There’s a camel incursion onto the road on the way out of Tabuk today. I’m driving with one of the interpreters. I get him to take a load of photos through the window.
We have been helping somebody get through COVID screening to make sure they can compete in the race. The interpreter is from Riyadh, so he isn’t entirely accustomed to the desert either. But he knows a lot more about it than I do. And Saudi Arabia in general.
When you’re driving in the city you often have to bypass these huge great big compounds that are fenced off with militaristic insignia. High and threatening looking fences. I ask him about them. “Tabuk is near the border of Jordan and Egypt and Israel. Almost all of the armaments in Saudi are stored here. The weapons and the bombs.” We live in a target. “When Neom comes, they will be distributed across the country.” Neom. See previous blogs. The utopian dream of the Crown Prince. The place we are working. It’s a beautiful idea of a collaboration. Egypt has provided some land. Will Israel and Jordan also get stuck in, to make this futuristic desert utopia? Or is it a pipe dream?
The roadcamels are chased by a number of frustrated Bedouin herdsmen with sticks. Right now their way of life is still ancient at heart. A boy begins to run ahead of the herd, down the road, and the camels chase him. I have a feeling he’s doing a pied Piper routine that is tried and tested. He’s not running away from the camels. He’s getting them interested in chasing him so they move where he wants them to and not where they want to – which tends to be towards the nearest chewable shrub.
I try to learn from the interpreter a little bit more about the ways of this place. He teaches me plenty. He shows me how to spot a fake traffic camera – they are just silver boxes with stickers that look like lenses. He also puts my mind at rest that you CAN turn right at a stop sign like you can in America. I’ve been doing it because I felt it was the thing, but I’ve been quietly worrying that I’ll end up with fines worth more than I’m paid to be here. All in all another long drive with interesting companions. And then a bit of hanging out in the desert.
Now I’m back at my clinical hotel room, and I bought a cheap mobile phone tripod which is now set up in the living room. Another self tape, this one with a long-ass monologue from a character I’m not auditioning for. The director thinks he wants to see if we can act. The director really wants to see if we have loads of free time. I don’t. I’m gonna have to read it. Hopefully I’ll find time tomorrow. It would be lovely to get back to blighty into a spot of filming. Much as I’m thoroughly enjoying myself out here in the summer, there’s that old dragon I’ve been chasing just waiting back on familiar soil.
In the meantime, things are hotting up. The drivers are arriving now. The course is getting hot. I got shown around one of the electric vehicles today. They are remarkable. And they are gonna go like the clappers – these weird beautiful scuffed up off-road monsters. You’ll get photos of them before long. Right now I’m just too charmed by the camels…