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February 12th 2010
Published: February 12th 2010
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Written February 1, 2010; Published February 12, 2010
I arrived at the Kuwait City airport shortly after midnight on Monday, February 1 after leaving Minneapolis on Friday evening. The process for getting a transit visa to be driven from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia is much more time-intensive than arriving in Bahrain. However, the client nicely made arrangements for the visa to be waiting upon arrival. It took a bit of looking but I found the right counter, collected my visa, and went though immigration. It’s always so hard to know what to do the very first time.

There was supposed to be a driver holding up a sign with my name, but I didn’t see my name on any of the signs. As I was about to give up, I was approached by a guy who said “Khafji” which is the town in which I am staying in Saudi Arabia. I did wonder if he was really the right driver, but I hoped for the best. His English skills were as good as my Arabic, so I just said “AGOC” which is the name of the client. He nodded and away we want.

It took it more than an hour, but we finally arrived at the client location and where my housing was. It was now 1:30 am. The driver was supposed to pick up the key from someone, but apparently that person wasn’t there. Again, keep in mind that there is NO verbal communication going between us. 1:30 soon turned into 2:00 in the morning. I gave him the name of my client contacts, but I couldn’t tell if he was reaching them. He then called the housing office and two guys came out. They wanted me to show them my housing form which no one had given me, nor did I know existed. 2:30 turned into 3:00 in the morning. I had traveled 8 hours from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, had a layover of almost 3 hours, and then flew another 8 hours from Amsterdam to Bahrain to Kuwait City, and then the ride into Saudi Arabia. Perhaps I was getting just a tad cranky. As the British would say, “I lost the plot” and the Australians would say I was about to “spit the dummy.”

I finally gave up trying the client contacts, arguing with the housing guys, and not being able to talk to the
My kitchen in the Rajan HotelMy kitchen in the Rajan HotelMy kitchen in the Rajan Hotel

Luxury at it's best!
driver except to say “hotel.” We drove back to the town of Khafji and went to a hotel. It was full. You have got to be kidding! Was the Lions Club having their annual convention in Al-Khafji?

I dragged my bags back to the car and we went to another hotel. I don’t think this place has a triple star rating in AAA or Mobil. I handed them my corporate credit card. Thank God for corporate credit cards. However, it was then that he told me that they only accept cash. The room was SR 250 and I had about SR 40 total (left over from my last trip to Saudi). Sigh. The driver had already left. Sigh. I was pointed to an ATM across the street, but told I could pay the next day.

Mind you, Khafji is a very small town. English is very limited and since I arrived at night, I really had no idea where I was or how far it was from where I was going. Did I mention that my Saudi mobile phone account had expired and I had no way to call anyone? And no one knew I was at the
My bathroom at the Rajan HotelMy bathroom at the Rajan HotelMy bathroom at the Rajan Hotel

There was no toilet paper, no toilet paper holder, and no shower curtain. As we Minnesotans would say, "That's different!"
hotel. Uh oh.

When I was shown to the room, I asked if there was Internet access anywhere, and miracle of miracles he said they had wireless! I fired off a quick SOS email to my client contacts with the name and phone number of Hotel Sleazy (my name for it) with copies to my next of kin, and perhaps Barak Obama (my mind was going quite numb).

The “suite” was very funky indeed. I went to find a tissue to blow my nose, but there weren’t any. Fine. I’ll use a piece of toilet paper. I look in the bathroom and not only don’t they have toilet paper, they didn’t even have a toilet paper holder. There was water all over the bathroom because there is no shower curtain and the plumbing leaked. And perhaps they don’t dry it between guests. The good news is that they did have a toilet (as opposed to the infamous hole in the ground). I decided to hold off on both blowing my nose and using the bathroom.

I decided to crash since I hadn’t slept well the night before the trip, the next night was on the plane, and it was now about 4 am, local time.

The next morning (actually about 3 hours later), I woke up and checked my email for a return email from the client. Nothing.

I hit the bathroom and then I remembered about the lack of toilet paper. Well, when in Rome…. Instead of toilet paper, there is a hose. You either know about this, or don’t want me to tell you. I went with the flow, so to speak and then found out the shower was of the dribble variety.

So I went to the ATM machine and decided to see if I could find a store to recharge my mobile (cell) phone account. That’s when I learned that I was seemingly the only English speaking person in town. OK, I know it’s rude of me to expect others to speak English when I’m the foreigner, but hand gestures can only go so far. However, they went far enough to find out no one had a clue how to add minutes to an expired account. The minute cards did not work because the account was expired. I asked where a mobile phone store might be and was pointed left,
Strange ControlsStrange ControlsStrange Controls

These switches and things were in each room. I have no idea what they do (other than the light switches). Any guesses?
right, and sideways. No luck.

That’s when I found out it’s the rainy season in Saudi Arabia (who knew?)! I made it back to the hotel and managed to get some breakfast. I checked my email. No response from the client. The phone in the room didn’t work. I went to the desk and asked them, well begged, for them to call the only two mobile phone numbers I knew for the client. The numbers didn’t seem to work. As I was about to give up, the client called the hotel! I was about to be rescued. The contact was very apologetic and couldn’t understand what went wrong.

I waited in the lobby and finally, in comes Edward. He paid the bill and we quickly left Hotel Sleazy.

Things started to improve dramatically. Edward called a shop owner he knows and somehow he was able to reactivate my phone account and put minutes onto the account. He took me to my “villa” and it’s really a very fancy four-bedroom furnished house. Persian carpets, heavy furniture, full kitchen, etc. It’s actually nicer than anywhere I’ve stayed and considering Hotel Sleazy was the worst place I’ve ever stayed, the contrast was amazing. So ends part 1 of my adventure.


12th February 2010

What an adventure! You are a brave soul and had me laughing out loud. Missy
12th February 2010

So, I now have an idea of why we have not herd from you in quite some time. Nice to see you building those frequent flyer points. Keep the postings coming. I got this on the 12th. soes that make sense? At the top of the blog it says- Welcome to Al-Khafji, Saudi Arabia Written February 1, 2010; Published February 12, 2004 I can accept international travel, but time travel? Some job!
12th February 2010

Hi Ted. Glad to get an update on your trip! What a bummer about Hotel Sleazy. Guess that's why travel is such an adventure! I'm going to guess that the controls in your "suite" operate a kind of automatic car wash type system that just drops down from the ceiling and cleans the whole room in one pass (air dry and wax are extra, of course)!
14th February 2010

Thank you for the post at internet - Journey @khafji
Hi, I am going to khafji - neutral zone - very shortly - on work permit - waht is your suggestion - Please guide me - Iam married with daughter (1 year baby) - is it good place to live - any security issues.... what additional care i need to take - what is your suggesition?
17th February 2010

Questions about Khafji
Please click the link in the blog that says "Send Private Message" and then I can answer your questions directly to your email address. I would be happy to help if I can.
24th February 2010

Hi Ted - Sounds like everything went to plan. I'm a little concerend to hear about your water hose incident as my imagination tends to run away with me! Glad that you made it home safely! - Adrian
30th July 2010

need information about alkhafji
you brook my heart when I read what happen to you. my husband have an offer to alkhafji. I'm looking for a school, actuelly my son is in primary but internationnal school and I think there is no think there. please if you can give me any information, I will be happy.
31st October 2010

on khafji hotel
Read your blog, I think the really poor place, I come from China, forthcoming in November 2010 to khafji for the offshore oil work, Can you tell me a hotel that least more than this Rajan. we expect to get you response.thank you ver much!
31st October 2010

Hotel Recommendation
I have been told that the Khafji Beach Hotel is very nice.
9th December 2010

Need your advise sir
Hi Sir Ted, I have an offer for the KJO Hospital as a Finance Manager. I have my wife and son with me and though the offer is quite enticing I really don't have a single idea about the location "Al Khafji". I am currently in Riyadh and by the way I am a Filipino national. My concern is are there international schools in that area where my son could continue his education and what about the security of the area knowing that it was a hot spot during the gulf war in the 90s. Sir your immediate reply on my query would be deeply appreciated as I only have a week for me to give my nod or vice versa on the offer. Thanks & Regards Jay
10th December 2010

Moving to Khafji
Hello Jay. I will send you an email with a direct response. Ted
3rd March 2011

I have been told that 20 % of population in there were foreigners
4th May 2012

pleas help urgent
Dear sir, please let me know is there any international school with cambridge curriculam or american currculam in kafji ?i hav got a finance job in KJO, i have just 3days to join or sign the offer letter ,please help I;m crrrently in Jeddah and having 2 kids who are schooling in a british curriculam ,please reply asap. thanks n regards

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