It was only my second time in the Arab world and I hugely enjoyed it and got to learn a little more about the culture and the renowned Arab hospitality. Dubai is a desert city with some of the most amazing modern buildings in the world including the world's tallest building - the Burj Dubai and Ski Dubai - an indoor Ski Resort!
Saudi Arabia was quite a contrast. I flew from Dubai to Bahrain and was picked up by my hosts (SABIC) and driven to Jubail - an industrial city about 1 hour's drive north up the Persian Gulf.
Wikipedia says this about Jubail: "The industrial city is a complex of petrochemical plants, an iron works and a number of smaller companies, plus a Royal Saudi Naval Base. It holds the Middle East's largest and the world's 11th largest petrochemical company SABIC."
At times, the industrial complex stretched across the horizon and although not pretty was quite awe inspiring.
There were over 4,000 people at the SABIC conference and exhibition and although not unexpected, it felt strange that there was not ONE woman at the event. And an evening beach party of only men and no alcohol was a first. The experience however provoked a lot of thought on our cultural differences. I wish I had had time to see more of the country as the industrial city of Jubail was hardly representative!
You will find photos of my travels on Flickr.
In writing this, I knew in the back of my head that I had seen a great quote from Michel de Montaigne on the benefits of travel and so I Googled it. The quote is delightful - far better than my recollection:
Traveling through the world produces a marvelous clarity in the judgment of men. We are all of us confined and enclosed within ourselves, and see no farther than the end of our nose. This great world is a mirror where we must see ourselves in order to know ourselves. There are so many different tempers, so many different points of view, judgments, opinions, laws and customs to teach us to judge wisely on our own, and to teach our judgment to recognize its imperfection and natural weakness.
Michel de Montaigne (French Philosopher and Writer. 1533-1592)