Allow Me to Introduce You to ...

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 friends:

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.

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