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.