Friday, 15 March 2013

visit to KAUST

This week in London saw snow flurrying down from the skies. Yet only last week, I was sitting in the sunny Kingdon of Saudi Arabia (KSA) enjoying a cool drink and some interesting bready fritters (I refrain from referring to them as donuts as those I've given them up for Lent) while gazing upon the monolithic buildings before me that construes the campus of KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology).

Everything at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is of a colossal order. There is simply a different operating scale, monetarily and spatially. Water features and palms litter the campus (we are in a dessert btw) cooling studious bodies as they trot on home to palatial accommodation by artificial streams, of perhaps to dinner at the yacht or golf club. Even security guards whiz by on Segways. Grandiose is the word that repeatedly crashes into mind. But, this is only the glinting surface of the iceberg. The true mind boggling occurs within their facilities when you catch a glimpse of their equipment. Little as I know, my jaw was left swinging in the wind. That is one incredible campus!

I spent what free time I had wandering and taking photos. Sadly, contact with local culture and food was kept to a minimum. Upon our arrival at Jeddah, even before the border check, we were greeted by some representatives from the university who escorted us through the border check (queue barging!) and deftly handed us over to a driver whereupon we cut a line through the desert to KAUST. Past two security perimeters and one further security check, where we were issued our campus ID, and we were released into the cool interior of KAUST INN- our extremely comfortable abode for the duration of the visit. On the campus, locals were hard found and the food was clearly tailored to international tastes with Burger King and Baskin and Robbins smugly making their presence. I didn't get any kabsa but I did get a pretty good steak. A quick duck into the campus Tamimi supermarket was hardly more satisfying as I was greeted with the all too familiar florescent yellow of Quavers and other typical British groceries.

Below is the view from atop the dinning area, and following that, pictures looking back upon, then from the dinning area.

Next up is the view from the balcony adjoining some work spaces.

The campus at night as seen from the yacht club, and photos of half of my room (the other half comprises of the bedroom and yet another bathroom):

Lastly, because I can't resist it: the birdy! Thanks to the effusive use of water, KAUST residents may even enjoy the early morning twitter of birdies as they peck at the luscious green lawns (well at least the ones around KAUST INN were).

So there you have it: a not so informative but photo-laden post on KAUST. Three days are hardly sufficient to pick up on local nuances especially as people are sparsely distributed (you may have noticed many of my photos are strikingly empty...). However, there is a good chance I'll be heading out there again so further updates regarding life on KAUST are in the chute.

On a completely separate note, I have reluctantly accepted that I have grown pudgy of late. The trip to KAUST certainly didn't help. Our conveniently stocked rooms (flats would be the more appropriate term) were equipped with toasters and who can resist midnight toast slathered with lashings of butter and a guilty sprinkle of sugar? Admittedly, this would be after a three course dinner (they've certainly nailed the hospitability front) but the law of diminishing returns has never applied to me in terms of satiation. So now I'm left bulging at the sleeves while Spring is supposedly around the corner.

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

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