Saturday, December 13

Lutetia Parisiorum

Lutetia as Astrix and Obelix called it, is the capital and most populous city of France. Situated on the Seine River, it has a population of 2 249 975 inhabitants. However the greater Paris Region inhabits more than 12 million, ranking it among the largest population centres in Europe.
The Eiffel Tower has become the city's icon. The tower is the most-visited monument in the world, once you've seen the 324 metre high lattice structure, you cannot escape thinking: "I've seen it, we can go home now."

The reality of working in Paris of isn't as grandiose as the old city. Today's work is done in glass faced styled buildings in the newly constructed business centre La Defense.


Wednesday, November 26

Christmas?


Before we leave, the Al Ventura camp turns Christmas. It's Saudi style, but have to admit the palm trees look pretty with lights. The huge 'Dickens style nativity' shows cultural elements that no Western European ever will... Two luxury cars in the snow next to the pastry stall.


Saturday, November 22

Duck pont

Swimming pools in compounds. They're like baths in hotels. Nobody ever uses them, but you expect one. Their only purpose is to show, your family and friends, what a great life you're living...

So introducing the two travel companions, I'm sharing this life with.The yellow Sheraton bath duck, I got from reception as part of their loyalty program. If you squeeze it, it'll talk back...

And my colleague Gab, who's much better at socializing... ;)

Update: Too many yellow duckie pictures. It's better to go back to work tomorrow...

Friday, November 21

Weekend in the Kingdom

The Saudi weekend is Friday and Saturday; it used to be Thursday and Friday in 2008 - when I first visited - but changed as deemed too impractical for business. Our compound is not too bad, but it really is just a luxury prison. The security situation remains precarious. To quote the UK foreign office: "There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, affecting Western interests and places frequented by foreigners."
So we're being chauffeured around in an armoured car and our apartments have a 'safe room' that doubles as bath room. Or a bathroom that doubles as 'safe room'. It has a steel reinforced door with three large door bolts. I'm still not sure if it makes me feel safe or quite the opposite... 

Saturday, November 15

Promised land

 With one last at Manama we leave Bahrain to take the Causeway into Saudi. If this were just the 23 kilometer bridge itself, the drive from Manama to Al-Jubail would take just under 2 hours.
However in the middle is the Bahraini-Saudi border crossing. That border crossing works like this:
1. Queuing at Bahraini customs
2. Queuing at Bahraini immigration and called out of the car to to into the office
3. Queuing at Saudi immigration and go inside to have all your fingerprints photographed.
4. Queuing at Saudi customs stopping at in the assigned slot and strip searching of the car.

I'm so glad I'm in the promised land listening to the sun-set call for prayer...

Friday, November 14

Sustainability

Even in the Middle East... Sustainability is the new politically correctness, so you build wind turbines on your World Trade Center. It's just that... well... they're sitting idle for most of the time. Seven out of twelve months, the average wind speed is just 7 knots and below 10 knots for all other months of the year.
To put this into perspective. 'Easy' barely notices 5 knots, feeling adrift. At 10 knots, things start to move...

(1 knot is roughly 0.5 m/s and 1.8 km/h) 
There is a National Geographic documentary in the series Mega Structures about the construction of the World Trade Center.

Update November 15th: Of course it's illuminated at night... 

Saturday, November 8

Killer Piet

Vandaag in NRC, bewapende Zwarte Pieten bij Sinterklaas intocht. Niet dat pluizerige gejammer over racisme en slaven verleden, maar gewoon het kinderfeest keihard moderniseren! Gouda toont ballen. 
Hoe zou dat eruit zien? Zo?              
Of zouden ze het ruiger aanpakken? Aansluiten bij recent Hollywood succes?
 
Update Sunday November 9: Houdt Gouda de Mortier Piet achter de hand? Er zijn geruchten over mogelijke rellen.... .

Sinterklaasje kom maar binnen met je knecht....