Now you would have thought that with the number of times and the frequency that I travel through the illustrious conurbation that is the airport in Riyadh, that nothing would surprise me let alone offend me. After all I am a pretty hardy sort and after living in the land of sand for 5 years there is little that can shock me. But yes, tonight I am more than a little miffed.
Before I go any further I ought to explain to those who have never experienced the land of sand how security works at the airport. You see as we live in a segregated society, sort of, then it is not deemed appropriate that men and women should be ‘scanned’ together and heaven forbid by a member of the opposite sex.
So, instead us ladies have a separate area for this to take place.
In times gone by we would have to shoulder our way to the conveyor belt, dump all our hand luggage and then leg it back to the end of the queue where the ‘ladies search area’ is situated. You then had to hope that you would get through there super speedily before your bags appeared out of the machine to potentially be picked over.
The ‘ladies search area’ is actually a small cordoned off area behind a grubby looking curtain where usually a couple of local ladies are sat enjoying a falafel and a good gossip. They are usually pleased to see you, despite the fact that you are disturbing them from their cuisine but carry on with their conversation while they scan various parts of your anatomy with a rather archaic looking scanner that more resembles a gadget for measuring radiation at Chernobyl than anything high tech at an airport.
This process is usually more palatable when I have the small testosterone filled one in tow. Despite his grumpiness about another trip to an airport he still does charm the ladies and it has even been known for them to break off from their conversation to say hello to him and stroke his hair – much to his annoyance.
They seem to be put off stroking the hair of the strawberry blond hand grenade. Several years of locals being fascinated by her strawberry blond locks have triggered an inbuilt defence mechanism and if there is even a hint of fascination about the unique hair colour then snarling starts, rapidly followed by growling and frothing at the mouth. Funnily enough this tends to deter even the most determined local……..
Anyway, times have changed in security at the airport. The ongoing renovation at the airport has led to a bit of a change and instead of the shoulder barging to the front of there queue you now go through a new and improved ‘ladies search area’ which proudly boasts its own scanner, bright and shiny new gadgets and a new cohort of staff who appear to be highly trained.
And no, not a falafel in sight.
Sorry – couldn’t resist a quick bit of GoRemy – it is a while since his last contribution to the EIOT blog after all……
So, after that brief digression back to the ‘ladies security area’ at Riyadh airport.
So, the new and improved security area is a good thing. However, it does mean that the hardened Riyadh traveller has to negotiate a new set of directions that take you directly into the enclave compete with hand baggage.
It was at this point that my emotions were shattered and I found myself questioning my inner self.
Yes, as I wondered along and questioned where to go I must have looked a tad puzzled. Because it was at this point that the on duty security officer asked, ‘man or lady?’
Now while I am the first to admit that I am never at my best in getting to the airport for the overnight flight on the BA big bird, (no, that is still not a derogatory comment about the BA crew), I like to think that I do maintain my feminine charms and my gender is not in question.
Obviously I am wrong.
Oh dear, time for an airport makeover I think….
Tonight’s experience reminds me of a visit a few years ago now to my previous beautician here in Riyadh.
In the course of this treatment session the therapist in question was close up and personal doing my eye brows. At which point, in very broken english, she commented that I may be getting slightly hairy above my top lip and perhaps it was time to give it some attention.
Now, while I am always very open to professional opinions from anybody, this was a bit of a sock to the system and resulted in a few minutes standing in front of her mirror trying to decide whether or not I was indeed developing a facial hair issue and whether or not urgent action was needed.
With some backtracking from the lady in question and several minutes with my face virtually pressed against the mirror I decided that I was fine, that the light must just have been giving a false impression and there was no need to buy a razor just yet.
That said at the back of my mind there were still vague question marks and I resolved to ask the first friend who I would inevitably bump into when I left the therapist if I did have a problem.
Well, for once between the therapist’s house and the supermarket on the compound I saw nobody.
Instead as I walked into the supermarket area there were two of the guys who work on the compound standing chatting.
Now just to recap from previous posts, the guys who work on our compound hold everything together and generally come from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and The Philippines.
I have a lot of time for these guys and always try to say hi. However, it should be remembered that while these guys have more english then we do of any of their languages, quite often communication issues abound.
So, as I walked into the supermarket area, in my usual cheery fashion I said ‘Good Morning’ to the two chaps in question.
Being the polite chaps that they are, they broke off their conversation and turned to me. At which point one smiled and said, ‘Good Morning Sir’, before realising his mistake and rapidly revising his statement to ‘Ma’am’……
Now under normal circumstances this would have made me pause for thought but little more. However, as this happened just minutes after the conversation about my apparently developing facial hair issue then this was too much and quite frankly reduced me to a mass of quivering facial hair.
I smiled sweetly at the chaps, not letting on about my inner turmoil and scuttled into the toilets to once again use the mirror.
Anyway, all I can assume is that it was a weird coincidence. It is several years ago now and I still have not had to commit to any drastic action above my top lip.
I did change my beauty therapist and the incredibly patient Mrs CH has since dealt with all my varying requirements ever since and has never once made mention of my top lip.
She did however identify a grey hair in my right eyebrow this week…
Anyway, onto other matters.
As I am sure you will have deduced by now yeap I am Blighty bound once more as an Exeat weekend followed by many Christmas school celebrations beckon.
But if by any chance anybody who will see either of the gruesome twosome in the next few days is reading this, please do not let on that I am inbound. No, the gruesome twosome think I am inbound on Thursday and I fully intend to spring a surprise on them….
Now, here I sit waiting for the BA big bird to arrive and I am intrigued. You see what happens here is that when a flight arrives the passengers are filtered past the passengers waiting to depart, the aeroplane is cleaned, (is it BA??), and then we all get on and off we go.
Because of this you see exactly who is arriving and usually there are a few familiar faces and often there are a few local chaps in thobes, (not thongs i hasten to add – well maybe they are wearing thongs, it is pretty hard to tell really and would be inappropriate to look too closely), waiting to greet a VIP or similar.
Well tonight there are more than a few. There is a blinkin’ coach load of chaps in immaculate white thobes and while I write an all out melee has taken place. The BA big bird is clearly here and a mass of thobes, first class baggage labels and enthusiastic handshakes has just exploded at the end of the jetty.
Many of the apparently important folks have been diverted and have evaporated along with their thobe wearing guardians.
We are now seeing the rest of the ‘not so important’ souls meander down the jetty to fight their way through immigration.
It is only a matter of time before the crew of tonight’s BA big bird trundle towards us looking full of enthusiasm and excitement for their 24hrs in Riyadh……That said our crew will be here soon and they will be full of enthusiasm and excitement ready for their flight out of Riyadh after their 24hrs….
Right, so EIOT Towers is calling. Yeap, not only will I be down in the field in wellies and waders tomorrow investigating the water supply, but I will be breaking the ice on the tank to get to it in the first place.
Yeap, rumour has it it is a tad nippy up north – it must be the testosterone filled one had a jumper on when he was on Facetime yesterday. So, it must be cold. He was still wearing shorts though so there is still scope for it to get colder…..
Right, forget people spotting, crew spotting is the order of this evening while trying to guess just how happy with life they are according to the severity of their frowns – yeap they are on their way…..blimey that was a big sigh from that hostie…….