Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia

I stayed in Bahrain for that first trip for one month with Saul, earned a lot of money tax-free, and loved the life style. No one was selling Porsche and I only saw two during my time there.
I asked Saul’s boss for a permanent job with William Press Bahrain. It was not possible to get any more work permits at that time, so on 27th October 1976; I joined William Press International as engine/transmission fitter foreman based in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia.
I worked for William Press for only 1 of the 2 years I had signed up for, as they lost a large new contract they were seeking and we all got paid off. It was very difficult living in Saudi Arabia and there was no social life, no clubs, no restaurants, no drink and no women. Abqaiq was in the middle of the oil producing fields in the Eastern Province and Saudi Arabia and the whole country was going through massive changes.
The experience was unbelievable and I often thought of myself as a latter day Lawrence of Arabia. I learnt a bit of Arabic and local customs. I managed to get over to Bahrain for my first Christmas in the Middle East and spent it with Saul and his friends, who treated me like a member of their extended family. We had Christmas dinner on the run, which meant going to a different house for each course. I was particularly impressed as my nameplate was on all the different tables, so I was certainly expected and made very welcome.
I could write a separate book on my time in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but as this was not a time when I was involved with Porsche so I am omitting this entire period, which covered the next two years of my life. However during my time in Saudi Arabia, one of the things I checked out regularly was what Porsche were doing there, and after some checks they were not selling in the Eastern Province at all, which really surprised me as the market was booming for almost everything.
            In 1977, I returned to Bahrain and lined a job up with the International Trading Company (ITC). Saul and his friend Pete Turner, who I knew, had set-up their own business under the sponsorship of ITC and they offered me a job. They were also seeking other expatriates engineers, so I called Bob Grafham and asked him if he wanted to leave motor racing with my brothers and try working with me in the Gulf?
            I headed back to England and met up with Bob shortly after to discuss plans.

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