Monday, January 25, 2010

Dubai, UAE

Dubai is my last stop on this Middle Eastern lecture tour. I arrived on time aboard my flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia (the above picture shows the Dubai skyline at night). Thankfully, there was no waiting on the airport immigration line and I arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (hte one along Sheikh Zayed Road) on Tuesday evening (January 19). The following day, I gave my lecture at 12:30 pm. Total speaking time was about 45 minutes followed by the usual 15 minutes of Q&A. (About 25 people in attendance.) And then my tour was officially completed and I could then begin to rest and relax.

Now the fun part - a friend offered to show me around the Emirates (fyi - there are seven emirates of which Dubai is only one) and I eagerly accepted his generous offer. (Note: to allow me the time to do this sightseeing, I paid the extra night at the hotel but the added cost is worth it to me!) My friend picked me up at 9:15 am and we drove to the eastern most part of the UAE near the Omani border. We soon encountered some fabulous mountains and stopped at the Hatta Fort Hotel for a pleasant lunch and some excellent scenery that most short-term visitors to the UAE never encounter! On the way back to Dubai, I snapped a few pictures of the mountains and at one location I had inadvertantly photographed a small portion of a UAE Army barracks nearby where I was standing. Oops!! A soldier came out of nowhere in a jeep and took my little camera and ordered us to follow him. At the base camp, he handed my camera to his commanding officer who scanned thru the pictures and then ordered me to delete two (2) of the pictures I had stored in the camera memory. Fortunately, that was all! We then shook hands, he handed me two pieces of fruit and I was outta there, car tires spinning in the desert sand as we drove off!

The next day (Friday, January 22) I departed from the ultra-modern Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. The Emirates Business Class is so huge they have a directory of the various sections of the lounge!! I boarded Emirates 857 to Kuwait for an on-time departure!!


The Burj Khalifa - now the world's tallest building! I wanted to go to the 124th floor observation deck but the hotel concierge informed me there might be up to a 2 hour wait in line to get tickets and that the ticket price ranged from 200 to 400 Dirhams .... depending upon the length of the que!

Some scenic mountains along the road to the Omani border.

Where we had lunch ....

A view of the pool area at the Hatta Fort Hotel.

Who knows what this building is for but it sure looks nice ....
Reply to Comments:
Al: Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Using my rule-of-thumb which states a person needs one day for every hour of time shifting, I am already caught up from my jet lag (9 hours between Houston and Kuwait time)! Now it's time for "real" oilfield work!! And YOU know better than anyone what that entails!
Thumbprint: Yes, Saudi may be sometime be viewed as "boring" but for those of us expats lucky enough to work with Saudi Aramco (or I suppose some of the other major companies within the Kingdom), there are enough unusual everday events that make for an interesting life and for many memories to reflect back upon in our later years. At least that is my opinion. Glad you like my postings. Many thanks for your recent comment! I just hope I can reach out to more followers like you who take the time to leave comments!
Hindsfeet: Many thanks for your recent comments as well. I just haven't had the time to properly express my thanks to you and to all my other followers who make time for leaving a comment or two. That lets me know I am at least managing to reach out to a few dedicated followers out there in the blogosphere.
Ron: In reply to the comment you left a few days ago (regarding my Doha posting), Doha is a lot smaller than Dubai, less frenetic - probably a lot like Dubai WAS many years ago. However, given all the construction cranes, I'd say it won't be long before Doha becomes like Dubai. I am frankly surprised that the pace of construction has not slowed despite the woldwide recession!!
Ryan Schellenberg: Glad you liked my pictures from Doha. I only wish I can go there again soon! A truly unique place to visit!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


My first visit to The Kingdom was way back in December, 1979 so I am considering this trip as the thirtieth anniversary of that first trip to Saudi Arabia. As always, I value my visits here since I can renew my contacts with the many colleagues who work for Saudi Aramco (formerly the Arabian American Oil Company or simply ARAMCO). And that trip in 1979 was my first international trip in service to the company for whom I still work after all these 32 years. And it was here, in Saudi Arabia, where I was first "bitten" by the bug for wanting to do an overseas assignment. However, it took me about 20 years to finally get up the nerve to actually get an overseas posting (which I did in 1998 - 2003)! Looking back, those years overseas were some of the best years of my 32+ year carreer as a "traveling chemist". The only problem with this visit is that it was so short! I arrived over the causeway from Bahrain at Steineke Hall (the primary residence for visitors) at about 11 am. I had 15 mnutes to unpack and then it was off to the room where I gave my 45 minute lecture. Surprisingly, this turned out to be the BEST opportunity for me to present my topic as there were over 120 people in attendance! Puuuurfect!! Enjoy the limited pictures. Note: it's darn tough to take photos in Saudi Arabia so I limited my picture taking impulses and thus have only a few pictures to share:

The several mile long causeway connecting the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. It took 80 minutes to transit from Bahrain to Dhahran. This included a 20-minute stop at the Saudi border to have my picture taken and then get fingerprinted by the immigration authorities. FYI: you need to get a Saudi visa before departing your home country. NO visas are issued on arrival as was the case in Qatar.

Steineke Hall - THE place to rest your head overnight! Anyone who has ever been to Dhahran knows this place inside and out!!! Plain and simple rooms ... most acceptable.

The main dining hall in Dhahran. Good food at very reasonable cost! And a great way to meet fellow workers at meal time!

Some desert scenery in the Dhahran camp.

Saudi Aramco: The largest employer within the country. And a great company to work for if you have the technical skills to offer the company.

Sadly, my visit to The Kingdom was way too short. I departed Tuesday afternoon from the fairly new Dammam airport. (The original Dhahran airport has long since closed and is now exclusively used by the Saudi Air Force.) The Dammam airpot resembles a huge warehouse and is grossly underutilized and poorly managed facility (and that is also the opinion of a Saudi colleague!!). At least my flight on Saudi Arabian Airlines to Dubai took off on the dot and landed in Dubai exactly on time!
NEXT POST: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Doha, Qatar - More Pictures

Before leaving Doha, I managed to take a city tour (lasting only 3.5 hours) and would like to share these pictures. What really impressed me a lot about Doha is the diverse and unusual architecture scattered throughout this fine city! Have a look at some of the more strange looking buildings ... along with a few other pictures.

These residences are actually called the "Zig Zag Buildings"!

Two rather strange looking buildings ....

This building looks like a bullet. My friend says it resembles something else ... I won't say what!

Almost to be completed, at the top of this structure will be a torch and a swimming pool!! (That's what the tour guide said!)

A falcon - taken at the (what else) falcon market!

The vegetable market ........
And the camel market .........

Another odd-ball object d'art along the road side .....

A most pleasant skyline indeed!

On Sunday (January 17th) I made the first of what will be a total of three lectures for this particular lecture tour. I gave my talk in front of 25 people that evening.
The next morning - no rest for the weary - I got up at 4:45 am and checked out of my hotel at 5:30 am and headed to the Doha Airport. I checked in to my flight to Bahrain which took off at 8:25 am and arrived in Manama at 8:50 am (exactly on time!). I cleared immigration (30 min. wait) and collected my luggage and met my driver and we proceeded over the King Fahad Causeway into the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
NEXT POST: The road to Saudi Arabia and my visit to Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Friday, January 15, 2010


>> Photo: Doha City Skyline at Sunset.

Photo: One of my favorite buildings in Doha! No clue what it is; it just looks nice - and golden!!

My first visit to Qatar! I flew on Qatar Airways non-stop from Houston Wednesday evening and after 13 hours and 38 minutes of flying, I arrived into Doha Thursday evening (9 hours ahead of US Central time). Since I was in Business Class, I managed to get onto the "Fast Track" through immigration and visa issuance where the line was "only"' 30 minutes. The line for immigration for economy class passengers, however, was humongous!! With my visa in hand, I fetched my suitcase, located my driver, and I was off to the hotel (for a 25 minute ride).

I checked into the Intercontinental Doha Hotel and crashed into bed! Enough travel --- now it's time for rest!

Today - Friday - will be a day of rest for me. Since I cannot sleep on long haul flights [as I have explained many times in prior postings] I am virtually a 'basket case' after an overnight flight and I need a day at least to recover from the severe effects of both sleeplessness and jet lag. Hence today's agenda has me going to the mall in the afternoon where I plan on doing the Starbucks thing, followed by some window shopping, etc., and then return to the hotel. Tomorrow I plan on taking a city tour to orient myself with the city of Doha. FYI: there are about 1.4 million residents in Qatar of which reportedly there are about 425,000 Qatari nationals and the remainder are expatriates.

Anyway, some photographic evidence to introduce my followers to Qatar. Hopefully, more pictures shall follow.

My hotel here in Doha ....

Some most unusal looking buildings in the distance. I shall try to get to a better vantage point from which to photograph these buildings close up and post that picture here later ....

A new, fancy, upscale hotel under construciton right in front of the Intercontinental Hotel (the driver said this would be a Ritz Carlton).

Samples of Qatari currency .... I believe you will agree the notes are quite colorful! (Approximately 3.64 Qatari Riyals equals $1.00 USD.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: Happy New Year!

Just a brief note to wish everyone a Happy New Year in 2010. May this new year be better than the last! And to all you fellow travelers out there - may you all have safe and (hopefully) enjoyable trips to many new places.

As for me, I started 2010 off with a trip to Discovery Green (downtown Houston). The winds were low enough for the "AeroBalloon" to go aloft. A local temporary hiring firm is sponsoring the rides in the balloon from December to February 28, 2010. I paid my $20 USD (YIKES!) and boarded along with three other passengers.

The helium-filled balloon reached an altitude that was reported to be equivalent to about 35 stories. (The experience remined me of the recent animated movie "UP"!)

The view from above looking down on the launching pad.

All that holds us from blowing away is a 1" stainless steel cable!!

A view of the Minute Maid sports stadium (on the east side of downtown Houston).

A view of the ice skating rink from above. We remained aloft for only 5 minutes (ca. $4/minute!!). After a way too short time aloft, they reeled in the cable and pulled us down.

Before leaving Discovery Green, I took in the park's current art exhibit which featured dozens of globes, each one focusing on a particular aspect of the environment.

Several globes all lined up in a neat row.

Some nearby buildings made for a rather picturesque Houston skyline!