Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buy Dairy! (I)

Yes! Just what you've been waiting for, more animated dairy product spokespeople/things!

First up: Maher the Adventurer. If you think Maher seems a bit too much like an Arab version of Dora the Explorer, then I ask you this: Where is Maher's pink backpack? And while we're asking questions: What's up with Maher's thobe somehow truncating into a pair of pantaloons? And why does his ghutra look kinda like a mid 19th century imperial British pith helmet.

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that I like chocolate milk. Thumbs up Maher!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Two More.

A couple more good finds from my desert visit a few weeks ago.

I found this one just outside what was probably a fox's den. It's hard to tell from the rust if this thing was outside for a few months or a few decades, but the trap was still primed and ready to snap shut. I dropped a rock onto the main plate and the jaws snapped closed before the stone could even bounce away.

This guy was unrelated to the fox trap, but likely got separated from his herd and died. The combination of extreme heat and sandstorms tend to do a pretty nice job of stripping these skeletons bare in a short period of time.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's been almost a year and I'm still amazed by just how much of this country is endless stretches of empty sand.

Well, maybe empty isn't the right word. Just hidden. I'm guessing lizard tracks?

Yep, I'm still a sucker for pictures of dried mud.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Beyond.

As you very likely know, Saudi Arabia sits atop massive oil reserves. There is also a fair amount of seismic activity in the region, and as you might imagine extreme heats are not uncommon.

Any of these could be great explanations for rocks that look like this, but I prefer to simply assume that it comes from space.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Rumors are True.

I'm borrowing a friend's car while he's away, a large four wheel drive SUV, and I took it to the gas station last night. The car was completely empty and I filled the main tank, and a sub-tank, for a total of over 30 gallons of 91 octane gasoline. My final bill:


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Desert Ecosystems.

Life in the desert is a delicate balance, teetering on the edge of blah blah blah. Here are some pictures of plants I saw on a recent desert trip.

It rained about a week earlier, so most of these plants had taken advantage of the unseasonable hydration and tried to grow.

Some where more successful than others.

I especially liked how these little ones sprouted seeds (kinda hard to see, but they're there), and then grew these intertwined wooden limbs around the seeded center to protect them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everything is Fine.

It was well over 100 by the time I went for a run today (I know, I'm very smart) and while out on the trail and thoroughly enjoying Dan Black's re-imagination of Busta Rhymes' music I noticed a police jeep parked in the shade with the hood up. I stopped to see if everything was alright.

Me: Kol shee tamaam? (Everything okay?)

Policeman: laughing Aywa, tamaam. (Yeah, fine.) he gestured to a book he was holding Kitehbee. (My book.)

This was clearly one of the smarter cops around here. Pretending to have a broken jeep as cover to sit in the shade and read a book; I'll have to remember that one.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Seeing, Believing, etc.

There is a story (perhaps apocryphal) that up until the early 80's the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz, insisted that the earth was flat. According to the story, he only changed his mind after Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first (and only) astronaut prince flew on a NASA mission in 1985. Upon the prince's return, he told the Grand Mufti that he had seen the earth from space, and it was in fact quite round. Well, confronted with a firsthand account from a member of the House of Saud, what could Bin Baz do but change his ruling.

Now, when geologists and historians tell me that most of the Arabian Peninsula was once underwater, I do believe them. But let's just say that after finding seashells and sharks teeth scattered about in the middle of the desert, I now believe them even more than before. Sometimes you just really want to see, and hold, the physical proof for something to really seem true.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Never Know.

On today's episode of 'Extravagant Junk Found Outside a Palace' we have: A full size skee-ball machine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heston was Right.

And did I mention there were monkeys? Right, there were monkeys. Baboons actually. And aside from being very cool to watch scramble around on the cliffs and walk like gymnasts on the road-side barriers, the troop of baboons that crept up to the place we were trying to take a nap and bared their teeth at us were really frightening. Lest we forget, those damn dirty apes are filthy, vicious animals that could easily take a healthy bite out of your arm, or simply just steal your lunch.

Either way, once the troop made it very clear that they were not going to leave us alone, we climbed back into the car in search of safer, non-primate infested places to nap.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Off-Season.

We made our way out of town and into the nearby mountain range, home to the Abha Intercontinental. (It was closed for Ramadan, but looked lovely. No worry for us, we planned on camping anyway.) Just across the parking lot from the Intercon was the Abha Hang-Gliding association area -also closed for the season. The site consisted of a 100 meter long tarmac that went to the edge of the cliff-side and then came to an abrupt end.

Naturally, we felt the need to stand at the edge and stare off into the valley for quite a while. It was pretty incredible to be at eye-level with the clouds. It was also a bit of a shame we were there during the off-season; an afternoon hang-gliding or hot air ballooning over the valley would have been incredibly fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wait, Where?

This is Saudi Arabia? Where are the camels, the endless stretches of empty desert, the religious orthodoxy?

I just returned from a weekend camping trip in the southern province of Abha, a couple hundred kilometers from the Yemen border, and it feels like a whole different country down there. People dress quite differently, houses are built in a different style and they have the tallest peak in the country, Jabal Sawda.

At a little over 10,000 feet high, you can imagine that the weather was cooler and there was a significantly different climate than what I've been living in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gaining Strength.

At work today my co-worker asked me to join him for breakfast in his office. He presented me with a tray full of freshly boiled, unpeeled Yams, “straight from Cairo.” We huddled together in his office, peeling the potatoes with our finger and throwing the skins into the trash bin under his desk. “Eat more Adam,” he said, “you need to be strong for work.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost in Translation.

Dream interpretations; Ethiopia edition.

Endale: I had a dream last night that a hen was wearing army boots and kicking my girlfriend. What do you think that means?

Me: (Smiling) I haven't a clue, but that definitely has to mean something.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hey You.

Girl, let me holla at ya; Ethiopia edition.

To a girl waiting outside the movie theater for her date: "He's not coming. He's at home waiting for his socks to dry. But I'll buy you a ticket."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

All Together Now.

Globalization is a fun buzzword (and frankly kinda dated at this point) that means different things to different people. To me it is:

Drinking St. George's beer in a jazz club near the little Mogadishu neighborhood of Addis Ababa while an Ethiopian cover band sings Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and Sade.