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Tinkerbell Legacy - Living with a flying parrot

Shisha and Hidden Valley and old letters.
shanlung
Photo folder
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanlung/sets/72157594243847447/


17 Aug Thurs

There was this shisha cafe that I seen coming back on the road from Damman a few months ago. I then tried to find this again with Osama. That attempt was a fiasco which I related in its gory details. We drove about 350 km, getting more and more hungry as we were supposed to have dinner there.

Then on the 12 Aug night when I drove back from the Perseids shower at about 130am, I saw the place that I suspected was a shisha cafe and got a good fix on where it was.

So on the evening of 17 Aug, after the prayer time of 830pm, I drove there with JR and Osama, my constant companions in the explorations of Riyadh and surroundings. JR was specially valued as he was also the camera man and my having left my own camera in Singapore. I did not care to buy another digital as I have 3 digital cameras and my wife has 5-6 digi camera at the last count. I warned them that this trip was on speculation just in case the place did not turn out to be what I hoped it to be.

We drove on the ring road towards the airport. Then we took the exit to Damman. A few km later, you first drive into an underpass. Then a few more km later, the road will be on elevated embankment. You will need to bear right before that and get off this highway into the local slip road and do a U turn under the highway to be on direction back to Riyadh. Immediately, you will find many cars parked by the side along a garishly lighted wall which alerted me to it in the first place. I eventually found a parking spot and we followed other locals inside.

Yes! This was the shisha place I first saw and was searching for!

The sweet aromatic smell of shisha tobacco was evident. As we walked in, very fine sprays of chilled water were all over to bring the temperature to a comfortable level. I knew the others were entranced. As if I was a seasoned shisha guide, I walked with them so they know the extent of the place with the choices of sitting. I seen this earlier from the road ontop of embankment so I knew the scale. There were small open cubicles with carpets and cushions to recline and smoke the traditional style on the floor. There were open areas with chairs and tables with the night sky above you. There were rooms with air conditions and elegant rooms with high ceilings that you could choose from. That place must be about 100 meters long by 20 meters wide and holding well over 700 locals. It was splendid luxury on a powerful scale and beyond imagination.

Osama, my good Bedouin friend explained to me that was a consequence of the Arab culture. Even childhood friends cannot be invited to the homes of their local friends. The females , sisters of the houses cannot be exposed to the gaze of anyone else other than their own immediate families. There cannot be any casual or even formal visits of friends among friends. And since friends do want to meet and socialise and relax with other friends, and in ambience befitting their status, beautiful shisha palaces like this had to come into being, opened I believe on almost 24 hour basis. All smoking and eating needs taken care of, with sports TV and whatever TV that the guests wanted.

Only no beer or liquor or dancing girls.

We eventually picked a place by an artificial waterfall.

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We ordered our food, a traditional set of mixed grill with bread, from a waiter.

The waiters here were specialised. Another waiter came to take our drinks order.
Then yet another came to take the order for the shisha. I chose Bahrain, or rather that was chosen for me. JR chose something fruity and Osama chose to watch the two of us preferring to stick to his cigarettes.

The dinner came. Only after we finished the dinner did they then brought the shisha and lit that for us. As the night got later, more and more people came. Some came in groups of friends. Some came along. TVs were everywhere for you to watch whatever shows as publicly available in Riyadh.

We smoked and enjoyed the shisha before leaving at about 11 30 pm

18 Aug Friday

The Thursday and Friday will be the equivalent of the rest of the world Saturday and Sunday.

Osama was assigned his vehicle a few days ago. He had one of those big Mitsubishi 3.8V6 Pajero 4WD. I was not assigned a new vehicle. But then, I will be leaving this project and Riyadh for good and flying back on 9th Sept.

So far, we only been to areas that were accessible to 2 WDs. With a big 4 WD for Osama, thats about as good as for us. Osama also stay in the same Al Yamama hotel compound as I did.

Osama was used only to manual shift cars. I told him dont be silly as automatic will be so good that he will not know how to use his left leg when he gets back to Jordan and his old car there.

So on Friday morning, I decided we should go to the Hidden Valley and perhaps another rock outcrop with ancient writings from people 10,000 years ago. Osama told me he had plenty of fuel , about 3/8 tank. I did all my trips on full tank. But on Friday morning, the petrol stations were all closed for prayers. Since we did have 3/8 tank, I thought that should not be a problem.


We picked up JR and we went West out of the city on the highway to Mecca. After coming down from that big incline and the plateau of Riyadh, we turned left towards the Red Sands.

That was when we found we had no idea how to set the tripmeter. That was essential to navigate ourselves. In the earlier trips, you might have seen the photos of mesas and huge cliffs in the distance. We were heading to that and climbing that to get to this Hidden Valley. As I was sitting up front being the de facto navigator, I had to write the mileage readings to keep track. JR was happily sleeping behind.

We came up to the foot of those cliffs, and located the road that I figured should take us there. I was glad of this powerful car. And Osama was getting more and more delighted with the automatic drive. The drive took us through areas that were stunning in their majesty and too beautiful for words. Then we came up to a barrier across the road. A guard was there. We got out to try to speak our way in. We were told in no uncertain terms that will not be possible. The entire Hidden Valley was taken over by an Emir for him to build his own Xanadu. Peasants like us were not wanted.

Even if I was dressed like a local.

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So this Hidden Valley that I found would remain hidden from the likes of us.

We then decided to go to the ancient carvings on the rock. We got back to the road we turned off from and proceeded. It was passing through vast wadis and the deserts seemed to stretch on for ever.

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I was getting very nervous about the level of petrol which fell to 1/4 tank. Nothing was in reserve in case things go wrong and should Murphy decide to call on us. We had about 40 km as estimated on the sketch map.

Then the tarmac road ended. Dirt track was ahead of us with bad corrugations to bump us about. We had a very good vehicle to easily take on that. I was getting so paranoid on the fuel that I told Osama to put it back into 2 WD so save fuel. The bad road was consuming too much petrol and with 3/16 tank left, I decided that we turned back. This time, Osama got paranoid enough to agree.

We got back to tarmac road and this time, the afternoon prayers were over and the petrol station was opened. A bit too late for us to continue for the day. We had late lunch at an obscure restaurant before turning back.


Photo folder
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanlung/sets/72157594243847447/




19 Aug.

I dug about in the internet to see how much of my old letters were around.

I found some, and if you have some interest in Taoism and martial arts, you might like to see that in


http://www.shanlung.com/indexoldletters.html

My main webpage is
http://shanlung.com/

If you do keep birds or like birds, you probably will like the photos that you will see there.

Shanlung
山 龍
Mountain Dragon


http://shanlung.com/




















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