Riyadh - Day 6 - Friday, Nov. 18

 Escarpment, Desert, "Boy's Night Out"

A time before our travels, Keith had found and joined the Virtual Tourist web program.  There he made contact with several helpful Saudi residents.  One was Riaz-Ul-Hasan who attended Keith's lecture and invited us on an outing with his family.  They picked us up early at the hotel.  It was Friday and Amina, a physician did not have to work, and the children did not have school.


We head southwest out of the city limits and travel a part of the country Keith saw only from the air when he was stationed here. (In Norway they bridge over fjords - here they bridge over wadis.)

Stopping for a chance to get out and about, Keith takes a photo of Peg with Amina, Miriam, Talha  and Hasan Riaz.

The stop at a desert super market/hardware store gave us insight in to the items utilized in this part of the desert countryside.

A stop atop the escarpment to see the highway below.  Windswept and rugged, one wondered about its geology. This is the new highway to Mecca.

Keith an Peg appreciate the opportunity to be photographed together.  Hasan had found this trail to the edge of the world on earlier treks.

As a biology lecturer, Hasan informed us of some of the natural history of the locale.  Here is a clue that this was once ocean bed - fossilized coral.

Farther on, we are on flat land looking up to the formations that give evidence to the geological uplift of prehistoric times.

The thorn tree struggles to survive in this arid environment, but is relatively successful.  The dramatic  panorama of landforms was breathtaking.

Pinnacles arise with the erosion debris at the base. Hasan gave an interesting lesson.  He really knew the countryside.

The children enjoy the open space.  The weather was perfect.  Keith remembered flying in the King's DC-3 in this area 45 years earlier (see old photos).

We arrive at real sand dunes, not all that far from the city. Hasan explains the yon dry lake bed to Peg.

The ubiquitous camel -- the ship of the desert.  Their goofy looks belie an uneven temperament.  We do not get too close.

Mama and baby.  This herd seemed to roam quite freely, but we kept our distance.

Talha had plans to bike ride down the sand dune.  He quickly turned to rolling himself down the dune.  

Barefoot is the best was to enjoy sand.  This is very fine, orange stuff that did not stick between the toes.

We are HERE!! On a sand dune in Arabia -- whodathunkit?

A truly traditional meal at a road side restaurant.  

Young photographer takes photo of sister in a farm tractor. 

We were allowed to walk around this abandoned settlement by the farmer who is actively farming the place.

Here are his goats.  That's a lot of goats to milk.  They must be for other purposes.  They were being fed good alfalfa though.

Peg plays gramma with Mariam as we explore a corner of the old farm.

Many thanks to Hasan for the invitation and for knowing about these places, mere minutes from the city.  We had a great time.

Returning to Riyadh, one sees again the incredible improvements to the infrastructure of the Kingdom over the last 45 years.

Here the newest skyscraper, the Kingdom Tower north of town.  Residents are justly proud of their buildings.

*Later that evening, Zahir had arranged for a Boy's Night Out.  Many of the staff whom we had met and who had been very patient with us attended. Keith was so overwhelmed with making so many new friends, many names slipped through his memory banks (individuals, faces & these moments will always be remembered!).

It was a comfortable atmosphere in the upstairs of a fine traditional Riyadh restaurant. The camaraderie of this gathering  led to much discussion on many subjects, with Keith enjoying open talk of world & regional politics. Keith tried to explain the varying views held by our diverse country & apologized for the great ignorance many Americans have of this part of the world.

Keith contemplates an Arabic coffee & a date while listening to Zahir. These two have become close friends in such a short period. The many Al-Turath staff, plus Virtual Tourist friend Hasan, made Keith feel genuinely welcomed and respected.

While heritage work and our visit were discussed, lively conversations centered around Middle Eastern politics. It seemed there were mutual concerns about the US's problematic actions in this part of the world (Palestine, Iraq, etc.,  We will try to address these topics in our  "Commentaries"). 

We first met in a comfortable lounge area where we were served coffee & dates. Later we moved to an adjacent cubical where this magnificent spread of traditional foods was provided - Keith sampling many before becoming delightfully stuffed. We then moved to another cubical for a traditional desert. Then we all moved back to the original lounge area.  

Here we continued our intense, but quite comfortable, conversations. Keith asked the group what message they would most like him to take back to his countrymen. A clear statement was that the huge majority of Saudis are NOT terrorists! Zahir & this great group then presented Keith with a beautiful encased traditional dagger, to be cherished along with memories of this final evening in Riyadh.

*Before Boy's Night Out, we were especially honored to be invited to the lovely home of Zahir and to meet his fine family.  Peg and Zahir's oldest daughter had scheduled a shopping trip.  She was studying English literature, so the two had plenty to discuss.  Before going our separate ways, Keith and Peg were presented with a barrage of gifts. Peg was given the heritage gown and beautiful gold jewelry while Keith was gifted a complete set of Saudi men's traditional clothing items as well as a fine example of a Saudi scent; all elegant representatives of the best of Arabia.  We were completely stunned.  Keith took the camera leaving Peg to enjoy her feminine evening sans photos.  Keith  found himself so much the honored guest that he took only a few photos of this memorable social evening.


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