The culture shock is still quite frequent as I drive around this far flung Kingdom. This morning on the way in to work I saw three men in full Bedouin robes riding camels through the desert by the roadside. Having never been in a desert until about a week ago, it still surprises me to be surrounded by sand most of the time, and seeing things that are so ancient still happening. Opening up the Geocaching app out of curiosity as I drove home I saw that there are some petroglyphs in a cave off the road to Tabuk that are perhaps 12000 years old. You need a 4×4 or a death wish to drive 5 kilometres into the desert when the sun is going down and you’re tired. I am just happy to know they are there.

Today it was cold despite the bright sun. Tonight it’ll be freezing. The wind was blowing sharp through our clothes on site, although not hard enough to start deconstructing the place again. We were avoiding the outside where possible though. I tended to work in my car with the door open for air when I was there.

At my feet, constantly seeking in the sand, the distinctive and unusual long legged tok-tok beetles roamed. They shoot out a nasty smell if you mess with them. They look like bad drawings of spiders.

In the air I saw the occasional bird of prey – perhaps carrion birds. Not so many small carrion birds by the road but pickings are good. People whip down them despite the cameras. I saw a dead cat first thing yesterday and a dead dog first thing today. The beetles will get what the kites don’t want and the desert will crumble the rest to dust.

I went to scout a local petrol station. Coming from Tabuk the nearest station is about 60 kilometers from site. I thought it worth seeing if a closer desert station I saw on the map a little deeper into Bedouin territory and away from town was open. 18km down a dusty straight road and it turned out to be a good one, with decent prices, frequented by the local cops who rumble up and down the desert roads all day. Some Google translate and sign language eventually led to them agreeing to accept my visa card so long as I bribed them 20 riyals and walked next door to where there’s wireless internet. I followed the guy and stopped for a moment fascinated by a van full of camels. I took a photograph and was immediately jumped by two small boys in traditional brown robes. They clearly wanted me to pay if I was taking photographs of their father’s camel. I stopped snapping and told the guy to bump it up another 5 for the kids. Free enterprise. Here’s my 5 riyal shot … 5 riyals is about 10p. I like camels. This one has a cute little knitted mask.

The exchange rate is favourable here, from pounds. Dominos charges 29 for two pizzas. That’s about six quid. You can barely get anything for that in the UK. We have habitually been overpaying horribly for our dough.

All the cars here are white or silver, which makes it very easy to forget where you parked. I’m going to go and find my wheels. I’ve got to pick up some guy from the airport in half an hour at 1am, and then another guy at 6. Fun.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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