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Tour  #3: 1996-2000



1996-2000: Three Strikes and You're Out

    We returned to Canada in early 1995 basically to fulfill my wife's Landed Immigrant Visa requirements, and hopefully, to settle down permanently. However, as most of us know, the decade of the nineties was a decade of health care downsizing and restructuring and re-alignment and other fancy words which really meant: full time work in my field was very hard to find. The desert winds beckoned us again in early 1996 and we decided to return to Riyadh and the KFSH & RC. 

It was basically business as usual. Over the next four years, my wife and I would have two of our sons born in Riyadh at private hospitals, costing $5000 for each birth, (needless to say, I don't knock Canada's Health Care System much anymore).

      There were professional changes for me as well as I accepted a promotion and moved to the Children's Cancer Center.    The CCC is a 50 bed pediatric oncology hospital that treats Children with cancer throughout the Middle East, including Lebanon. The lab I moved to was still in the infant stages, it was a chance to 'build' the lab up to CAP standards. It was very challenging and rewarding. We passed the CAP inspection in April of 2000, the first one at the CCC. 

     A close family illness and other personal reasons made us decide to head back to Canada in the summer of 2000 to the lovely west coast of Canada. We spent a few months in Victoria before moving back to the Lower Mainland.

      With a large family now, and the kids enjoying Canada, it is unlikely we will return to the Middle East. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would. I would have done a few things differently, and invested in JDS Uniphase and Nortel Networks back in 1995-96 and sold in late summer of 2000!

   It was a great personal and professional experience for me. What started out as a whim ended up being 10 years that changed my life forever. I want to thank the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center,  the CCC and Mr. Saleh Al-Sheikh for his support of the lab, and the people of Saudi Arabia for accepting us into their country. Over the 10 years, I worked with some outstanding technologists from Canada, the USA, England, Scotland, Syria, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine and the Occupied West Bank, and of course Saudi Arabia.

It is difficult to explain the aura that draws people like myself to the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world. But the Middle East, with so much history and religion and....hate, has something else, mystery maybe, and danger.

    A credit to the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, the Al-Sauds. With the vast riches from their oil fields, they have turned the deserts of Saudi Arabia into a booming and prosperous country. Their architecture, their roads, health care and education, banking systems all rival Western standards now. Imagine a city like Riyadh, that has less than two weeks of rain on average, still has abundant, drinking water available when the taps are turned on in your kitchens and washrooms. Water is pumped in from the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, undergoes desalination, and pumped to different areas of the kingdom. Despite huge costs, the same happens on the west coast of Saudi, where water is drawn from the Red Sea and undergoes the same process.

    Every year, millions of Muslim pilgrims arrive from all over the world to do the Haj. Preparation, security and logistics to accommodate this mass of humanity  at this Holy time is an horrific undertaking. 

   Living and working in Saudi Arabia is not for everyone. However, for me, it was the ultimate experience, one that changed my life forever, an experience I would do again.

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Madain Salah




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Copyright 2001 Mario J. Hemens
Last modified: September 02, 2001