Spring Camp: Dinner in the Desert

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February 12th 2010
Published: February 14th 2010
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Kafji is located on the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

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Dinner at the Spring CampDinner at the Spring CampDinner at the Spring Camp

This was fantastic! I'm a happy camper.
[Written February 12, 2010; published February 14, 2010

Yesterday, our client sponsor invited us to visit the "Spring Camp" which is an area located about 10 miles from Khafji. It is an area in the middle of the desert that features company-owned tents that can be used for the employees. These tents come with electricity, carpeting, and people to serve food. Apparently, this sort of thing is very popular with Saudis (and Kuwaitis) this time of year before it gets too hot. It’s a lot like going to the cabin by the lake in Minnesota, except that they use tents and the lake is a desert and their aren’t any mosquitoes.

We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived at about 3:30 in the afternoon. We met with our hosts and they gave us a quick tour around. The camp is divided into two parts: the men only part and the “family” area. If you use the family area, you pair up with another family, so that one tent is used for men and the other for women.

We went into the main tent and it was huge! The floor was covered with beautiful carpets, and there were pillows around the parameter for lounging. The “tea-boy” (their term, not mine) serves the guests Arabic coffee (cardamom-flavored coffee) and sweetened tea. As soon as you empty your cup, it is refilled. There were also dates served, which are the best dates I’ve eaten in all of my trips here. To take the chill off the desert-air at night, there is a fire pit of sorts.

We heard that there were four-wheelers for rent, so we had the driver take us down the road the a series of tents that were decidedly not as up-scale as the company tents. After negotiating a price (he told us how much it was and we said OK), we waited our turn. Meanwhile we played “football” (aka soccer) among the five of us, along with a couple of local Arab kids. When they had corralled five four-wheelers (or “quads” as Denes called them), we took off at break-neck speed into the desert. They had some sand-dune jumps set up, so we were quite the Hell’s Angels on four-wheelers. I know these are prone to tipping and both Peter and Koji managed to up-end their quads. Fortunately, we all survived.

When time was up, we headed back to the tent for more conversation, dates, and Arabic coffee. It was a great chance to really get to know our client sponsors with whom we worked closely over the past week. One was from Egypt, one from Jordan, and the other from Kuwait. I think they equally enjoyed getting to know us better.

After two prayer breaks (for them), at 8:00 dinner was ready in the next tent. It was served “Saudi-style” which means that a plastic covering was put on the carpet onto which a huge platter of lamb and rice was surrounded by tabouli salad, pita bread, drinks, and dessert. Saudi-style also includes eating with your hand. As when I ate with Manir’s family (last year), the rice proved to be the hardest thing to eat. You are supposed to wad the rice into a ball and then use your thumb to shovel it from your hand to your mouth. It’s harder than it sounds.

I suppose I should also mention that this lamb dinner was definitely NOT American-style lamb. The while lamb was divided (front and rear) between the two platters and included parts of the lamb that
Sharing a smileSharing a smileSharing a smile

Abby, this is who you talked to on my cell phone.
you will not typically find in your average Perkins or I-Hop. I did taste the liver, brains, and other unusual parts. The lamb itself was more mild than American lamb and included a lot more fat. I saw an Anthony Budain “No Reservations” episode that took place in Saudi Arabia and this was much like what I had seen on his show. Poor Denes had all he could do to keep from passing out. However, I was quite adventurous as were most of my colleagues. It was truly a memorable meal, in the most positive sense of the word.

We were advised to rub sand on our hands to cut the grease and then wash our hands with soap and water. We then headed back to the main tent for more coffee and tea and soon it was time to head back to Khafji.

Saudis are known for their hospitality, and I am grateful for this experience. Please take a look at the photos that I am uploading.

Today we were supposed to have a driver pick us up at 10:00 am, so we could head over to the Assessment Center and finally catch up on our
Inside the TentInside the TentInside the Tent

This is about half of the tent. It's quite large inside. Note the fireplace in the middle which is used to heat tea and Arabic coffee.
email and other work. At 9:50 I received a call that from the driver saying that he wouldn’t be available after all. So it was about a 35 minute walk over to the Center, but it was nice to finally be able to catch up on email and start writing my blog. However, this installment will need to wait a bit longer, since the security restrictions on the PC’s at the center mean that I can only upload one photo at a time. So perhaps this entry might have to wait until I’m in Amsterdam.

February 14: We FINALLY got Internet access (well, at least one of our two houses did) and I was able to post this. Please be sure to see the extra pages of photos. Enjoy!

Additional photos below
Photos: 46, Displayed: 25


Not our tentsNot our tents
Not our tents

These were the tents of the people who owned the four-wheelers.
Spring CampSpring Camp
Spring Camp

This is the area that has the company tents. It's February, but they consider this "Spring." Somehow, I think people in Minneapolis would disagree, especially with six feet of snow on the ground right now!
The Main TentThe Main Tent
The Main Tent

This is where we spend most of our time. I also have photos of the inside.
One of our hostsOne of our hosts
One of our hosts

Notice the air conditioner built into the side of the tent.
Part of My TeamPart of My Team
Part of My Team

John (from Houston), Koji (from Japan), Koen (from The Netherlands), Denes (from Hungary).
Family Section TentsFamily Section Tents
Family Section Tents

The tents on our side were for men only. The family tents are on the other side. Two families get together and men are in one tent, women in the other.
Four-Wheelers for RentFour-Wheelers for Rent
Four-Wheelers for Rent

We waited out turn to try out the four-wheelers ("quads" as Denes calls them).

14th February 2010

Great pics--thanks! You were a brave eater... So, if you had women there working as part of your group would they have to go eat in a tent by themselves, or would they have been included at the meal with all of you?
15th February 2010

Spring Camp
We were not allowed to have women as part of our staff for this client. So being a guy is pretty much my major qualification!
15th February 2010

Pls say "hi" to my old friends...
Great to read your blogs again, Ted! It sounds like you're making the very most of your time there (aside from work), as usual. It's fun to see the photos ... thanks for taking the time to share them (nothwithstanding the effort required). In stark contrast, as you no doubt know we've had snowstorms here in the US - and a FOOT of snow in Dallas! Never thought I'd see that! I raced around with my camera and tripod to document this unique event. If this note reaches you before you leave, please say "hi" to Peter and Denes for me - it's been a long time between drinks :-)
17th February 2010

Time Between Drinks
For some reason, this website now doesn't display who wrote the comment, but I'm guessing it's you Heather. Sorry, but I'm now in Amsterdam. About your comments that it's been a long time between drinks.... it's even longer when you are in The Kingdom. LOL.

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