My adventures started many, many moons ago when the opportunity arose to go to Dubai for work. At the time, the tallest building for miles was only 39 stories high, and even that was a slight cheat since it did not have a 13th floor. Not exactly what it looks like now. Never having been to the Middle East before, I took the opportunity with both hands. Hot, sandy and barren was the verdict, but it did not stop me going to Bahrain a few weeks later.
In Tehran, I saw a couple and two kids, one of them no more than a baby, going around town on a motor bike - yes, just the one. Oldest kid in front, followed by mum and dad with the baby squeezed between them. Later that afternoon I sat in a park and put the world to rights with two women who spoke little English, but with a bit of creativity and using every single language we knew between us, we managed perfectly fine.
In Bahrain, I regularly saw camels in the back of a pick-up trucks, a sight only trumped by live sheep strapped to the back of a bikes.
Leaving Qatar, there was a gent trying to take 10 bottles of Heinz Ketchup in his hand luggage, as well as some jars filled with jam and salsa - because they might break in the hold. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
And just when I thought I had seen it all, I found myself being sworn at in Arabic by a Saudi woman in Riyadh. You should have seen the look on her face when she found out that not only did I understand what she said, my range of Arabic swear words was a lot better than hers. (Let the record show, though, that I did not actually swear at her, I only politely asked her why she deemed it necessary to use that sort of language.)
But lest you think this is limited to the Middle East, in the US, I once had to ask a customs official - you know the type, quite militaristic - four times to repeat the question. (In my defence it was a long flight.) Turns out he was asking if I had any food with me. Never understood that question. I mean, you’re not supposed to, right? On a subsequent trip, I found out that not everyone actually sticks with these rules. Just in front of me was a party of 10 people who, between them, had four fried chickens and half a hog roast in their luggage.
On a more recent trip, I was told by the immigration officer that it was my fault American people were out of a job. In one of those split-second decisions, I smiled nicely and told him I was so ultra-extra-special that they couldn’t do without me. Thank God the guy had a sense of humour! One of my colleagues thought I should have taken his number and reported him. The rest of them decided it was a terrible attempt at flirting.
Give me one good reason not to go some place and I’ll give you ten why you should.