Bus as Social Institution: Vignette from Life in the Camel Lane

In Al-Hasa, a town about two hours from Dhahran, there was a remote clinic operated by Aramco and staffed with a multinational workforce. The closest camp to Al-Hasa was an Aramco-sponsored compound called Udhailiyah, where many ExPats lived and worked. Michelle lived in Udhailiyah and worked in the clinic in Al-Hasa. Company buses would drive through the villages and collect Saudi employees then deliver them to work. The bus drivers were typically Filipinos who were reliable and congenial. The buses would drive circular routes several times each day.

The Aramco bus became a social networking system for some local Saudi women. Each day villagers would pack a picnic, board the bus, go to the clinic and basically hang out all day long. This was their social outing for the day. The buses and clinic actually facilitated village social life. Most of these gals were fully veiled wearing hot, stuffy abayas. Entertainment consisted of visiting with their friends and watching all the patient and staff comings and goings. They appreciated the free transportation, clean running water and air-conditioning. Lunch consisted of flasks full of hot tea or Arabic coffee, bread and cookies.

One day the most popular socialite from the community was missing. Michelle noticed this woman’s absence and questioned the regular Filipino bus driver as to her whereabouts. He replied, “Oh, she is sick today; therefore, she won’t be coming to the clinic.” They laughed together at the irony of it all.

Arrivals: Vignette from Life in the Camel Lane

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About the Author

Doreen Cumberford

A native of Scotland, Doreen Cumberford worked for the British Government in London and Cameroon in the mid-1970s, then an American corporation in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates immediately after. She has been an entrepreneur, coach, writer and speaker while traveling these last four decades.

Doreen has lived in seven countries on four continents, including the Middle East for 18 years. Doreen coaches, speaks and writes about using travel as a tool for transformation, together with the necessary mindset to process international transitions and constant travel with ease and grace.

Life in the Camel Lane, part memoir part primer, reveals stories from her time in Saudi Arabia, and is her 2nd book.