Babar Haq

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I was flying back to Pakistan after spending probational period of my new job in Saudi Arabia. This was my first time in Saudi Arabia since I did my Umrah in my childhood with my family. I had just gone through one of the worst time of my life. I just got married a month back and now here I was with no friends, no family and no wife. There is a strange kind of pressure on you when you are in a totally new place. I remember last year when I went to Singapore, it didn't take me more then a few hours to get used to the place. Here in Saudia things are really weird. People who belong to this place are not friendly and the rest are more concerned with the amount of money they are making.

Finally the neverending three months were over,I had successfully completed my probation and was ready to go home to get my work visa. The day I was supposed to fly I had a call from my immediate boss asking me to send my passport to get an extenstion to my visit visa. I obviously didnt agree and got into a very heated arguement with him. Anyway my flight was via Riyadh ie dammam, Riyadh, Isalambad. I was so happy that I was going to see my loved ones and ofcourse my favourite city, Islamabad. Well my wife always scream at me "Babar why is it always you":). At the immigration the officer said or to be more exact shouted something at me and threw my passort in a corner on his table. He was speaking arabic so I could not understand what was he screaming about. He asked me to get away from the counter was all I understood. Being in a jolly mood I decided to walk around a little and check out stuff hanging on the airport walls. Suddenly his ugly voice fell on my ears again. This time what I understood was that he wanted me to stand in a corner like a caught criminal. By now I had realized that things were not right but I was still hoping for the best. Ten minutes later another officer, who by the way was just sitting next to where I was standing came up to me with my passport in his hand. This time I was lucky, he could speak a few words of English.

The computer printed Saudi visa on my passport had information in English and Arabic. There was a column on the passport saying in english "validity: 3 months" which I thought was the maximum duration I could stay in the kingdom on this visa. It turned out that it was the time in which I could utilize the visa to come into the country from the date it was issued. The maximum duration allowed on this visa was written in arabic and it was just one month. I really wonder why they have information mixed up in two languages like this.Conclusion was I had jumped my visa for more then 2 months. The officer with his limited vocabulary explained this to me and didnt bother to tell me what to do about it. He gave me back my passport and asked me to just go. Go where? He didnt seem to give a damn.

At this time the first thing I realized was that I had checked in my luggage from dammam for Paksitan and it was supposed to be transferred automatically at Riyadh. One of the porters did tell me that you *can* get it back but how and where was the question on my mind. I spent two hours on Riyadh *International* airport running up and down trying to look for some one who could guide me in english to how to get my luggage back. While looking for my luggage I decide upon my next course of action. I had to fly back to dammam and send my passport to jeddah office so that they can get me an "exit" so I could fly out of this prison. Eventually I met a Pakistani worker (PIA I think) who told me how to get my luggage back. My luggage was lying in a corner which had a board on top of it saying "Unclaimed luggage".:) My flight back to dammam was seven hours later so I had something to eat and went to sleep in the waiting lounge of the local flight departure area.

I did fly back to Islamabad with out any hurdles two days later. Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.:)


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