Friday, December 14, 2012

DISC 29 Saudi Arabia (16 December)

Despite a rough beginning at the airport (described below), we had a wonderful DISC in Al Khobar.  There were many friends the room and several former students.  The venue was excellent, the La Meridien is now a fine place all around. The rooms are well-appointed and there is a fine sushi bar.

Much of the material for the DISC originated with ideas developed from working in Saudi.  It is a place with severe near surface scattering, strong-contrast near surface layering, vast tracts of shallow water over a hard seafloor, and I published two Geophysics papers on layer-induced anisotropy with Aramco co-author Tong Fei.  All these are topics covered in-depth during the DISC.  The head count was 56 which, I am told, was a record for a course offered by the Dhahran Geoscience Society.  To all my Arab friends, let me say shukran (thank you).

DISC class of 2012 for Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

Good Aramco friends Ferhan Ahmad (L) and Ahmed Marzoug (R)

Real time notes (Dammam airport)

8:15pm...Dec 14........At passport control

Dammam airport arrival on time, easy flight from Muscat. All us westerners (about 6) get in the line 'Foreign Citizens - First timer'. After a half hour we are told the lines (2) are closed. I move to the back of a new line and get to front in another half hour. Turns out they won't process me in the 'Saudi and GCC Citizens' line. But the new visa line is closed. Not his problem, two other lines handle that. Back of a new line. Wait time now 3 hours and I'm not sure my line has processed even one new visa holder. I have 20 ahead of me.

I'm just on a lecture tour with a rest day tomorrow, and I know the Saudi system. I can wait till dawn (and may have to). But how would this look to a new employee? Can't imagine a family with young kids doing a 3+ hour wait in passport line. Where is the dedicated Expat New Hire line? What if someone has a bladder problem?

All the Indians and Pakistanis in line around me (I am a pale anomaly) are squatting, sitting, even lying down. Guess they are used to this kind of treatment. Your DISC lecturer is not. After 28 stops all over the world (and decades of previous travel) I have never seen anything like this. And hope to never see it again

BTW if you don't qualify for the 'Saudi and GCC Citizens' line but are re-entering on a multiple entry visa, you hop in the fast lane are are through in a few minutes. This would be the case for existing employees.

I stand corrected. Just saw a gaggle of western nubies escorted through. Apparently just gardeners, houseboys and visiting professors have to wait.

11:32........17 ahead of me
11:38........18 ahead (what the...?)
11:43........15 ahead

Ten passport stations, but only 2 are manned. Just timed the last guy through, 6 min 40 sec.

12:10am........still 15 ahead -- estimated wait time 1 hr 40 min
(should not have done that calculation, downright depressing)

There is no sense of hurry or anything out of the ordinary by staff or travelers. I reckon it's just standard operating procedure for this group of KSA arrivals. I just got caught in the net set for other fish. A gill-netted tuna.

Been a long time since lunch. Luckily I brought a bag of trail mix and did not use it all avoiding the ruinous food of India.

12:27........11 ahead (hotel taxi driver has called twice. What should he do? Wait, just like me)

12:42........8 ahead (about 35 behind me. Line should clear around 4:30am. Really? Surely something will have to give.)

1:05........6 ahead (progress has stopped as our agent works the room. I have never been coughed on so many times in my life. These guys stand way too close.)

1:12........Pulled out of line along with all other westerners.

1:13........My turn!

1:21am...Dec 15........Done.

Total wait time just over 5 hrs! Ridiculous. You will have a hard time getting this cowboy back to Dammam.

No comments: