The last few months my life has changed in many ways, I took the step to move the Middle East. Or to be more exact Saudi Arabia. I had the good fortune many years ago, to work for a company in the optical disc industry, some of you will remember those round pieces of aluminium coated plastic full of digital music. You audiophiles will beg to differ. LP is better. One fine summer morning we got a sales tip about a client in Saudi Arabia. In 2005 it was not the flavour of the month and there were no volunteers to be had from the sales department they all but disappeared or had full schedules. Emptying the sales room was almost instant. I made the choice and put my hand up and ended making a trip to Bahrain to see what it was all about, I was not working in the sales department back then but Salvatore gave me the nod to go.Now you need visa and visas are just like the card in your wallet, they are often hard to come by when you need them most. Your client has money to spend and you cannot meet them on their home turf so Bahrain was a good option for them. My name is Sven and I come from Sweden “You know” No I am from the UK well with a name like Clarke what else. Why do we volunteer for some jobs and not others? After living in Sweden for so many years a little sun is worth a lot of trouble, just for those few hours to feel the sun burn my pale white English skin I will do almost anything. I travelled to Bahrain courteous of my favourite airline, British Airways via Stockholm, yes, it’s the long way around and the air miles are better not to mention cheaper than SAS by 700 Euro. The talent on BA was better back then so another reason to travel with them.
First day up early a little nervous and hung around and ate a hearty breakfast at the hotel, everything prepared in triplicate, 1200 no client, 1300 no client, 1500 arrived. It’s the causeway. Yes, that road that connects the two countries together, or is it dividing them? Crossing is a pain no matter what direction you travel so many places to stop and get checked for almost everything. Nowadays there is an app so you can check journey times. Be patient inshallah you often hear the locals say. Speed is King or does it make us just die faster? After a recent return trip to Bahrain from Saudi I have sort of got used to waiting and being delayed. Something I was never good at patience, but you learn as you get older, I suppose.
I like technology and every time I see something I often think we could do that better in some way. Many of you have gone through the process of going to the USA, photos, fingerprints you name it. Not much different in Saudi when getting a visa or entering the country for the first time. Why not use ANPR and fingerprinting to speed up the queue. No, its good old fashioned customs and border control and customs that is successful in keeping vast quantities of drugs off the streets. Top job is all I can say.
Well this was my first visit to the region in 2005 and now I find myself living here working for the company I met way back then. So, what are you doing in Saudi? is it safe? Yes, it is safe. No alcohol means fewer problems for everyone but being so close to Bahrain can lead to temptation to cross the border to see my old friend called, ice-cold Alex. Traffic safety. Yes, we have a problem and a friend told me drivers are like camels they can be anywhere so keep your eyes open. You’re not kidding. Crossing the road can be a challenge and may be the last one you undertake in the Kingdom. The biggest threat in Saudi is driving. I was in hospital on Christmas day making a film about traffic safety or I was part of it. I only found out the day before. Leslie by the way were doing this film and here are your lines. Gulp. Two days of filming and what a laugh it was. A trip to the desert, we even managed to get an elephant into our car. I am hoping that the film is finished soon. This is just one of the many hats I am currently wearing. I want to save lives and make a difference, inshallah.