Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve...

at the long weekend just gone, was fantastic. A great place to get away from it all (even the mobile reception was shitty, so it was even quieter) and just chill out for a few days.

Nothing to hear but the call of Fish Eagles and the wind in the trees. Nothing to do but catch trout, decide which part of the lake you're going to row next, or make up your mind whether to have a Capn'n'Coke or a 10yr old Single Malt.

In short, this was how life is supposed to be...all the time.

I'd asked my folks to join us on the weekend, partly to get them out of the house and see some different scenery for a short while, but primarily to spend some time fly fishing with my dad as it's something we've never done together and I'd always wanted to do.

We met the folks at the Underberg Inn as arranged, had a quick draught and then made our way along the last 13km to the lodge after arranging some ice and another bottle of the Capn's finest. Three nights, two bottles, should be okay as Steph and mum together don't drink as much rum as I do.

The last two kilometres of the road was some of the roughest dirt road I'd ever experienced and my dad remarked as such when we eventually got to the lodge. His Beamer had reportedly scraped her "skirts" a couple of times along the road, but there were no bits missing.

On our arrival, we were met by a pack of hounds resembling Australian Dingoes which, as we were later told, is exactly what they were although they were interbred with various other species (one of which I suspect was a Grizzly Bear). Our host, Wolf Avni, renown in the SA fly fiching scene, met us at the door and becalmed the Baskerville beasts.

Taken from a publication I read on occasion, "Wolf Avni is one of those characters that needs no introduction! 'A Mean-Mouthed Hook-Jawed Bad-News Son-of-a-Fish' is his first book and is undoubtedly a defining moment in South African piscatorial literature! You may want to read this book with a copy of the concise English dictionary at hand as Mr Avni’s superior intellect will broaden your vocabulary as well as delight and inform you as he takes you along through his 50 odd years of piscatorial pursuits. Full of humor and flyfishing lore, Mr Avni has set a standard and you would be hard pressed to find a more delightful read."

I agree wholeheartedly with the summary as I have read the book and it was one of those that, once started, is not put down easily. Needless to say that, when we were leaving three days later, I bought a copy of the book from Wolf and had it autographed at the very spot he penned it.

Anyway...we tottered off to our cabin and, although I was a little disappointed at what I was spending R1000 a night on, found the little house to be comfortable with every amenity we needed. After unloading the cars, Dad and I headed off down to the lake and surveyed where we'd be spending a great amount of time over the next few days. There were a few fish rising on the evening Mayfly hatch, which gave us the urge to get our rods rigged up and get fishing as soon as we could. However, we resisted, and instead settled down on the garden chairs with a cold one. The rest of the evening was spent chatting, having a couple of drinks and retiring to bed early, half past bloody nine!! I think the last time I went to bed that early I was two weeks old!!

Up at 6am on Saturday morning, the weather was perfect for fly fishing. Not a breeze, not a cloud, and we got the little rowing boat out of the "boat house" (fuckin' lapa on the water, more like) and head out, very uncoordinated, to the middle of the lake. Until just before 11am we don't get a single fish, hardly even a pull, so we decide to give it up for a while and head home for breakfast. I also end up having a snooze while trying to read.

Somewhere around 3pm we decide to give the fishing another crack and head out on our skiff again, this time finding a spot where the wind that has picked up will push us not too close to the weed beds as they are really shallow, sometimes catching the boat to such an extent that it stops it dead in the water and makes fishing impossible. We drift around for a while, rowing out of weed beds into the wind and, upon hearing another fisherman talking to his brother about the fish he just caught and on what fly, we change our tactics.

The aforementioned fishermen were both on float tubes and, having to paddle against the wind too, found that they caught fish while their flies were being trawled through the water. We decide this was the way to do it as we had been fishing traditional fly methods until now. Straight away we are into a couple of fish, land a couple and lose some too. In total, we land seven fish, all of which we release. For their relatively small size, around 350gm, they take the fly and fight like they were 2kg in weight. Just by the fight you can feel that they are not hatchery-bred weaklings, but have to fight for survival in their lake.

We call it a day just before dark and head in, satisfied at having at least caught some fish. Back at the house, we light the braai fire and I braai some lamb chops and chicken kebabs, and we settle down for our meal and a couple of drinks. I round the evening off with a nice 10yr old Ardbeg single malt, then head off for a bath and bed around 10pm.

Up at the crack of dawn on Sunday cos my dad has a habit of bringing Steph a cup of tea every morning, dressed and out on the water at 6h30am, we employ the same fishing tactics as the previous evening, which works and we catch a few more fish, despite the strong westerly wind which picks up early with the promise of rain later. As with the previous day, we break for lunch and a snooze, and are back on the water at 3pm but by now the wind is howling and when we look at the water weed it's as if we've got an outboard motor on the boat, we're going so fast. This makes it more difficult to fish, but by the end of the day we have caught six fish, four of which we kept as Steph was whinging that we weren't bringing any home for her. The ones we keep are a nice pan size so she's happy. As usual, we have an evening meal and a couple of drinks and head to bath and bed early-ish.

When we wake on Monday morning, the weather has turned ugly. There's a strong wind blowing from the east this time and the mist has moved in, totally covering the lake in an eerie cloak of grey spray. Luckily, we had packed raincoats, and we head out onto the water for the last time, a short spell of fishing before we have to pack up and head back to Shit Towne. In the three or so hours we're on the water, we catch and release another seven fish and retire the skiff to the boathouse, then retire ourselves cold and hungry to the house. A quick shower and brunch and we're packed and ready to leave this beautiful place, very reluctantly, I must add.

The drive back to Shit Towne is chaotic and resembles the annual Lemming Run when all the December holiday makers return home. The highway is packed and we have to drive very carefully due to the large numbers of fuckwit asshole hooligans in their Beamers, Audis and Volvos causing havoc on the roads. Thankfully, we get home unscathed, unpack the car and cases quite quickly and settle down in front of the TV for the evening.

Apart from the disappointment at what we got for our money which, as I said, I thought was a bit excessive (even though it worked out to R250/pp/pn) it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and one which I will remember as I got to spend some quality time with my dad, something we haven't really done until now. Hopefully, we'll be able to do it again sometime soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Afrikaner guy, ...

an Aussie, a beautiful girl and an old woman are sitting in a train. The train suddenly goes through a tunnel and it gets completely dark. Suddenly there is a kissing sound and then a slap!
The train comes out of the tunnel. The old woman, beautiful girl and the Afrikaner guy are sitting there looking perplexed. The Aussie is bent over holding his face, which is red from an apparent slap.
The old woman is thinking: "That Aussie must have tried to kiss that girl and got slapped."
The Aussie is thinking: "Damn it, that Afrikaner guy must have tried to kiss the beautiful girl. She thought it was me and slapped me instead."
The beautiful girl is thinking: "That Aussie must have moved to kiss me, but kissed the old lady instead and got slapped."
The Afrikaner guy is thinking: "If this train goes through another tunnel, I could make another kissing sound and moer that Aussie again!"

Jose Mourinho...

has stated today he wants to quit English football, go back to Portugal and never be seen or heard from again.

The McCanns have offered their help.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Schalk Burger...

* When Schalk Burger does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up; he's pushing the Earth down.
* When Schalk Burger goes swimming he doesn't get wet, the water gets Schalk Burgered.
* When the Tokoloshe goes to sleep every night, he checks under his bed for Schalk Burger.
* Schalk Burger counted to infinity - twice.
* Schalk Burger invented every colour. Except pink. Percy Montgomery invented pink.
* Schalk Burger's hand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.
* Schalk Burger gave Mona Lisa that smile.
* Schalk Burger can slam a revolving door.
* Some kids piss their name in the snow. Schalk Burger can piss his name into concrete.
* Schalk Burger's calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd; No-one fools Schalk Burger.
* Schalk Burger can speak Braille.
* Schalk Burger's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. Ever.
* Superman owns a pair of Schalk Burger pajamas.
* Schalk Burger owns the greatest Poker Face of all-time. It helped him win the 1993 World Series of Poker despite him holding just a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoly card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game Uno.
* Schalk Burger sleeps with a night light. Not because Schalk Burger is afraid of the dark, but the dark is afraid of Schalk Burger.
* Once a cobra bit Schalk Burger's leg. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.
* Schalk Burger divides by zero.
* When Schalk Burger exercises, the machine gets stronger.
* Schalk Burger doesn't use pickup lines, he simply says, "Now".
* Schalk Burger sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled rugby ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalised, Schalk Burger spear-tackled the devil and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay mad and admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.
* Schalk Burger can kill two stones with one bird.
* Schalk Burger once devoured a whole wheel-barrow full of clay to prove to a friend that the expression "Shtting bricks" wasn't just a figure of speech.
* The only time Schalk Burger was wrong was when he thought he had made a mistake.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bonnie is home!!!

Tonight, there is peace in our world...

I was working from home when, around 3pm, Steph phones me to say "They've found Bonnie". My first question, though I could hear it in her voice, was "Is she okay?"

It appears that a family was driving through Linbro Park, a commercial and residential area barely 3km as the crow flies from our home, saw her and picked her up. They (called "Y' for this posting) immediately knew that she was an animal that was well looked after and knew that they should do something about it. Y stopped their car and called her and, although hesitant at first, she eventually got into the vehicle. Y's family could not, for reasons we're not sure, look after Bonnie themselves and passed her onto one of their son's teachers, whom we shall call "T". They, in turn, could only look after Bonnie for two days as they had three of their own dogs which were not taking kindly to Bonnie being there. Their neighbour, call him "G", said he was looking for a dog and would take Bonnie in in case she was not claimed.

Y's husband saw the article that appeared in one of the local newspapers about Steph and how she had been hijacked and that Bonnie had been taken, and immediately knew that they had the same dog. Y got hold of Steph's number through the printers and called her to say that T had Bonnie. We then got hold of T and, after some anxious minutes caused by having to leave voicemail messages, eventually spoke to T and she told us that G had the dog and that she would let her husband know that we were coming to pick her up.

Needless to say, at 5pm, we got stuck in traffic and it only added to the tension we were feeling and Steph and I had a "mini-domestic" in the car, though we both knew what it was that was causing it.

We arrived at T's home around a half hour later and rang the gate buzzer. T's son answered and when I said we were here for the grey dog, he said they'd found a brown one. Our hearts sank, but when I pressed them that Y and T had said that the dog was grey, they eventually opened their gate and led me through to where the dog was being kept.

I first saw Bonnie lying in the shade of G's house, in the dust as there was no grass around, and thought it was not her. I'd seen a picture of a young male Weimaraner on one of the lost animal websites and the position she was lying in reminded me of him. However, once I called her name, her ears pricked up and she came running over to me, starting to remember. After a bit of patting and happy talk, she started her familiar happy whining and I knew that she remembered who I was.

I played with her for a couple of minutes, reinforcing the bond again and eventually walked her through toward the car, picking her up before I got there due to the heavy traffic that was going past the gate. Steph just sat in the front seat, I think not quite believing what she saw. We put her on the front seat as Steph's Peugeot 206cc is quite small.

We said our thanks to T's husband and son, numerous times, and they reiterated that they were glad she had been found. Then Steph got into the back seat (if you can call it that) and we drove home, all the while not believing that we actually had Bonnie back, stroking her, talking to her all the way, letting her stick her head out the open window as she so loves to do. We could, however, see that she was weary of the car and though she settled down on the seat, we could see that she somehow looked older due to her ordeal.

At home, however, when we stopped outside the gate, Bonnie immediately let out an excited yelp in recognition of where she was. We got the car inside the yard and let her out, and Duke and Cassie were around her, sniffing, recognising her, wanting to play. And Bonnie was immediately a different dog. You could see that she lightened up, she recognised where she was, she smelled familiar smells and saw familiar sights. She knew she was home and immediately went into the garden, looking into her familiar spots for lizards and mice. Her tail pricked up and you could just see that she was happy again.

Right now, she's lying on her bed, sleeping peacefully. I think she knows she's where she belongs and we're extremely happy and thankful that she's back with us. This will also help Steph in her healing process as it will take away the guilt she has over letting the hijackers get away with one of her "children".

In closing, we are forever indebted to Y, T and G for looking after Bonnie, for getting her home where she belongs. Thank you all...

This photo was taken about a year ago, but is still a favourite.

It's a big blogging welcome to...

The Invisible Wheelchair.

The author is a mate and colleague of mine and Wreckless and he brings a subject to the fore that annoys all caring folk........shaming those inconsiderate fuckers who abuse the parking aras reserved for wheelchair-bound people, typically the arrogant fuckers in the big imported cars and styled hair who think the world owes them something more than a hole in the ground at the end.

Have a look at the site, and if you have evidence (photos, date and time, etc) of such abuses in South Africa, drop him a note and get these assholes what they be shamed publicly...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In keeping up with the Wrecklesses...

I put an Opinion Poll on the right side of the screen...feel free to vote, or not...

Monday, September 10, 2007

So now we become another SA crime statistic...

I'm back in Shit Towne after getting the mind-numbing, cold sweat-inducing call that Steph had just been hijacked.

On Saturday evening, around 6pm, Steph pulled into the driveway and was just about to press the button to open the gate when four black fuckin' cunts (there are no other decent nouns here, so get off any rascism high horses you might be getting ready to climb on) bang on the drivers window, then let off a shot in her direction. Thank fuck it missed her, albeit narrowly.

The shot shattered the window, covering her in glass shards and what I think is gunpowder burns on her face. She thinks that if she had not turned her head away just before the gun went off she might have been hit by the bullet. I think she's right and am thankful she had the presence of mind to do what she did.

Anyway, these four black cunts shout at her and force her out of the car and she runs across the road, not looking at them. Two of them get into their car (some little red thing of unknown make) and two into my bakkie and race away. The only problem is that Bonnie, one of our Weimaraners, is still in the bakkie. With the speed they drove off, Bonnie (obviously confused and nervous) didn't have time to jump out the open window and now we don't know where she is or in what conditions she's in. We have a number of friends, organisations and people looking out for her.

Steph is physically almost unharmed, but she is taking some serious strain mentally. On top of that, we buried her father a few weeks ago too, so she is really having a bad time of it. Me, the more I think of the whole episode, the angrier I'm getting and if I get the opportunity, who knows, maybe I'll use Steph's late dad's gun on one of these bastards. Make no mistake though, he won't live to tell the tale.

I'm also seriously reconsidering my job on the global team as I'm now "2 for 2" as the Yanks would put it. Twice I have been out of the country and twice something has happened where I wasn't around to be there for her.

And a last thing on this posting...this idiotic "govern-munt" can shove their "reducing crime statistics" up their collective fat black arses... Get in touch with reality, you useless bunch of cunts. Your people are suffering...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ok, these are the last of the far...

Traffic at 23h30...this city pumps at night (cos everyone wants to shop when it's "cool")

Famour Riyadh landmark, the Water Tower

It's romoured that Karl Lagerfeld started out in business in Riyadh...

These guys are known as the "Muttawa". They control all what is supposed to be virtuous, even up to the point of chasing people into Mosques during prayer times! A couple of them recently killed a youngster while they were beating him (needless to say the papers didn't say why they were beating him).

Yet more....just say when you're bored...

Flying Saucer building

I would change the name of this shop if it was mine...

Riyadh by night from Kingdom Tower

On the Skywalk on top of Kingdom Tower

300m straight down on Kingdom Tower (the glass was dirty which is why the pic didn't come out all that good)

And more...

Coming into Dubai

Dubai Duty Free

Dubai Duty Free

Al Musmak Fort in Riyadh

"Chop Chop Square"...guess what happens here?

And more pics...

It's a Man's World in Saudi Arabia

Ruins near Dira Souq

There are more Mosques in Riyadh than there are Churches in the whole of South Africa

Intercontinental Hotel lobby

There are many towns in the middle of the desert

And some more pics from Saudi Arabia...

Old Town ruins

Faces covered to protect the innocent

Intercontinental Hotel pool with Flying Saucer building in the background

Dira Souq

Inside one of the shops at Dira Souq

Some more pics from Saudi Arabia...

"Please avoid using ATM during prayer time" is what it says on the left of the glass

Al-Faysaliyyah Tower

Highway Junction with "Flying Saucer" building (known as that among locals)

Kingdom tower through the heat haze

Clock Tower with Saudi Coat of Arms

Some pics from Saudi Arabia...

Falconry is big in Saudi Arabia

One hump or Two?

Greenery among the sand

One of the many Palace compounds

Part of the Old Town

Friday, September 07, 2007

And believe it or not...

I can't even view my previous's a screenshot from that how it actually appears on my screen (fuckin' hell)...

Big Brother is alive and well in Saudi Arabia...

I tried to look at Fishman's posting of the Rugby World Cup, and noticed that the picture wasn't visible. Here's why...

For those of you who doubted...

the temperature in this fuckin' hell-hole...

Here's a screenshot from a video I made on my camera last night. The quality isn't all that good, but the numbers in the centre of the screen are what you should concentrate on (date, time, temperature)...

I have some tickets to Pavarotti's funeral...

Only a tenor!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In case you ever wondered about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies...

I treated myself to a haircut last night…

in the hotel barbershop and it’ll be the last in Riyadh. The fuckin’ cut, like I do myself at home with the electric trimmer, cost me 60 Riyals (about ZAR120). What a fuckin’ rip-off. In actual fact, this cut alone cost more than the trimmer I have at home…

Monday, September 03, 2007

Prayer time, a waste of time...

or at least it is in this part of the world.

Muslims pray up to six times a day, mostly out of office hours, but there are also two sessions during work time. And the Saudi’s use it to their benefit to down tools for a half hour each time, in addition to taking timeout for lunch and smoking (though most of this still takes place behind the smokers desk). Absolutely nothing gets done during those times if, as a practising Muslim, you want to earn your points (although the “points” aren’t tracked, if you miss a session, you have to do some other things to regain your points) so that you remain in favour with Allah.

As I mentioned, there are six prayer times each day, with the start time of each session dependant on the rising and setting of the sun and vary from place to place moving westward. As a result of this, there is a small printed section in the newspapers each day detailing the time for each prayer session, per city. Today’s are as follows:

1. Fajr 4:14am
2. Sunrise 5:34am
3. Zuhr 11:53am
4. Asr 3:22pm
5. Maghreb 6:11pm
6. Isha 7:41pm

And those are the “normal” daily prayer sessions. Once Ramadan and the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Makkah – known as Mecca to the infidels) season starts in September, there are more prayer times added and the country virtually goes on holiday for the month.

While I’m not slating anyone for their religious beliefs (you are entitled to any religious beliefs you want, so long as they don’t negatively impact on me or anyone else, as far as I’m concerned), Islam does take the whole dedication thing a bit too far in my opinion.

I can actually get stoned (as in stones thrown at me, not as in doped up) for saying these things, but hopefully freedom of expression will spare my miserable infidel, agnostic life…

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I don’t write about work days here…

as they really are boring. I spend all my time gathering information and documentation to populate a document for the client, so I’m not going to bore you all with the details.

Suffice it to say that, if anything exciting happens in the office, I will post it at the earliest opportunity…

A Birthday in Riyadh…

is definitely something to remember. Or, at least, this one was.

For those of you out there that don’t know, 31st August is my birthday and probably for the first time ever, at least that I can remember, I was going to be spending it alone and in a strange country.

Originally, CC and IC had invited me around for dinner on Virtual Saturday (Real Thursday), but when I last spoke to CC on Real Wednesday afternoon, he mentioned dinner on Virtual Sunday. Something should have told me that something was up. As it was, I was doing nothing on Virtual Sunday evening, so it was fine by me.

I organised a limousine from the hotel to take me to the compound where they live (as do all westerners here) and arrived outside the barbed-wire enclosed walled compound at just before 6pm, signed in and left my drivers licence at the gate as proof of identity. You need multiple forms of identity in this country and sometimes multiple copies of those to leave at various places (I’ll post something about the hassle you need to go through to get your “Iqama” – work visa (pronounced “Ick-ama”) – if you want to officially work here, at a later stage). I’m here on a visitors visa, the way they get around the whole visa thing without having to apply for an Iqama for me.

CC meets me on the walkway down to their apartment, a neat little duplex unit built, like the others around it, in Spanish Mediterranean style. Theirs is number 97 which will give you an idea of the size of these compounds.

After a quick look around the place, which is littered with flat screen TVs which are quite cheap here (though I don’t know how I would get one home without exceeding baggage weight limits), CC asks if I’d like a drink. I’d heard about his “Arabian Grape Juice” and so eagerly agreed, seeing as it would be my first drink in just under two weeks and I was gagging for one. Maybe it was just because of the timeframe since my last drink, but the rose-coloured “grape juice” tasted like a ZAR500 Shiraz. In all honesty, it was quite palatable and, I suppose, being in an environment such as this, if you’re desperate enough you’ll brew and drink your own, regardless of what it tastes like. CC had two twenty litre plastic water bottles on his kitchen counter full of the stuff, one of which was still fermenting.

We go and sit outside on the little patio, overlooking the pool, and drink our juice, chatting about all different subjects from family to places we’ve been or would like to go. CC and IC have been in Saudi Arabia (and the other Gulf states) for a number of years and enjoy it as they’re making good money which they are using to pay off their retirement villa in Spain (topping up the retirement policy as they put it). CC had gone on early retirement a couple of years ago, but decided to come out of it when he was offered a good job here, making lots of tax-free money. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for us too, but it’ll need serious discussion with Steph as I would not like to bring a woman here due to the limitations they have on the female species (not allowed to drive, must wear an Abaya (black robe) in public, the heat, and so on…).

After three glasses of juice, we move down to the compound restaurant. Again, each of the compounds has their own restaurant, catering for the western tastes in cuisine. They have a reasonable menu and at reasonable prices too. CC and I settle on the “special”, a medium-rare 300g Prime Rib cutlet, while IC has a chicken dish. The meat is a little tough, but it’s still quite tasty. CC had brought along a two litre plastic bottle of the juice and we had a couple more glasses during the meal. The Phillippino waiters are all in on the game and know exactly what’s in the bottle and have all been sworn to secrecy by way of a reasonable tip at the end of each meal. There are people from numerous western countries in this compound so they must be making a fortune.

After our meal, our waiter starts moving our dessert spoons and forks out of the way which tells me something is up. Then, from the kitchen, comes our waiter with a chocolate cake holding three lit candles and then I know that Steph has been in contact with CC.

Later, CC told me that Steph had sent him an email on Real Wednesday afternoon, told him it was my birthday and asked what he could do to make it special.

I had been feeling a little lonely earlier in the day seeing as I was on my own and had only been able to swap text messages with family and friends, but this made me feel a whole lot better. We each had a slice of the cake then asked the waiter to ask the few other people left in the restaurant if they would like a slice as well. One French guy even came in later and thanked us for the cake, asking whose birthday it was.

A quick double espresso later, and at 10pm, I had to catch my limousine back to the hotel, quite happy with the way the day had evolved. I have to thank CC and IC for making the day special, but special thanks must go to Steph who told Chris about it.

Steph really is a special person…

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to Kingdom Tower I go…

or not, as the case may be.

On Virtual Sunday morning (Real Friday), I decided to venture out of the hotel grounds and take in a bit of the culture and sights of Riyadh. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have bothered. I should have known better.

Reluctantly, I got out of bed around 10am having decided I need to get away from the four walls of the hotel room for a couple of hours. I was going for a walk around the Kingdom Tower, architecturally one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen. Showered and dressed (in jeans, as not even men are allowed to show leg flesh here and shorts are taboo, go figure) I grabbed my cap and shoulder bag with bottled water, and headed out into the heat to grab a taxi to the tower.

After a short fifteen minute ride and SR25 later (about ZAR50) along King Fahd Road, I emerged from my mobile fridge into the heat of the day which, by 11am, was over the 50degC mark. Officially, it never reaches 50degC in Saudi Arabia as, if (when) it does, workers are entitled to put down their tools and wait a couple of hours until it cools down to 45degC. Just so that no-one can see when it does go over 50degC, all the outside digital temperature readings automatically switch off when the temperature reaches 49degC and the displays only show the date and time. Guess what the displays were showing when I read them…

Anyway, the taxi pulls up at the Debenham’s entrance to the Kingdom Tower and I get out, expecting to see shoppers going about their respective retail therapies, but to my disappointment all I see are huge, locked, glass doors. That, and a Secret Service-looking guy in a grey suit and reflective sunglasses, coming to meet me before I get too close to the building.

We make the universal shaking of the arms signals at each other to indicate that the place is closed (for those that don’t know this signal, with both palms facing the ground, wave one hand over the top of the other while stretching your arms out low in front of you – practice now if you like) and I walk disappointedly across the road to another closed mall to also stare in disbelief through its closed doors. Trust me to pick the time when prayers were on and all the shops are closed for my visit.

I take a walk in the heat and take my camera out of its bag. After taking a couple of photos of the Tower (so tall that I can’t fit it into the shot from where I’m standing, so I knitted two together, quite badly, for this shot), I walk back a little way along the road the taxi brought me in on and hail another cab to take me back to the hotel. I’d only walked about 300m and the heat was absolutely unbearable, otherwise I would have walked the kilometer or so to the Al Faysaliyya Tower (pronounced Feye-zal-ee-ya), the other popular shopping mall in the city centre, but I know it’s going to be closed as well and decide to just go back to the hotel, grab a Turkish coffee and chill out with my book for a while.

In this heat, I think I made the wise choice and I’ll head back into Kingdom Tower some other time, maybe on Real Saturday night as the shops stay open vary late due to prayer times and to allow shoppers the benefit of “cooler” shopping times.