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A Harley Rally in “Good ‘Ole KSA”

March 13, 2012

February 2, 2012

“Why would I post pictures of a Harley Davidson Rally?” I asked my sister.  “Who’d be interested in that?”

“Brother,” she said, “It’s a Harley Rally in Saudi.”

How the iconic motorcycle had become embedded in American culture I could half understand.  Big as Texas, Vegas-shiny, loud like New York and LA-cool.  The Cadillac of motorcycles.  As American as …

Old fashioned and now a non-sequitur is the 1970s car-company slogan “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet / They go together in the good ‘Ole USA.”.  But swap Harley for Chevrolet and the rhyme becomes free verse, the jingle fresh and true.  What’s “Ole” is new again.  Fitting is the fact that Harley is a company re-invented, pulled up by its own bootstraps.  Chevy was recently bailed-out.

Iconic Harley Chopper at Dhahran Rally

But why should Americans alone enjoy their wild west romance?  “Live to Ride / Ride to Live” has broad appeal, after all.  The horse made our country as, until recently, the camel made theirs.  They have their own wide open, untamed spaces, love of a well-built machine on which to roam.  Why shouldn’t a romance for the past find truck here?  Why shouldn’t they also find this fun?

A Camel within the Harley Logo in Saudi

The day of this much-anticipated event dawned slowly.  For weeks posters in Dhahran’s public spaces had invited all to join and to sign up early.  Participation required a special-issue identification card.  Which needed a current passport photo.  Which needed processing.  Which needed time.

Dawn came slowly because days earlier a dust storm had kicked up in Jeddah and was blowing all the way across the country.  The Arab News reported traffic jams, collisions, falling trees in that city.  School was suspended.  Government urged everyone to stay home.

Makkah Gate near Shumaisi is hardly visible as motorists ride through the dust storm. (Arab News photo by Mujib Hussain)

The storm reached Riyadh about the time that city’s Harley chapter began its convoy toward the Dhahran event.  They surfed it across country to the Gulf.

“Should we go?” asked Bruce, searching the window for any sign of sun. “We try not to ride in this weather…makes the lungs hurt.”

But the dawn of this much-anticipated event was too much anticipated to miss.

This is the Middle East a Westerner might not expect–communal, light-hearted, playful–even in adverse conditions.

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Click here to see all photos of the Dhahran Harley Rally.

Thank you to Val and Lavonna for the photography and to everyone for such a fun event.  A special thanks to Lavonna for letting me borrow her bike, for a month.

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