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Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted
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Zargon



Joined: 26 May 2010
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:52 pm    Post subject: Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted Reply with quote

Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisited

About ten years ago, an article called Hafr Al-Batin is Hell was posted on Dave's. The author obviously didn't have a good time there. Have things changed for the better . . . or worse? The weather's the same: during the five months of summer Hafr is an inferno; the rest of the year would be fine except for the frequent schmall which sweeps across the city making respiration nigh impossible for pedestrians and covering interiors with a layer of dust. Hafr is situated in flat desert in the middle of nowhere, far from any weekend escape (It's a five hour drive to the causeway leading to Bahrain.) Ten years ago, the best restaurants in town were a sub-par Holiday Inn and a Herfy's. They've since then added a KFC and Pizza Hut. There's nothing else and the shopping in Hafr just isn't very good. There's a lot of garbage lying about Hafr, although the street are reasonably clear.
Access to women in The KSA is “limited”. Hafr is extreme. There is “no chance” of meeting a woman. One student claimed that he once bribed a Philippino nurse to go out to the desert with him. I have heard of no other Hafrani heterosexual exploit, real or imagined. Indeed, the under-staffed public hospital (which is the college hospital) is the only place where you might see a woman's face. If you don't mind poor-diet skin problems and teeth that have never seen a tooth brush, an uncertain number of male students are gay (as everywhere).
There are two male colleges: The Technical College and HBCC (Hafr Al-Batin Community College). HBCC has about 300 students. There's a small library. The sports hall has never been opened up to extra-curricular use. There's a cement football pith in back. There are no other facilities. As limited as that sounds, and is, HBCC is arguably the cultural hub of the city. The students are of Bedouin extraction. They're generally quite nice but not well-behaved so you're allowed to shout at them (often necessary). There is a pretence of streaming before they're accepted but loads of under-achievers get in every year. Almost a third of them leave during the first couple of weaks. Thirty percent of the remainder fail the first semester of English. This weeds out the students who would never have got into KFUPM, the mother institution, in the first place.
The English courses, entirely in-house productions, are not impossibly difficult. The combination of reasonable courses and the demand that students perform must be considered a plus for those who want to do serious teaching. Unfortunately, this may be the only significant improvement from ten years ago. I forgot: every teacher now has his own computer.
Course booklets are shared between teachers. This means that your intention to do a serious job teaching the booklet may be largely nullified by your teaching partner. Like many institutions in the Middle East, it's almost impossible to be sacked for incompetence, provided you steer clear of immoral behaviour and come to class regularly. This is a plus for those who can't get or hold a job elsewhere. Also, there is little of the busy-work burdening teachers at other Middle Eastern establishments. Time off is not as good as in the past but stills compares favourably. Unfortunately, HBCC is now following the example of other institutions in keeping faculty inside the country when not teaching. You can still count on 60 days summer vacation and 10 days in each of Ramadan, Hajj and mid-semester break.
Good teachers get paired with bad teachers to avoid embarrassment or catastrophe. As a new teacher you will be expected to teach the lowest level (new students) as advertised. One tends to teach the same level indefinitely, as if there weren't already a desperate lack of variety from just living in Hafr. Pleas for greater flexibility in assignation can pass through auditory channels but never penetrate hearts of stone. Be humble. Teachers complain that the course materials are inadequate but they are no worse than what's taught in most other public institutions.
The married teachers' accommodations are the same as they ever were: apartment block near the college, large enough and with a small weight room with dilapidated pool table on the main floor. Children can play in the lobby and car park.
Single teacher accommodations are now small and mostly windowless. There are better rooms in the building but they're all taken. Small weight room downstairs (improvement). The soldiers are there only as a precaution. Attacks on westerners have almost never gone further than shouting and bad language.
Whether one prefers HBCC to other Gulf postings depends upon the individual. If job security, little opportunity to blow your money and doing a little less work are important . . . and if watching fashion TV while drinking home-made with your clique is all you need of western culture, or any culture, then maybe HBCC is for you.
If you want to stay saner longer, you are better off elsewhere, some place with a faculty club, or any club, female faculty members, hash runs, a real library, weekly seminars, staff restaurants, the opportunity to collaborate on research, frequent cultural events, enjoyable trekking opportunities, good shopping, decent super markets. Some or all of these are indeed available at many postings in the Gulf. Then you won't have to sit through yet another HBCC graduation ceremony with a feeling of silent panic as you watch another batch graduate who, so it seems, were “freshmen” only recently . . . and you won't have to look back at the intervening time as a sterile wasteland interspersed with short, desperate intervals during which you tried to squeeze in a real life.
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Grendal



Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 861
Location: Lurking in the depths of the Faisaliah Tower underground parking.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow

G
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15206
Location: Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought it was okay but not for the sybarites in our midst. I spent the last two years of my teaching life there before retiring in 2011. I would have stayed but for accelerating chronic medical problems.

Last edited by scot47 on Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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bulgogiboy



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 797

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted Reply with quote

Zargon wrote:
Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisited

About ten years ago, an article called Hafr Al-Batin is Hell was posted on Dave's. The author obviously didn't have a good time there. Have things changed for the better . . . or worse? The weather's the same: during the five months of summer Hafr is an inferno; the rest of the year would be fine except for the frequent schmall which sweeps across the city making respiration nigh impossible for pedestrians and covering interiors with a layer of dust. Hafr is situated in flat desert in the middle of nowhere, far from any weekend escape (It's a five hour drive to the causeway leading to Bahrain.) Ten years ago, the best restaurants in town were a sub-par Holiday Inn and a Herfy's. They've since then added a KFC and Pizza Hut. There's nothing else and the shopping in Hafr just isn't very good. There's a lot of garbage lying about Hafr, although the street are reasonably clear.
Access to women in The KSA is “limited”. Hafr is extreme. There is “no chance” of meeting a woman. One student claimed that he once bribed a Philippino nurse to go out to the desert with him. I have heard of no other Hafrani heterosexual exploit, real or imagined. Indeed, the under-staffed public hospital (which is the college hospital) is the only place where you might see a woman's face. If you don't mind poor-diet skin problems and teeth that have never seen a tooth brush, an uncertain number of male students are gay (as everywhere).
There are two male colleges: The Technical College and HBCC (Hafr Al-Batin Community College). HBCC has about 300 students. There's a small library. The sports hall has never been opened up to extra-curricular use. There's a cement football pith in back. There are no other facilities. As limited as that sounds, and is, HBCC is arguably the cultural hub of the city. The students are of Bedouin extraction. They're generally quite nice but not well-behaved so you're allowed to shout at them (often necessary). There is a pretence of streaming before they're accepted but loads of under-achievers get in every year. Almost a third of them leave during the first couple of weaks. Thirty percent of the remainder fail the first semester of English. This weeds out the students who would never have got into KFUPM, the mother institution, in the first place.
The English courses, entirely in-house productions, are not impossibly difficult. The combination of reasonable courses and the demand that students perform must be considered a plus for those who want to do serious teaching. Unfortunately, this may be the only significant improvement from ten years ago. I forgot: every teacher now has his own computer.
Course booklets are shared between teachers. This means that your intention to do a serious job teaching the booklet may be largely nullified by your teaching partner. Like many institutions in the Middle East, it's almost impossible to be sacked for incompetence, provided you steer clear of immoral behaviour and come to class regularly. This is a plus for those who can't get or hold a job elsewhere. Also, there is little of the busy-work burdening teachers at other Middle Eastern establishments. Time off is not as good as in the past but stills compares favourably. Unfortunately, HBCC is now following the example of other institutions in keeping faculty inside the country when not teaching. You can still count on 60 days summer vacation and 10 days in each of Ramadan, Hajj and mid-semester break.
Good teachers get paired with bad teachers to avoid embarrassment or catastrophe. As a new teacher you will be expected to teach the lowest level (new students) as advertised. One tends to teach the same level indefinitely, as if there weren't already a desperate lack of variety from just living in Hafr. Pleas for greater flexibility in assignation can pass through auditory channels but never penetrate hearts of stone. Be humble. Teachers complain that the course materials are inadequate but they are no worse than what's taught in most other public institutions.
The married teachers' accommodations are the same as they ever were: apartment block near the college, large enough and with a small weight room with dilapidated pool table on the main floor. Children can play in the lobby and car park.
Single teacher accommodations are now small and mostly windowless. There are better rooms in the building but they're all taken. Small weight room downstairs (improvement). The soldiers are there only as a precaution. Attacks on westerners have almost never gone further than shouting and bad language.
Whether one prefers HBCC to other Gulf postings depends upon the individual. If job security, little opportunity to blow your money and doing a little less work are important . . . and if watching fashion TV while drinking home-made with your clique is all you need of western culture, or any culture, then maybe HBCC is for you.
If you want to stay saner longer, you are better off elsewhere, some place with a faculty club, or any club, female faculty members, hash runs, a real library, weekly seminars, staff restaurants, the opportunity to collaborate on research, frequent cultural events, enjoyable trekking opportunities, good shopping, decent super markets. Some or all of these are indeed available at many postings in the Gulf. Then you won't have to sit through yet another HBCC graduation ceremony with a feeling of silent panic as you watch another batch graduate who, so it seems, were “freshmen” only recently . . . and you won't have to look back at the intervening time as a sterile wasteland interspersed with short, desperate intervals during which you tried to squeeze in a real life.


That sounds pretty much like Jazan, in south-western Saudi. Stifling heat, rubbish everywhere and not a chance of female company. Having said that, I'm sure just about every backwater, and even major city in Saudi (except, perhaps Jeddah or Dammam) is similarly bleak and depressing to live in. It's Saudi Arabia, my friend, it's all pretty much hellish!
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear bulgogiboy,

Saudi IS the "middle of nowhere" as far as many/most Westerners are concerned.

And, when you're already IN the middle of nowhere, does it really matter a whole lot whether you're in the middle of the middle or in the outskirts?

Regards,
John
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Sheikennotstirred



Joined: 30 Sep 2011
Posts: 28
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted Reply with quote

bulgogiboy wrote:

That sounds pretty much like Jazan, in south-western Saudi. Stifling heat, rubbish everywhere and not a chance of female company. Having said that, I'm sure just about every backwater, and even major city in Saudi (except, perhaps Jeddah or Dammam) is similarly bleak and depressing to live in. It's Saudi Arabia, my friend, it's all pretty much hellish!


In other words, very different than somewhere like Tabuk, which has snow in winter and where it's easy enough to pop over to Jordan for some R&R and female company... or Al Hasa, where the dry heat is much more tolerable and which is only a couple hours away from Doha and Western culture of sorts... or Khobar, with its actually-quite-pleasant corniche and the opportunity to live it up in Bahrain for the evening should you so wish... etc. etc.

I'd suggest that, far from the Kingdom all being "pretty much hellish", it matters a lot where you are located within it, depending on your expectations and what you are hoping to get out of your time there.

We're not talking about a small country, after all. The distance from one side of the Kingdom to the other is roughly the same as from New York to the Mexican border, or from London to Moscow. The chances are there is probably going to some variation within this, both in terms of climate and culture.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15206
Location: Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:02 pm    Post subject: road Reply with quote

In Hafr Al Batin the travelling time to Dammam, Riyadh, Kuwait and Baghdad is about 5 hours by road. I never did make it to Baghdad.

I had been told that Khafji was the end of the world. I noticed as I was heading to Hafr that it is 150 km BEYOND Khafji.

As for it being like unto the Nether Regions visited by Dante I cannot comment.


Last edited by scot47 on Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:11 pm; edited 2 times in total
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear scot47,

"As for it being like unto the Nether Regions visited by Dante I cannot comment."

That's understandable - but when you get to the Nether Regions, would you be kind enough to post a comparison (presuming they have computers there Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy)

Regards,
John
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desert_traveller



Joined: 28 Nov 2006
Posts: 332

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted Reply with quote

...

Last edited by desert_traveller on Thu May 03, 2012 1:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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vva



Joined: 19 Sep 2010
Posts: 42
Location: NY, USA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Are there any employers who hire female esl instructors in Hafr Al-Batin?

2. Did you have reliable internet access in your accommodations?

...doesn't seem that bad to me...
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bulgogiboy



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 797

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Hafr Al-Batin is Hell Revisted Reply with quote

Sheikennotstirred wrote:
bulgogiboy wrote:

That sounds pretty much like Jazan, in south-western Saudi. Stifling heat, rubbish everywhere and not a chance of female company. Having said that, I'm sure just about every backwater, and even major city in Saudi (except, perhaps Jeddah or Dammam) is similarly bleak and depressing to live in. It's Saudi Arabia, my friend, it's all pretty much hellish!


In other words, very different than somewhere like Tabuk, which has snow in winter and where it's easy enough to pop over to Jordan for some R&R and female company... or Al Hasa, where the dry heat is much more tolerable and which is only a couple hours away from Doha and Western culture of sorts... or Khobar, with its actually-quite-pleasant corniche and the opportunity to live it up in Bahrain for the evening should you so wish... etc. etc.

I'd suggest that, far from the Kingdom all being "pretty much hellish", it matters a lot where you are located within it, depending on your expectations and what you are hoping to get out of your time there.

We're not talking about a small country, after all. The distance from one side of the Kingdom to the other is roughly the same as from New York to the Mexican border, or from London to Moscow. The chances are there is probably going to some variation within this, both in terms of climate and culture.


Snow, eh? Wow. Living in a totalitarian, pseudo-theocracy, which obsesses over gender-segregation to the point of mass-psychosis, must be made so much nicer by that fluffy white stuff falling for 2 weeks out of the year.

All of your references to 'liveable' places in Saudi are in relation to how close they are to other, less intolerant and less unpleasant neighbouring countries, where you can escape to!

And regardless of small variances in regional cultures, the key facts remain the same throughout KSA: No booze, no 'fraternisation' with women outside of marriage, and no freedom of religion, speech, individual expression in public (unless it's in line with Wahhabist Islam and/or so lame/bland nobody deems it 'offensive'), etc...

Them's the rules, in the corrupt and feckless kingdom of hell, guv!
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear bulgigoboy,

But according to Dante, even Hell has it's "circles." Very Happy

Regards,
John
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bulgogiboy



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 797

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear bulgigoboy,

But according to Dante, even Hell has it's "circles." Very Happy

Regards,
John


Dear John,

Conceded. I acknowledge that Tabuk may indeed only be the 1st circle of hell. Jazan was the 7th. Thank you and good night! Laughing
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But the "Welcome" over the entrance is the same for all:

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate"

"Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here. Very Happy

Regards,
John
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Sheikennotstirred



Joined: 30 Sep 2011
Posts: 28
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bulgogiboy:

My point isn't so much that certain cities here are paradise. Trust me, they're not.

Rather, I'm saying that when you come to a country that is as big as Saudi, and where your happiness depends so much on your work/life situation and your personal expectations, it's probably a good idea to try and get a realistic idea of what your life is going to be like in your prospective job and city of residence, and to be aware that no two postings here are going to be the same.

For example:

Quote:
the key facts remain the same throughout KSA: No booze, no 'fraternisation' with women outside of marriage, and no freedom of religion, speech, individual expression in public


This might be true on paper. In practice, the first two points are simply not true—I have both where I am, precisely because of the work environment and my physical location within Saudi. If these things are important to you, make sure they are available. Don't go and work at an all-male college in the boondocks.

As for the last, well, I personally rarely feel the need to air my religious views or to "express myself" in public even when I'm in a country where this is permitted, so it's not really an issue for me.

Now, if you are genuinely tricked into coming to work in the Kingdom under false pretenses by an unscrupulous recruiter then you have my sympathy.

If you are actually lied to, in writing, and your employer fails to honour their contract, and the promises that they put in writing to you in order to lure you out here are egregiously broken, then that is despicable, "cultural differences" be damned. You're likely to have a traumatic experience here, and you will have every right to feel aggrieved by your treatment.

(Although even then I'd suggest it's more useful to lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of the people who actually ripped you off, rather than projecting your grievances on an entire nation).

But, in my experience, most so-called "hellish" experiences in the Kingdom are not as clear cut as this.

I'm constantly baffled at the people who come here who a) are not prepared to make any sort of financial or emotional investment in their own happiness while they are here, and b) persist in coming here despite all evidence pointing to the fact that they are not going to find what they want, and will be desperately unhappy for the duration of their miserable existence here.

For example, even as I write this there is someone on one of the other threads on this forum who is about to fly out to take up their first position in Saudi, with a two-bit lowest-common-denominator dispatch agency, despite the fact that the agency has told him in no uncertain terms that he will not be guaranteed what he wants, i.e. a guaranteed posting in a particular city and university, a specific type of accommodation, a salary advance etc.

Now, I hope it works out for this guy. I suspect it won't. I also suspect that when he does manage to escape the country, with what little dignity and sanity he can manage to retain, he will then be full of sweeping generalizations about how "hellish" the whole country is.
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