Travel feature: Brainless in the desert

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Brainless in the DesertDuring my hotel career, my numerous “sales trips” to the Middle East often led to unexpected adventure. And thus there I was, one March, in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser hurtling through the black of night on an unlit two-lane road that cut through the desert north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My host, and frequent guest of my hotel in Malaysia, Mansour, had decided that an authentic Arabic evening at his desert campsite would be the ideal way to welcome me to his country. All I really wanted to do was get some rest and be ready for the day of sales calls and business appointments that awaited me the following morning.

Suddenly, and without warning, our vehicle veered off the paved road, and onto the un-lit sandy Arabian dunes. After 5 minutes of up and down in the pitch dark, my host rolled down his window and began shouting in Arabic into the night… the result of which was a motorised hum followed by a flood of lights that revealed an oasis of 3 giant tents in the middle of nowhere. Confused, I looked more closely and noticed 2 men scurrying to light camp fires, and set the evening for our arrival. “Who are those guys?” I asked, “and how did they get OUT here?”

“Oh… they live here” came the calm reply. Mansour had apparently hired 2 gentlemen to live in the middle of the desert, at his campsite, to turn on the lights whenever he visited (which was about twice per month). Things got more interesting about an hour later when we were joined by a third gentleman, whose car magically found our remote location; he emerged from the desert night carrying a large plastic mineral water bottle. But this was no ordinary water… it was a homemade speciality. ”One sip” he warned me with a waving finger “and you will feel no pain. Two sips you may forget this evening. And three sips… you will be blind for 2 days”. I politely opted for zero sips.

After hours of stargazing around a giant firepit, Mansour received a call that a sandstorm was on its way. Wonderful. But preparations had been made, so we retired into one of the giant tents, which was mercifully (and amazingly) equipped with zipper doors, carpets, and indoor plumbing. As the sandstorm rolled in about an hour later, we heard another vehicle approaching. Apparently this was “room service”, delivering to our remote oasis the banquet for the evening, which they promptly began to set up in the tent next door. When Mansour received word that the food was ready, we wrapped our faces with scarves and dashed through the howling sandstorm across to the 2nd tent. By then, it was 2am, and I was famished.

Upon entering the tent, I was presented with quite an amazing sight: an authentic Arabian feast, the centerpiece of which was a full lamb, literally in-tact, skinned and cooked, and laid atop an even bigger bed of fragrant biryani rice. The gentleman next to me, who I had never seen until that moment, reached over to the blackened lamb, tore off the entire head, stuck his fingers through the top of the skull with a loud “crunch”, scooped out about half of the lamb’s brain and stuffed it hungrily in his mouth. He licked his juicy fingers as I watched in amazement and fear. Then the tent grew silent as he dug in for more, and, holding another morsel of lamb’s brains with his bare hand, the unthinkable occurred: he offered it to me.

This was the moment of truth, all eyes were on me, and I knew that my reputation was on the line. There was no escape, so I went for it, leaning in and opening wide, he shoved the lamb’s brains right into my mouth with his fingers. The tent went crazy with cheers and dancing while the wind and sand howled outside, and I knew at that very moment: I was accepted; I was one of them. The cultural divide had officially been bridged.  It was 4am before I was mercifully returned to my hotel, dusty and exhausted. It was a night I will never forget.

White Logo

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

During my hotel career, my numerous “sales trips” to the Middle East often led to unexpected adventure. And thus there I was, one March, in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser hurtling through the black of night on an unlit two-lane road that cut through the desert north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My host, and frequent guest of my hotel in Malaysia, Mansour, had decided that an authentic Arabic evening at his desert campsite would be the ideal way to welcome me to his country. All I really wanted to do was get some rest and be ready for the day of sales calls and business appointments that awaited me the following morning.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Brainless in the DesertDuring my hotel career, my numerous “sales trips” to the Middle East often led to unexpected adventure. And thus there I was, one March, in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser hurtling through the black of night on an unlit two-lane road that cut through the desert north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My host, and frequent guest of my hotel in Malaysia, Mansour, had decided that an authentic Arabic evening at his desert campsite would be the ideal way to welcome me to his country. All I really wanted to do was get some rest and be ready for the day of sales calls and business appointments that awaited me the following morning.

Suddenly, and without warning, our vehicle veered off the paved road, and onto the un-lit sandy Arabian dunes. After 5 minutes of up and down in the pitch dark, my host rolled down his window and began shouting in Arabic into the night… the result of which was a motorised hum followed by a flood of lights that revealed an oasis of 3 giant tents in the middle of nowhere. Confused, I looked more closely and noticed 2 men scurrying to light camp fires, and set the evening for our arrival. “Who are those guys?” I asked, “and how did they get OUT here?”

“Oh… they live here” came the calm reply. Mansour had apparently hired 2 gentlemen to live in the middle of the desert, at his campsite, to turn on the lights whenever he visited (which was about twice per month). Things got more interesting about an hour later when we were joined by a third gentleman, whose car magically found our remote location; he emerged from the desert night carrying a large plastic mineral water bottle. But this was no ordinary water… it was a homemade speciality. ”One sip” he warned me with a waving finger “and you will feel no pain. Two sips you may forget this evening. And three sips… you will be blind for 2 days”. I politely opted for zero sips.

After hours of stargazing around a giant firepit, Mansour received a call that a sandstorm was on its way. Wonderful. But preparations had been made, so we retired into one of the giant tents, which was mercifully (and amazingly) equipped with zipper doors, carpets, and indoor plumbing. As the sandstorm rolled in about an hour later, we heard another vehicle approaching. Apparently this was “room service”, delivering to our remote oasis the banquet for the evening, which they promptly began to set up in the tent next door. When Mansour received word that the food was ready, we wrapped our faces with scarves and dashed through the howling sandstorm across to the 2nd tent. By then, it was 2am, and I was famished.

Upon entering the tent, I was presented with quite an amazing sight: an authentic Arabian feast, the centerpiece of which was a full lamb, literally in-tact, skinned and cooked, and laid atop an even bigger bed of fragrant biryani rice. The gentleman next to me, who I had never seen until that moment, reached over to the blackened lamb, tore off the entire head, stuck his fingers through the top of the skull with a loud “crunch”, scooped out about half of the lamb’s brain and stuffed it hungrily in his mouth. He licked his juicy fingers as I watched in amazement and fear. Then the tent grew silent as he dug in for more, and, holding another morsel of lamb’s brains with his bare hand, the unthinkable occurred: he offered it to me.

This was the moment of truth, all eyes were on me, and I knew that my reputation was on the line. There was no escape, so I went for it, leaning in and opening wide, he shoved the lamb’s brains right into my mouth with his fingers. The tent went crazy with cheers and dancing while the wind and sand howled outside, and I knew at that very moment: I was accepted; I was one of them. The cultural divide had officially been bridged.  It was 4am before I was mercifully returned to my hotel, dusty and exhausted. It was a night I will never forget.

White Logo

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid