As I am writing this I am just slowing down after very intense 36 hours in Riyadh, still in awe and slowly processing all the impressions I made here. We arrived at King Khalid airport at 9pm on Wednesday night but hat to test both our own and our generous hosts’ patience as we waited 4 hours in the immigration line. I was expecting that with a pre-approved visa (that process alone was another huge effort) this would be rather quick. Ironically, they are in the midst of upgrading their biometric database and are not able to run at full capacity right now.
With the late arrival we had to skip all dinner plans and were happy to fall into our hotel beds and sleep at least 4 hours until it was time again to get up for the event which was held in the conference center of a very nice hotel. And Esolutions, the local sponsor, together with the ARABOUG went out of their way and made a huge effort in organizing this. They had signage, a very nice stage, incredible arabic lunch and they used the intermissions to award to distinguished guests and raffle off a number of very nice prices among the more than 100 Oracle DBAs and professionals that showed up for this first of it’s kind event in Saudi Arabia. One of the VIPs that was awarded an award shared how he started his IT career as a junior DBA with one of Mike’s books. There was even a professional photographer and a TV crew to document the day.
All presentations were spot-on and well received by a crowd that was hungry to expand their knowledge. HA and RAC seemed to be the topics of the biggest interest and we managed to cover a lot of ground, starting with the Exadata Tuning Expert Panel led by Tariq, my RAC management session, Mike, Inam and Jim talking about performance tuning and Syed and Ed rounding it all out with sessions on security and big data. In addition, I also enjoyed very much to chat with a great number of attendees and hopefully answered a number of very specific questions. One of the biggest pieces of advice I hope I could give is that if they enjoyed the event it is really up to the local oracle community to organize themselves and meet for informal roundtable-type events and share their knowledge rather than hoping and waiting for an OTN tour stop every year. With Syed and Inam Ullah Bukhari they already have at least two great local speakers there and I am sure there are more.
Everybody was very polite and I am sure I shook hands, said thanks and had my picture taken with every single attendee at least twice during the day. After many heartly good-byes it was time for us to go on a brief sightseeing tour of Riyadh. While it may have been brief, we still managed to see so very much of this wonderful city that is by no means a common tourist destination due to their very strict visa policies. Our hosts took us to the national museum Which showcased the history of the region from the creation of the universe to today and included impressive models of the holy mosques in Mecca and Medinah including the drape that covers the Kaaba. The museum was structured very concisely and was so huge that it was really a shame that we had to rush through it.
This was followed by a walk around of a nice park and what looked like the rebuild of old Riyadh with small alleys, open areas surrounded by palm trees and nicely decorated houses. We then had the chance to visit Kingdom Centre, Saudi Arabia’s highest building (until the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah is finished which should become the worlds tallest building), and zipped up the the 100th floor where you can enjoy magnificent views from a bridge that spans the two arches that give the tower a very distinct and unique appearance.
The night ended with a very generous dinner by the local sponsors and while the food satisfied the hunger, I wished the conversations would have gone on for another few days. But there was barely enough time for a very short two hour nap before at least Jim and I had to head out to the airport again which gave us the opportunity to see the sunrise. Tired but still excited, my mind was so preoccupied that I left my cell phone in the taxi but was able to get the driver’s number from the hotel and he turned around to return it. Just calling my own number did not even cross my mind until a few hours later.
The event in Jeddah was only scheduled for half a day, so I would not speak there and proceeded directly to Dubai. I was actually thankful for one day of rest on the beach. But I still followed the Jeddah event over the live stream and pictures on social media and it looks like that one was another success. Now I am waiting for the others including Joel and Osama to arrive in Dubai for the final event of the tour.