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Saudi Internals; Nas Air (E90) Vs. Saudia (743)  
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 28861 times:

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**The title page should read E90**


Introduction



A hearty welcome to this report covering two flights I took within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Incase you missed why I am in the Kingdom, it would be an idea to consult the preceding report which can be found at Kingdom Calling;Exceptional Emirates (GLA)-DUB-RUH (by lukeyboy95 Aug 29 2012 in Trip Reports) . This report aims to document not simply internal aviation, but give a view of Saudi Arabia from the belly of the beast.

The long and short of it is that I am an English language instructor out in the Kingdom. The teaching was really only a cover story for gaining access into Saudi Arabia; a country I had long since been utterly captivated with. I completed 5 months of a 12 month contract before resigning. And so it was, my Summer in Saudi.

The two aforementioned flights are with Saudi Arabia’s two main domestic airline; NAS Air Systems and, needless to say, the juggernaut national airline, Saudia. During my two week Eid-al-Fitr holiday, I would zip down to Gizan (GIZ) to spend the last day of my 23rd year on earth in the Farasan Islands, then migrate towards Mecca (but of course, not be allowed anywhere near it) and spend some time in Jeddah, before flying back to the plateau of doom; Riyadh. Some non-aviation (limited) of Saudi Arabia will follow the soupy aviation part, so please feel free to enlighten yourself if, like me, KSA is a mystery to you still.

Be warned, whilst penny-wise, I make up for this by being overly generous with words. Words are cheap, but when describing Saudi Arabia, might hold some value for the discerning reader. So, you've been warned…. On with the report;



An oppressively hot welcome to my 13th Trip Report;



Saudi Internals; Nas Air (E90) vs. Saudia (SV) (747-300)




With thanks to GC Mapper, and in recognition of your 16th Birthday.


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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
68 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 1, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 29354 times:

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Narrative



Internal Saudi Flying, let us just ponder this for one moment, set the scene. Overall it an excellent industry, with the fairly recent introduction of NAS opening up avenues of choice and competition (sometimes a novelty) for Saudi Arabians. The demographics place focus on JED-RUH-DMM trunk routes, but the majority of far flung Saudi cities are catered for too. NAS is in its infancy in this regard, and focuses more on shuttling international routes for holidaying Saudi’s and migrant workers,.

Price-wise, it is all very fair indeed. Perhaps not as cheap as one might expect given the blessing of oil under their scorched earth, but competitive non-the-less. NAS seems to operate yield management pricing, but the fortunate thing is prices never go extortionate. SV comes in more expensive, but for a flat glass of coke slammed down in front of you, who wouldn’t pay that premium?


For me personally, the biggest downfall of the industry was the overzealous move by King Fahd back in the 70’s to move all airfields to new purpose-built tracts of infrastructure completely disassociated from the city in question. Not a big issue normally, but public transport is so abysmal here that it will add a significant cost to flying in many cases.


Booking is completed with relative ease, on both the airline’s websites. They both function well, are aesthetic and there were no glitches with payment. I hit the jackpot with Saudia, as travelling on Friday, there are no flights after 10am (Friday Prayers), they operate more mighty machines JED-RUH in the morning. Flight 1022 was down for a 747-300 which were due to be retired a month after I would fly it.



Seat selection on NAS, similar could be achieved with SV.


18th August 2012, or the year 1433 A.H in Saudi Arabia




“Hot, hot hot!” – weather looking predictably fine for the trip, with poor visibility.


Whilst the gathering of my humble belongings is a simple enough affair, I stand looking at the amassed items for some time, deliberating the necessity of each thing. Will I really need those short shorts? Discarded. I’ve this twitchy little OCD thing developing where I like to lay all my belongs out, generously spaced, never stacked, before packing. Satisfied, photographed, the actual packing is clunky as hell and it all gets thrown into a modest Berghaus backpack.



What’s in my bag.


The company’s devilish little Bangladeshi driver, Delawar, turns up at 2am. Fully aware of the impending journey, he has been alluding to a potential tip for weeks now, which will make the moment of farewell (without a sweetening Riyal) all the more pleasant for me. Times are silly in Saudi Arabia, loose your inhibitions and let night become day and vice versa. One barely bats an eyelid at this sort of ‘early start’; in fact it’s valuable in that it will facilitate sleep in the heat of the following day.


The 40km drive out to the airport is quiet, the last of the night cars having petered off, with only the odd ghostly coaster ferrying laborers around. I lose a lot of sleep of the Saudi laborers. We soon arrive at the airport, rising up the ramp to domestic departures drop-off.



Slip roads off to the airport. 2am.



Ghostly apparitions; the departures drop-off point and airport Mosque.


I’ve given myself a pep-talk (and downed a liter of homebrew cider) in anticipation of photography today. Key here for me is what’s the worst that can happen? [erm… in Sudan I was arrested]. I can’t go covert with my old-faithful DSLR, so I will just have to take consequences. Photography, according to the Wahhabi practice of Islam in Saudi Arabia, is yet another fun item on the long list of haram (Forbidden) activities.


A Saudi explained to me once (like it made perfect sense) that taking a picture could lead to idolization of unworthy subjects. Of course, it is one of these gross contradictions that abound out here, as Saudi have such a penchant for technology, and my 12 year old students cruise around with the latest models of Canon/ IPhone. So, it should be disallowed, but isn’t in reality. Still, I tread softly non-the-less. Incidentally, the only thing that I can’t bare being haram out here, something I openly criticize, the thing I think is completely diabolical and delusional…. Is music being banned.


Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport is fine, in great condition given its 1982 opening, and fairly unrefurbished state. Much touted for the Royal and VIP Terminals, and the excessive use of space all Saudi Arabian airports enjoy. A nice Mosque, Masjid, sits away from the hubbub of bustling passengers, and if you are inclined towards the faith, probably offer’s a nice place to rest on long transits (it is landside). Today I am at Terminal 3, with the other two being of mirrored design. T1 see’s foreign carriers (where I arrived), and 2 is SV and NAS International departures. See the maps… From afar, the terminals look like undulating mounds of posh villas in the desert, three in all.



NAS check-in area with congested terminal behind.


Screening to get in and a very limited landside portion to the terminal. No queues at NAS check-in desks, and a straight-faced Egyptian makes light work of my request for a window. A fleeting glance at my Iqama (residence permit) and all is satisfied. With this so painlessly out the way, I rest a little, before going through security.


Ticket, luggage-tag and my ID.



Toilet signs, the higher-risk female sign, is of a veiled lady.


The IPhone could seriously compromise the security of Saudi Arabia’s sky. After Khabsa (the national dish of chicken and ghee-sodden rice) and sleeping, IPhones are Saudi men’s next biggest passion. So, as the machine shrilly beeps away at my metallic passing, and my bag passes through (heavy with liquids and foods, and a blunt knife for cutting feta cheese), the guards attention remains unwaveringly on his phone. That’s painless too! And I am airside with a glut of free time, which allows some exploration.



Sun dawning on a new day, over this beautiful 777.


Day is reluctantly dawning, and in unison, a call to prayer begins wailing out. Time to reflect; I mentioned that the architecture is very Islamic, but rather pretty. I’m drawn to diamonds in my head, edges like diamonds. The terminal juts out at an unapologetic angle, and down from the atrium is a diamond looking arrivals area/ grove. The fountains are gushing away this morning, filling the terminal with the comforting noise of rhythmic water movement.



Nice reading material, though I don’t think this is affiliated with SV.



A really well laid-out airport guide.



Airlines and destinations.



Schematics of the airport.



Diamond shape of terminals, and self-portrait



Down into the atrium where arriving passengers funnel.



Groves of trees, with boarding gates in the background.


Now is the time of the great Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj, so there is a pleasant diversity of devotees bustling about. You know them from the shaved head, and the apparent nonchalance of people at these often scantily clad souls.

I tentatively begin photo taking, caught somewhere between doing it fast enough that no-one sees, but being deliberate enough that it looks like I am not being sneaky. I don an enormous un-spy like smile as I click away. The sun rises and it is glorious. It reflects on the fuselage of an SV 777 bound for Medina, and out on the aprons, the early morning light basks. This is entertainment enough. I pick about, going down corridors, and back.



Another day of unrelenting heat begins…



Departures early this morning, old school screens throughout.



Revolting toilets still prevail here.



Smashing glass pane gives a nice look



Harking from a bygone era.



Adjoining corridor between terminals.



I’ve been told FRAport recently took over the management of RUH, so notice little improvements here and there. It is clean, quite organized and has a water fountains. Particular affection goes to the libraries dotted at every other gate, though sadly the only non-Muslim book is a German oddity on the virtues of blogging. The rest are religious guidance books to become a better person before your flight.




Arty fabric tapestry gives the terminal some aesthetics.



These library areas are between gate areas.





I find a drinking fountain (hall mark of a noble airport, but I think PAX have been spitting into it, or performing their ablutions, as it is filthy)


There is no saving this heathen though; aviation seems to have taken the place of a religion. That, and my unwavering respect for the solid proof of progressive science. But I am a big fan of observing and trying (often in vain) to understand the religions of the world.





A rather nifty looking Embraer E90 gets towed into stand. This’ll be my first time on an E-jet, and I have high hopes. No boarding call is made, but it is boarding on time. The demographics (of almost all domestic flights) are Saudis, or business folk. The laborers (Urgh!) are normally shipped into JED/ RUH/ DMM, then moved about by defunct yellow American school buses. See later picture.



NAS E90 awaits.



BA 777 from LHR giving a smoky good morning to KSA.






So, I board.

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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 29250 times:

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RUH-GIZ

Airline……………..Nas Air
Aircraft…………….Embraer ERJ-190-100LR 190LR
Flight………………XY 232
Registration…….. VP-CQW
Seat……………….2A (in the end)
Departure time......06.50 (08.22)
Arrival time………. 08.40 (09.46)
LF: 95%.............. All Y
Distance….. ……..617 miles (1hr 50 min)

Price……………. Approx. £38.00




View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Sam Chui


p.s. Thanks Sam!


I instantly like the welcoming interior of the E-jet, though NAS get good miles out of these planes. I am the only Westerner, or hawajja, onboard, so draw a few bemused stares. Importantly the stare of a male FA who bustles over to assist and takes my large bag to stow it. He also explains to my seat-mate that I am in the window.



My seat



Good legroom


10 minutes or so pass, before the flight deck pages over some rambling Arabic. Then everybody starts deboarding the aircraft. Oh no! When all pax off, I take a couple of pics of the cabin. I instantly hear the female FA hooting away in protest, who I get to at the door.



Leaving the aircraft.


“Sir-" flustered FA

“Please, I only got the cabin, no-one’s face”

“So, sir, just the seat?”


Disarming smile.



The contentious photo…


So, back we go! Back at the gate, I assume my utterly confused look (which comes easily in Saudi Arabia), which draws a friendly Saudi to explain the situation. Abdullah is the very man, returning from his medicine course in Gdansk (of all places), to visit family during Eid on the Farasan Islands (which is where I am bound).


He is fantastically friendly, a veiled shadow that he speaks to occasionally in hushed tones, suggests he is recently with wife. Anyway, he explains a lot (no guidebooks) about Gizan, Farasan Island, where to go etc., and such things. He informs me of the gate change too, and after half an hour or so, we reattempt departure.



Our new Aircraft, a LR variant of E190. You can see an EK 340 taxiing in behind. Huge traffic between these two hubs.


The camera incident hasn't set a sour mood with the female FA (who is Algerian) and she welcomes me once more in a friendly manner. I reassure her once again that ‘no faces’. I hope nobody thinks I am breaking her trust by putting the very photo in this report, but it is a job in the public eye and so I won’t apologize.


The young male FA, sporting lime-green Nas shirt and tie, finds me a window seat once more. Second time lucky, and we shortly push-back. The male FA (Faisal as it would happen), distributes glossy Saudi newspapers, which I had previously criticized for their indulgent use of pictures of hand-shaking.


“Would you like a paper sir?”

“Do you have one in English?”

“Sorry sir, you could always look at the pictures, it might be interesting”
with a rueful smile.


I take a copy, and think that was pretty sharp of the FA. Meanwhile, an almost full plane of Saudi’s begin unfurling their broadsheet newspapers with much clumsiness and drama. It strikes yet another comical sight in the supposedly sober kingdom.





Pushback from the filthy windows. EK sits at the international terminal.


Saudi airlines have an issue with dirty windows, so don’t expect the same caliber of ‘aerial’ photography. That, and a heavy smug sitting over all but the mountainous peaks of the Hejaz. We conduct a routine take-off roll and soar into the sky, before long the clarity of the land is lost to the dust.



A nice overview of RUH’s terminals.



So featureless.


It being Ramadan, and that being the month of daylight fasting, only ending on the signal of the new crescent moon, I was a little puzzled to see an inflight menu handed out. This had all the usual favorites on it. What I had overlooked is that this 110 minute flight is counted as travelling, thus Muslims can break the fast. Anyway, during this time, it is safe to be covert with your drinking and snatching of food. It is forbidden (or at least disrespectful) to eat or drink in front of Muslims here, therefore invoking the statement ‘in Saudi Arabia it is forbidden to drink water at times’.



Simple format, and prices largely in line


I zip to the toilet, which is compact and clean.




Emerging, it is clear Faisal wants to engage in conversation, which I always keen to do too. He is extremely friendly, extremely curious why I am in the country, and like almost all Saudi’s wishes to know what I think about the place. He is a trained actor, and we talk about the airline. He seems to like the job. Reeled off some tosh about the earlier aircraft being swapped as it wasn’t capable of passing over the high Hejaz Mountains… any comment?


He instructs me to take any seat at the front of the plane (there are some empty rows), encourages me to enjoy the views as we begin our descent over the mountains. He even gathers my things from my old seat, and brings them down to me.



View from new seat.


To my surprise, he also brings me a 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water; “You won’t be able to get any water in Gizan, so please, take this. Can I get you something to eat at all? “ (staggered) “Please, feel free, just say. We have nothing to do anyway; no-one is eating as it is Ramadan! OK then, if you need anything, just ask!”

“-actually, now you mention it”


And with a nod from the Algerian female FA (the boss), I am told I can visit flight deck upon landing. Hurrah! It’ll be my first since I used to fly MyTravel on family holidays in the 90’s, and normally I am sizzled enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking.



My water care of kindly Faisal.



Hejaz mountains before the terrain tumbles down onto the sultry Red Sea lowlands.


Descent begins. The views over the mountains are a bit blurred, but pleasing non-the-less. We totally grease the landing! There seems to be a lot of surging of the engines, so I expect a bump, but I barely feel anything.



Bleak views of this harsh land.


Such is the hospitality, I am a little embarrassed as three people line-up to chat with me; a Sudanese man who studied aeronautical engineering at Dundee, my Saudi-Polish mate from earlier, and of course Faisal the FA. This is the sort of generosity of spirit, and caring nature, visitors often get in these parts.



Thoroughly excellent Nas FA’s (Faisal on the right)


I am admitted to the flight deck, which is… well you know flight decks! I found myself very apologetic when I went it, sort of like randomly bursting into someone’s office. Lots of “sorry to disturb you/ you must be very busy/ I won’t keep you’s”. Thankfully, the Panamanian (of all nationalities!) Captain is very warm and welcoming, allows photos and engages in conversation.





Very kind Panamanian… I think the first I have ever met.


Walking off the apron to the terminal building, acutely aware of the security around, I chance a photo of the plane. No less than three glass doors open at once, and I am warned. Got the photo though. A sign in the being-renovated terminal says “Hello. Sorry about building work. We thank-you for your largeness”, but I don’t want to chance my luck so store it in the memory bank.



Got in trouble for this photo, but she is worth it.


You have to walk through someone’s living room (of their traditional hut) to get to arrivals, which is funny. Not having to make the ferry to the Farasans for some time, I choose to relax and keep cool in the terminal building. Gizan City Airport is, mercifully, only about 3km from the city center. So I walked about 1km before an outraged Saudi picked me up and ran me into town.



Arrivals is through this traditional hut



GIZ terminal, which is a merciful few KM’s from the center of town.


So ends Nas Air. An excellent flight, with extremely friendly staff. I was highly impressed with the offerings.
For the sake of keeping on topic, I will put the non-aviation photos of the Farasan Islands (absolute paradise), Abha (in the mountains) and the diverse melee of Jeddah at the end of the report.

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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 3, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 29183 times:

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A week passes

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24th August 2012


Preamble


The sort of affliction of ‘logging’ certain aircraft, had long been water of a duck’s back to me. But as I descended deeper into the madness of aviation, I got gradually more enthusiastic about this. It only really applies to larger aircraft, no dice with dashes, fookers, avros etc. When they come, it’s a countable advantage. But bigger birds are my sort of prey.

Whilst firmly behind the A380, I reserve a special sort of love for the menace that is the Boeing 747. Previously flown airlines with this type have been TG, CX and BA. Square that menace by bringing on a Saudi Arabian Airlines 747-300 variant, then lightly dust it with magic by allocating economy seating on the upper-deck, and you see where this is going.


Made docile and dozy by a heavy Yemeni meal, and lounging around smoking shisha in an ornate little square in the old town, it was time to face getting to the airport. Time-check; 8.30pm. I was totally thrilled by Jeddah, absolutely staggered by the old town Al Ballad, mesmerized by the color and diversity of pilgrims using it as the gateway to Mecca (some 80km away in the hills) and content that it had shot onto my ‘great cities of the world’ list (Mombasa, Budapest, Cape Town, Kampala, Hong Kong).





Yemeni food and shisha, the perfect relaxing prelude to flying.


Determined not to play into the hands of shark taxi-drivers (who can afford to be choosey at this busy time of night) and still incredulous about the lack of public transport to this aviation hub, myself and a friend (tiny side story, you know when you are just being polite, and say “yeah, feel free to come along!” convinced that since it is a day before departure, and you’ve only just met the person, they will decline… well, he didn’t!) made an improvised plan to get to the airport.

These treacherous coasters (private buses) rattle around the city. No numbers, no destination, no safety… but most importantly, not a taxi. Utterly lawless in technique. Well, we find the area where these leave. All are keen to steer us towards a taxi, but we find a route that should take us close to the airport from where we can get a metered taxi.

Slot into the front, where I admire just how raggedy our driver and steed are; this ramshackle fellow has no teeth, has a constant cigarette burning in a calloused hand, nursing a full-to-the-brim paper cup of roasting tea, two wing mirrors hanging off, a missing brake pedal, and spluttering engine only restarting on the collective will of its passengers. Beats a taxi! And this is fun; you can always be assured of drama/ near-death experience.


About 1 hour (and vaguely in the northerly direction of the airport), I notice his eyes flick to me, and then him asking in Arabic if any passengers speak English. No. But calloused hand-gestures make it clear we must cross the road and hail a taxi in that general direction.


Launch into some heavy negotiations with a Pakistani taxi-driver (as most are), and get it down to a bargain 15SAR (3 dollars) for about a 15 minute driver to the South Terminal. The driver, Mohammad, is just lovely, and by broken communication, we know he has a good heart. He drops us off, and I ask for a photo, but it is blurred and he looks a bit manic.



Manic, or mystic Mohammad our taxi driver.




JED; South Terminal; 11pm; Pandemonium



In general, bravo to Saudi Arabia! For when the fantastically huge Islamic pilgrimage comes about once a year, barely a ripple is felt in the rest of the country. The only indication perhaps being the appearance of ever-more skinheads, and the disappearance of any buses (which are all commandeered for the pilgrims). But, in Jeddah, you feel it. It strikes me more as vibrant over chaotic. Coming from all corners, all creeds, all cultures, sharing in the richness and commonality of their religion. It’s quite precious. The most colorful are the West African nations, but they also seem to cause the most problems in their conduct.



The terminal, moderate size for SV and XY at JED


The terminal seems fairly compact given out from it stretches Saudia’s entire network. My friend is able to check-in to NAS Air some 8 hours before departure, and he heads landside. I wish for the same luck. I notice a separate check-in desk for the precious Zim-Zam Holy water that each pilgrim likes to take their own bodyweight back home of.



Saudia domestic check-in


I am promptly seen at the Saudia Domestic check-in desks by a young Filipino gentleman. The man that could very well shatter my dreams of the 747-300. A substituted 777 would be such a terrible squib.


“Salaam, I am a bit early for my flight, but can I check-in and head landside?”

“Yes of course sir, we much prefer people to be too early for a flight than too light”
(perhaps a reference to the Saudi elite who rock up willy-nilly for their flights)

“Can you confirm the plane type please?”

“Oh yes indeed sir, it is a 747… a jumbo. And your seat is on the upper deck!”


Aaah. I can breathe easy. So, with much ado, I head landside. Security is so relaxed for internal flights here, it’s kind of crazy. I am pretty sure I beep, but no attention is paid. It would be nice to think it is a bit more thorough on international legs. I have plenty of liquid in the bag too.

Airside, domestic consists of a fairly practical, thread-bare facility. Largely cuboid, with massive open windows facing the apron and runways. The gates are centrally located, about 6 in all IIRC, with a couple of podiums and an escalator that disappears down to ground level where buses convey passengers to their aircraft which sit on the apron. It is quiet when I arrive, and I rather like the facility.

My audacious mate is already deeply asleep on some sumptuous VIP waiting seats. I head to the basic duty free shop, which has a vast array of Islamic dialog books, hadiths, and guides to a pious life. The content is largely absurd, which is not to offend, but to put across my opinion.




You can be the happiest woman in the world! Some light reading for the passing lady.


I have got to say, I am much milder in my opinion of the treatment of females in Saudi Arabia after visiting the country itself. It is fair to say the west has got in an at-times justifiable froth about Saudi women. But, my feeling is that it is a deeply entrenched cultural factor. One sort of just accepts and overlooks the situation, after all, that is the idea, to just fade into the black.

My greatest upset comes from seeing such a waste of massive potential, intellect and spirit. These are doctors and lawyers behind the fabric. I think King Abdullah is instigating some sort of dialogue on the situation. What must be noted is that Saudi husbands often treat their wives very well, and are often there to serve them and not the other way around. After all, that’s what the maid and cleaner are for. And personally, I wouldn’t like my mother or sister to be driving on lethal Riyadh roads…


My friend taking liberties in the VIP area, which I join shortly.


Yes, I sleep. Not very well, but I get about three hours in until the sun comes up and the prayer booms into action at about 05.30am. I had noticed that the prayer area (always sumptuously carpeted), is thick with snoozing Muslim men.



Gate areas are clear and functional.



Departure boards





At this hour, there seem to be a good chunk of flights going. Since the light is nice, I use the wide windows to enjoy the newly emerging views. The beautiful Hajj Terminal (which recently won some ‘Best Terminal ‘(probably Skytrax) award, is in view in the distance. Architecturally it is innovative and eye-catching with traditional Bedouin design and cooling technology.



Hajj Terminal in the distance.



SV apron where passengers are taken too – I tell you, 5 years and we will see an SV A380



What I suppose is a BA767 touches down, and I gawkily squint into my camera to take a shot when a large hand falls on my shoulder, and an authoritative voice says “Oi, you aren’t allowed to take photos here!” Only that the accent is faintly Yorkshire, and the face revealed to be a colleague of mine from Riyadh. He gives me a revolting dark, shriveled date, which I suspect he was just trying to get rid of with hindsight. It says it is some sort of sacred date to bring you excellent fortune throughout the day.


BA’s 767 parking on the apron.



Passing aircraft


His flight soon boards, mine is due in an hour, and my other mate’s an hour after. So, this is the Friday (akin to the West’s Sunday) schedule – with a raft of wide bodies in the morning.



My documents.



Boarding from Gate 5 and 6


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Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 4, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 29209 times:

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Old



New.



JED-RUH


Airline……………..Saudia
Aircraft……………. Boeing 747-368
Flight……………….SV 1022
Registration……..HZ-AIM (27 years old, delivered to SV in 1985)
Seat……………….24 A
Departure time......08.00 (08.31)
Arrival time…………09.30(09.48)
LF: 100%............. Y
Distance….. …….530 miles (1hr 30 min)

Price……………. Approx. £60.00




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Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Turker Hasimoglu
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Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages


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Photo © Derek Ferguson
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Photo © M.Oertle





My flight begins to board from gate 5. Boarding is fairly orderly. Some sort of infuriating queue system settles in where women cut straight to the front, and drag with them their enormous families. Boarding passes ripped, the gate descends down to ground level where buses sit ready to ferry.





On the bus a chivalrous Saudi husband ejects me off my seat so his demure wife can nestle there. I’ve eyes only for the beautiful SV birds on the apron today. Our 747-300 is preceded by a 747-400 which we park beside as the bus in front offloads.



With a nasty scratch on her nose


Just seeing these enigmatic birds up close is such a rush; the grandness, the overriding epicness of their nose and streamlined shape is like no other. There is something of the daunting and unfathomable in these birds. With the Arabic script embossed over the curvature of the nose, and the sort of overwhelming cream color scheme reminding you of the Saudi roots.


We move up, and suddenly we’re beside my aircraft. Stubbier, with flattened out wing-tips, and a seemingly unmovable, let alone airworthy, permanence to her aura; she is clearly a 747-300. Half a dozen Sub-continental (admire; how PC I am) are sopping away with old mops at the enormous Rolls engines, bringing out a devilish glint in the early morning sun.





Giving them a clean before the short flight, massive RRs!



What a bit of machinery – I also love the Saudi flag.



From top of stairs.


I take my sweet time to board, and am welcomed by an Egyptian male – who utters the splendid words ‘Yes sir, you are right up the stairs, welcome onboard’. I ascend physically and in spirits. The retro functionality and shape of this upper cabin is a thrill. And quite cool to see an economy cabin squeezed in here. Two young Filipinas will take care of upper deck economy today.





In Saudi Arabia, foreign males (i.e. not in the direct family) and females will almost never mix; as a question of culture, honor and routine. It just cannot happen. Only two exceptions seem to exist; in the hospital and on air-travel (coach and train travel is strictly separated). It’s no great revelation to see a little Saudi brat sitting in my assigned ‘L’ seat. I make this known to the FA, who attempts to move the young chap, but as she is not Saudi, the parents don’t even listen to her.
So… She looks about to play musical chairs. I let her know that I am happy with any window. As such, she finds a right hand side window for me. This is fair, and the little imp gets his window seat. I am happy to not be seated beside a female, but even having these veiled presences in front and behind me make me a little nervy about photos.


Settled; the leg room is enormous; I have laid hands on two propaganda plastered English newspapers, and begin to enjoy the surroundings. A couple more buses arrive before laborers pull away the stairs and the cabin crew begins performing their duties. No banter from the flight-deck, and I imagine with this old slag they are going through lengthy pre-take-off check-lists.

A safety video is projected onto the forward wall section, but the FA’s are too distracted to lower the projection material. They do lower it for about the final 30 seconds of the film. Getting it roll back up without trouble causes yet more drama, as it keeps getting stuck. The second Filipina FA steps up to apply brute force, before a Lebanese gentleman rationalizes and feeds it slowly into its holder. In all this time, no passengers have seen any of the safety video, and the FA’s are now so stressed they perform no cabin checks, instead assuming their seats.



Squint hard enough, this is the safety video being projected.



Paper selection



Superb legroom


I feel not an iota of safety-based concern, because… glancing at the falling-apart cabin, the ancient work-dog engines, the torn off seat upholstery and the 70’s icons for lights and ‘Air Hostess’, it is clear that a reclined seat is the least of the eminent risks.



Ancient controls



Seats



Well fingered



Our terminal


We line up, and I extend my legs in preparation for the thrill of take-off. It is doled out in generously; the Rolls engines power into some mismatched symphony of the most endearing screams I have ever heard on a plane. No, they begin as thuddy moans and as more power is applied, develop into the screams of raw power that propel this jumbo down JED’s runway. The feverish use of power see’s us soar up into the sky extravagantly, and begin a delightful climb, a few moderate turns and settle into a course for RUH.



Thrust



Soaring skywards



Some sort of Red Sea Riviera scene


I had warned the Filipina’s that I would be taking photos in the cabin, to which they replied OK sir, are you sure, because… you know-“ indicating to a sea of dappled red thobes and depth of black Abayas in the cabin “-They are quite a conservative bunch. Sir, I will just pretend you did not say anything to us”. Fine, well, I get to taking plenty of photos, caution clearly to the wind.


The seat is so comfortable! It is roomy, grossly padded and terrifically kitsch. The appliances on the arm-rest hark to happier days in the aviation industry.


The Fili FA’s launch a double-pronged attack on the cabin; one from the forward, one from the center. When one arrives at me, I see they are distributing those ghastly take-away boxes, and inserting a selected hot dish in a dooket.



Meal service


“Hello sir, Omelet or Fuul? “

“May I have both please?”

[Pause] “Sure sir”




I am handed the box, then separately, the two main meals… and then an afterthought of seasonings and condiments for the fuul.



Upsetting



Here are my feelings on the meal;

Scrappy as hell. Clearly the reputation and seeming importance of SV offering a hot meal on the most inconsequential domestic routes has stuck firm, and as such, the quality and nature of the meal are very poor. I hypothesize that this might be to do with Saudi hospitality, which would always offer food and refreshments to a guest. Still, there is no excuse for this culinary abuse;


The omelet is revolting, totally plastic and tasting purely of undefined texture, it has clearly been made from some sort of egg powder or other processed form of egg (no amount of salt and ash-like pepper can make it edible), largely the same color as the anemic egg is an inelegant slab of haloumi cheese hidden in there. It is displeasingly freezing in the middle, and lukewarm on the outside. The cheese has ‘grilled’ striations, though I remain dubious that this happened before freezing the cheese. The potato croquet is largely satisfying and takes me back to school dinners days.





The fuul performs pretty awfuuly too…. Boom boom! It is very cold, like eating warm baby-food, does not taste fresh or well-seasoned, and has set into a really unpleasant texture that looks closer to dog crap than a rousing breakfast. Nobody told SV that you can’t polish a turd though, and they have sweetly included some Dukka Madiny (which is like a salty, spicy seasoning), and a sachet of Extra Virgin Olive Oil . . . along with some little pitta breads for your entertainment.



Fuul



Pleasing pitas



seasoning


Completing the anti-climax is a pod of water that takes up a third of the unfolded meal box, some desiccated sponge cake which represents Saudi baking skills pretty fairly and a meager tub of tinned fruit. This in a kingdom which has enviable produce despite the harsh conditions.



Accompaniments



Failed ‘fruit salad in light of window’ shot


Lukewarm coffee is splattered into a shallow plastic cup, and some milk and four sugars passed my way. There is a nice Saudia emblem pressed into the foil of the meal-cover, and that ladies and gentlemen, is the highlight of the meal service.



Coffee – poor show. Why don’t they serve simple Arabic coffee in lieu of the airlines heritage?



Tin-foil highlights


The real truth is that I couldn’t give a dickie-bird whether they served me a lavish 3-course, or a packet of crisps. For I am on this flight for the equipment; some of you will know this is generally not my aviation style, I take what I am given and to get giddy in-between. But this a/c is special. I get to exploring;



Upper-deck back galley with ancient equipment



Stairs from upper-deck


Down the stairs, right through into the vast economy section. The plane is totally full on today’s run; I make to the back, where out-with the gaze of the occupied FA’s, proceed to take some nice pictures at the back of the plane. I do not see any prayer area which I feel a little let down by, but the bathrooms are fun, and rather clean.





Main Y cabin, rather nice I thought.





Lav!



Water dispenser.


Heading back, I pause around the stairs where there is a good view of the two engines energetically thrumming away in the hazy Saudi sky.



Engines look great, only a shame for scruffy windows.


Directly in front of me is the elongated galley which is used to cater to J. I encroach a little into this, and get a nice photo. I go to ask an Arabic looking FA whether I can take a photo of the galley; the reaction leaves me aghast;

“Sir, get out of the galley right now, I will not tell you once more, get out”, is tersely stated in a most poisonous manner.

A little stunned, I saunter off, and go and fizz gently upstairs. To make matters worse, I wish to ask my Filipina FA’s if I can visit the flight deck upon arrival. I broach the subject in that sort of round-about British fashion;


“Erm, may I ask you a quick question”

“No sir, I am busy right now”
comes the extraordinary reply. Crikey;

Well and truly silenced, I sit down feeling a little dejected. I decide not to get emotional like other Anetters might have done in the past, and rise above it to make the most of the journey (for it is too short as is). I request a second coffee and a glass of water, and admire the engines against the barren landscape, as hills succumb, and ribbon-like roads in the desert congregate, marking an imminent arrival over the Najd highlands.



Curvature gives nice storage space



Pre Nejd


Our arrival procedure commences. One of the FA’s comes back and asks what my question was, which I choose to curtly reply “The question was relevant at the time I asked you, not now”. No reason for her response.


Riyadh approaches dowdy and dreary, simply blending out from the haze of the desert air, flat and uninspiring, hot and faceless, consistent and featureless. I am just disheartened seeing my city, my effective prison, once more. That said; we perform such a number of beautiful turns that I can’t maintain this gloom, as amazement rapidly washes over. Whilst I miss the Olaya/ CBD side of the view, she makes a turn directly over my house, which allows me to finally see what’s over that high wall opposite my apartment. We seem to make a fair amount of deviations before I feel we are finally committed to the runway.



The dull city of Riyadh in all it’s glory.



My house is down there somewhere, I will edit it and add it to the end of the report.



Granada Mall


The landing is very smooth in this stable heat, and we decelerate gradually, the whine of the Roll’s rising just above the shaking and vibrating of the cabin interior. An EK A340 is taxiing out, confirming my suspicion that EK simply puts whatever’s going on the RUH route. That after seeing an A330, 777, A380 (unverified).



The same EK flight as last visit, and a flyDubai.



Closer



Parked next to the baby-buses


We taxi into RUH’s domestic Terminal 1 stands. I was keen for an apron parking, but the policy is the opposite of JED’s here. I allow all the females and brattish families to collect their various designed baggage from the retro-bins (and side panel bins), and dawdle out. A flight deck crew emerges and stands close to the FAs which I seize to ask the question.
“Would it be possible to pay a quick visit to the flight deck” with enough volume for the pilot to here.


She looks keen to refuse, but seeing the crewmember, asks him. He is more than happy, and delightfully, I am permitted entrance.

I feel rather like a gatecrasher into this antique cockpit. It’s terrifically retro, and I am impressed by the sheep-fur shag cushion covers over retro upholstered seats. Clearly, the flight engineers control panels are a sight in itself. Three kindly men greet me; A Sri-Lankan flight engineer (sheepish, but welcoming), the Filipino captain (a true gentleman) and the young Saudi captain. A regular little meeting of nations to bring this great bird into the sky.


The Filipino captain makes a quip about “no it is forbidden by Saudi law” when I ask for a photo, but breaks into a smile and invites me to lavish in the experience. I am offered to take their photos, but my camera is playing silly buggers. He states it is a delight to fly, before slipping off for his breakfast in the main cabin. Poor man if it is the same as Y.


Old school



Flight engineer panel


Meanwhile, the young Saudi pilot invites me into his seat for a gormy photo. This is amazing, especially staring down the elongated nose onto RUH’s terraced terminal. The divine.





Your man is a bit downbeat about being taken off the 747-300 “I am not really excited about these new aircraft, I love the Jumbo Jet!” As I am typing this, SV’s remaining 743’s should have been removed from service. No-one can doubt it is the end of an era.


I sagely disembark, thanking them for this crowning experience. Economy is still filing out downstairs, and I see a familiar face and decide to confront it;


“Excuse me, where you the person that gave me in trouble in the galley?”

“Ohh, sir, hello”

“Yes, was it you that shouted at me earlier”

“ooh, no sir! I was not shouting, only, you could see I was in the middle of service, and you kept on coming into the galley despite me asking “
(unsubstantiated)

“You did not ask me once, you snapped at me. Let me say that I have never been spoken to so rudely by an airline in all my life”

“Sir… smoking?”

“No, spoken, you do not speak to passengers like that ever”

“I am sooooo sorry sir, I was very busy, really I am honestly very sorry”

“What is your name please?”

“I am Sara. Really I am truly sorry, I hope you are OK


And off I traipsed, pleased at least that she had to answer for the way she had spoken to me. I was so at being spoken to like that, especially as I was tiptoeing around with extreme decorum. The apology was a million miles from genuine, but at least should teach her to mind the way she talks to passengers.



One last view of the beautiful HZ-AIM.


RUH clearly can’t handle this sort of A/C. With Saudi families checking in half their households, the baggage claim was awash with families, escaping brats, stressed shakalas (maids, usually young Filipina, Indonesian or Somali), harried mothers and cool thobed fathers. Enter into the fray the overenthusiastic porters clinging onto every potential 10 Riyal welding customer, it was a chaotic scene. My bag never appeared, and after 30 minutes and a little snooping around, I found it resting beside a pillar.


Through into the unhelpful arrivals; a bus clearly wasn’t an option, my rat of a Bangladeshi driver wasn’t picking up his phone, and the taxi drivers were behaving like pack animals. Airport Taxis are reserved almost exclusively for Arab drivers, and accordingly they have an indifference to haggle, instead staying strong and referring you to a bogus ‘pre-paid’ destination list around Riyadh city. In the land of $00.14 a liter fuel, this sort of greed can be a bit annoying.


I await my friend to arrive on NAS, which is slightly delayed. The unionized taxi drivers won’t hear our pleas, so I hatch a plan to catch a taxi dropping off at the departures area. High risk, but works a treat, and we bundle into a cab with a Pakistani driver (panicked at the thought of a fine) and within 20 minutes are at our door front.

.



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 5, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 29022 times:

.


Conclusions



What a trip! More than anything, this came as a physiological and physical release from what had been increasingly the constraints of torrid Riyadh. To break out into these more expressive and charismatic regions of Saudi Arabia was like to truly open one’s eyes and smell the coffee once more. There is more of this sort of whimsical chat in the later non-aviation part.


But, just flying above the clamor was a thrilling experience.


If you wish me to size one against the other, Nas Air was the clear victor. The airline was flexible, functional and straight-forward. Less burdened with the bureaucracy and legacy of SV, Nas provided a clean and personal sort of service for the discerning traveller. If all the FA’s were like the ones I experienced, then the airline should have a bright future in making the Kingdoms air travel more competitive. EY have also just launched some codeshares here.


By contrast, SV was everything I expected of the soupy, heavy, brash national airline of Saudi Arabia. Saudia may truly be at a turning point in its history, what with joining an Star Alliance, taking on a name that lends less to its home country and beginning to go mainstream. The booking and web management of the ticket were some of the best I have ever experienced, and whilst the hard product was a heady trip down memory lane (helped by the wonderful flight deck crew), the FA’s and catering left some serious gaps in my impression of the company. However, that is peripheral, and as far as I am concerned, the 747-368 has become the darling of my aviation escapades. I know she isn’t that rare or special, but it was great to fly on.


Your opinions, objections and worldly wisdom are all gratefully received. It is a time-consuming labor of love writing trip-reports, but what we are left with is a seriously satisfying nugget of our aviation experiences. For me, this trip was certainly one to remember.

There are some hopefully insightful pictures into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia below, however…

Happy flying,



Luke



Previous reports


BA And Cityjet - Scotland To London (DND/GLA/LCY) (by lukeyboy95 Mar 31 2010 in Trip Reports)

BA’s Nod To The Northeast – NCL-LHR 747 (by lukeyboy95 Jul 30 2010 in Trip Reports)

An Indian Summer; The North – BA And IT (Part 1) (by lukeyboy95 Jun 11 2010 in Trip Reports)

An Indian Summer; The South – S2 And IT (Part 2) (by lukeyboy95 Jul 15 2010 in Trip Reports)

~A Promise Kept; To France For Chicken AF A380~ (by lukeyboy95 Oct 23 2011 in Trip Reports)

Pivo In Bratislava ; A Day With FR (by lukeyboy95 May 6 2010 in Trip Reports)

Part 1; The Rushes Run – BA Vs. Virgin Train 1st (by lukeyboy95 Dec 23 2011 in Trip Reports)

Part 2; To Venice For Filming With BA (by lukeyboy95 Jan 12 2012 in Trip Reports)

My African Safari (i) ; The Beginning (EZY/ QR) (by lukeyboy95 Feb 27 2012 in Trip Reports)

African Safari (ii) ;The Interlude QR LXR-DOH-KUL (by lukeyboy95 Apr 13 2012 in Trip Reports)

Africa (iii); The Medivac QR Rtn& A3 TLV-ATH (by lukeyboy95 May 19 2012 in Trip Reports)

Kingdom Calling;Exceptional Emirates (GLA)-DUB-RUH (by lukeyboy95 Aug 29 2012 in Trip Reports)










Internal Saudi






At about 9pm every night, I would brew a strong coffee with milk, put some coals on my hob, and proceed up to the roof of my apartment to indulge in a shisha pipe. Through wispy smoke of double apple and autumn cherry, I would consider the following poisonous question;

Where had it all gone wrong?

What was wrong was that I was a prisoner, and that my Saudi employees were treating us like cattle, and that they had squeezed choice and the drive out of my life. I had been misinformed by a recruiter as to my visa, and was locked into a contract. I became insular, bitter and devoid of a spirit of adventure upon which I pride myself.

When Eid-al-Fitr holiday came about, I aimed to reverse this. Before I had even boarded the plane, I could feel the coils releasing, and myself easing into the true warmth of Saudi Arabia.

For Saudi is the land of contradictions and secrets. It is that based on reputations on all sides aimed at maintaining a form of order and control. For example, a plethora of things will get your head lopped off, yet almost all of these happen under a veil of secrecy in various forms. E.g. Sodomy; yet some young men go out to the desert and indulge, lesbianism is rife within women’s social society, no alcohol; yet every man and his dog knows the expats brew it flagrantly, and the Saudi’s queue up for miles on the causeway to Bahrain each weekend to have a weekend in the city of sin.


But! Strip away all that nonsense, all which differentiates us and you will find that Saudis are fiercely proud, curious and generous. A heady mix, which ultimately left me feeling a lot of love for them.

Any other observations I might have, I hope to mop into to the travelogue.


So, Gizan. Wretched industrial city located right over the border from Yemen. From the airport I am given a lift into town. The humidity hits me like a brick and I fall asleep through afternoon prayer which only elicits glances of mild concern at the barmy white man.





I take a ‘Barracuda’ boats over the 45km channel to the Farasan Islands. It is a tumultuous transit, and I envision a Mexican drug smuggler. I hadn’t even realized, but in a separate compartment at the back of the boat, are a gaggle of women and two families. Goal achieved; I did not even realize they were there.


Farasan is deception in two dimensions. Firstly for being a total unsung hero of desert ideals, a veritable pearl in the Red Sea. Imagine Sharm-el-Sheik before the charter flights, the second dimension is that it is vast, and the pearl requires a little searching for. The road network is vast, sparse and unrelenting.



Using a bit of Saudi hitching to make it up to the north





Resting from the sun under a bridge linking two of the islands.


That night I get to the north of the island through hitching. Attempts to sneak past a village unnoticed fail, as I am offered a lift by one gentleman. Safely on an idealic beach, I set up my one-man coffin, ahem, tent and snack on feta cheese, olives and still-fresh bread. As the sun relents, I pop off into the water for a delicious swim. The aquatic liberation is more symbolic for being in the dustbowl of Riyadh for some months. The sun is setting on my 23rd year of life.



Self portrait of me hitching on the harsh desert roads.



Sun sets on my 23rd year.



It’s a happy little sleeping arrangement.


I konk out, but awake to a few flashlights on me. It seems the village’s best English speakers have been rounded up to come and discover something about me. They are respectful and soon leave me in silence.


By the morning sunrise, I am awake and go off for a swim. Why not, I am 24 after all. By 0800 the sun is high and oppressive (like the religious authorities), and I shelter under a cliff in the stone. It’s typically Saudi that a friend comes to me by GMC, revving across the coral beach. Abu Marwan’s peace-offering is an ice-cold bottle of smoothie and some coconut biscuits.

“Please Mr., we invite you to come and rest in the cool and eat something”.

This is a rare invite, and I bundle into the air-conditioned GMC and am driven to his home. To be let into a Saudi’s home is a grand experience, and I relish this. All treat me tentatively at first. It is Eid too, so many people pass by to visit and I am an unlikely surprise for them.



Abu Marwan, who invites me into his home.


Abu Marwan treats me extremely well, despite verging a little on the converty side at some stages, and feeds me a lavish meal (cooked by an unseen wife) of fresh fish, keeps me watered and lets me rest in AC peace through the heat of the day.





Nice old coral villages here on the coast.


His village is a delight. Later in the day I rendezvous with my mate who has just arrived, and we spend a second night under the stars. The next morning we go off and find some good water to swim.



Car-hire? Well… the day is about 55 degrees!


We aren’t two minutes into undressing at this unblemished remote spot before a military van comes pounding across the desert; predictably the officers are highly lovely, and offer a warning of the rocks and their telephone numbers if we should wish to be picked up. Cool. The beach is pristine and true escapism, the water totally immaculate. I am overjoyed to have found this spot.









Old Ottoman fort





My inaugural attempt at what the hip kids call ‘planking’ (contorting yourself into a plank shape), which I immediately realized was a little ambitious.


Later that day we take the free Catamaran (a placating gift from the king), to Gizan port, and then connect by bus to Abha, up in the mountains, nourishing moderate temperatures and personalities.



Spartan offerings…



This might be 'Jizan port' in most countries... But Saudi's have a knack of giving intimidating names... it is instead 'Jizan Islamic Port and Industrial Zone'



Rare capture of Saudi females, with the Kings gift of the free ferry behind.


So much of Saudi Arabia can be written off if you do not have a car, and since we didn’t, it was difficult to see around. Though I did my darndest to hitch. It is yet another aspect to make you feel confined and limited: the lack of public transport.





The second life of American school buses, used to ferry about laborers



Incense at a local market



Beautiful honeycomb



Incense burning



Giving a bit of counseling here! Friendly Peter here is from the stunning kerela region of India and tells us the government pay him £80 a month and won't let him leave for 3 years...



Old house.

.
A fairly serviceable SAPTCO night bus takes us 12 hours north to Jeddah.


If Riyadh had become the poison, then Jeddah was the antidote. Liberal, progressive, expressive and not afraid to show off some Saudi spirit. The sea air was fresh air, and breathed a whole new life into my attitude to the country.
Coupled with the Hajj period, the population was a diverse tapestry of Islam, the city was a warren of crumbling, exquisite old buildings festooned with ornate balconies are finishes.





The national obsession.





A rare ornate mosque.


But what set this old town apart from any other I had visited was that it was working, and disintegrating, and it was unabashed in this respect. We sat outside and enjoyed shisha, feasted of Yemenis delicacies, and – quite extraordinary- witnessed the city come to prayer at sunset from the roof of our hotel. That was an experience I will never forget, and it seemed to me that aircraft held over the nearby mountains in respect for this interlude.







Sunset, and watching the city come to prayer at the end of the day. A great experience.



Street art is more expression that you would find in Riyadh!



The youth out enjoying life



Feris-wheel as pushed by Egyptians





This was a surreal sight. Being pushed are two treacherous swings full of veiled young women. The slow focus shows them as merely a black unseen blur which is appropriate..




This building, a bank headquarters, featured on Micheal Palin’s travel show back in 1988.



Red-Sea bounty



Amazing balconies in the old town.



The narrowest shop I have ever seen... selling Korans.



Square of a million pigeons.



Dates!





Think this is like the world’s highest water fountain.


That is the end for now, don’t want to bamboozle you…

My final report in the Saudi series is my return to the UK which will feature QR RUH-DOH-MAN-GLA and also an aside about Saudi National Day, and the train journey to Dammam and the East Coast.



Cheers!

Luke





.



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlineElPistolero From Canada, joined Feb 2012, 887 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 28582 times:

Bit intimidated by the length, but once I started, it was one hell of a read.

Can't say I m surprised by the airlines' offerings, but I am a fair bit amazed that you actually went to Saudi and Yemen and did something few of us 'westerners' would dare do.

Brilliant report. Great insight into an often opaque region.


User currently offlineLFutia From Netherlands, joined Dec 2002, 3305 posts, RR: 28
Reply 7, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 28332 times:
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Wow! I'm just intrigued and such words cannot describe what a brilliant trip report this is. Thank you for taking the time to write such a brilliant trip report. I'm amazed at all of the pictures. Glad to see you flew on some pretty cool aircraft.

Leo/ORD



Leo/ORD -- Groetjes uit de VS! -- Heeft u laatst nog met KLM gevlogen?
User currently offlineQuokkas From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 27817 times:

صباح الخير Luke. عيد ميلاد سعيد OK, it's a bit late but all the same.
It is good to see your promised domestic TR on line.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
“Hot, hot hot!”

It'll be nice when the summer comes.  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Ghostly apparitions; the departures drop-off point and airport Mosque.

Looks like a UFO coming in to land.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
the thing I think is completely diabolical and delusional…. Is music being banned.

Unreal. Did I tell you about the time I heard a couple of Saudi guys singing on a flight to CMN? Listening carefully, I recognised that they were singing nothing religious but were reciting the in-flight menu! It was the most beautiful version of a menu I had ever heard.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
the guards attention remains unwaveringly on his phone.

Got to keep the priorities right. But seriously, why bother with security at all?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
He also explains to my seat-mate that I am in the window.

No arguing over who is sitting where, then.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
Saudi airlines have an issue with dirty windows,

I imagine the humidity and sand everywhere wouldn't treat the windows kindly.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
I zip to the toilet, which is compact and clean.

In stark contrast to the ones in the terminal.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
“-actually, now you mention it”

What wonderful treatment you received from the crew. At every stage helpful and accommodating. Kudos to them (and no doubt their curiosity.)

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
We thank-you for your largeness”,

Do they get many overweight Australians passing through?  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
The most colorful are the West African nations, but they also seem to cause the most problems in their conduct.

Yes, recently there have been a few diplomatic rumblings following some women from West African countries being deported for being "unaccompanied." They had spent their life savings to attend the Hajj and in the end spent all their time sitting in a cell or sitting on an aircraft. Sad. But then, I understand that some of the visitors also try to overstay their visas.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 4):
Some sort of infuriating queue system settles in where women cut straight to the front,

Ladies first! Your insight into the status and treatment of women is very welcome.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 4):
The omelet is revolting, totally plastic and tasting purely of undefined texture, it has clearly been made from some sort of egg powder or other processed form of egg (no amount of salt and ash-like pepper can make it edible), largely the same color as the anemic egg is an inelegant slab of haloumi cheese hidden in there. It is displeasingly freezing in the middle, and lukewarm on the outside. The cheese has ‘grilled’ striations, though I remain dubious that this happened before freezing the cheese.

For some reason I couldn't help but think of Suryo's descriptions of mouth-watering delicacies and culinary delights when reading the above. It may be custom throughout the Middle East and Gulf to offer a meal and refreshments, but on a shorter flight it might be better to offer less and more - a smaller offering of higher quality.

I am a bit surprised by the terse responses of some of the cabin crew, although in one instance you had committed the ultimate faux pas: you ventured into the J cabin when your ticket was for Y. Fortunately that isn't haraam, merely makruh.   I note that you didn't get "emotional" but you did get even.

In contrast how nice to see that the flight crew were welcoming and allowed you to take as many photos as you wished.

What can I say about your wonderful photos and description of the kindness and hospitality that you were shown by ordinary people. The courtesy and generosity of spirit is truly amazing, yet so natural.

I was interested by your remarks about Jeddah being "a warren of crumbling, exquisite old buildings festooned with ornate balconies are finishes." In my own travels in the Middle East I too have noticed that some places have a charm to them. Buildings that started off grand and imposing have suffered years of wear and neglect, had half-hearted attempts to restore, had additions made seemingly haphazardly, leaving them with the appearance of a person grown old and mysterious.

Luke, thank you for bringing a thoroughly informative, educative and entertaining report.

Best wishes,
Roy


User currently offlinejetblast From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 1231 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 27650 times:

Always enjoy reading your reports Lukeyboy. Some of the most thorough and interesting I have seen on these forums - I like sitting down for a while and having the occasional read!

Brilliant insight into a country we never see much from - looking forward to your next installment.

Brian



Speedbird Concorde One
User currently offlineabrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 5014 posts, RR: 55
Reply 10, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 27472 times:

Luke,

Thanks for a delightful read as I battle another transit at an airport in the middle of nowhere. This was just what I needed to read. Your report of the Kingdom and the airlines in it pretty much mirror my thoughts and experience. NAS is run by some seriously good airline professionals, including some smart people from U2. I wish they were allowed to grow and price smartly instead of still being mandated by the Government.

Saudia - the less said the better. I am not at all surprised by the crew's reaction -- as I have said with many airlines in the past, putting lipstick on a goat (animal changed because I don't want to incite ...) doesn't change the goat.

Thanks for your insight on the Kingdom as well. I am glad that you were able to experience the genuineness of the people. I had been there a few times for work, and it is one of the handful of countries I have no desire to return to. Just the BS of everything takes away my motivation to dig deeper.

Either way, I am glad you are out of it  .

Thanks again for sharing.

Saludos,
A.

PS: I hope you took advantage and crossed the bridge over to Bahrain. Totally awesome with some of the most friendly Gulf nationals.



Live, and let live.
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 11, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 27213 times:

Morning, and thanks for an already heartening selection of replies. Now...


Hello ElPistolero - and what an interesting username it is too.

Quoting ElPistolero (Reply 6):
Bit intimidated by the length, but once I started, it was one hell of a read.

Yes, I know it can be a bit of a barrier, but was happy to see you got sucked in! I am a liability; this is only 2 domestic runs!

Quoting ElPistolero (Reply 6):
Can't say I m surprised by the airlines' offerings, but I am a fair bit amazed that you actually went to Saudi and Yemen and did something few of us 'westerners' would dare do.

It was something I had wanted to do, I didn't get to Yemen, but I may as well have for the amount of Yemenese and their culture about the South of Saudi.

Alot of westerners about, but all hiding in their compound warren-holes!

Quoting ElPistolero (Reply 6):
Great insight into an often opaque region.

Bringing clarity to the opaque... how nice!





**************************************



Hi Leo

Quoting LFutia (Reply 7):
Wow! I'm just intrigued and such words cannot describe what a brilliant trip report this is. Thank you for taking the time to write such a brilliant trip report. I'm amazed at all of the pictures. Glad to see you flew on some pretty cool aircraft.

Many thanks for the kind comments - the aircraft were great, and both new to me, so it made the prospect of flying all the better.




*********************************************

Hello Roy - do you have Arabic roots? You seem to have a way with the language...

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
OK, it's a bit late but all the same.

Still appreciated. Forgot to say, Birthdays are another forbidden thing in the Kingdom.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
Looks like a UFO coming in to land

I had thought the same!

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
Listening carefully, I recognised that they were singing nothing religious but were reciting the in-flight menu! It was the most beautiful version of a menu I had ever heard.

haha! That is quite amazing - actually, Saudi men have a most beautiful, slightly sorrowful way of holding a tune. It is a shame to see them held back...

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
But seriously, why bother with security at all?

I agree, I very unlikely target. Still, security is about everywhere mostly as a deterrence.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
No arguing over who is sitting where, then.

Thankfully, and my seat-mate was very graceful.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
I imagine the humidity and sand everywhere wouldn't treat the windows kindly.

No, but EK and QR seem to manage alright with cleaning their windows!

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
In stark contrast to the ones in the terminal.

ha, one of the only place where you want to hold it till the plane...

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
What wonderful treatment you received from the crew.

I couldn't praise they highly enough. The girl was a bit lazy, but seem to be there more to supervise.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
Do they get many overweight Australians passing through?  

ha, I would be impressed if this was on the Ozzy tourist trail!

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
Sad. But then, I understand that some of the visitors also try to overstay their visas.

Alot - there are whole ghettos of West Africans in parts of the city, alot of African descent people living in Jeddah. But all seemingly safe, friendly and abiding by the rules.


Here is a picture of the beautiful 'ghetto' are and a few overstaying Hajjis!

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
It may be custom throughout the Middle East and Gulf to offer a meal and refreshments, but on a shorter flight it might be better to offer less and more - a smaller offering of higher quality.

It makes me happy with BA's G&T. But, EK seems to be able to provide a fair quality offering.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
committed the ultimate faux pas: you ventured into the J cabin when your ticket was for Y.

But! It was that purgatory between cabins... the galley stretches up the forward port side.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
I note that you didn't get "emotional" but you did get even.

haha. I like that, I doubt she would have spoken to me like that if I was Saudi.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
The courtesy and generosity of spirit is truly amazing, yet so natural.

I felt very at ease among Saudis, more so say than I think I would in Pakistan at the moment.

Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
I was interested by your remarks about Jeddah being "a warren of crumbling, exquisite old buildings festooned with ornate balconies are finishes." In my own travels in the Middle East I too have noticed that some places have a charm to them. Buildings that started off grand and imposing have suffered years of wear and neglect, had half-hearted attempts to restore, had additions made seemingly haphazardly, leaving them with the appearance of a person grown old and mysterious.

Really? that is interesting... I guess there was just something so different about having this extraordinary old town, but letting it continue on it's natural course. Often, we are so keen to renovate heritage, that it ends up looking like it should be in a theme park. Vast tracts of the old town where simply collapsing, yet I felt little remorse. No attempts to restore here either;



Quoting Quokkas (Reply 8):
Luke, thank you for bringing a thoroughly informative, educative and entertaining report.

Best wishes,
Roy

And thanks for a very detailed and kind reply!!




************************







Hello Jetblast!

Quoting jetblast (Reply 9):
Always enjoy reading your reports Lukeyboy.

Good! Thanks for the comment

Quoting jetblast (Reply 9):
Some of the most thorough and interesting I have seen on these forums - I like sitting down for a while and having the occasional read!

Yes, that is the key, you have to sit down and enjoy the story. Happy you did so!!





******************************************





Greetings Alex

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 10):
Thanks for a delightful read as I battle another transit at an airport in the middle of nowhere.

Not too in the middle of nowhere if the internet has the strength to open that report! Shed some light...

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 10):
Your report of the Kingdom and the airlines in it pretty much mirror my thoughts and experience. NAS is run by some seriously good airline professionals, including some smart people from U2. I wish they were allowed to grow and price smartly instead of still being mandated by the Government.

Well, actually, you are the professional! This is just what I personally got - but I think brand Nas has alot of potential. The government likes that mandate in all respects, but aviation-wise the Kingdom is at least going in the right direction

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 10):
putting lipstick on a goat (animal changed because I don't want to incite ...) doesn't change the goat.

Haha! And with their launch into Skyteam, the management have given it a very poor make-over indeed. How quick it smudges though when you get onboard. Perhaps other member's longer haul reports will be more positive... ?

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 10):
it is one of the handful of countries I have no desire to return to. Just the BS of everything takes away my motivation to dig deeper.

It does! And it did mine too, for a long time. Everything is just so protracted, slow and controlled. I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to rent a car etc. But, as soon as I felt I got the flavor of things, I immediately resigned. When were you there? What years?

Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 10):
hope you took advantage and crossed the bridge over to Bahrain.

My Slavedriver employees had me on a certain visa that allowed no visits outside the Kingdom. Liked to keep us under their thumb. I saw it.... and longed!

Cheers for the comment

.



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinegardermoen From Australia, joined Jul 1999, 1520 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 27170 times:

Fantastic report! You are a brave trouper getting about in Saudi Arabia like that.
It is one place that I have been fascinated by, but probably will never get to.

I have heard so many bad things about SV, and your report kind of reflects that! It amazes that SV managed to wrangle its way into Skyteam.

NAS Air, on the other hand, seem like an airlined I'd be happy to try out.


User currently offlineQuokkas From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 27057 times:

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
do you have Arabic roots?

I have a long association with the arabic speaking world dating back to my birth in Libya in the days of King Idris as-Senussi. But I have maintained an interest in the MENA region, making numerous visits to Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait.  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
I doubt she would have spoken to me like that if I was Saudi

I suspect not. But to be fair, she did come back later which on another carrier might not have happened.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 11):
Vast tracts of the old town where simply collapsing, yet I felt little remorse. No attempts to restore here either;

I can believe that. During a previous visit to Alexandria an apartment building did collapse. Fortunately it was a working day and most people were out, otherwise the fatalities would have been higher. Thank you for posting the additional photos.


User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 14, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 27046 times:

Hi Gardermoen

Quoting gardermoen (Reply 12):
Fantastic report! You are a brave trouper getting about in Saudi Arabia like that.
It is one place that I have been fascinated by, but probably will never get to.

Thanks for the comment! Well, there are a huge amount of westerners going out there every year. It is something crazy like a third of the Saudi population are made up of overseas workers! I had also been fascinated, and was happy I took the plunge!

Quoting gardermoen (Reply 12):
I have heard so many bad things about SV, and your report kind of reflects that! It amazes that SV managed to wrangle its way into Skyteam.

Yes, I am a bit mystified too... but there should be some up and coming reports on their Long haul product.....

Quoting gardermoen (Reply 12):
NAS Air, on the other hand, seem like an airlined I'd be happy to try out.

Very friendly! Lets hope they can keep it that way...



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6643 posts, RR: 78
Reply 15, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 27005 times:

Hi Luke,

what can I say? This is one of the most interesting reports I have ever read! Absolutely fantastic stuff, I'm totally amazed. It's great to get so many insights into this country - and of course it's great to get an impression of NAS Air and Saudia's domestic operations.

NAS Air seems to be a nice airline - but I guess I would still take SV due to its more interesting equipment. Congratulations on getting on the 743 - what made it even more special are the RR engines. My one and only 743 flight was on a CX 743, powered by RR as well.  

Y Class on the upper deck is certainly nice - I enjoyed that on a JAL flight from NGO to OKA some years ago.

Oddities & Okinawa: JTA 734 & JAL 744D(Domestic) (by PlaneHunter Dec 3 2007 in Trip Reports)

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Booking is completed with relative ease, on both the airline’s websites. They both function well, are aesthetic and there were no glitches with payment.

Good to know! I'm still interested in trying SV between DXB and LHR, maybe next year.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Photography, according to the Wahhabi practice of Islam in Saudi Arabia, is yet another fun item on the long list of haram (Forbidden) activities.

Oh well...

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
A Saudi explained to me once (like it made perfect sense) that taking a picture could lead to idolization of unworthy subjects.

Ah, okay...

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Sun dawning on a new day, over this beautiful 777.

Great shot!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I find a drinking fountain (hall mark of a noble airport, but I think PAX have been spitting into it, or performing their ablutions, as it is filthy)

Awful...

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):

To my surprise, he also brings me a 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water; “You won’t be able to get any water in Gizan, so please, take this. Can I get you something to eat at all? “ (staggered) “Please, feel free, just say. We have nothing to do anyway; no-one is eating as it is Ramadan! OK then, if you need anything, just ask!”

Nice!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
And with a nod from the Algerian female FA (the boss), I am told I can visit flight deck upon landing. Hurrah! It’ll be my first since I used to fly MyTravel on family holidays in the 90’s, and normally I am sizzled enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking.

Wow, very good news!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Thankfully, the Panamanian (of all nationalities!) Captain is very warm and welcoming, allows photos and engages in conversation.

  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
But as I descended deeper into the madness of aviation, I got gradually more enthusiastic about this.

  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
But bigger birds are my sort of prey.

I can only agree.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
“Oh yes indeed sir, it is a 747… a jumbo. And your seat is on the upper deck!”

Great news once again!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I tell you, 5 years and we will see an SV A380

That wouldn't surprise me either.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Here are my feelings on the meal;

Scrappy as hell. Clearly the reputation and seeming importance of SV offering a hot meal on the most inconsequential domestic routes has stuck firm, and as such, the quality and nature of the meal are very poor. I hypothesize that this might be to do with Saudi hospitality, which would always offer food and refreshments to a guest. Still, there is no excuse for this culinary abuse;
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
The fuul performs pretty awfuuly too…. Boom boom! It is very cold, like eating warm baby-food, does not taste fresh or well-seasoned, and has set into a really unpleasant texture that looks closer to dog crap than a rousing breakfast. Nobody told SV that you can’t polish a turd though, and they have sweetly included some Dukka Madiny (which is like a salty, spicy seasoning), and a sachet of Extra Virgin Olive Oil . . . along with some little pitta breads for your entertainment.

SV meal? No thanks...

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
The real truth is that I couldn’t give a dickie-bird whether they served me a lavish 3-course, or a packet of crisps. For I am on this flight for the equipment;

  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
“Sir, get out of the galley right now, I will not tell you once more, get out”, is tersely stated in a most poisonous manner.

A little stunned, I saunter off, and go and fizz gently upstairs. To make matters worse, I wish to ask my Filipina FA’s if I can visit the flight deck upon arrival. I broach the subject in that sort of round-about British fashion;


“Erm, may I ask you a quick question”

“No sir, I am busy right now” comes the extraordinary reply. Crikey;

Unbelievable!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):

She looks keen to refuse, but seeing the crewmember, asks him. He is more than happy, and delightfully, I am permitted entrance.

I feel rather like a gatecrasher into this antique cockpit. It’s terrifically retro, and I am impressed by the sheep-fur shag cushion covers over retro upholstered seats. Clearly, the flight engineers control panels are a sight in itself. Three kindly men greet me; A Sri-Lankan flight engineer (sheepish, but welcoming), the Filipino captain (a true gentleman) and the young Saudi captain. A regular little meeting of nations to bring this great bird into the sky.

Great!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):

“Excuse me, where you the person that gave me in trouble in the galley?”

“Ohh, sir, hello”

“Yes, was it you that shouted at me earlier”

“ooh, no sir! I was not shouting, only, you could see I was in the middle of service, and you kept on coming into the galley despite me asking “ (unsubstantiated)

“You did not ask me once, you snapped at me. Let me say that I have never been spoken to so rudely by an airline in all my life”

“Sir… smoking?”

“No, spoken, you do not speak to passengers like that ever”

“I am sooooo sorry sir, I was very busy, really I am honestly very sorry”

“What is your name please?”

“I am Sara. Really I am truly sorry, I hope you are OK

And off I traipsed, pleased at least that she had to answer for the way she had spoken to me. I was so at being spoken to like that, especially as I was tiptoeing around with extreme decorum. The apology was a million miles from genuine, but at least should teach her to mind the way she talks to passengers.

Well done, Luke!


Thanks again for posting this outstanding report!



PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1084 posts, RR: 32
Reply 16, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 26978 times:

Dearest Planehunter!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
what can I say? This is one of the most interesting reports I have ever read! Absolutely fantastic stuff, I'm totally amazed. It's great to get so many insights into this country - and of course it's great to get an impression of NAS Air and Saudia's domestic operations.

Well, you said it all very nicely in your reply! I thought it was a bit blurry about Saudi aviation, so happy to shed some light. I wouldn't be too worried about taking photos either as I had originally led to believe.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
but I guess I would still take SV due to its more interesting equipment.

absolutely. Getting less and less so though...

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
My one and only 743 flight was on a CX 743, powered by RR as well.  

Oh, beautiful. I mean, I know they aren't so special, but they are great old planes....

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
Y Class on the upper deck is certainly nice - I enjoyed that on a JAL flight from NGO to OKA some years ago.

cool! It's very nice up there... next time, hopefully, I will be in J!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
I'm still interested in trying SV between DXB and LHR, maybe next year.

Ah yes, Dubai!! I see they do a good connection and a great flight on this route. I would give it a go!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
Awful...

I still drank from it!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
That wouldn't surprise me either

well... no.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
SV meal? No thanks...

Pretty naff. And to think BA gets away pleasing its passengers with a pack of biscuits and a stiff drink.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
Well done, Luke!

I felt much better after confronting her. At it isn't usually my style...

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 15):
Thanks again for posting this outstanding report!

You are more than welcome.

Rgds



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlinegabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3037 posts, RR: 12
Reply 17, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 26780 times:

Excellent Luke, just excellent! Plenty of info, brilliant photos and devilishly rude! I was looking forward to seeing this as I'll be "enjoying" SV in December, BLR-DMM-JED-LHR.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I hit the jackpot with Saudia, as travelling on Friday, there are no flights after 10am (Friday Prayers), they operate more mighty machines JED-RUH in the morning. Flight 1022 was down for a 747-300 which were due to be retired a month after I would fly it.

Lucky you!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
“Hot, hot hot!” – weather looking predictably fine for the trip, with poor visibility.

Ha, why do they even bother? Surely it's 50C for a few months, before going down to 30C, then back up again? Do they have daily forecasts, or just one a month?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
The IPhone could seriously compromise the security of Saudi Arabia’s sky. After Khabsa (the national dish of chicken and ghee-sodden rice) and sleeping, IPhones are Saudi men’s next biggest passion. So, as the machine shrilly beeps away at my metallic passing, and my bag passes through (heavy with liquids and foods, and a blunt knife for cutting feta cheese), the guards attention remains unwaveringly on his phone. That’s painless too! And I am airside with a glut of free time, which allows some exploration.

So annoying when they do check people properly. I also have big arguements with Chinese x-ray people (not at airports, but in stations) where they insit you put your bag through, but never watch the screen.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
This’ll be my first time on an E-jet, and I have high hopes.

I just love E-jets. You have to try BA 190s...loads of room, AND a G&T!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 2):
“Sorry sir, you could always look at the pictures, it might be interesting” with a rueful smile.

Ha, I wish Chinese FAs had such ingenuity when I ask for a China Daily!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
To my surprise, he also brings me a 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water; “You won’t be able to get any water in Gizan, so please, take this. Can I get you something to eat at all? “ (staggered) “Please, feel free, just say. We have nothing to do anyway; no-one is eating as it is Ramadan! OK then, if you need anything, just ask!”

Very nice of him. I was given a 2L bottle of water on Biman, but I think only because she couldnt be bother to pour out a glass

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 3):
You can be the happiest woman in the world! Some light reading for the passing lady.

I should send my sisters out to Saudi to enlighten them

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
No banter from the flight-deck, and I imagine with this old slag they are going through lengthy pre-take-off check-lists.

Hahaha

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Lukewarm coffee is splattered into a shallow plastic cup, and some milk and four sugars passed my way. There is a nice Saudia emblem pressed into the foil of the meal-cover, and that ladies and gentlemen, is the highlight of the meal service.

Sounds like a fab meal!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I go to ask an Arabic looking FA whether I can take a photo of the galley; the reaction leaves me aghast;
“Sir, get out of the galley right now, I will not tell you once more, get out”, is tersely stated in a most poisonous manner.
A little stunned, I saunter off, and go and fizz gently upstairs. To make matters worse, I wish to ask my Filipina FA’s if I can visit the flight deck upon arrival. I broach the subject in that sort of round-about British fashion;
“Erm, may I ask you a quick question”
“No sir, I am busy right now” comes the extraordinary reply. Crikey;

Ouch

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
One of the FA’s comes back and asks what my question was, which I choose to curtly reply “The question was relevant at the time I asked you, not now”. No reason for her response.

Oooh, the bitchy side of Luke coming out! I hope the later conversation was just to scare her into providing some good service!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
The beach is pristine and true escapism, the water totally immaculate. I am overjoyed to have found this spot.

Looks lovely

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Sunset, and watching the city come to prayer at the end of the day. A great experience.

Mmmm, so exotic!



http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights: LHR-JMK,JTR-LHR-WAW,MSQ-FRA-EZE,IGR-EZE-CUN,MEX-FRA-LCY,LHR-TXL-LHR
User currently offlineUALDUDE From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 170 posts, RR: 3
Reply 18, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 26555 times:

This is one of the most detailed and beautiful trip reports I have read! Nice job and thanks for sharing.

User currently offlineIrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 2088 posts, RR: 15
Reply 19, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 26519 times:

Wow. Your TRs are insane.

I could never push the envelope the way you do - and to think people believe that I am crazy with my travels.

Would be interesting to get a first hand account on your perceptions of the KSA someday. Beyond fascinating. Thanks for the report.

IrishAyes.



next flights: msp-phx-slc, msp-mdw, ord-sju, sju-dfw-ord, msp-dfw, dfw-phl, phl-msp, jfk-icn, icn-hkg-bkk-cdg
User currently offlinesultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1576 posts, RR: 30
Reply 20, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 26425 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi there Luke!

You’re a true word wizard and a hell of a travel writer, my eyes were glued to the screen with these fab pics of a region where photography is still considered as total blasphemy. I’m really glad you pulled it off and were persistent in taking as much photos as you could!
So have I already said that this was a splendid read? And am I correct that you celebrated your 23rd birthday in the Kingdom? Congrats, I now find it most appropriate to change your nickname from Lukeyboy to Lukeyman   .
As for the flying part: great footage of both NAS and SV. They are 2 opposites in so many ways. The most striking is the small vs big, the old versus new. It couldn’t be more appropriate in this - for me seemingly - land of contrasts.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I completed 5 months of a 12 month contract before resigning

So you didn’t complete your term? Fed up? Homesick?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I tentatively begin photo taking, caught somewhere between doing it fast enough that no-one sees, but being deliberate enough that it looks like I am not being sneaky. I don an enormous un-spy like smile as I click away.

Like I said, all praise to you for not letting them get you down. I would’ve quit a long time ago already  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I find a drinking fountain

Really revolting... I mean, who would want to even hang - let alone touch - that tap?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
The camera incident hasn't set a sour mood with the female FA (who is Algerian) and she welcomes me once more in a friendly manner. I reassure her once again that ‘no faces’. I hope nobody thinks I am breaking her trust by putting the very photo in this report, but it is a job in the public eye and so I won’t apologize.

Your dedication is truly exemplary  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
A nice overview of RUH’s terminals.

I very much like the architecture. And the shape is very distinct as well.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Reeled off some tosh about the earlier aircraft being swapped as it wasn’t capable of passing over the high Hejaz Mountains… any comment?

Really, that was the explanation or am I missing something here?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Very kind Panamanian… I think the first I have ever met.

One could wonder what a Panamanian pilot is doing in Saudi Arabia (Yeah I know: piloting a plane of course  , but still)

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
“Hello sir, Omelet or Fuul? “

“May I have both please?”

[Pause] “Sure sir”

You’re such an opportunist   , but you’re right, why not ask both. At this stage you were most likely hoping for a most culinary delight?

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Lukewarm coffee

Pun intended!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
and that ladies and gentlemen, is the highlight of the meal service.

Definitely not good I tell you. If it were not for your tastebuds, I’d say the photos prove it well!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
but the bathrooms are fun, and rather clean.

Ha ha, I always wonder what is funny about a bathroom: the presence of a toilet perhaps  

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
Old school

Just great and so kind of the crew to let you in once again. I always say: ‘You have a ‘no’ and can always get a ‘yes’’!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
I know she isn’t that rare or special, but it was great to fly on.

And that’s what it’s all about!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
My inaugural attempt at what the hip kids call ‘planking’ (contorting yourself into a plank shape), which I immediately realized was a little ambitious.

Good try, but you do need to grow some more back muscles I think lol!

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Thread starter):
My final report in the Saudi series is my return to the UK which will feature QR

QR? The torturing goes on? I’m quite curious...!

Thanks again Luke!

Sultanils



In thrust we trust.
User currently offlinestipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 422 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 26272 times:

Hi lukeyboy95 !
thanks for every trip report that you put on A.net for us ...and I didn't comment and it haunts me... in fact you are guilty for this... but ...or better to say some time I need to concentrate for reading your Shakespearean reports hiihih ok ok this is my problem ...than I always lost in my thoughts or internet , studying different things that start up from your statements or photos (a positive and negative I must say )... hmmm but that is again my problem ... than some time I spend more than 2 hours just to watch extraordinary non-aviation and aviation photos that you always put for us ...ok ok my problem is that I'm a visual guy ... than I have hundreds of questions for you ... again my character ... and after all these agony by A.net protocol I should write something about __________ ? ... so at the end my conviction is that you are guilty and my A.net conscience is peaceful ...stipica  



Open your eyes and think
User currently offlinejwhite9185 From United Kingdom, joined May 2007, 1150 posts, RR: 4
Reply 22, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 26078 times:

Great report there Luke - very well written as usual with excellent pictures.

Nas Air look very good indeed. Especially the crew. Although i must admit i'd not heard of the airline before!

Saudi looks the complete opposite. Yeah its an old plane, but it just looks dirty from the pics! Although as its on its way out (or gone now), i guess they didn't see much point in making an effort with it. However that food looks awful. Also the crew seemed pretty bad too.



A300,A319,A320,A321,A333,A343,A346,A388,732,733,734,735,738,741,742,744,752,763,772,77W,788,Q400,DC10,E145,E170,E175,E19
User currently offlineCaptainRed From Germany, joined Oct 2010, 675 posts, RR: 21
Reply 23, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 26060 times:

Hi Luke,

wow, what an absolutely stunning report. So interesting to read, with so many insights in this so unknown country, thanks a lot for putting this together and telling us a little about your adventure and experiences there. Glad that you managed to take so many nice pictures.

Great to get a flight in the 747-300 before they retired it. It is definitely a wonderful plane, truly a Queen of the Skies. And so nice that you got a ride on the upper deck. Interesting to read about your interaction with the other passengers and the flight attendants. And of course great to get cockpit visits on both flights.

Oh, and congrats for your 23 birthday, you really found a great spot to celebrate it  

CaptainRed


User currently offlinePA330X From United States of America, joined Aug 2012, 19 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 26050 times:

Amazing!!! Very thorough and overall well presented. Good work. Saudi Arabia looks to have some very beautiful spots, yes there might be cultural cliches and all that which we are all aware of but overall it is a country that likes to adhere to values I think. I thought the Nas Air report was my favourite because not only was it thorough but the service you had made me really want to try them out sometime. And you have to consider yourself lucky since you flew on one the last classic 747 aircraft in commercial service (other than Iran Air). Overall, I enjoyed it, keep posting!

25 Post contains images planejamie : YES! I read this and the memories of Saudi/Riyadh came flooding back. If I managed 2 years there as a confused 14/15 year old then I think you could'v
26 Post contains links SCQ83 : Long time reader, first time poster! Thanks for the interesting report and better pictures. As someone who has been in and out in Saudi Arabia quite a
27 lukeyboy95 : Hi there, what a bunch of nice replies... many thanks,. You make all the hard hours worth it. Har-de-har.... Mr Chew - thanks for dropping by All boxe
28 lychemsa : Fascinating. Thanks. On a US airline you never would have received an apology. They would threaten you with jail time.
29 Post contains images 9V-SPJ : What a fascinating report Great job! 9V-SPJ
30 Lufthansa747 : Just a fantastic read. Not at all surprised of the Filipinas on SV. I have often seen them at MNL and they look like a random U.S. crew with no other
31 lukeyboy95 : Hi Lychemsa Thank-you, you are a faithful reader! No, I suppose that was at least something! *****************************************************8 He
32 eastafspot : Very interesting report Luke Even if those are domestic flights, i was really curious to discover JED and SV product. i will transit there in December
33 lukeyboy95 : Bonjour Leonard Yes indeed... there are a raft of people planning to try SV out with their new, quite excellent pricing. I think their long haul produ
34 The777Man : Hi Luke! Thanks for a fantastic report with fantastic pictures ! Very interesting experience to spend a few months in Saudi Arabia! Good to try the tw
35 TUGMASTER : So sorry to have to fill this reply out with BS, but the poxy forum would@nt let me write ..... LEGEND
36 roberts87 : Hello Luke, Excellent report! Loved the detail, all the pictures from your destinations and the personal touches you put into it. A great read!
37 lukeyboy95 : Hi 777Man aka. L That is very kind of you, thanks for stopping by! Really fascinating - I don't regret it all that much... Yes, I considered you must
38 MSS658 : Hello Luke Very nice read, thanks for taking the time to put it online. Great too see the 743 in the log before they vanish completely, Nice bunch of
39 Post contains images OA260 : Hey Luke Another great report. Thanks for this insight into Saudi . You confirmed what I already knew from friends of mine who have worked out there.
40 airbuseric : Luke, I finally had the time to read and get myself into your recent trip to the Kingdom. Truly, your writing is top, like reading in your diary. Toge
41 deltamartin : Luke, Again you have produced a brilliant read covering places which defines the expression "off the beaten path". Very interesting of course, and you
42 lukeyboy95 : Hello Marc! You are completely welcome, and thanks for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated. Yes, they were not too friendly, but it was a grea
43 OA260 : BTW sorry if I missed it but did you see the in flight magazine ? Think its called Ahlan Wasahlan or similar? I lived not far from their London office
44 HiJazzey : Hi Luke, Sorry you didn't enjoy your flight with SV, but I do feel you're being harsh. Granted the plane was outdated and tired (you did purposefully
45 deltamartin : Hi again, Luke! I can only speak for myself, but I do believe it's quite common to keep a log online like I do, mine's on FlightMemory (http://my.flig
46 ba319-131 : Hi Luke, Quite a read but I managed it in the end. Some of the pictures are just stunning and with the narative give a great insight to the country, b
47 flightsimboy : Hey Luke, Absolutely amazing report with some nice photos out of Saudi Arabia considering the conditions under which you had to take the pics!! The ol
48 Post contains images FlyingFinn76 : Hi Lukey-laddie, Absolutely fantastic stuff! You know I love your witty and very verbose writing style to death. Great pictures from a very secretive
49 lukeyboy95 : Hi there, sorry for a slow rate of reply, but had a busy weekend of weddings... now ...; Hi Philip Yes, they are still publishing it. Though it wasn't
50 HiJazzey : Dude, No need to be defensive, I was just giving my own perspective.
51 Post contains images egyptair269 : Wow, just wow! Absolutely brilliant report. I was supposed to be doing school-work right now, but reading this was totally worth the late night I'm go
52 lukeyboy95 : Hi Salam Many thanks for the reply! I know the feeling of being distracted by a good report... ha! School work as a student or a teacher I wonder...
53 Osprey88 : Lukeyboy95, A wonderfully interesting trip report written in a very engaging style! Excellent report sir! I will keep watching for more of your trip r
54 egyptair269 : Student! Well I have a love/hate relationship with Jeddah and the Kingdom in general. I won't go into details here, but for the most part I enjoyed g
55 lukeyboy95 : * Hello Andrew That is very nice, thanks. Happy to write for this kind aviation-focused group! Alright! I wonder if you are going out there for work,
56 adamspotter : Hi there Luke! Finally found time to read this long report. As always it was well worth the time! Another fantsctic and entertaining report with great
57 I39OO : Hello Luke, I have read this TR - and bits of your previous African series - in a one stand, nearly burning beyond repair a dish of risotto I was cook
58 signol : hi Luke, wow, what another excellent report! You do tend to head for the out of the ordinary - I'd love to read another of your FR reports, what with
59 beowulf : Great report. Thanks so much for sharing this.
60 lukeyboy95 : ** Greetings! I am off in the land of the vegabond, so sorry for taking so long to reply... as it is though; Hi Brendan! You are always welcome on my
61 Post contains images 777way : love your narrative style, it made the report all the more enjoyable. you sound very familiar, and you've turned younger by 20 years as well
62 lukeyboy95 : Hi 777way! Thanks! Nice to see your reply. I had almost missed it... glad you enjoyed. Yes, I forgot about that sour puss. Although negative comments
63 HiJazzey : I don't understand what you're getting at. call it what you will
64 lukeyboy95 : Well, I've already replied in full to your comment. Please private message the other user if you wish to continue your line of inquiry with that user
65 Post contains images ronerone : Luke, Insane report!!! Loved it to bits! .. I am not sure why i totally missed this one 10 months ago! But nevertheless, it was a great evening read t
66 Post contains images lukeyboy95 : Yo Roni! Excellent! Sorry for it taking me such an age to reply, been far too focussed on enjoying the small Scottish summer! Yeah, I am not sure how
67 YAK42 : Brilliant trip report! Really drew me in! Loved this bit. Very evocative writing. I could almost have been there. You could be a travel writer! Haha!
68 lukeyboy95 : Hello YAK42 No problem, and thank you for your kind reply! Always appreciated... haha, well, you get me my first publishing deal and I will be there w
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