Monday, 29 December 2014

As Usual

This morning I dragged my body from the bed after four hours of broken sleep.  It was UK time and I was due to start work in two hours.  Hotel breakfasts tend to be the same the world over, although this one had more middle-eastern cooked food.  I treated myself to some beef bacon and scrambled egg washed down with two glasses of orange juice. 

As usual my local contact didn’t arrive on time which resulted in me sitting in the hotel lobby for an additional two hours.  A small voice in the back of my head kept telling me “why are your surprised” and “this is an additional two hours of sleep you could have had!”  He eventually arrived and we commenced the briefing.  It was obvious that, despite my request he had read few of the papers I’d emailed over several weeks prior.  He hadn’t even looked at the project plan and had no idea how to use Microsoft Project.  However he was all smiles and politeness.  I gently explained there was insufficient time for me to train him in the use of the software and we moved on.

By midday the worms in my stomach had turned to large vocal serpents and I was sure everyone in the hotel lobby could hear my stomach grumbling.  I invited my Egyptian colleague to join me for lunch, to which he politely declined.  Local culture requires you decline on first invitation.  I also suspect he was worried about the cost.  On pressing him and mentioning I would pay, he accepted my invitation.  We were the only two having lunch in the hotel and after looking at the bill I can understand his reluctance.  Fortunately my Saudi associates are paying.

After lunch I requested he take me to the workshop location so I could view the construction progress that had been made in the last 12 months.

Looking south

Looking north

As you can see, the major achievement over the last 12 months has been to use the site as a dumping ground.  Nothing positive has been achieved.  But then I’m not surprised. 

The Saudi’s have started constructing their new Riyadh metro underground rail system.  Much of the route requires the alignment to follow the main arterial roads through the city.  Wherever possible they are using the open trench method rather than the more expensive tunnelling option.

The main roads are five (six lanes can squeeze in by Saudi drivers) wide in each direction and they are almost always choked with traffic.

A quiet spot

The metro has reduced this to two lanes where construction is taking place.  I can understand the logic behind the construction of the metro, but the authorities are going to have a huge cultural problem trying to get the Saudi’s out of their vehicles and onto a train.  Even if the train is much quicker.  Besides, I can’t see them being prepared to walk to the nearest station.

Obviously the safe driving campaign is having an impact because there were only two accidents on the way back to the hotel.  The second occurred when the vehicle in front of us wandered out of its lane at 100km/h and the passenger side front wheel ran up the concrete barrier beside the road.  There was a shower of plastic and glass as I watched the car stagger along the road half airborne with only the driver side wheels on the road.  It was either going to roll onto its roof in front of us or fall back onto all four wheels.   Fortunately for us the latter occurred.  A case of another Saudi using his mobile phone whilst driving!  God was with him (and us) this time.

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