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
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
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.