16 June 2024

Stopped for lunch at this desolate service station in the middle of nowhere. There was a restaurant next to it and a mosque, natch. The restaurant looked like one of those places that would be closed immediately in Ireland or EU but perfectly normal here. Although it looked scruffy, it wasn’t dirty and, as cleanliness and hygiene is important in Islam, I was sure it was ok.

They were perfectly cool about a horde of hungry, hairy, dishevelled westerners hurrying about and wanting food. They were courteous and friendly as ever. Soon, almost in the blink of an eye, a huge platter of buryiani rice and half a roast chichen appeared in front of me. Way to much for me so I shared with Kelly, an American guy on the trip. We polished off the chicken but left most of the rice behind. The chicken was delicious, if a bit stringy, and very different different from the plump factory farmed chickens I’m used to.

They have a custom in most of the less high end restaurants I have eaten in, in the Middle East. They put a transparent plastic tablecloth over the existing coloured or patterned plastic tablecloth. When you have finished eating, they chuck all the uneaten food, bits of bread and all the detritis of an Asian meal together. Then they roll it all up in the transparent tablecloth and tie it all into a little bundle. Neat.

We went into the kitchen to see a guy make the delicious tandori nan bread they have here. I have seen this done in other countries and this was an authentic tandori pottery or stone oven. Cool.

It was surprising to see how many people worked in the kitchen and around the restaurant, which was quite small. Apart from us, sitting on tables, there were approximately a dozen or so sitting in carpeted raised alcoves all around the wall. They sat cross-legged and used their hands to eat their food. We used plastic spoons! Most looked Pakistani but I don’t think any were Arabs.

Just before we got back on the bus, I had a mooch about. I noticed an electrical service head at ground level with the door missing and no protection anywhere. A child or animal could easily stray in to it. It was a 3 phase 415V 400 Amp supply. The next upstream current protection device would be the transformer or substation. This would probably be 1000 Amps or so. There’s no possibility of surviving a belt from that. As an ex-electrician, I was shocked. Emotionally, nor physically; fortunately.

Back on the bus again to head for our bush camp.

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