Been a while since my last travel blog… Man have I been over busy.
I just returned from the Middle East and Europe. The trip included Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Dubai in United Arab Emirates, Amman in Jordon, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel, and several cities in Holland.
Where to begin? First, to go to Saudi, you have to get a visitors visa which was easier than I thought. For those who don’t travel with a passport, a visa is a special stamp you get from a country that requires it for you prior to entering their country. For Saudi, my client there had to send me a sponsor letter that included a complex application and some cash.
When I got my passport back from their embassy, the visa was all in Arabic so I had no idea what it actually said. I joked at the office that it said, arrest on entry to the country.. I had to take it to an Arab friend of mine to translate it for me and everything was in order. The flight was direct from Cleveland to Paris Airport where I had a 7 hour layover before my flight to Saudi on Air France.
I was surrounded by a mix of people but the flight was interesting. Next to me was Lebanese gentleman who was a guest worker in Saudi as most workers there seem to be. As it was explained to me, most Saudi nationals don’t work outside the government so each company there is sponsored by a Saudi who does not work but does get paid for his sponsorship and then the company is run by guest workers from other countries.
The other guy in my row was an effeminate young man who is from Saudi but studying in the US. He seemed fine to make comments about Saudi Arabia and its people that were at least unkind and at most dangerous to say if the wrong people heard it. He was sent to the states to study and this was his first trip home in more than 4 years. He was not the sharpest knife in the drawer and was asking questions that I did not want to answer for fear of being misunderstood by some other guy who could turn me in to authorities when I arrive.
He finally asked me the question, “so what are you going to Saudi Arabia for?” which to me seemed like a really dumb question… after all, why else would an American businessman go there… To do business…So I responded, “ What else would I be doing there?.. I am going to meet girls!” Everyone around us laughed loudly and he finally shut up. I went to use the bathroom and the guy who was sitting behind me told me that this was the funniest thing he had heard in a long time. Funny or not, he did finally shut up and I got a bit of shuteye.
I arrived, had dinner and got some sleep. The next day was interesting. The streets are filled with Saudi men and floating black sheets that I assume have women under them. My client pointed to a mosque that was next door to my hotel and told me that it was of great importance since the plaza next door is where they behead drug traffickers. 2000+ people show up to cheer the public event. I commented that if it were me, I would fight all the way to the stage and they would have to kill me before the beheading. He told me that I could not do that since they medicate the person to be beheaded first so that they can’t fight. Yes, you heard this right.. Traffic drugs, get drugged, lose head. Don’t guffaw too loudly, George Carlin used to talk about how we have lethal injection to execute our worst criminals and we wipe the arm with alcohol before we inject and kill the bum. You don’t want to sell the guy to hell with an injection site infection.
Anyhow, business went well and I was off to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is the Arab version of Las Vegas without the gambling and strippers… well at least that I could see. Who knows what happens behind closed doors. Dubai is the construction place of the world. They are finishing the tallest building in the year although they won’t yet say how tall it will be. They have a hotel that looks like a giant sail, an indoor ski hill (yes I did say that), and I saw a drawing for the first modular skyscraper that they plan to build. Each floor is independent from each other and will use the wind to turn them to create a different looking building every day.
Now, next time you fill your tank with overpriced petroleum, remember that the end effect of that purchase makes spinning buildings in the Arab world. They even built Islands in the ocean that resemble palm trees and even a map of the earth. Don’t believe me, Google Dubai and Palm tree Island or Earth Islands.
Jordon was next. Similar stories to tell with one great one. I was in the Airport waiting for my flight to Israel when a guy flicked his cigarette butt into a trash can. He went to board his flight as smoke began to rise from the can. I told a security guy who checks passports and boarding passes and pointed to the can that was smoking. He informed me that he was not a fireman. I asked if he could call someone and got the same answer.
Next to me was a Starbucks.. yes.. they have grown overseas too. I asked the guy at Starbucks for water to put out the fire and he responded that he could sell me a bottle. I was not going to buy it so I asked if he had a bucket and rag that he used to wipe the table and he said yes but he could not let me use it. He also could not go put the firs out since he was on duty selling coffee. With some coaxing and flames peaking out over the top edge of the can, I grabbed the bucket and put the fire out.
Not a single person commented on what I did or that it needed to be done. So eventually I boarded my flight and left my 2 minute career in firefighting behind me. I will leave this to the pros.. when I can find one.
Next was Israel. What an amazing place. There is too much to tell, but imagine seeing where all Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tradition began. In the US, we marvel at things as old as 300 years.. in Jerusalem, you see things that are thousands of years old. And many have pieces missing here bullets have hit it. The only way to discuss this place is to get into political and religious discussions that don’t belong in a blog on Lumberjocks.
I am posting this part now and later will continue with what happened when I left Israel and my days in Europe. Thanks for reading.
-- making sawdust....