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A Dutch Skater in Saudi Arabia
Skating in Saudia Arabia and Bahrain

Saudi Arabia by Hans Warburg Netherlands

My name is Hans Warburg, I am Dutch, 41 years old, and I am a speedskate-aholic. During normal workdays I pretend to be an Oracle software consultant, which brings me to a lot of different places on the globe. And... I never forget my skates. I have skated in Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, the US, Singapore, Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia!

Skating in Al Khobar
I have recently relocated to Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia and I have done some road-tests over there as well as in Bahrain.

How the Locals React to Skaters
First of all, Saudi and Bahrain don't have anything like a skating history like the Netherlands for example and speed skaters in tight lycra suits roaming the road infrastructure are therefore not a common view, on the contrary. I mean that if other traffic participants in these countries spot a skater, reactions can be quite hefty and emotional: some of them will start pushing the claxon out of pure enthusiasm, respect, fear, astonishment or whatever. They will never use their claxon in order to scare you or because of them being angry.

Skating in Traffic on the Roads
Small trucks packed with Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani workers might overtake you or the other way around and there will be a lot of energetic yelling, shouting, laughter, thumb-up-stuff and waving, yes this crowd can make you feel like a World Champion. Special attention needs to go to the more careful and/or less experienced drivers: sometimes you might be very slowly overtaken and sometimes the surprise is simply that overwhelming that a driver might simply drive into one of the numerous palm trees while looking over his shoulder at that "creature on wheels". Be aware that if you are the cause of some traffic accident in Saudi or Bahrain, one might end up with quite some trouble.

Quality of the Roads
Generally speaking, the asphalt quality of the roads in both Bahrain (Manama) and saud (Al Khobar) is perfect. I'd specially recommend skating along the North and South Corniche in Al Khobar, the street is immense and ulta-fast. Same for Bahrain, Corniche along the Seaside but also the majority of the streets in newer Manama. Manama also has some older neighborhoods and streets over there can be quite bumpy and rough, to be avoided I'd say.

Beware of the Sun!
Another word of advice: Beware of the sun !!! These places are really hot. Temperatures up to 52 degrees (mid to high 120 s) centigrade are not unusual during summertime. Just start early in the morning, temperatures range from the high 70s to low 80s but two hours after sunrise one will already feel mid 90 temps nibbling away your energy reserves. Wear a cap and bring water, loads of it.

Mind Your Bearings
Another word of advice: Coastal Saudi/Bahraini climate is dusty but also quite humid, even damp. Additional bearing maintenance will become necessary but never try to blow the dust out of your bearings, the humid air, the dust and the condensation incurring when blowing onto hot bearings will cause them to go rusty almost immediately (somebody wants to buy ABEC7 bearings filled with Saudi dust and rust? I have got plenty of them). Arrived in the Area, but forgot your gear? No problem, they sell (quality) skates (only four wheel trucks though), wheels, bearings, helmets in at least one of the big Shopping Malls in Al Khobar... and the prices are more than reasonable.

Al Khobar Wednesday Night Skate?
My conclusion: Saudi and Bahrain are perfect for skating. I am even thinking of starting a small club-like skating thingy and maybe organize a Wednesday-Night-Skate. Their weekends are on Thursday and Friday. I'll keep ya posted when this happens.
~ Hans Warburg



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