These are the last of my Arabian Adventure blogs, which means I'm now caught up with my blogging backlog in time for OSCON.
Saudi Arabian Adventures - Day 6
Today was my last day of teaching, and a challenging one. I had
more variation in students backgrounds and skills for this
class, which always makes teaching more interesting. Lots of
practical examples seemed popular, so they were the main fare
for the day. It's easy to show off Perl's strengths when working
During my week in Saudi Arabia I've discovered a few interesting
things. While Saudi Arabia as a country fares poorly with
women's rights, it's clear that Aramco as a company (or this campus,
at least) was very progressive.
Women aren't allowed to drive on public roads in Saudi Arabia.
As one of my colleagues put it, "we're hoping that will change
soon, but we've been hoping twenty years". However the Aramco
campus isn't public, and so there's no problem with women
driving inside. Likewise, Aramco recruits the brightest
girls from high school. They go through an English
language program, and are then sent overseas (usually America or
Europe), to earn their degree. They're required to work for
Aramco for an equal period to the time they spent studying overseas,
although it appears most continue working well beyond that. It
sounds like an almost identical scheme to what Australia has with
some defence force scholarships.
On my class I had three women out of twenty-four students overall,
which is on par for what we get for courses conducted
inside Australia. I fear the gender imbalance in IT is a worldwide
Saudi Ararbian Adventures - Day 7
My last day in Saudi Arabia didn't involve teaching, something
for which I was extremely grateful. My body clock had fully
adjusted to local time, so waking up at 5am was now feeling like
waking up at 5am. I slept in, slept some more, had brunch, and
walked down to the entertainment complex. It wasn't very busy,
and nobody seemed interested in checking passes, so I walked
straight in. Sure enough, there was a bowling alley, a cafe,
and a library.
I had a late flight back to Dubai, and Fuad had very generously
offered to show me about in the afternoon, Breaking the "never turn
down an adventure" rule, I actually called Fuad, and turned down an
adventure. I was utterly exhausted from the last week, and I seemed to
have an endless amount of e-mail and patches to catch up on.
The lack of adventure during the day was more than compensated by
the taxi ride that night. It appears that cars put on their hazard
lights to tell other road users that they're sticking to the speed
limit. In fact, the speed limit appears as if it's the minimum speed
at which people are willing to drive.
When we got to the airport, I sighed a huge sigh of relief, thanked
my driver, and grabbed my bags. There was an awesome looking mosque
opposite, and I went to grab my camera for a photograph. Then
I noticed that outside the airport were two guards, heavily armed,
and sitting on a tank, smoking. This would have made an
even better photograph, until I realised I'd be photographing
two heavily armed guards, on a tank, that was parked next to a
"no photographs" sign, in a country where I don't speak the language. Consequently, I decided to leave the camera in my bag.
The airport was like airports everywhere, although with less respect
for the "no smoking" signs. Most notably, one of the guards who was
screening baggage was smoking. Again, I thought this would make
a great photograph, and again I thought better of it. Despite the
fact that I was told that everyone in Arabia smokes, I actually
found it to be quite rare, despite the exceptions I've mentioned here.
Getting through passport control took only one hour, as opposed to
three hours getting into the country. I discovered that the airport
has a duty free section, but it was rather small, and didn't appear
The flight back to Dubai was short and pleasant. One of the
cabin crew had recognised me from my flight from Melbourne, and we
had a nice chat. Another managed to find what I swear was the
best coffee I'd had all week. I suspect they have a secret espresso
machine hidden in business class, which was broken out purely for
Arriving in Dubai I remembered to pick up both my bags, changed my
Riyals to Dirhams, and looked at the time. It was about 2:30am in
Dubai, which made it around 8:30am in Australia. Through the wonders
of free wireless at Dubai airport, and VoIP, I called home for
satisfying price of about 2.5 cents/minute.
A short taxi ride later, I was in my hotel, with NetStumbler running
and me waving my laptop around on the balcony. I discovered a lack of
promising hotspots, and went to sleep.
You read my adventures in Dubai starting here.