Had four trips to Saudi in 2000 and 2001 to our two jobsites. Both were remote and on the coast and generally I spent most of my time in the camps. One site was on the Red Sea coast near Mecca (spelled Makkah on the map) and the other was on the Arabian Gulf near Khobar – the blue stars below. Although the core plant processes were the same (electricity production), one plant was basically converting oil to water (with electricity as a byproduct) while the other one was the largest electricity generator in the country. The map below is actually the water pipeline system for the country.
Flying into Jeddah on the Red Sea (cover photo is the King Faud fountain) was little more intense as the social rules are a little more orthodox and you drive by the turnoff to Mecca which had huge signs “no non-Muslims” – pretty clear message. It was a six day workweek and Thursday was the big night in the camp and the drink of choice was siddique which generates a pretty severe hangover/coma, so it is good to pace yourself. I had a couple of one week trips and on one of them I was coerced into going to Jeddah on Friday (their Sunday) for the day – many people coming out of Mosques in the early afternoon and during prayer we would head into restaurants to respect the time. Then, my colleagues said – “oh – it looks like we happened to run into Chop Chop Square” – clearly a set up. But luckily for me (and the locals) no chopping on that day….but you could see where it was done.
My visits to the project site on the Arabic Coast were much shorter and split time between the site and our office in Khobar, which meant I was in a compound and not a camp. Because of all the oil companies in the area and all the expats in compounds – a much less orthodox environment. In addition to siddique, many home brews/wines were available and at the store the grape juice, yeast, and sugar were all sold next to each other.
The highlight of all trips to Saudi was – leaving. Unless in a camp or at the site, always felt like you were being watched. Leaving from Khobar was better as you were able to have a night away in Bahrain…not quite Dubai but a lot better than Saudi.
(This was written during the Great Shutdown of 2020. My memory isn’t this good, used internet searches to fill in a lot of holes. If there’s huge fat foot below me, it not my fault – that an advertisement I can’t control).