Merry Christmas Eve from Riyadh

Merry Christmas to all!  Not that I'm religious. I'm not. But it's weird to be located in a place so completely devoid of anything western holiday related. Even in Afghanistan, the western coalition all put up Christmas trees and played holiday music in the DFACs (chow halls). Here, it's a western cultural void; nothing here is warm and inviting. I expected the same void in Bahrain when I stopped there on the way here. But, I was surprised to see the Christmas decorations displayed by most of the stores in the malls. Even the central thoroughfare in one of the malls had a snow scene complete with reindeer and queue of children waiting to see what passed for a Santa. The display even touted an Arab snowman! 

Arab snowman and a reindeer pulled sleigh.

So, as fate would have it, everyone who works with me is burned-out and recuperating in their hotel rooms. I'm sitting in mine, watching BBC World News, eating Kingdom dates, Lindt chocolates, updating my blog, and drinking the rest of the special grape juice that I managed to score at a social function a few days ago. So much for Christmas.

In a few hours, I'll take a break from my reading and drinking and spend half an hour paying attention to the real meaning of 25 December -- the birth of the Sun God and the renewal of hope for this planet and for humankind -- along with the knowledge that darkness will diminish and sunlight will increase over the next six months. Then, I'll finish drinking.