electricity.

One key aspect was to surround the house with palm trees.  The palms acted as natural barriers against the sand.  The air was cooled as it swept through the shaded areas under the palms.  Upon reaching the garden, walls kept any remaining dust and sand from entering the house.

Courtyard and airflow

Besides surrounding the house with walls, central courtyards are a key feature of these mud houses.  The wind passing over creates a low-pressure zone in the courtyard.  This sucks in eddies but the low-pressure is counteracted by well-placed apertures in the rooms into the courtyard.

During the night, the courtyard and roof act as a cool air sink.

During the day, the sun heats the courtyard.  Warm air rises creating a chimney effect and pulls breeze through the rooms.

In the evening, the courtyard and buildings retain heat then give it off as the night air cools.

As I think about our impact on the desert whether as an eco-tourist or a westerner living in the desert, I find William Facey’s BACK TO EARTH: ADOBE BUILDING IN SAUDI ARABIA to be a very enlightening study of traditional Arab architecture and its effect on the environment.

All photos and images are from this book.

Looking for an Educated,Well Groomed Wife for My Future

Bahrain loves February – the month of Romance.

Middle Eastern dating can be a little difficult.  But reading these Bride Seeking ads on expatriate.com, these men won’t have to worry about paying for expensive dinners and roses on Valentine’s Day.

I need an Educated and well groomed wife for my future – Saudi Arabia

Description: Further discussion will be made upon the seriousness of the interested person. So reply if anyone is serious.  In short i am a Banker and M.Sc. Degree Holder.

Between the Lines:  “I” was the not the smartest guy in class.  I got a job as a banker and am now out of work.  I just watched “The Secret” and decided to think positively.


Description: Asalaam-o-alikum , i am saad age 25 from pakistan karachi currently i am living in saudi Arabia jeddah looking for good girl loving between age (16-22) fair color , educated , and my education Inter commerce.  My parents living in karachi so u more details please contact my father..

Between the Lines:  I am looking for a naïve young woman who barely speaks English – for my father. 

Looking for a simple homely woman for marriage, Saudi Arabia

Description: I am Muslim man from India in late forties and well settled in Gulf and would like to marry a woman who is simple,homely and religious.  No dowry expected simple marriage please write for further details.

Between The Lines:  My wife lives in India raising my five kids.  I cannot get a visa for a housemaid.  I need someone to come to Saudi Arabia to cook, clean and “care” for me and not complain about it. 


Description: I am 34 years old Muslim Sunni working here in Bahrain, I got my engineering education in radar and communication from England at British Naval Base port smouth London. Now i m working here in Bahrain Navy as a radar and communication engineer. I don’t have parents thats why i put my add by myself. We are 02 brothers and two sisters all married except me.I am tall and handsome with 5 10″ height and everage build.
Only serious and good people try to contact, or send me e -mail.

I need only a simple and honest lady who give me peace of mind and happy family.Any one interested than i will send my pictures and contact no to them.


Between the Lines: The Bahrainis know my family and no one will let their daughter marry me.  I need a foreigner who knows just enough English to read this email and who does not want to go back to her own country – for whatever reason.

After the above ads I actually appreciate the following men’s honesty.

Looking for Lady Girlfriend, Bahrain

Description: I am looking for a trusted and smart lady to be a companion and girlfriend in Bahrain. You should be single/divorced and flexible in your approach and willing to spend time with an executive and be a companion.

If you are looking for an opportunity of this type and you are flexible with your approach to life, please send me all your details along with your profile and I will get in touch with you. Discretion is definitely assured. I can also help you with your financial problems.

I will not be able to respond to one line emails. If you are serious and interested, I request you to send me all your details and I will get it touch with you immediately.

Between the Lines:  I will pay your expenses and rent an apartment for you/us.  You will not work so I can drop in and see you whenever I can sneak away.  You have to be smart enough to understand this is a good deal and know not to call me 50 times a day or harass my family on the weekends. 

need a friend i am bored – Jubail, Saudi Arabia

Description: need a friend i am bored to lived alone i need any girlfriend deepness of relation wil be depend upon you………..contact me

Between the Lines:  It is what it is.

i am searching female

Description: hello.  i am muslim 46 male bussiness man i have bussiness in three country saudiarab,oman,and uae. i am searching female 30 to 35 years old any nationalty any religen. i am living in riyadh i am traveling in all gcc country for bussiness . send me details

Between the Lines:  I have tried it all and am tired of paying.  All my years of decadent living have taken their toll.  Now that I am overweight, smoke too much and have a heart condition I need a woman to take care of me.  As soon as I ask my friends how their daughters are doing, they quit taking my calls.

I may have to forward some of these to Jay Leno.  Perhaps he will do a segment on them.

Looking Up for New Ideas

Ants Walking, Dana Reserve, Jordan

Perhaps I’ve been a bit too much like the ants, head down and just going about my assigned task.  I haven’t looked up to see what the other world is doing.

I flippantly wrote about UFOs hiding in the Sarawat Mountains the other day.  I decided to Google UFO sighting in Saudi Arabia to see what came up.  And there are a lot of them!

But more interestingly I discovered that last year on January 23-25, 2011 the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), sponsored its 5th Annual Global Competitiveness Forum.  It is held in Riyadh under the patronage of HM King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Sandwiched between panel discussions on Social Media, Cities of the Future and Innovations in Healthcare, was “Contact: Learning From Outer Space”.  Apparently Tony Blair and Bill Clinton did not attend this panel, but I find it very interesting that the Saudi Government sponsored five UFO experts.

“Open your mind that we will one day make contact with an intelligent civilization from outer space.”

I found out about this conference on a UFO blogger’s posting of the five speakers’ videos.  Jacques Vallee is a computer scientist, venture capitalist and long-time UFO researcher.  Two physicists, Dr. Michio Kaku and Stanton Friedman were on the panel.  Author and journalist, Nick Pope, who worked for the UK Ministry of Defence investigating UFOs, and  Dr. Zaghloul El Naggar, a professor of earth sciences also spoke.

In response to the devil’s advocates who say if there is intelligent life out there, why aren’t they speaking to us, Stanton Friedman said,

“I don’t talk to the squirrels in my backyard.”

Dr. Michio Kaku shared a similar view.  He said

“When I see an ant hill, do I go over and offer them beads, trinkets or nuclear energy?  Do you ask them ‘Take me to your leader?’ or do you step on them?”

Dr. Zaghoul El Naggar an Islamic Earth Scientist said the Koran has 12,000 cosmic verses that are scientifically precise descriptions of the universe.

I understand if these speakers are popular at UFO conferences but I find it very interesting that the Saudi government is sponsoring them.

And I wonder what are they seeing that I am not?

This year on January 24th for the 6th Annual Forum, they had a panel on Disruptive Technologies – Life Extension and Other Emerging Sciences.  The presenters will discuss the emerging technologies of nanotech, biotech, genetic engineering, solid freeform fabrication (“3D printing”), aerogels, commercial space travel, new power sources, etc., to create disruptive applications and new industries.

Do You Know the Way to Nearest Pyramid?

Do you know what this is?

Flying during the day has its advantages.  Looking out the window I knew the Gulf Air pilot was going the right direction because there were several very visible landmarks.

North of Riyadh were the crop circles.

Crop Circles North of Riyadh

When I was growing up in Saudi Arabia I never really questioned where they grew the fresh alfalfa we fed to our Arabian horses.  It was so green, it had to be dried in the sun before the horses could eat it.  The Saudis grow wheat and alfalfa using water from ancient water reserves created during the Pleistocene era – after the dinosaurs but just as homo erectus started wandering around.  It was quite amazing to see this green in the desert.

Obviously the water will not last forever. My father used to be involved in figuring out ways to bring water to the desert.  During a family dinner he told us about an idea to tote an iceberg from Antarctica.  That was never done.

Sarawat Mountains

As we turned west we flew over the Sarawat Mountains.  These look like mini volcanoes with something hiding in the center.   I think it was sand but maybe inside are secret UFO landing sites.  Supposedly millions saw UFOs over Riyadh in 2009.

Saudi Arabia Meets the Red Sea

The Red Sea looked extremely blue next to the brown desert.

Over the Red Sea

I enjoyed how the land and the sea intertwined creating a beautiful view that can only be seen from above.

Importance of the Nile

Over Egypt the Nile’s water keeps the desert at bay.  The human settlements are only within the areas the water reaches.

Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara

Outside of Cairo we flew over the oldest pyramid in Egypt – the Djoser at Saqqara.    It is a step pyramid built around 2,700 BC about 300 years after the stone pyramid in Peru.  Imhotep the founder of medicine was the architect who designed the pyramid.  In artwork he was associated with the Goddess Hathor.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.  The pyramid is at the top of the photo.

All the photos were taken with my Ipad.  I will start using a better camera soon but I can only learn so much technology at a time.

Tomorrow Cairo!

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