Saturday, June 19, 2010

Next Stop - Saudi Arabia

On Thursday (June 17), I flew Gulf Air 214 from Kuwait to Bahrain. Thankfully my flight arrived in Manama right on time at 12:15 pm. I collected my luggage, cleared customs and then met my driver and we were off to the King Fahad Causeway which connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. At the Saudi border, I was fingerprinted and photographed and then cleared Saudi customs after which time we continued on our way into Dhahran. It took exactly one hour and twelve minutes to get to my destination where I checked into Steineke Hall - the main guest residence facility here in the Saudi Aramco camp.

One of the highlights of my 5-day visit was a trip to Udhailiyah - a work/residence camp that Saudi Aramco maintains in the southern area of Saudi Arabia.

Along the way to Udhailiyah, I spotted several interesting rock formations called jebels. Basically these are areas of soft rock worn away by continual sandblasting by the blowing sand.

Again, these are all made from soft rock and hence these shapes shift from time to time.

Meanwhile, back in Dhahran, headquarters to the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco as it is commonly called, the above home shows how the family residences in Dhahran look. This particular home once housed one of the more famous engineers who worked with me during the many trips I took to the Kingdom between 1989 and 1995.

The Dhahran residential area is like a slice of middle-America transplanted to the desert here in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. I may have alreday said this in a prior posting but I'll say it again - Saudi Aramco can be a great place to work if you don't mind being in the Middle East and if you possess the technical skills needed.

As we left the Bahrain Airport and headed into Saudi Arabia, we made our way through traffic in downtown Manama (the capital of Bahrain) and passed the new World Trade Center building complex (right next to the old Sheraton Hotel).

Another unusual looking building (next to the World Trade Center).

A poster along the highway shows the current monarch, the King of Bahrain.
I bid a fond farewell to Kuwait last Thursday (June 17) as my driver took me along Highway 40 towards the Kuwait International Airport. I hope to return sometime later this year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Second Weekend in Kuwait (June 11 & 12)

My weekend started with a refreshing swim in the Arabian Gulf where the water temps are around 30 deg C this time of year. This water may seem warm at first but in comparison to the daytime air temperatures of 50 deg C (122 deg F!!!), a dip in the Gulf is GREAT! A far cry from the ultra-chilly beach water in Northern California! Then my driver picked me up at 9 am and we drove to Salmiyah. Along the way on Highway 30, we passed an unusual looking building (pictured above).

The Marina Mall - opened in 2002. A great place to shop and hang out in. My favorite place is the Starbucks where I can sit and sip my decaf Americano (1 KD = $3.45 USD) and watch the people go by.

The Sultan Center (this store is located in Salmiyah) - the expat's favorite grocery store in Kuwait. They have all the familiar items available in America, albeit at 2 - 3 times the price back home.

If you ever get to thinking that your job "sucks", well, have I got a job for you! Every week, these guys show up in back of my apartment with their truck and literally suck out the contents of the cess pool (basically, a week's load of toilet flushings).

So what's in the 'cess pool' you ask? Just stand nearby and you'll recognize the odor!!! As we would say when we were kids, "Pee-U"!!

Last, but not least, when I stayed in the bachelor apartments last year, I regularly fed several kitties my food leftovers. It appears that these cats are still living in the area because they come to my apartment each and every morning and evening looking for more handouts!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

First Weekend in Kuwait: June 4 & 5

What can I say, my itinerary is often dictated by my stomach! The high point of this past Friday (June 4th) was lunch at Riccardo's, the Italian restaurant located on the first floor of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Kuwait City.
And the meal I had was hammour - an excellent white fish caught locally in the Arabian Gulf. (Cost: 16.8 KD = $58 USD)

The hallway by the front desk at the Sheraton is quite ornate and beckons all guests, welcoming them in from the 110+ deg F (43 deg C) heat outside.

An unusual looking building in downtown Kuwait City. Not sure what this building is for.

Sorry to bore you with this seemingly trivial detail but one of the chores I have to run along with any run into the city is my weekly stocking up of groceries. I bring along an ice chest (and ICE) to protect and preserve my food from the blistering heat inside the car's trunk (or 'boot' as the Brits might say). Today's haul cost me 21.38 KD or about $74 USD (60 Euros).

Some good news to report!! I have been informed that our local Al Zour Starbucks may be opening up in a week or so. The Starbucks located along Highway 40 near the Al Zour turnoff was closed down by the Kuwaiti authorities over one year ago because the owner apparently had no official license. Or so the story goes. I just hope they open this Starbucks real soon!! Dozens of us expats will be pleased!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Return to KUWAIT; Summer Sunshine

Photo: A reflection of my plane taxiing towards the
main runway at Frankfurt Airport

I boarded LH 636 at 3:40 pm local time on June 1 and it was wheels up at precisely 4:30 pm. We landed in Kuwait at 10:23 pm Kuwait time (one hour ahead of Frankfurt) - almost 5 hours flying time. Outside temperature = 39 deg C (102 deg F)!! After a one hour drive to my company's camp, I arrived at my local residence at 12:10 am - extremely tired (one of the down sides to international travel!!).

A map on board my flight showing the route we took to Kuwait.

My last legal drink prior to arriving in Kuwait (Kuwait is officially a "dry" country): a South African white wine. Very nice.
After a few days of work and getting caught up on my jet lag, I will endeavor to make more postings from over here. Stay tuned .... and please keep those comments coming!