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Back to Riyadh

After a lot of travelling around the UK and then to Mecca, it was back to "auld claes and porritch" (as my Mum used to say) i.e. "normal" life in Riyadh. Of course by European standards there is nothing normal about here at all. So time to regale you with some experiences I have been through.

Firstly, a minor traffic accident. Last week one day after work I parked my car nose to the kerb - between other cars that had done the same - and went into a shop to make a couple of purchases. 10 minutes later I was out and on my way back to the compound, not realising that someone had hit the offside rear corner of the car and broken the tail light glass and dented the bodywork. I only spotted this when I got out. No problem, I thought, its a hire car and I have the full insurance protection. I called the hire company and got an English speaker first time. I explained about the damage and the man said that I had to get a Police Report. I explained that was difficult as I was now away from the scene of the accident and as far as I was aware there were no witnesses. No Police Report, no insurance cover said the man. 

In the compound we have a group of English speakers who all support each other, its our survival process. I had a chat with the lads about the incident and the concensus was to re-stage the accident, call the Police and take it from there. The next day I parked outside the same shops and walked the five minutes to the office. After work I walked back and - lo! the car appeared to have been hit. Being prepared, I called the traffic police. There was a "Dial 1 to speak English" option which was encouraging, and I did so. Once I spoke to  the operator, they weren't interested. Nobody was maimed or killed, and the car wasn't blocking a main highway. They wouldn't come out. Could I get a Police Report then? No, Thank you for calling, goodbye. So I called the car hire people again, and they told me to call NAJM. Now NAJM had been discussed by the lads so this wasn't unexpected. This organisation is a call-out insurance loss adjuster and they do accident investigation and blame apportion. I called them and again they had an English option. I explained what had happened and they agreed to attend. However when I tried to give them the location  they couldn't find it on a map of Riyadh. This problem was solved by sendng a "Whatsapp" location pinpoint message to a mobile number, and this turned out to be their car driver's mobile, and he arrived 15 minutes later. He didn't speak any English so the interview was completed in pointing and sign language. At one stge he asked the shopkeepers nearby if they had seen anything, but as the car had been there all day they couldn't pinpoint anything. Mr NAJM inspected all my documents - car hire agreement, owner's insurance document, my passport and International Driving Licence, and then declared that I was 0% to blame and Persons Unknown were 100% at fault. He printed off his report from inside his car and gave that to me and before he went on his way asked me to complete a customer satisfaction survey - I had to rate him on 1 to 5 stars on his portable computer. This was the first time I had been exposed to any CS rating in my time here and I gladly gave him 5/5. (For a comparison, see my Carrefour experience in the blog entitled "Shopping").  I drove to the car hire location at the airport and handed in the paperwork and the damaged car. The chap there explained that without the report I would have been liable for the repair, and he estimated it to be SAR4,000 (£800). The car was replaced and I went on my way. In the UK it would have been a call to the insurance company and some forms to fill out. But that's the process here and its another lesson learned - but hopefully one I won't have to repeat.


NAJM traffic car

The next tale to relate is a simple one - I was adopted by a cat. Over in the Diplomatic Quarter (the Embassy area) of Riyadh last week, I had lunch sitting outside a cafe in the shade. A stray cat came up and started mewling so I gave it a small bit of the turkey from my sandwich. On my way back to the meeting rooms I realised it was following me, and it came right into the buildings, three feet behind me all the way. Whilst this didn't bother me in the least, it got the security guard up and running after the poor moggie and it was eventually chased away. It's the first time I've seen any of these building security people do anything remotely useful.


And finally, Riyadh city roads department has provided me with all day entertainment. My office overlooks a road intersection which has 4-way traffic lights. The new metro lines will pass above the intersection so in preparation utilities are being diverted. So we have yellow plant working in the middle of the intersection and to protect them they have been encapsulated into a concrete barrier circle which is effectively a roundabout. Saudi motorists have a habit of treating traffic lights as optional, but have no clue about roundabouts, as they are very rare here. They assume they have right of way at all times, whether they are on the roundabout or joining it, and don't always go round it the correct way. I only wish I could upload a video of the traffic to the blog, sadly it only takes still photos. Please use your imagination. 



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* Call Alastair Fyfe directly on 07785 370074 (UK) or +966 503095212