There’s a tractor on site. Great big thing it is. Six wheels on the back. Came all the way from England and arrived looking shiny new. It proved very useful in the sand, lifting wrecked cars and moving things around. Unfortunately it’s diesel powered, but surrounded by strong attempts to minimise and reduce emissions. And its own emissions are reduced by Adblue.
Adblue is urea mixed with water. I’ve written about it before. You can manufacture urea, and I’m sure some of it is manufactured scientifically. But pig wee was a big problem shortly before this stuff started showing up. Purify it to urea and flog it to diesel users, and you solve the pig wee problem and reduce emissions at the same time as making a bit of money out of piss. Delightful.
Your diesel engine runs fine without Adblue. It doesn’t need it at all. But the manufacturers need to be taxed as lower emission, and the farmers need to get the wee taken off the farm without them having to pay for disposal, so they make Adblue compulsory. Your engine won’t start when the urine tank is empty. It just won’t let you drive without that darn pig wee.
The tractor, out in the middle of the desert, is about to run out of Adblue. I’ve run out on a rental before and been stuck. I can see this brand new incredible tractor having to be left in the desert at Neom. Because nobody can find Adblue in this town.
I find a place in Jeddah online. I ring them and they say it’s the wrong number and they sell food. I go online. It is all delivered from the UK and the USA. I message Samwell the interpreter. “There is no Adblue in Tabouk,” says Samwell. “Bullshit”, I think. “Somebody will have some”. I go hunting.
I just looked in my Google maps history. Today I drove 112 miles. I was driving for five hours and forty minutes, in which time I made 22 stops. Each stop was an area where I could cover a number of auto shops or similar. There is no pig farming in Saudi. Nobody really cares about emissions. None of the diesel engines take Adblue because there isn’t a pig wee problem and they don’t really care about the atmosphere yet. Adblue is cheap and the container is big. It takes up too much space for too little profit for something that will sit there for years. Still… Somebody will have it.
I give up three times and send emo messages back to site. Most people I ask about it react so sparely that I can’t tell if they don’t have it or they haven’t heard of it or both. They react to my Google translate question in such a way that I don’t usually know if they’ve understood it. Sometimes they then walk away and start talking to a friend in Arabic, glancing back at me. Sometimes I’ll wait thinking they are asking their friend about Adblue only to realise they are just hoping I’ll leave.
I scour the shelves of so many places that look like this.
The day is hot, and if there is anybody local in front of me or behind me they will be served first.
(Thinking back on it I must have spoken to a hundred people, and maybe received about 3 smiles. The rest were behind masks and their eyes were often hard. Translation anxiety, I think. I had it too. I wished I could speak better Arabic.)
A breakthrough happens late morning when I discover that it might be called DEF or diesel exhaust fluid. I am momentarily buoyed up with hope before being met with the same blank stares as I had been when asking for Adblue.
“There is no Adblue in Tabouk,” goes round and round in my head. But I find a promising district just after 2pm. Loads of Auto shops. I also find a Saudi description of Adblue with a picture. Still mostly blank looks, but one guy becomes animated. He points up the road, but then gestures a prayer and points at his watch. 4 fingers. Pray pray watch 4, point. I think he’s saying they have it up the road but they are praying until 4. I’ve been told they have it up the road often enough today to assume that it usually means “go away”. I go away. I give up. I send more emo messages.
But no. I’ve started so I’ll finish. I find another area and scour it to no avail. Evening is coming. I find myself back in the area from before, trying a Japanese garage a few blocks down where I am totally ignored for more than twenty minutes. The guys with headdresses keep getting served from behind me. I can’t see it on the shelf. I decide to go back and try the guy I spoke to before. He takes my arm at the elbow and walks me outside his shop. He points at a garage a bit further down and he says one word: “Adblue”, before miming a heavy thing to carry. I can’t believe my eyes or ears.
I walk to the garage and into the shop. There, on the floor in front of the counter, is a great big box of Adblue. They are expecting me. Everybody in Tabuk has met the foreigner who wants Adblue by now. They are taking the piss. “This is the only one in Tabouk,” one of them says. “You buy it now and must collect after a week,” he says, fucking with me.
It’s not overpriced. It goes into the back of the car. It would have at pretty much any price.
That was a long beautiful warm day pretty much entirely sunk into the procural of pig wee. At one point I very very very very nearly got side ended by a car. I was just quick enough and avoided it by a whisker. Closest I’ve ever been. But that’s to be expected when you drive almost six straight hours on these crazy streets.
I’m off to bed. The wee is in the boot. Tomorrow I’ll take it out to the desert and say goodbye to the wee and to the desert. Home soon. Sleep now.