Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Wonderful Weekend in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Speaking at SQLGulf #1, Alfaisal University

Thanks to the perseverance of SQL MVP Shehap El-Nagar’s invite last year, this brave man from the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education, managed to organise a great inaugural event.  After the longest visa request process in my life, and twice, since originally his goal was to host this event in December 2013, it finally happened: - the 1st SQLGulf event held in Riyadh, K.S.A. this past Saturday at the beautiful new campus of AlFaisal University, Riyadh. Link to Highlights of the event

As one of six speakers, I gave two Presentations:
1) SQL Server Database Security Practices (on LinkedIn, or on SkyDrive ) with code sample.
AlFaisal University's courtyard (built 2008)
2) Compression for SQL Server (SkyDrive) but for more on compression, please see the updated background blog post for code and details.
For Saudis, the weekend begins on Friday, and thus we faced the challenge of attracting people to give up their Sunday. It is all a little confusing for outsiders to the Kingdom, since this change is only recent. U.K.-based SQL MVP Satya Shaym Jayanty explained to me how a previous SQLSaturday event where he was speaker actually was on Thursday (!) since that was the beginning of the weekend for them, and this time around, we were able to hold it on an actual Saturday (but is still to Saudis, the last day of rest before the new week begins).  This cultural difference proved helpful for us Internationally-based speakers since it only involved leave from work for a day or two, including travel time.

International speakers joined us from Jordan, the United Kingdom, Egypt and the U.S.A.also, and I was the token Canuck. Here was the full schedule of sessions:

What AlFaisal University look like once finished. 60% done now
  I think this was the first event where I finally broke through with speaking (based on the feedback), because experience has certainly done its part. I am a long way since SQLTeach in Vancouver, 2009 in June where there was a tough crowd and one man who seemingly had a rough flight in from the UK and trashed all the speakers - who were not paid, and came to simply give back to the community.

 More photos of the short, but wonderful trip.  Especially a whole afternoon tour with Ahmed, a great taxi driver originally from Peshawar, Pakistan, who made sure to let me see all these beautiful parts of the capital.
The Prince`s SkyBridge, for great views.
AlFaisal's ultra-modern Mosque

Saudi Ministry of Higher Education
 In Riyadh, for SQL Gufl 1, all sessions were recorded in high definition (as have many already Shehap has organised before for SQLSaturday Riyadh), thus I leave it up to readers to decide whether I can honestly say that the presentation made the grade (link to come).  Shehap, who works in this building to the right, was certainly not alone in his efforts (see group shot below) to start this series of events which we hope will jump from city to city across the Persian Gulf. 

The Entire SQL Gulf #1 Team at the end of the day, AlFaisal University Saturday, 30th, 2014

After first presentation with Mostafa Elmasry, blogger at

To come: SkyBridge view, and National Library.
Needless to say, cannot wait for the next SQL GULF!!!!

Selfie, in front of the late King AlFaisal's Palace, which is surrounded by the new University of the same name

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