23 AprMore Business Travel. Potentially unexpected side effects.

Lunchtime, March 18th 2003. Downtown Riyadh. A series of client visits has brought us to the Saudi capital. Trouble is brewing in Iraq and a second Gulf war is likely. We had thought about canceling the long planned trip and decided that turning up was the right thing for generating good will. After all, we would travel on a Swiss plane, and with the protection of a Swiss passport, with the English one very much left at home. We figured that in a hijack situation, we would wave our little red passports and suggest that the Americans and the Brits face the music first.

We were at lunch with clients and inevitably the main topic of conversation was the impending war. Our hosts told us they were actually worried about missile attacks. We were somewhat perplexed; Saudi Arabia was not going to be involved and had not been directly involved in the first war, so what we asked was this about missiles. Were the Iraqis going to attack the Kingdom? No, they said, they were worried about the Israelis, who during the first Gulf war had apparently used the occasion to launch the odd Scud missiles in the direction of Saudi Arabia. Genuinely surprised, both by our own lack of knowledge and the possible threat, we asked where exactly the Scud attacks took place. “Around Riyadh” they told us. Wow, did that ever concentrate the mind.

That night we left on the 01:50 flight on Feb 19th out of King Khaled, heading due West for Switzerland. Early on the morning of the 20th, the US fighters travelled in the following directions with the first bombing runs on Iraq.

Lessons Learned:  Ignorance can be bliss. Probably just as well we did not know about those Scud attacks before we went. We might have made a different decision.

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