It is only when you travel a lot that you realise how small the world is, and when Martin moved to live and work on the Dhahran air base for British Aircraft Corporation (BAC, later to become BAE) in the English Language Wing, he did not at first think there was any likelihood of a sporting and social side to life in Saudi. That was until he caught sight of Bill Flynn (Part 4) driving to the base from Al-Khobar town. They had known each other in Uganda.
The ferry arrives at Dublin docks in the dark and rain. The ferry docks and we bump down the ramp onto Irish soil. It's lashing with rain and it's windy. We wonder why we left sunny Saudi for this.
With the northern hemisphere shivering in the wintry February weather, what could be more appealing than to travel eight thousand miles from Europe to shiver in an Antarctic summer? This is what we decided to do in February 2022.
I arrived in Saudi in the second half of 1973 and initially lived in a flat in Al-Khobar until our compound was ready nearby. I can’t remember how I first came into contact with the rugby but my wife, Joy, tells me that Bruce Drowley and family lived in the same block of flats.
After the two-hour delay in exiting the train, we leave Folkstone on the M20 motorway to London. As both we and the Discovery Land Rover need fuel, we pull into a motorway service area and grab a meal at a very busy ‘Little Chief’ motorway restaurant. The Discovery gets filled up with forty-eight liters of diesel at a cost of 32 pounds.
The Dhahran Chess Club’s 2022 Annual General Meeting and Dinner event was held recently at Salat Al-Khalij in Aramco’s Dhahran community. The occasion celebrated the club’s 50th year of service to the community and members’ recent achievements. The full room of club members and their families was testament to the club’s resilience over recent years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, ably and enthusiastically curated by the club’s Board members.
The 8th UK Aramcons Reunion will be held on June 8th-11th, 2023 at Leonardo Royal Hotel Southampton Grand Harbour.
Since moving to Washington, D.C. a few months ago, I have been browsing different grocery stores. While mega-chain brands like Whole Foods and Target are commonplace no matter where you go, I hold a special place in my heart for local stores that operate as the underdog in the community.
In France, we are now on the E-25/N-205 to Les-Houches. We stop just across the border for lunch at a trucker café serving great, simple food with as much bread as you can eat and as much wine as you can drink included in the base price. Full and slightly drunk, we fill the Disco (Land Rover Discovery) with diesel and take the toll road, A-40/E-25 towards Geneva.
Contrary to John Kates's thoughts that his inaugural Ball might have been the first and last to be held, a May Ball was held every year until 1984. Following a similar pattern each year, members were required to don formal dress, listen to speeches, dance to a band, take part in raffles, eat delicious food, and have a good time.
2022 has been an eventful year in financial markets. To cool inflation currently running at multidecade highs, the Federal reserve has enacted a series of short-term interest rate hikes, raising rates from 0.25% in March to the range of 3.75%-4% as of November. With rising interest rates impacting borrowing costs and, as a result, potentially impacting consumer demand and corporate revenue, stock markets have fallen year to date.
The following morning, after another excellent breakfast, we collect the Land Rover Discovery, pay the parking fee, settle the hotel bill, load our bags and drive down the road at the start of a bright and sunny day. We join the A-1/A-12 and head northwest along a smooth, wide, toll road, with police checks about every three kilometers, which keeps us honest and careful of our speed.
The pleasures of the holiday season, as celebrated in Aramco camps throughout the 1950s, are depicted here in photographs from the Arabian Sun & Flare.
Tourism is rebounding strongly from the pandemic and no place is this more apparent than in the Middle East, where the surge in tourism is simply profound. Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is emerging as a serious contender to GCC countries as Vision 2030 is delivering on its plans for the economy’s future.
At noon on Tuesday, December 16th, with 12,543 km on the Land Rover Discovery, we arrive in Italy. As expected, because of the late departure, we have arrived later than scheduled and are further delayed by the customs people, who are slowly checking the unloading of trucks from the ferry.
I was a co-founder of the Dhahran Rugby Club in 1971 (I think) together with Peter Phillips who went on to also found a club in Salalah in Oman. He and I drove people working on the Dhahran Airbase as teachers, aircraft maintenance guys or the TTI, who wanted to play to the Aramco softball ground and kind of played without any posts. I think we might have even played a Royal Navy ship once.
The game of Rugby Football has been played in Saudi Arabia since 1970 when some enthusiastic players of the Airworks company met to throw a rugby ball around amongst themselves. This official version is an amalgam of the prefaces for the 1978 Gulf Rugby Union Chairman’s Invitational and the 1979 Thailand Tour and has been updated with some statistics.
We drive up to the Greek border crossing and show the customs people our international insurance and our European passports, as I have transformed myself from Canadian to British. These documents are received well and there is no hassle and no problem, making this the easiest crossing so far.
The next day was declared to be a definite “no driving day” and the Discovery Land Rover keys are stashed away. Breakfast was grabbed at the hotel before walking to the ‘Misir Carsis’ or Egyptian Bazaar, a busy and exciting place even in the rain. It is packed with all sorts of folks in many different dress codes and skin tones all yelling and pulling and pointing at the stuff packed into the bazaar.
In our modern high tech lives, with instant access to global news, email, and Google Maps, how often do we think about the nomads in our world who live as they did in earlier times, without any of these modern conveniences? Who are they? Where do they live?