"Welcome to Jubail, Saudi Arabia"
In 1998, my wife, Carol, and I began a multi-year work assignment, from my US company, in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. This, the last job before retirement, provided a truly life changing experience for us. Adapting to the cultural and physical differences was a continuing challenge, requiring flexibility, acceptance, a sense of humor, and the ability to find new or differing hobbies and interests.
For a guy who grew up in northwest Ohio, the outlook for home gardening was grim. The soil type was sand. The climatic zone fell just north of Hades. Potable water was limited and too expensive for non-domestic uses. And, the plant choices, particularly for perennials, were few to none. There were definitely no daylilies or hostas! With a bit of effort, I could find some annuals, but the market then jumped to shrubs and trees. Looked like gardening, as I knew it, was not in the cards.
Happily, though, the community was landscaped with beautiful flower beds, hedges and trees that would be the envy of any national arboretum. Where did these exotic plants come from? How did they get here? How did they survive without water and nutrients? It was mysterious and a bit surreal!
I learned that the city had been designed and built in accordance with a Master Plan developed by international consultants. Full consideration had been given to landscape design and plant selection to bring the best suited from around the world to this most unlikely location. I eventually became a weekend explorer, finding, photographing and identifying fascinating, new flowers. I got my first digital camera, about then, and, with the help of PowerPoint, discovered my life's recreational passion. Close-up photography became relatively easy and, for me, addictive.
I eventually solved the mystery of how all of these stunning plants survived and flourished. I found that EVERY PLANT was supplied with recycled industrial wastewater. I was witness to one of the largest drip irrigation projects in the world. And it worked! A general fertilizer, locally referred to as 'N-P-K,' (18-18-5, plus 1.5 trace elements) was applied when needed.
I, and others, dabbled with small home gardens, surreptitiously tapping into the recycled water lines, but they were always modest efforts. The real show was the mega-displays, in landscapes along roads, beside houses and other buildings, and in parks. We were truly blessed. We hope you enjoy this brief visit to the heart of the Middle East.