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'Blog' for the Year 2017

During the first year in Saudi Arabia - 2017 - I was very much occupied by getting the basic things 'on track' at work, such that I was working for most of the weeks in the range of 70 - 80 hrs (which was nothing unusual, considering my earlier engagements). Nevertheless, it was 'hell of an effort' (I'm also getting older ...), but we had achived a lot during this year and it was very appreciated by my local team.

Consequently my private life suffered a bit and the term 'spare time' did not existed anymore in my vocabulary. Only after October things were getting a little bit better, also in terms that I was able to spend most of my weekends in Bahrain - still typically working for at least one day of the weekend, but that was already an improvement compared to the first 6 months of this year.

Consequently, there was also not that much to write about in the blog of this year ...

December 2017 - Saudi Arabia allows Cinemas

As the last change in terms of Opening-Up the society, the Saudi Government has founded a Public Authority to establish cinemas in the country ( which have been prohibited since 1979 after the so-called 'Grand Mosque Seizure' ).

Below some statistical data regarding the local market for Cinemas :

1 SR = 0.25 USD

November 2017 - Visiting 'Almarai'

In the context of the 'Swiss Business Network Saudi Arabia', we had the opportunity to visit a farm of 'Almarai' as well as two production facilities.

More to follow ...

Disabled Parking, 'Seef Mall', Bahrain

October 2017 - Being Handicapped in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

Due to the disabilities from my earlier motorcycle accident, I also have a Disabled Parking Card here in Saudi Arabia, and even a Discount Card for domestic airline tickets with 'Saudia', the national airline of Saudi Arabia.

At cultural events or similar, the parking is always very extensive and therefore walking around can become an unpleasant aspect of such a visit. But the security staff is always very helpful and accommodating, such that I can typically park directly next to the entrance. Also all Shopping Malls would have some Disabled Parking, which is respected to a different degree. At the 'Seef Mall' in Bahrain they have chosen a positive and constructive approach to deal with that ...

September 2017 - Women driving in Saudi Arabia

The term of a 'disruptive change' has become a new meaning ...

With the royal decree issued by the Saudi King Salman, woman in Saudi Arabia are - finally - allowed to drive.

Over the last months a lot of small things have changed in Saudi Arabia in favor of the women  and their wish to play a stronger role in society & economy, and to be able to become more independent from their 'guardians' ( father, brother, husband, ... ).

The drastic decline in oil prices and the consequential economic crisis is forcing Saudi Arabia to build-up new economic sectors, and at the same time they can no longer afford to 'waste' half of their workforce by limiting the women to work - either directly or indirectly by confining them at their homes.

Local Poll published in early October 2017

Consequently this change is also supported by the majority of the Saudi people, even as there are also some concerns about the implications on the traffic ( much more cars, women not yet being familiar with the typical, rather aggressive driving style ) ...

End of August 2017 - Hajj

Once per Year there are the Eid al Adha holidays, which are the highest religious holidays in Islam. It is also the time the Muslims perform the Hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca, which each capable Muslim should do once during his life. For Saudi Arabia it is a huge annual logistical challenge as during these few days 2.4 million Muslims ( with the large majority coming from abroad ) traveled to Mecca to perform Hajj. Also a few of my employees performed Hajj this year, which they have described as a rather arduous journey.

Early August 2017 - some more Stories in the Employee Magazine of ABB Switzerland

When it was announced that I would leave ABB Switzerland to take up a new role in Saudi Arabia, most people did not understand why I was doing that, but at the same type they were also fascinated by someone going to this 'strange place'.

Article about my stay in Saudi Arabia (in German)
ABB CH 02-2017 - ueber Saudi Arabien.pdf (293.57KB)
Article about my stay in Saudi Arabia (in German)
ABB CH 02-2017 - ueber Saudi Arabien.pdf (293.57KB)

And obviously, I was asked whether I would be willing to write an article for the Employee Magazine of ABB Switzerland about my experiences of living in Saudi Arabia.

Late July 2017 - another local Wedding Party

In the case of the Wedding Party in March, it was one of my employees, who had invited me. It was a Palestinian Wedding, which was celebrated in kind of a quite exuberant atmosphere.

This time, it was the cousin of one of my employees who got married. The majority of the guests were descendants of the former Yemenite royal family, as well as direct descendants of Mohammed (pbum).

Consequently, the entire event had a slightly more formal touch and was always well-mannered.

Early July 2017 - Summer has started !

Over that last months everyone had told some stories about how hot it will become during the summer and why everyone, who has the opportunity, is leaving the country for July and August. When I arrived here in Saudi in late August 2016 it was pretty hot, like standing too close to a furnace or so, but it was not bad. And also in June and the beginning of July this year it was similar. Yes, it was going up to 50°C, but the heat I had experienced in India in 2007 and 2008 was worse, because of the humidity. But here, it was still pretty OK ...

Heat Index

... until two days ago. The temperature is now 'only' around 45°C, but the humidity has reached a level of 70%, which translates into a Heat-Index in an area, which is no longer covered in related graphs, because it is considered to be too dangerous. Theoretically, it would feel as being around 100°C according the corresponding formulas.

As a result people are working outside only in the [ early ] morning, and later on in the afternoon and evening. In Saudi Arabia it is even legally prohibited to work outside between 12:00 and 15:00 from mid-June until mid-September.

June 2017 - Ramadan & Eid al Fitr

After six additional very intensive months in terms of work, finally I find some time to write a short update. The holy month of Ramadan is somewhat special, because the life becomes a different rhythms. But even as people worked in Saudi only for 6 hrs per day due to the fasting, it was - except for the last week - not less busy. During Ramadan Muslims are no allowed to eat, drink and smoke from sunrise to sunset. Not eating and not drinking was not that difficult for most, but not smoking was tough for many of them. Approx. at 18:30 was Iftar, the 'break fast', such that everyone rushed home latest by 18:00, and consequently the streets were pretty empty after 18:30. Most restaurants offer special Iftar meals, which is typically kind of an extensive buffet dinner, where people meet with family and friends.

The Eid al Fitr holidays, which come directly at the end of Ramadan allowed me to take a few days - more or less - off, which I spent in Bahrain. So far, I only managed to go for one or two weekends per month to Bahrain, because the workload required that I was working on the weekend as well. And that is simply easier when being alone in Dammam, without that much of options, than being with Susanne in Bahrain with plenty of opportunities to spend the time in a nice way.

May 2017 - the Time of Sandstorms has started

My car after a small sandstorm

From mid-April to mid-June is typically the time of sandstorms. In case of a heavy storm, things get literally sandblasted, which may also cause considerable damage on exposed surfaces. E.g. the headlights of a car may get blinded / one can always see some cars on the streets, which have been exposed correspondingly. But so far, the season has been pretty 'disappointing', because I was not yet able to experience a heavy sandstorm. We had a few, but they were typically over after an hour or two, and they were more like some strong winds, but not what I would consider a 'real storm', like other storms I had experienced in other regions.

Wedding Ahmed

March 2017 - a local Wedding Party

Wedding celebrations always give some good and revealing insights into the respective culture. Here in Saudi Arabia the men and women celebrate in two different parties. They take place in the same Wedding Hall, but are fully separated. Only the Groom will be able to meet with his wife at the final stage of the party.

Mid January 2017 - Move to our Apartment on Reef Island

Reef Island, Bahrain

During the last weeks, Susanne was looking for a suitable apartment in Bahrain and at the end we decided to go for a nice mid-sized 3 Bedroom apartment on Reef Island.