Dispatches From The Kingdom: Where Can I Buy A Cow?
By Tom Warneke
It’s hot, it’s dusty and there’s litter everywhere… What there isn’t is people.. Or signs.. Or civilisation.
We step out of the convoy of black Chevy Tahoe SUVs that could be mistaken for your stereotypical secret service convoy and out onto the street. Tool case in hand, we walk towards a lone warehouse, hopeful to see all our equipment awaiting us on the other side of its burgundy sliding bay doors.
I alongside my team have returned to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start prepping equipment for an imminent tour of a children’s show – everyone’s favourite purple dinosaur which will take us to 6 cities across the country. From Abha to Jazan, Riyadh to Dammam and Tabuk to Jeddah, we’re going all over… assuming we can get all our technical equipment out of this warehouse…
That hope was short lived, we’re locked out and in the middle of nowhere in downtown Riyadh on a Friday in the middle of prayer time. No one is coming for us right now.
So we decide to take the only course of action and retire to the closest Pakistani restaurant for all the grilled chicken, mutton kurai and chicken jalfrazee we can muster.
We start hatching plans as time is slipping away. Saudi isn’t known for its adherence to timing and schedule, instead opting for more of an island time approach.
Two hours pass as we feast and sip tea on the cushions of this Pakistani restaurant, with phones being passed as we navigate an often three way translation between English – Urdu – Arabic before we mosey back to the warehouse to find Abdullah and Ali, our forklift driver.
Low and behold, where is all our equipment? The cupboard is bare! Concerned, much Urdu is being bantered around before it transpires the equipment is either thirty minutes away on a truck or worse, one of the trucks is still at the border. The day is escaping us but what to do? We wait.
Sajad, one of my video guys, shows me the picture of the cow his family just bought back in Pakistan. I don’t quite know what to make of this but am assured it’s quite a cow and everyone is excited.
Thirty minutes pass and Al-hamdalillah! Trucks arrive… well most! We offload in the dirt on the side of the road as there’s no Tarmac. Cases come off and go for cleaning, equipment gets checked and what seems like a makeshift electronics workshop is set up in the less dusty section of roadway where our British sound supervisor starts replacing drivers.
Cases keep coming off the truck and equipment gets prepped but I’m concerned we’re reaching our trucking deadline to get gear shipped out of here to another city in time. I turn to Sufyan and ask him to check in with some of the local crew and give them a bit of a hurry up… “Inshallah, all will be done in time boss!”… I’ve heard that before. I tell him if he makes it happen that I’ll buy him a cow…
Word comes through that two of the four trucks are still at the border which will make for an intriguing week ahead but at least we’re underway with these two…
The thing you have to understand is that team KSA, as we’re affectionately known, is a mini United Nations of production.
My team has an Australian, Brits, a South African, some Filipinos, an Indian, many Pakistanis, a Welshman, at times joined by local help from Saudis, Egyptians and Yemenis.
It’s why what we manage in that afternoon is so remarkable; ten nationalities manage to prep around thirty tonnes of sound, lighting, video, power and rigging in a dusty side street in downtown Riyadh. Many languages, cultures, technical disciplines, religions, all working to get the same goals happening.
We rig street lights to keep working and we order food and begin a small dinner party in our dust bowl avenue, we get one of two of our line array speakers powered for some background music and it’s a friendly affair.
We finish around 9pm unsure as to what the next day holds but safe in the knowledge that whatever it is, the next month is going to be a big adventure… Inshallah! Now it seems I owe Sufyan one cow, where on earth can I buy one at this hour?…