The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the day “September 29, 2012”

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Playing in a sandpit.

Arriving in Riyadh early in the morning is an interesting experience. This last week has been occupied with trying to get a Saudi Arabian visa to come over for the weekend to give a couple of lectures as invited to do so on ADHD. This is a complex effort to do and I am eternally grateful to Ahmed at A and M visas who guided me through the whole process, submitted the visa on monday and had it back in my hands on wednesday.

The flight is an overnight flight of 6 hours from Heathrow and landing around 6 am means the temperatures are already around 29 degrees. Driving seems interesting here. In the short term car park most cars are white and most/all are dented. The huge concrete pillars are all dented and scratched with car paint visible. The driving style resembles Stock Car racing. The lanes seem to be randomised to 3 then 2 then 4 then 3, which makes for an interesting drive. First impressions are that I am in a huge sandpit, which I am of course, in the desert. All the buildings are essentially built on sand on rock and there is a lot of building going on. A huge Hummer car passes with what looks like a mural of Gaddafi on the back. I don’t know enough about history or politics to know whether this is correct or likely, or if it is someone else. What I do know is that writing an address on an envelope must take a long time here with huge long road names mostly named after Saudi princes.

The place is a mixture of Saudi nationals in traditional headdress ( looks kind of smart to me, could be tempted) and westerners. There is little interaction other than the few undertaking business activities. My only dislike so far is that all food is served lukewarm but some of the Saudi desert pastries are delicious and I suspect highly calorific. This Marriott hotel is in many ways just like many others in UK and EU with the exception that no bar is obvious.

Reflections of Dublin

In the last 24 hours I have seen and met more strange people than in the preceding 6 months. An overnight trip to Dublin is to blame. Where to start? Well why not with a taxi driver who clearly had adult ADHD. He spoke at me the whole journey that was sadly longer than it should be due to the hideous friday evening traffic, shouted at various other cars and vans relating to perceived driving crimes against him, asked me to look at the strangest cars and have me compare some Avensis with some Passat for some reason………Impulsive, hyperactive and judging by his driving inattentive as well. Then there was the woman in my meeting who looked exactly like Margaret Thatcher, younger version around 40 years, but splitting image. Put her in Madame Tussauds and there would be no difference.

Then there was the large woman at the airport. Her waist size was over 100 inches. I noticed her because she was unable to sit in a chair without taking up 2-3 seats and I hoped vehemently that she would not be seated next to me on the plane. In fact she was a few rows ahead and spilled out at least 12 inches into the aisle and was unable to put down her armrest in the aisle.

But the food must also be mentioned. The traffic in Dublin was appalling, taking over 90 minutes to get from the airport to the city centre. But greater was my horror when I saw my proposed menu for dinner. Included were raw beef, squid, goat and rabbit. These are not foods that regularly grace my table, the cat maybe but not mine. Luckily the magic word chicken popped up and all was relieved. Thats French restaurants for you.

Overall, Dublin is not a bad city but is is very busy and seriously lacks the Irish charm that might be associated with Cork or Galway. I feel that I can say this being Irish, and anyone who doubts this can trace my family history back to and well beyond Charles Kendall Bushe who was Lord Chief Justice in Ireland in the mid-1980’s. He is written about in James Joyce novels and is described as morally perfect. Well something like that anyway, but I would say that.

Should you visit Dublin? In my view yes if you have lots of money or others are paying, but no if you want charm and to see real Ireland. Others may and do disagree. The streets were full of folks celebrating Arthur’s day, the annual celebration of Arthur Guinness. Well maybe that is a good reason to come along but bring a full wallet and watch out who your taxi driver is.

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