Before departing on my first three-week tour of the Arabian
Peninsula (January 22 - February 10, 2009), I had expected
to return home with stories of the places I had visited, the
adventures I had had, and the new culture I had experienced.
What has surprised me and those I have regaled with my tales
of the East, is that most of my stories are not about the
desert or sea, but about the people I met. They were from
around the world and each had a personal story to share, and
now I would like to introduce you to a few of my new
Fouard from Syria
Our desert tour guide, Fouard, was an expert in maneuvering
his SUV over and around the sand dunes. Born in Syria, but
raised in Nigeria, Fouard's family relocated to Abu Dhabi,
UAE, in the 1970s. When he was 28 years old, Fouard's
mother, father, and youngest sister, all tragically died in
a car accident on the highway to Dubai. Left to take care of
his two brothers, Fouard began his 20+ year career as a
desert guide. Fouard's passion for driving expands beyond
the desert: every year he returns to Nigeria for a week
long, 6,000-Km (3,728-mile) car race though the rainforest
and vast plains of his African home.
Mitch from South Africa
Extremely witty and generous with her time. Mitch is the
head of nurse recruitment at the King Faisal Specialist
Hospital in Jeddah. An avid diver, Mitch is passionate about
the Red Sea and all of its natural beauty. Having lived in
the climates of Africa and Saudi Arabia, where summer
temperatures can reach up to 50 °C (122°F), she could not
believe that we Canadians wanted to go into the Red Sea in
"winter". We quickly reminded her that the current
temperature in Canada was a shivering -30°C (-22°F).
Dimitri from Greece
Not seeming to mind that I was stepping on his toes, Dimitri
taught me the basics of Salsa dancing during our visit to
the expat Salsa Group in Riyadh. Currently working for the
Greek embassy, Dimitri has been in Riyadh for six months.
Andrew from the UK
The photographer for the Hash House Harriers of Riyadh,
Andrew is recently retired from the British military. He now
spends his days exploring the vast desert (including the
empty quarter) with his fully equipped Jeep, and viewing the
dunes and sunsets from behind his camera lens.
Peter from Manchester
Having recently married a Saudi physician, Peter is a new
member of the Islamic faith. He owns a production company
through which he produces and stars in a comedy about
doctors in the Kingdom. Having never been to Mecca, Peter
would like to complete his Hajj journey, but has yet to
decide if he will allow a camera crew to document his
pilgrimage. His next project will be to venture deep within
the desert to the site where meteor struck earth millions of
years ago. With a team of scientists, Peter will explore the
archeology, astronomy, and wildlife in this yet-to-be
explored area of land.
Khalid from Niger
The doorman at the Movenpick Hotel in Doha, Qatar, Khalid
spoke little English, but seemed eager to 'talk' with me
about my home country, Canada. Having relocated from his
home in Africa less that a year ago, he loves the weather in
Doha and was quick to ask me about snow.
When we receive inquiries about positions in the Middle
East, it is difficult to explain that this is much more than
a professional opportunity. In three weeks time, I was able
to meet fascinating people from every continent. Imagine the
people you will meet traveling for a year or longer. Imagine
how your own personal story will sound.