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Saudi Arabia Logbook

After finishing my Master’s degree in Oceanography in Portugal, I somehow landed a position as a visiting student at an international research institute in the Middle East. Despite the initial critical opinions of friends, family and myself towards this region of the world, I took it as a once in a lifetime chance that may or may not change my mind. Did it change my mind, I still don’t know?

Saudi Arabia - A trip to the desert
Saudi Arabia - A trip to the desert
juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona

My mission within the university was to work within the geophysical realm of seismology, meaning investigating earthquakes and tectonics that shape this country. Besides working in an elite Uni environment with what I call very smart people on simulations and other very desktop-based research, this meant I also had to go to the field - a lot. Installing data-loggers, mapping unknown tracks and sampling and exploring volcanoes in the middle of the desert was just as much part of this job. These research-based expeditions but also normal trips as a tourist gave me the opportunity to discover various places within this country. From pushing a four-wheel drive through the dunes in the middle of nowhere, to squeezing a tiny rental through the crazy traffic of holy cities, finding the black rocked volcano formations in the places where you don’t expect them and cruising along the endless reefs of the turquoise Red Sea, this country surprised me with its variety of adventures. In addition to what nature has to offer, the people and their culture is just as interesting and exciting.

juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona

Generally, life in the orient is very dominated by its religion and its environment. Several prayer times a day. When the mosque sings, you stop whatever you are doing, send your words to Allah and then resume to do what you were doing before. The priority of including your belief in your everyday life in this country is very apparent and basically shapes your day - this and the desert. The heat can be unbearable. You step outside your door and it feels like a dog is breathing into your face, it is one big sauna. The answer to live with this problem is easy: Live at night. Even the biggest city may seem like a ghost town as you travel through it during the day, but with the setting sun the cities wake up. The before empty streets turn into a fantastic chaos of people preparing for their daily business, usually resulting in a loud and living marketplace for street food, colourful fabrics and clothes and of course spices. Walking through this chaos as a blond dude with long hair gets you quite some attention, but not in a bad way. Which brings me to the people of this country.

juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona

The people here must belong to one of the warmest and friendliest I have ever experienced during my travels. It can almost be annoying how friendly they are. These very proud people are not held back by any language barrier and interact with you in a very open way. You try to explore a city and you get stopped everywhere to chat and be welcomed to the country, offered a warm drink, food or even a place to sleep at their homes. Although this is just a screenshot of this place through my eyes, I now come to think this country is underrated.

juntos - beautiful barcelona
juntos - beautiful barcelona

I don’t want to ignore aspects and facts of its social and political structures, which give so much room for arguments. Nevertheless, exploring this country and meeting its people did not eliminate my scepticism, but the many encounters have shown me the hospitality and the warm-hearted nature of the Middle East. Finally, I may call myself very lucky for the experiences and insights I was able to gather within the country of dunes and camels.