A Grand Day Out

A day of being a tourist.
There are two kinds of road. Those which connect one part of a city to another, and those which connect cities. They're made of the same stuff, probably by the same people, and they're painted with the same lines signifying pretty much the same laws. But they feel completely different. Intra-city roads are a convenience. Inter-city roads...are what make a lot of the cities possible.
What colour is the desert? I always imagined it as yellow - on the grounds that the sand on the beach is yellow, or maybe brown. But no - The Sahara is red.
Camels. Smaller than I expected. More like ponies than horses. But the musky-dust smell, the somehow snooty aura of vague curiosity, and the body designed by a committee...all there.

Even in the middle of the desert, there are places provided for you to lie down, relax, and maybe smoke some shisha. Arabs know about downtime.

The castle of the ancient town of Qareer. 'Ancient' here means 'about 200 years old'. Saudi in it's unified form is maybe 60 years old, and it's gone from nomadic with pockets or agrarian culture...to a place where everyone has a smartphone, owns Adidas casuals and drinks Pepsi, in less than a lifetime. Old things look older than they are.

Castles are where kings live, right? Not this one. This is a place for the citizens to gather and be protected from an invading army. The doors are three feet high, so people can crawl into the small rooms - but soldiers can't charge in. There are holes in the walls to shoot arrows through, but only room for say a cramped hundred people and a fortnight's supply of food.
The remains of Qareer, and the modern town.

Inside a larger castle. Grander, more ornate, and with historical stories attached.
Around the back, a sheep and goat farm.

This is the beach. That's what they call it. An artificial oasis, specifically built for families to visit, bring a rug, and sit on it with a little picnic, looking out across the water.

We had a rug, some fizzy drinks from the 'Supermarket' (service station) and time to take in the view.
Every tourist attraction has a museum, every historical site has buried artifacts, and every civilisation needs things to put other things in.
Another thing most civilisations seem to develop - bread. Even those which have rice or other carbyhydrate staples. The Arabic word for bread is "Khoobz", and the word for carbohydrate is...Karbohidrat. The same as the German. But if you want bread, you need crops...and grinding stones.
"The Gun is Good."
Every time there's a new king, there's a new king's face to go on the money. And on every available billboard. No 'dead presidents' here. Which means a lot of notes and a few billboards are out of date - though you can still spend the money.
What I said about old things? Video cassette recorders had their own glass box. As did medium wave radios. We sometimes say of old technology that it belongs in a museum. Here, it actually does.
These phones are so old they're not actually mp3 players in disguise.
Poetry and mathematics may have been developed to a high level here, but taxidermy...
...less so.

Where there is a site of historical interest, there is a museum. And where there's a museum, there's a gift shop. And where there's a gift shop, there's toxic levels of kitsch.

Roughly translated, "Allah is mother and father", so my guide informed me. Pink is a very happy colour, and it's only the lapsed protestant in me which associates religious devotional decoration with being dour.

Yes, it's a giant coffee pot and cup. And no, it's not to advertise a chain of coffee shops, or a hotel, or even a brand of coffee. It's public art, and I think we could all use more of it.

1 comment:

  1. Thumbs up for camels, museums and giant coffee pots. Thumbs down for not so interesting exhibits and so-called cute kitten pictures.