I have been here in Saudi for just 24 hours and my first impression is this is a harsh land with contradictions.
There is a dusty and warn sense of things to a degree I did not expect. Cars are caked in wind-blown detritus and an inordinate number show collision damage. The majority are working class sedans - several year old Hyundai and Toyota models - not the high end rides I expected. Somehow I thought I'd see mostly Mercedes with the occasional Ferrari, though I expect they are out there somewhere.
Like the shisha that seems to be the evening leisure activity of many, the land's hot and dusty air hits me deep in my lungs. At the same time there is a sweetness here that invites me. Like the women, covered in their black burkas and hijabs, the dust and skin of this land seems to hide something potentially beautiful. I am struck that women seem to make up more than an equal share of shisha smokers and exude a level of freedom and enjoyment in their small flocks at the air conditioned outdoor cafes here.
Even the spoken word shows a contrast, with its deep phlegmish "h's" , that seems to mass the gentle, friendly people I have met so far.
As I looked down at the Red Sea reefs from my work window today, I felt a bit teased that I could just walk outside and go diving, but I am looking forward to future exploration under the sea and in the dusty desert.