No matter how efficient the briefing in London it did little to prepare me for the reality that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The hospital at Al-Kharj to which I was assigned was a satellite of the Riyadh Armed Forces 1,000 bed teaching hospital - the difference between the two was a bit like Dallas and Choke Canyon.

In Saudi Arabia the petro-dollar affords the best of the best. It was often hard to get my head around the disparity between heart surgery in Riyadh and only 60km away traditional, almost medieval, medicine was still preferred and trusted.

It was here that I first witnessed the extraordinary lengths taken to segregate men from women; where I learned the dreadful truth of female circumcision; and where I faced the frustrations of managing a multi-national team amid cultural conflict.

You might wonder why anyone would choose to work in such a country. Like many places in life, including my own culture, you learn what is acceptable and what is not, adapt your lifestyle accordingly and get on with what you are there to do. Sometimes it would be easier to walk away, turn my back - but by staying, learning and listening perhaps some small changes could be made.

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