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Scenes from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

shisha menu, originally uploaded by Dreadfully Unserious.

Shisha is seriour business it seems, although I DETEST the stuff even when I used to smoke, in Jeddah they now have really swanky menus for the muck.

Last time I was in Jeddah and had shisha with friends at the corniche, I was sick afterwards for a week!

Nevertheless, let me introduce you to Dreadfully Unserious, a delicious photographer of mundane life in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She makes you want to visit, regardless of what you view Saudi Arabia as.

Hat tip to The Drama of Living for uncovering this gem!


Vlog: Downtown Toronto and the rain

It was a wonderful weekend, I think it was a Sunday with music and variou activities at Dundas and Yonge, opposite the Eaton Center.

Hanan and Amna had henna tattoos done, while the boys enjoyed themselves listening to the live band and running around the place.

What started off in fantastic weather, ended up in a freakish torrential downpour at the end of the day, which made us grab the first taxi that came our way to get to the car part to drive back and pick the rest up!

Good day nevertheless…


Vlog: Visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario

This visit happened early on in our stay in Toronto. It was on July 5th. The girls dissapeared by themselves while Frances, Arif and myself went through the exhibit. Arif enjoyed the Henry Moore sculptures.

There was a fantastic exhibition by Turner, Monet and Whistler, sadly they did not allow me to shoot video or pictures in that exhibit. They also barred me from shooting video anywhere inside the exhibit, hence you will see just the snapshot stills I have taken through the Henry Moore exhibit, and other places inside and outside the AGO.


Dubai… and three little blue pills

I’m back! But I almost didn’t go. The Dubai 8th International Airspace Show was on at the same time. Because of that, every single room seemed to have been booked way in advance so when I wanted to reserve a room last week there was no chance. The only room we found was at the Ritz Carlton and they wanted DH3,300 + 20% per night (that comes to about $1.047) which is excessive to say the least so I canceled the trip. However Pinnacle pulled some white rabbit out of their hat and got me a room and paid for it too! So thank you very much Pinnacle for that. The trip was back on.

Three hectic days of ‘death by PowerPoint’. Thank you Microsoft for creating this gem. If anything is going to guarantee Bill Gates a ticket straight to hell it’s business people all over the world cursing him for creating such a monster. You cannot have a business meeting without hundreds of gawky PowerPoint slides. I’m luckier than most I guess because the companies I represent all are ‘media’ companies, so they do try to spice up the presentations. But the engineering presentations still suck as they are dull. All engineers are the same I guess: facts, tables, charts with no interest whatsoever to spice up their dreary pages, however Jon at Pinnacle did a really good job with some animated product panels opening and closing!

Any way. I survived and managed to get good info about the new Pinnacle Systems products. Very interesting. Now it’s time to convert those three days into sales. Grrrr.

The most important thing about all of these dealer meetings though is not so much the new information on products, it is the re-establishing relationships, associating names with faces, handshakes, pats on the back, show a bigger carrot or a longer stick to ‘make the numbers’ for the next quarter or year.

I didn’t have a chance to visit my sister who now lives in Sharjah, just a short drive from Dubai and didn’t have a chance either to visit some of my friends. But we did have nice dinners and went to a couple of pubs etc to dull the pain of PowerPoints for that day and of course to be in a better frame of mind for the next day! That was fun.

My normal thing when I get to my room is to immediately unpack and put whatever extra cash, passport, excess plastic cards etc in the room safe. Most hotels now have these small safes in the wardrobe, and I did just that. Before checking out this morning, I opened the safe to get the stuff out and I suddenly noticed a very small package stuck in the very corner of the safe, under the front sill.

ViagraI never noticed it before. It looked innocent enough and as it was normal paper, I didn’t think it was much. Maybe a scribbled phone number or whatever. Was I surprised when I opened the package I found three Viagra pills! Wohoe. What do we have here? I guess the guy must have had, or planned to have a very wild time in my room… And why didn’t I look closer when I first moved into the bloody room? Just think, I almost never take slippers with me because you just assume that they clean and Hoover the carpets properly, but after seeing those pills, you never know what the hell has happened on those beds and carpets! From now on I’m NOT walking bare-foot on any hotel carpet and that’s a promise.

Now, what the hell do I do with this ‘treasure?’ Any ideas?

Tell you what, we’ll have a little competition… the pills (yes, I took them!) will go to the poster of the best and most original comment on any of the articles on! and this is NOT a joke, I swear this is true!

hmmm, let me think of a few rules:

  1. by participating into this competition you absolutely do not hold me or my host responsible for all and/or any side effects/death you might experience by using the prize (pills).
  2. you must be logged in – so if you don’t have an account yet on, please go ahead and register.
  3. we’ll think of a voting structure for the best comment, but I will personally make the decision on who wins and my decision will be final.
  4. you must be over 21 to participate.
  5. if you’re not allowed to have these pills in your country for any reason then you can’t get them.
  6. you pay for shipping/arrange for collection.
  7. if this is deemed illegal, then the competition is off and the pills get flushed down the toilet!

So you want a permanent hard-on courtesy of Pfizer? Get your mind juices flawing first!

Hehe.. have fun! 😉


Bahrain International Airport, an exercise in bottlenecks

The Bahrain International Airport is to be upgraded to handle 15 million passengers from its current 6 million annually. The upgrade will cost some $115 million. I don’t know the specific plans of this upgrade or how long it will take. However as a semi-frequent traveler I have some observations which might make using the airport easier from the traveler’s perspective.

A traveler’s first experience of Bahrain is through the airport and the first impression that might come to mind is “bottleneck”!

Consider the normal route a traveler takes through the airport from the moment he leaves the aircraft to his exit:

    1. Immediately you disembark at the air-bridge you have to navigate your way through policemen, service staff, airline ground staff, engineers, technicians and sometimes wheel-chairs awaiting their occupants. If you are unfortunate enough to be one of the last to leave the aircraft you start your navigation skills in the aircraft itself! Bottleneck.
    2. Further down the air-bridge you are normally confronted by two ground staff – who are foreign to a smile – asking passengers if they are transferring where a sign would have sufficed – bottleneck.
    3. At the exit of the air-bridge you meet yet another policeman or two.
    4. Follow the signs to the immigration area and now you are shepherded through a rope-corridor so a bored medical nurse who hopefully can determine if you are infected by SARS – at this point in time, this is an understandable bottleneck.
    5. Get in the queue to get your passport or your ID registered, stamped and get a small slip of paper with yet another stamp to give to two policemen at the end of the immigration area to let you pass to baggage claim. It is very apparent that the immigration officers are not to be trusted to carry on their job properly, so you have to give them the slip and show the actual stamp in your passport before you are allowed to descend into the baggage claim area – bottleneck.
    6. Off the ramp and yet another queue this time to x-ray your carry-on baggage! Remember that this baggage was already scanned at the point of departure, so having to do that again on arrival doesn’t make sense considering that you were in controlled and monitored areas from the minute you entered your departure airport. Bottleneck.
    7. Now before you can collect your x-rayed carry-on baggage you have to pass through a metal detector! If scanning the carry-on baggage is overlooked at the moment, why do passengers have to go through a metal detector at this stage? Bottleneck.
    8. Get to the conveyor belts, get your bags and you discover that they have been x-rayed too! You hope and pray that you don’t have chalk marks on your baggage as that will most definitely introduce more delays – hand search is required if your baggage has been marked. Let’s say that this is a valid security feature so let this pass.
    9. If you haven’t got anything to declare you now go through the green channel. At last the authorities seem to trust the passenger by now, and how could they not if every single passenger has gone through all the checks above?
    10. You exit the customs area into a penned channel! Wouldn’t just rope cordons or even a lower wall be enough here? Oh, this pen is manned by another policeman!
    11. Out of the airport you go and now you’re probably looking for transport. The only method of transport available of course is a taxi – welcome to the single most complained about feature of Bahrain… the taxis. I’ll leave the taxi subject for another post!

Let’s review the over-riding feelings a passenger goes through at Bahrain International Airport: (a) inefficiency, (b) prevalence of policemen, (c) various unnecessary bottlenecks.

Wouldn’t part of the $115 million be better spent in tackling these issues? Some even don’t require any expenditure at all, on the contrary they might even save money!

    1. Disallow anyone other than absolutely necessary staff to be at the air-bridge while passengers are disembarking.
    2. Remove all policemen from the public areas of the airport. It would be much better to depend more on installed closed-circuit television surveillance and have well equipped and trained policemen at the ready to be instantly deployed if and when needed. This will give visitors the impression that Bahrain is not a “police state.”
    3. There is absolutely no need for that stamp on the little piece of paper. The stamp in you passport should be enough. There is also no need whatsoever to have policemen overlooking the immigration staff, so remove those two policemen at the top of the ramp.
    4. Why even bother stamp Bahraini passports or ID cards? In Europe now all an ECC citizen have to do is just show his passport or id and away they go. Is it really necessary for the government to register where and when we have gone and when we came back? What’s the point? If it is security related then that surely should be the role of the police rather than immigration?
    5. Why x-ray carry-on baggage and go through a metal detector on arrival? All passengers by default were sequestered in a controlled environments before boarding a hermetically sealed plane! What could this possibly be for? Security? Smuggling of contraband? Aren’t the customs officials adequately trained to recognize people in question? Should 99.9% of passengers be penalised for the actions of the very small percentage who may be known criminals?

Maybe it is high time for the airport authorities to really have a look at these procedures which in the minds of the vast majority of travelers are unneeded, unnecessary and just contribute to the feelings that they have come to a country that simply does not trust anyone and where everyone is under suspicion.

The very necessary thing that the airport authorities should invest in other than bricks and mortar is a well considered customer appreciation training sessions for every single member of staff – governmental or otherwise, because for all the years that I have personally used Bahrain International Airport, I can count the number of times I saw a smile on an official’s face!