Show Notes for Podcast #87
Ashley Giordano Interviews Luai Alsheheli
In this podcast from the field, Ashley Giordano interviews Luai Alsheheli, co-founder of Saudi 4x4 shop 4 Wheel Station, and owner of a very unique 60-Series Land Cruiser.
I'm a Saudi who lived in the US for nearly 20 years and graduated with a degree in computer engineering. Ended up working for the Royal Saudi Air Force then left to pursue my dream in upgrading adventure vehicles.
I'm married to a beautiful wife and have two beautiful kids. Since I was a kid, my passion has always been four-wheel drive vehicles. I loved how they seemed to have no boundaries to roads and that they could go anywhere.
Today, you'll find me lost between Jeeps and Land Cruisers. Jeeps for technical driving and Cruisers for long distance travels. I love to talk about remote travel 4x4 vehicles and culture.
I'm the Co-Founder of 4 Wheel Station. The company was established in 2014 to supply and upfit off-road vehicles. @4wheelstation
Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory. @desktoglory_ash
This episode sponsored in part by:
Luai Alsheheli/Four Wheel Station
Ashley Giordano: [00:00:00] Yes. It was couple for the podcast and they had, I don't know why once in a while I get really nervous that I had to redo the intro like five times. I'm like, I've done so many of these episodes. I don't understand.
Richard Giordano: I'm going to move some of Ash's water bottles out of the way. Yeah. Okay. And you guys are recording.
Luai Alsheheli: Okay, cool.
Richard Giordano: And you're both in perfectly fine.
Luai Alsheheli: Okay.
Richard Giordano: And the audio is recording.
Ashley Giordano: I don't know what to do with the masks. We can leave them on.
Richard Giordano: The audio sounds great. Nothing's rubbing. So..
Ashley Giordano: You might get fogged up though.
Luai Alsheheli: Okay, cool.
Richard Giordano: Perfect. Now you guys can read.
Ashley Giordano: So this should all be fine. And if anything, beeps, I'll just come get you. [00:01:00] Um, how do you say your last name?
Luai Alsheheli: Alsheheli
Ashley Giordano: I'm going to try, I'm going to..
Luai Alsheheli: Try to take a few takes.
Ashley Giordano: It's kind of like Ashley. Okay, cool. Yeah. It's super casual. I'll just be asking you questions. You won't know the answers already, honestly, so yeah, I'll just, I guess, do a little intro, like roll and then I'll introduce you and you can talk about yourself and your gracious. Okay. Ready?
Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am Ashley Giordano, Senior Editor, Overland Journal, [00:02:00] and Expedition Portal. And today I'm in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia talking with Luai. Today, I'm talking with Luai Alsheheli, who is the owner of a four by four shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia called Four Wheel Station. Thank you so much for being on the podcast with me today, Luai.
Luai Alsheheli: Thank you for having me.
Ashley Giordano: Um, so one of the crazy things about overlanding is, or one of the coolest things about overlanding is being able to meet four by four owners or being able to meet four by four shop owners along the way. So I've met, um, or w we've visited four by four shops in Latin America. And it's always a really cool experience. I'm really excited to be at your shop.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, thanks for stopping by appreciate it.
Ashley Giordano: I'm just gonna, let's start with your background. [00:03:00] Um, how did you get into this scene?
Luai Alsheheli: For real you mean, or?
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, so, um, I guess, uh, you know, as a kid, I just loved a four wheel drive vehicles. I like to, you know, check them out and, uh, uh, you know, just look at their capabilities, what they can do. So, uh, I really liked that. And then as I grew up, you know, just kind of grew with me and I, you know, I just enjoyed, uh, you know, checking it out and being part of it. So yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Was that here in Riyadh or where, where are you seeing these vehicles that were so inspiring?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, I guess so mostly gonna be here in Saudi, uh, you know, uh, and then of course, when I, when I moved to the US uh, you know, for school, um, I enjoyed a lot of the. The scene of the four by four scene, the things that are done there. So that was, yeah, that was a lot of fun.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. So what made you decide to move to [00:04:00] the US to attend school?
Luai Alsheheli: So I did my, um, you know, I was born in the US uh, and then, uh, you know, I did my middle school, high school in Saudi, and then I moved back from a bachelor's degree. So I have a Master's degree in computer. Okay. So yeah, that's, uh, that's what that was about. And then, uh, you know, I spent extra time there, uh, you know, just, uh, hanging out and enjoying basically my time there. And then I moved back here and, uh, yeah, brought some of the vehicles back with me. And there wasn't any, uh, four wheel drive shops here that are doing what we're doing right now. So that kind of spiked an idea and, you know, slowly, you know, it is what it is today.
Ashley Giordano: Cool. What were the vehicles that you brought back with you?
Luai Alsheheli: I had two Jeeps with me, uh, in the US so I just pretty much put them on the boat and send them here. And so when I got them here, I just wasn't sure what to, you know, if I wanted to get some upgrades to them, two of them are, you know, fix them up or anything like that. So, [00:05:00] yeah.
Ashley Giordano: I haven't seen a lot of Jeeps in Saudi.
I've seen some for sure, which is kind of surprising. So what happened to those Jeeps after who brought them?
Luai Alsheheli: So, yeah, I, uh, well of course I still use them, but they're not really a big, uh, Jeep market isn't really that big here.
Ashley Giordano: Right.
Luai Alsheheli: Uh, part of that is because of, you know, uh, part of it is just sticks, uh, that the culture is definitely growing right now. Uh, but one, I did bring my vehicles. It wasn't that big as, as it is today. So, uh, you know, it's, uh, I mean, yeah, I mean, it just slowly, it started to grow a little bit and we started bringing. You know, people love to use them, I guess.
Ashley Giordano: So, so you came back to Saudi and you had this idea to open up a four-by-four shop because there wasn't one here. And how, what did that look like? That process?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, I mean, it wasn't, it wasn't, uh, at all that easy. Uh, it's definitely, it [00:06:00] took a lot of effort. First. The effort of trying to open a business is one thing. And then trying to convince the customers that you actually. And I may want to consider this if you're that type of person who needs this type of product and, um, you know, that, that kind of started to grow. And then of course, has that business evolved. We, we started to look at what do people need the needs are of course changing. So we started to move a little bit away of, uh, vehicles that are built just for the weekends. Now we're, we're talking about vehicles that are being used for, uh, A few weeks, uh, type of trips to some people that are actually, uh, traveling the world. So we're building those vehicles for them and we're learning of course from their feedbacks. And that helps us, uh, you know, make partnerships with suppliers to get the right types of parts.
Ashley Giordano: Gotcha.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: So how did those builds change from the beginning? [00:07:00] Um, you were talking about more kind of like weekend trips. Yeah. So longer term trips.
Luai Alsheheli: Right. So we typically build like vehicles that would do, um, you know, uh, like they want to go like on a sandwich type of trip or anything like that to vehicles that would, you know, um, do you know expeditions or, you know, anything like, like, you know, long, long distance or long, long type of a trip. Uh, the choices of products or, you know, our gear would very, very heavily, uh, from those type of vehicles that are just going for like doing bashing or anything like that, to vehicles that are trying to sustain, you know, make sure that the vehicle is saved, their gear is in good, in good shape. And of course it's serving them along the way. So that really did change a lot of, you know, what we've offered in the past and what we're offering today. So, yeah. And then you've got things that are unique to this market that are not, of course, you know, [00:08:00] maybe unimportant thing in other markets. For example, we were discussing this earlier, but, um, the water tank situation. Um, so that is something that we, we typically see as like something that we typically try to build a vehicle to integrate. And then it's typically something that we normally have to have in every vehicle, at least like 60 liters of water. Jerry cans definitely do do a great job in that. Um, do you know, if it's integrated, it's normally a lot easier to deal with, and then we typically have like some kind of gauges to, you know, just give us an idea about, you know, consumption and all of that. So..
Ashley Giordano: Is it because, you know, in Saudi, uh, the vast majority of the country is desert and because of the high temperatures, that the importance of water, or is there something else?
Luai Alsheheli: No, so, uh, yeah, it's, uh, it's a lot of things. Uh, so, uh, you know, our diet. Relies on water a lot. So the food that we make, uh, uses a lot of water, um, you know, uh, people [00:09:00] are praying five times a day. They have to use water for that. And then, uh, you know, just your hygiene, of course, uh, you need water and then there's not a lot of water places to get water from outside of, of course, small villages and towns. So because of that, it, you know, you need to carry a little bit more. And it really just boils down to how long you want to, you want to stay off the grid basically. So that is something that, you know, we, um, yeah, it's something that you just have to factor in as far as building the vehicle, getting the right gear for it, so.
Ashley Giordano: Gotcha. Yeah. Were there things in the US that, um, I guess influenced the way that you build vehicles here? Or is it a blend of what you see here and what you see in the US or Africa or Australia?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, I mean, I typically find myself in my free time looking at what other, you know, markets and what other people, Scott gravy [00:10:00] specifically is a really a big part of the influence when it comes to that. I mean, I really, you know, um, you know, to take what he says, uh, Uh, very, you know, uh, you know, really think about what he says a lot as far as how he, you know, uh, built his vehicles and when he talks about them and the things that, that are important. And if you just try to reflect that on the things that you're doing near a personal vehicle, I think it really does boil down to, you know, looking at other experiences, trying to figure it out what experiences may work for, what you're trying to. And then building vehicles from them. So going back to that original question. Yes, we do a mix of both. Uh, we, we definitely started with a lot of the American products, American way of doing things. And then slowly as we started to evolve, we, we, we, we started to understand that some things may not work as well in this market versus other places. So typically like, like we just mentioned with the water tank thing, [00:11:00] um, that's typically something you would have, you know, may see a lot of in the US versus vehicles here, almost every vehicle in the shop has, you know, how about our tank of some sort.
Ashley Giordano: Right? We were talking also about the differences culturally, between traveling or overlanding, or we can tripping in Saudi versus north America. And you were talking about, um, one that I thought it was really cool about how, if you're traveling in a group, the way that the vehicles, each vehicle in the group is set up is sometimes a bit different.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. Um, so here, uh, it's just, the culture now starts to play a role. So, um, meals are normally shared you're you're not having people just bring their own food and they're eating on the side or something like that. Or typically you'll see everybody always eating together, uh, to the point where if somebody is having, you know, they're just sleeping extra. Uh, waiting for him to wake up or wake him up so that everybody can share the same meal. So that translates in [00:12:00] gear being in the vehicle. It's not sometimes very clear on what who's bringing, what, but typically somebody with a pickup wouldn't have a lot of those, um, you know, uh, I guess, uh, gear and stuff like that. And they would typically share, uh, you know, their, their gear together. So that's typically how it normally works. It's it's changing a little bit, right. Um, but it is still, I think it's, it's, it's, it's always going to be, uh, some, some, some way like that.
Ashley Giordano: So some other cultural differences that you see impacting this type of travel?
Luai Alsheheli: Um, I don't think really there's a lot, I mean, maybe like the tents, uh, some, some people would like to sleep in like a three post tent, so there's like a lot of people in the city. Um, that is something that is, you know, you don't see it a lot these days. I think a lot of people are now with like social media and everything. I think people are starting to see, um, everybody wants to have their own tents. Um, but that is that that aspect is still there. Um, but like I said, like with [00:13:00] sharing meals and things like that, so a lot of the cookware it's normally geared towards a bigger group. Uh, so you typically have like, you know, you're feeding like seven to 13, 15 people sometimes even more interesting. You don't typically see people, you know, moving in groups of like two or three, normally it's a minimum of 10 plus.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, wow.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. So typically it is, it is normally like that. It's just because they're, they're trying to just have a great time away from work and all of that. So, yeah. So yeah, from that aspect, it's definitely a little bit. A little bit different. So..
Ashley Giordano: That's awesome. So along with some of the cultural differences in terms of travel, there are some vehicle differences that we've noticed in the shop as well. I guess maybe run, do a little short rundown on what is in the shop right now. I know there's quite a few things going on.
Luai Alsheheli: But we've got, um, an HDG 80 Series. So that would have a one HDFT motor. Uh, we've got, I think two of those, [00:14:00] we've got an Exterra that's getting electrical work. We've got Land Cruisers. Uh, we've got 79s, uh, double cab, single cabs. They're all the V8 uh, diesel motors. We've got an AEV Brute. We've got a 105. We've got a 60 Series of, we've got two 110 Defenders and 73, a Jeep TJ. That's what I think we have. And then of course, we've got a D200 Dodge in the shop, so, yeah. Uh, yeah. And then we've got a few them parked outside right now, so,
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, tell me about those ones.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. Um, so we've got an FJ40 outside. That's got a 1FZ engine in it and uh, so we've got, uh, what else do we, yeah, it's pretty cool. Yeah. So that one is a. It's an ADV to 3,500 chassis cab, [00:15:00] uh, trey bed. It's got, um, the four wheel campers and yeah, it just arrived from the US just a few weeks ago. And we're just going through the process. I'm going to get registered and done getting it roadworthy right now. So..
Ashley Giordano: What does that process look like when you're bringing a vehicle over from another country?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. Right. Um, these vehicles specifically, because they were never imported through the dealerships, so it's a little bit difficult trying to, you know, get it, that's actually why it's taking so long, but typically it takes like two or three days at most to get it plated and everything. So, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. And then what types of clients do you have? It's like a typical client or is it all over the map?
Luai Alsheheli: No, it's, uh, it's, uh, it's all over the place, honestly. Um, the bigger builds normally, you know, it's either a company that's trying to get it like a media company, for example, um, they'd want one, a vehicle that is, uh, you know, maybe in like [00:16:00] built a little bit, uh, to, to hold more gear, for example, or like electrical stuff like that, but we get a lot. And then we've got also since 2018, we've had a lot of ladies come into shop to, to get their vehicles built. Yeah. Women were not allowed to drive and now they are. So a lot of them are getting their vehicles built. So you'll have a mom would come in with her kids and she'd want to just try to understand what works in, what does it, so we typically send them back out without anything, uh, just to get them to try out, you know, uh, their vehicles and try to understand what, what, what they actually need. And then they'd come back again to get, uh, to get, you know, to get their vehicles built. So that's, uh, that's normally how it goes. Yeah. So, um, I think stuff is maybe.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. I think that's yours. Thank you so much. Uh, we'll cut that part out. Um, [00:17:00] what was I going to say? Oh yeah. So you're talking about women being able to drive and. Here, are they looking for like accessories or are they looking for both?
Luai Alsheheli: So typically with like the like wheels, tires, things like that, we really couldn't, you know, help a lot in that term. Cause it's normally it was down to taste. Uh, but when it comes to functionalities and things like that, we try to, you know, as much as we can help with what we know of course, but, um, with families it's normally there, from what we've seen, their travels are not as aggressive with. Um, so they typically spend, you know, time around the city, uh, normally, maybe two or three days out, uh, they have to camp and have fun. So it is part of our culture to be camping. This is nothing new to us. Yeah. So, uh, that is, uh, that is something that maybe is a little bit different than, uh, different, you know, countries. And so this whole traveling is not a new concept to people here, but it's, we're trying to exercise it a little bit different. Uh, and I [00:18:00] think it is definitely, you know, we're growing in that. So I think, you know, it's getting a positive, uh, you know, uh, what you call it, uh, feedback or, you know..
Ashley Giordano: Gaining traction.
Luai Alsheheli: Exactly. It's it is gaining a lot of traction. Absolutely.
Ashley Giordano: Interesting. Yeah. Um, do you have international clients that come through here or is it mostly..
Luai Alsheheli: So we do, we have a, so locally we have ex-pats we have Saudis, uh, these are typically 90% of our customers are a little bit more than that. And then we've got, uh, people that are traveling from outside of the country that they would come in for like doing a quick inspection, or if they want to ask about something, uh, typically we'd do that. Uh, sometimes we would go, you know, we normally don't typically, uh, you know, do logistics for, for, you know, vehicles that are coming in and out with some exceptions, of course. Um, because it's of course not our business, but, um, we do try to help as much as we can from, from a Traveler's [00:19:00] point of view. Um, we, we look at it as, you know, uh, paying it forward so that when we hopefully travel one day and see it, and we'd like to get that type of support, uh, when we're going out to, to unknown countries, too. And, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's been great so far. We just keep talking to people about their experiences. I mean, I know you enrich have been, uh, been traveling for almost a month now and it's been great. So, you know..
Ashley Giordano: It's been amazing. It's been such an education. I think we didn't realize how much we based our worldview, I think on Latin America, which is basically a huge part of our travels have encompassed that area. And so it was so insightful and I'm so grateful to have had the experience here because it's so different and overlanding here is different obviously different culture, but just something as simple as like you were talking about getting water right. Is completely different here. [00:20:00] And so, wow. Yeah. It has been crazy, amazing.
Luai Alsheheli: Things that I think all of us are looking forward to in all of our trips.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Luai Alsheheli: Um, yeah, I'd say it's, it's great. So that, I mean, you have that aspect, of course. And then, um, just going back to that water experience, uh, if you would fill up from a well, which we have done multiple times and in our, in our journeys, it's, it's really humbling to, to, to have somebody just leave a hose in the middle of the desert and you're just, you know, just filling up water and it's like, you know, you're just, you know, you, you, you trust that there's nothing in the water that, you know, could hurt you and, uh, you know, We've we've had great, uh, great luck with that. So it's been, it's been absolutely amazing.
Ashley Giordano: Um, another question about the shop. So you guys have a pretty big storefront here and then the shop where you work on the vehicles is in the rear. It was really surprising and [00:21:00] cool to come through the doors of the shop and see so many brands that we recognize from back home. What are the brands that you carry in your shop?
Luai Alsheheli: Right. So we, we distributed for, uh, multiple brands that are, um, uh, based in the US and outside of the US. So we deal with AEV, uh, Fox Shocks, uh, we're distributors for them, we're distributors for Warn Industries. So we were their sole distributor in the country. Uh, we do a lot with Front Runner, Alu-Cab. Uh, we do Kaymar out of Australia. We do MaxTrax, of course. Um, so these are, you know, some of the companies that we deal with, we deal with, uh, Redarc system. So we do a lot of daily electrical setup, uh, or setups and, um, our products. And then we've got, um, yeah, just ARB of course. Uh, we, we do a lot of installs on those and then you've got Baja Design. So we've got a few companies that we're, we're happy to work. Uh, and that, that choice is we're not just because we wanted the premium stuff, but we really believe that these [00:22:00] type of products would, would take you out and bring you back. Um, so we typically try to, this is our philosophy when we're trying to bring products into our store is just try to find the qualities that would take them to coroner, for example, and bring you back. And we really believe in that. And we have seen throughout the years, uh, some of the vehicles that were stranded in the desert before. What we think w we're having premature failures with parts that they've installed that, or really expensive, trying to extract the vehicles I get the people of course out. So, um, that just kind of pushed her Steven further and to go with premium brands. And I mean, they're, they're great people to work with for sure. So, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, it becomes really important. I think when you have that high risk factor of heat and being super remote and the desert.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, corrugations also. I mean, it really is really hard. And I don't know if you have in your travels here, if [00:23:00] you've noticed anything, but, um, if you go to some of these areas, it's really, really rough on vehicles, so..
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, I feel like overlanding is basically like, this is systematic destruction of your vehicle over time, basically. So I understand that for, I think for corrugation, it hasn't been too bad here, but definitely speed bumps. Fortunately, we haven't done anything too bad, but, um, rough rocks, you know, there, I was really surprised to come across a lot of volcanic areas here. I never expected that. So yeah, really rough terrain there too.
Luai Alsheheli: We, um, there was one, a road behind an airport in Noida and, uh, that, uh, that road was so rough that I couldn't sustain driving on that, on that road after, you know, taking breaks, just trying to, you know, uh, keep checking the truck cause I really thought it was just gonna fall apart [00:24:00] and uh, at whatever speed that you're driving on it, you just can't get it to sync with the road basically. So after I got out of it, I found a broken engine mounts, uh, you know, the isolators on the transmission. I saw. So I was driving with two of them. So, you know, of course I can find parts for it, you know, under, under anywhere. So, you know, I got a fix, but I mean that there, there are some places that are really gnarly here and we do that when we do shock tuning and stuff like that, we take them out there and do so they heat up really fast.
Ashley Giordano: Wow.
Luai Alsheheli: So, yeah, it's pretty crazy.
Ashley Giordano: What are the places in this country that you love the most?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. So, um, you know, maybe Tabuk would be probably my, my favorite place in the country, just because, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's, it's got rocks. It's got, you've got the, you know, you've got a sea right next to you. [00:25:00] You've got desert and it's full of history and full of, you know, ruins and things like that. So it's just interesting to, to be out there and just wandering around, you don't have to, you know, have something specific and you always find something. So I really love that part of the country.
Ashley Giordano: That's in the Northwest, or are you talking about the province?
Luai Alsheheli: Like the whole, the whole area. Yeah. So Tabuk is a province and there's also a city.
Ashley Giordano: Correct.
Luai Alsheheli: Uh, I wouldn't want to spend time with the city. That's just beacause I don't like cities, but, you know, um, but yeah, the province, the whole area. So Saudi has 13 provinces in the country, so Tabuk is going to be, uh, northwest. Uh, so that is, that area is just beautiful. Even in the summer, it doesn't get too hot. So, you know, typically, you know, because of COVID of course traveling is really hard, but, um, uh, daytime has been to be a little bit warm, maybe like, uh, and, and, uh, you know, degrees, centigrade. It's probably like, you know, [00:26:00] lower forties, but yeah, but at night it drops.
Ashley Giordano: Wow.
Luai Alsheheli: So it's, it's, it's really extreme. Cause it's of course it is desert and Riyadh of course, even warmer than that. But, um, so you've got that area and then, uh, southwest is also a favorite of mine cause it's a lot of it has mountains and then you've got, uh, it's cool year round and the elevations are above I think nine or 8,000. So you've got, you know, it's, uh, it's just nice. And then it's very different than the rest of the country. Every time they post stuff on Instagram, people are like, you know, where are you at? What country is this? So it's really, really different if you go to Fifa, for example, that area or that city or town, uh, it's like, so tropical, like even the trees are very different than the rest of the country they intersect, but they're very different. So everything, everything is just, uh, in that area. It's just interesting in terms [00:27:00] of the difference, how do you see from the rest of the place? So, uh, Saudi is a very big country. Uh, there's so much to see, and it's just different. Everywhere you go, you go to the sand dunes and like empty quarter it's of course. Uh, it's endless sound that you don't see a lot of, you know, vegetation for like, you know, hundreds and hundreds of kilometers, so it's a, yeah, it's a unique experience for sure. If you're, if you're into, you know, traveling by road or, you know, by a vehicle or motorcycle, there's a lot of motorcycles too, that are traveling here and, uh, you'll have a great time for sure, so..
Ashley Giordano: I've thought of it as like overlanding paradise because you could, most of the time, wherever you are. I mean, we haven't, we didn't cover a huge part of the country in our time. But our experience was that you could pull over or drive for 10 minutes off of a HOD main road and find a beautiful campsite like wild [00:28:00] camping. Um, and then there's so much history here and so many beautiful landscapes and the culture is so warm and welcoming and, oh my gosh, I could go on and on, but it really blew my mind as to the, like the holistic. Sense of the things that we like looking for in a destination and it ticked all the boxes off, which is amazing. Yeah. Fuel is cheap. Good point.
Luai Alsheheli: So, yeah, it's great. I mean, right now, uh, it's snowing in Tabuk right now. And it's it wasn't, I mean, in recent years it's started to become something like normal. Um, but, uh it's they got a lot of snow over there. So if you're in Tabuk you would also experience snow right now and, you know, it's snowing on sand dunes so for us here, it's less like, wow, that's really crazy. But, um, yeah, it's, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's definitely a very different, I think a lot from like Western point of [00:29:00] view, you would enjoy the culture. Um, you know, especially if you get to actually meet the locals. Yeah. Saudis are not scary. This is my, not because no..
Ashley Giordano: I think that's important though, because as Westerners we're fed this kind of, um, uh, narrative about what this part of the world is like.
Luai Alsheheli: Well, I mean, you know, part of it also was that the country was, uh, you know, it w it wasn't open for tourism, let's say. So, um, that was also part of why there was so much. But that also brings in a different layer of, you know, exploring. So there is a lot of what they did here. Um, there there's, there's a lot of things so that they changed the way that, uh, the countries is accepting, uh, for her. So there's tourism now that's open business is easier. A lot of things they're changing here that are helping the country, uh, get better, understood and understand the culture. And, um, I've traveled to a lot of places around. And, you know, personally, not because, you know, I have, of course, you know, some of me [00:30:00] like, you know, um, I understand the culture too well, so I understand what was happening. But if I was to kind of try to remove myself from that and look at it, it's really, really beautiful because it it's centric to family, it's centric to, you know, people and, you know, so if you, if. If you like that. And I think these type of values are shared around the world. Um, I think you will really enjoy traveling here. People will go out of their way to help you. So if you'd have a flat tire, uh, there was one Swiss, uh, couple that were here during COVID. They had a spare tire. Their second spare tire blew on their way. And they were telling us that somebody gave them their wheel and they gave us his phone number so that when, when you know, we can ship it back to them just to get them, to get them to go. So I don't know if I can get that type of, you know, uh, treatment in other parts of the world. I'm sure, of course there's generosity is everywhere, but, um, it's just normal for that to [00:31:00] be seen here. Uh, you go to Hiyal for example, and, uh, people there, their homes are open 24 hours. The country is very safe, so, um, you'd go into a house there. They'd invite you and then you'd have like, And then their neighbor would invite you for dinner and all of a sudden you can't leave because everybody's just inviting you to the next house over and they'd love to, you know, learn about you and your experiences and stuff like that. So if you're on a tight schedule, don't go to Halik basically.
Ashley Giordano: So, yeah, totally.
Luai Alsheheli: So, yeah, I mean, it's a, you know, it's, uh, it's got it's, uh, it's I think there's a lot of things uh, like you were mentioning, uh, that are misinterpreted or, or not really, uh, you know, some of it is of course political, but as you are seeing right now, and hopefully others that would travel here, they would see it's very different than what the media is pushing out. So, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: [00:32:00] Yeah. It seems like a lot of changes are happening here. Like you were saying with women being able to drive and they bought the 20, 30 projects happening and. Um, you know, huge events like Formula One, Formula E, the Dakar, and, um, and also noticed like concerts and festivals.
Luai Alsheheli: Oh yeah. We didn't talk about that stuff, too.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah..
Luai Alsheheli: It's crazy. Yeah. I mean, uh, so everywhere you look at there's things, and so if you're into art or Opera there, they have, the biggest Opera is happening right now.
Ashley Giordano: Like, and Andrea Bocelli is playing in the, uh, what's it called? Mariah? Which is near, um, like I said, it's a, I don't know how to explain this building. Like it's all glass on the outside. What's on the inside, is it a concert hall?
Luai Alsheheli: And it is, it is a hall, it's a really big hall. How did they have on the inside? And then, um, so you've got that, but at the same time you've [00:33:00] got, so if you're into motor sports, you've got the Formula One, you've got the Dakar. They're the biggest things that are in motor sports. And then you move into you know, uh, art galleries and things like that. And they've just, they just bring the best of the best and they're just opening up so huge competition with our neighbors in UAE and Dubai and all that. Uh, so we see a lot of license plates coming in from different countries. Uh, it's really cool. Um, but yeah, I mean, they're, they're opening everything. Uh, you know, you're into yachts and boats and stuff like that. They have a big thing happening right now and on the Red Sea for that. Um, so scuba diving too, they have big, big clubs that are, you know, now in Saudi, instead of Egypt for it, for diving and stuff like that. So it just, whatever you're into, there's something happening and something big they're doing about it. So, yeah, it's pretty cool. It's interesting.
Ashley Giordano: What's the winter festival? Is it Riyadh season?
Luai Alsheheli: Right.
Ashley Giordano: I've been reading about that as well, which is like a bunch of events and things during their winter time [00:34:00] here.
Luai Alsheheli: So they have like the Saudis seasons. So each, uh, like, let's say a few months they move it. So right now it's Riyadh season, but then there's like Jeddah or not, I think there's a Jeddah yeah, Jeddah season. And then you've got all these different, uh, things that they're doing. And then, uh, typically you'll see like, uh, you know, concerts and things like that that are happening in each, uh city. Uh, and they just bring, you know, different stuff and different activities for that.
Ashley Giordano: I saw, um, there's like a, I used to be a figure skater. And so obviously I was drawn to this immediately, but there is like almost a Cirque du Solei, but like figure skating con carnival type show thing.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. So, I mean, you've got that in of course, uh, you know, uh, for us, I mean, going back to traveling and all that, I mean, I don't know if you've tried local food, but it's very different than Western food. I'm sure. You've, uh, you've seen..
Ashley Giordano: The coffee culture here [00:35:00] is amazing, oh my gosh. And we love coffee, but we've never had the experience where somebody has like, driven up like a family has driven up with their car and the lovely woman, like brings up this big teapot and they all carry these like little mini paper cups. And they're like, here we go. Here is the Arabic coffee, which is delicious. Um, so that's cool. But then you've got like traditional tea houses in Jetta that we visited, which were a different experience from like the more modern ones that are really cool inside, like beautiful decoration, and architecture, and delicious coffee. So we've really enjoyed that part too.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, it's, it's great. I mean, even like, uh, you know, go into like a cappachinos and things like that. They're really, really Saudis love their coffee. They love their tea and they take it extremely seriously. So if you want, you know, if you want the best food, I think you'll find it here. If you go to like in Riyadh where we are, right [00:36:00] now, uh, you know, I tell my friends in the US that if you want the best burger come to Saudi for it, American burger meat, just because of like, you know, all the restaurants and everybody just takes it very seriously about the taste and everything, and they want to make sure, uh, so yeah, it's, uh, it's, it's pretty cool when it comes to that. Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: What would you make it home? Eating at home. I mean I got a little bit of a taste of it.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. I mean, it typically just depends on what they like, if you could have like, uh, you know, uh, uh, like capsa, for example, are like really big here, um, like there's other foods, like these type of foods, uh, they're like, maybe we'll try some tonight if you guys would like, yeah. So, um, but yeah, I mean, that's typically what you see that, of course everybody's getting shawarmas and they're getting like their burgers and everything like that.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. It's a big range I've seen. And especially the [00:37:00] influences from let's say Syria, Lebanon, with hummus and lubna and flatbread and beans, things like that, but yeah, it's a big range.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. Yeah. Then we've got a Vietnamese restaurant right next to us. It's the only one actually right next to the car across the street here, but yeah, that's the only one. So everybody comes in for that. So, but it's yeah. I mean, we've got pretty much the range of food is, you know, I mean, and then that's also changes from, from region to region. So we're in Riyadh uh, some, some items we'd find them here. I mean, typically you'll find everything. You go to like south or east or west, and typically they'll have something that is more common than their area then that it would be like for here. Probably what cities. And I think this is global, uh, it's a melting pot. So everybody, you know, is having everything in anytime. So..
Ashley Giordano: It's fun going through like [00:38:00] a lot of the gas stations or fuel stations. We'll have a little coffee um, drive through you. Don't like doing it all the time. Always wanted it to your phone all the time. But I loved the, um, the Arabic coffee, which I've never had. And it's really different because they use a different, is it different preparation for the beans?
Luai Alsheheli: And maybe they're using because, uh, so th these, these type of stories, normally they have something that's like a quick, uh, quick already made, or, you know, like they're sold in small bags. It just put it where you can get them at like grocery stores.
Ashley Giordano: But the lady, so there were a few ladies that shared tea with me that was like the Arabic, copper, not tea, the Arabic coffee from inside their car. And I was expecting coffee colored, but it was actually more of like this yellow, creamy color.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah, it [00:39:00] is that, um, it just depends. Uh, so it's just like, you know, uh, just like coffee beans that we'd get, you know, I'd like a specialty coffee shop or something like that. You can just change it up and it would give you like different colors in that. Um, I want to know what you actually had, but I mean, it is typically, um, you can, you can go with their ready stuff. Some of it is really good too, um, but like, if you're trying to get it like a latte or something like that, then that would, I would, I would maybe not want to go to these that's just me, but one of my friends, he would've missed the ones
Ashley Giordano: Maybe it's because we were out in the middle of nowhere. Well, while we're in the middle of nowhere, but yeah, that's fun. Yeah. We could literally have like an Overland Journal food podcast and talking about food.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. There's a lot of good stuff here. Well, hopefully tonight we'll try something.
Ashley Giordano: Great. Um, the [00:40:00] other thing that I thought was really amazing here was like all the different vehicles that we don't really see back home. So many of those tan Land Cruisers everywhere and it's yeah, it's such a fun..
Luai Alsheheli: So the, as far as vehicles go, so we still get the Nissan, 161s.
Ashley Giordano: Okay.
Luai Alsheheli: So those have, uh, I believe they've been discontinued in Australia for a few years now. They're still in production for Middle Eastern market. So we get the 4.8, a VTC motor. That's a gasoline engine. And we still get the FJ Cruiser. They're, they're still made brand new from two to four for this market. Uh, so the distributor for, uh, Toyota and this market has a really strong grip on the brand. Um, so we believe that they have a huge influence also on the manufacturer. So they typically would get these vehicles in this market, but they're not a complete [00:41:00] builds. So they'd come in and they add their accessories to them. They've been, they've been doing great job with some of the vehicles and terrible job with others. So, but like, for example, like compressors that, add them from the dealership and, and they work really well. Some of them do. Um, so these are tons, and then of course keeping the FJ running. Uh, they're just really in high demand, we have not stopped this or 2021 has been an FJ year for us. It's crazy how many we've seen at the shop. Yeah, it's uh, I mean they come in brand new. Um, they come with lockers. And then of course, you'd go look at other vehicles. Like the 70 series is still in production. Uh, we're still getting those. We just started getting the 1VD motor. So that, that would be like the V8 turbo, uh, engine. So that's coming into this market, but, um, yeah, so, uh, those are coming in and people are now starting to look at them outside of cultural.. Yeah. They want to build them up for like know overlanding and having [00:42:00] fun or someone like me who wants to make a rock crawler out of it. So, yeah, that's, uh, that's, that's typically what we would see. And then you've got some of the people that would have like vans that are like two wheel drive. So, uh, these type of vehicles are interesting because you, of course can't take them too far. Um, but yeah, they, they would use that. So I guess you can use whatever you got and work with it. That's cool. Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: So you have a variety of vehicles?
Luai Alsheheli: I do.
Ashley Giordano: How many, can you say?
Luai Alsheheli: I really don't know. Yeah, I've got, I mean, I've got a few, I mean, I, so you know, some of you who may know me know me as a Jeep person, and of course, as I move back and starting using them, it's been hard to keep them running for, you know, are maintaining them and doing all of that. So you know, started getting into Toyota's and because of their global support, um, I've had a great experience working with them. And then of course, as you [00:43:00] start to wrench on them and, and understand them more, um, you know, you develop an understanding of why they're built like that, and who's the customer for these types of vehicles. And, uh, so I've got a lot of Land Cruisers, uh, you know, I've got Troopies, that 73, then we just looked at, uh, you know, I've got a 60 that I drive everywhere. Um, so these are the type of vehicles that, you know, typically I use that 105. I love driving that thing is just so comfortable. Um, I have an 80 Series, uh, yeah, I mean, uh, this, this is what comes with that. I have a, uh, uh, a Mercedes, uh, G Wagon. It's a 460, it's a two-door so it's like the short wheel based one with a hard top. Yeah. So, yeah, I've got a few, a few of these, but I typically buy older vehicles just because they're more fun to work with. They have more character and they smell funny sometimes. So, you know, it's, it's, it's cool to [00:44:00] fix them up and, and enjoy the process. That's typically what I like to drive that 60 specifically, I have a lot of kilometers on that thing. Uh, I've been almost to the border with Yemen. I almost got, uh, I had a really big problem there and that vehicle, so, you know, it's, it's been everywhere with me. Um, but everything else was for sale. So yeah, so it's, it's fun. I mean, uh, you know, he used to be, uh, a gasoline motor and I put a, uh, diesel in it and, uh, yeah, we use it for like three, four weeks. I'm planning to ship it to Africa and hopefully do a trip there with it. So yeah, there'll be, there'll be a lot of fun. So yeah.
Ashley Giordano: What does vehicle shipping look like here? Like where are people shipping to the most, I guess like Africa's close, but..
Luai Alsheheli: Um, it's not really, uh, so, uh, okay, so a lot of Saudis will [00:45:00] ship their vehicles to Africa, but through like, uh, from Jeddah to like Sudan, so we'll save, so that trip I'm there, but takes like two or three days on the ferry, uh, or like the boats and then they'll get there and then, uh, they'll go for hunting.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, okay.
Luai Alsheheli: So, and then they'll ship them back. So they're completely stock vehicles. Normally they'll have like guides with them over there that'll help on site, kind of like a tourist thing. Um, so, but they're not taking, they're not using these vehicles in the sense that we're using them to like, you know, uh, live out of our, you know, travel the world with. Um, so that's a little bit different. Um, but then you've got a lot of Saudis are shipping their vehicles to Europe. You're seeing a lot of them in North America. Like if you go to LA or like New York, Any of these hot touristy areas, you'll see a lot of Saudi cars there. Uh, but there's typically like, you know, like rich, uh, you know, like Lamborghinis and Ferraris, these type of vehicles that you'd be used in these type of areas. But then, um, I think now people are [00:46:00] starting to see, okay, what if, you know, I've already seen Saudi, I'd like to go even further. So we're starting to see people go to like neighboring countries. Uh they'll go to..
Ashley Giordano: Jordan.
Luai Alsheheli: Uh, you've got UAE of course. So you, you said you're starting to see a lot of that, but because of their size and what Saudi has to offer, normally it's not enough. They'd like to see more. So we have people now planning to do, like, you know, this one bus, a trip that we were talking about earlier to Kenya, and then, um, we've got people going to Namibia, uh, next year, too. So wherever we're going to be, we're going to be starting building these vehicles up here shortly. So I've got two 70 Series Land Cruisers for that and yeah, that's typically what we have, um, hopefully with the more that with social media and everything, and everybody's, you know, trying to travel, I think there's going to be a lot more people doing it than just, you know, uh, a handful of people. So, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. Yeah, we did, we haven't seen, I think we saw [00:47:00] two over lenders from, I think it was well, one was a Swiss couple that I also interviewed in another podcast episode. And then there was another European couple. I believe we just saw their plates, but we didn't see anybody else. But I think it because of their route to get here from Europe is a bit tricky in some parts..
Luai Alsheheli: Especially with Syria and what's happening in that. You know, uh, you know, maybe 15, 20 years ago, I remember seeing a lot of European license plates that are just trying to make their way to go to like, you know, let's say India or something like that, or they just want to go to UAE for example, or Oman. Um, so that, of course with all the issues that are happening north of us, that's kind of making it a little more difficult. So, um, my dad is a motorcyclist and what he's done in the past, he would ship his motorcycle from Yanbu. So that's like on the, on the, on the red, Red Sea. And then they would ship them like to, [00:48:00] uh, like Greece or Turkey or something like that. And they'll continue their journey someday. We've been as far as to Switzerland, but they're, mostly on roads.
Ashley Giordano: Yes.
Luai Alsheheli: I don't know if you'd call them like, you know, overlanders or, but they'll just, they're just enjoying their, you know, their right to go to Switzerland and then they'll just, you know, stay there for a few weeks and ship them back. So, yeah, it's uh, but it's definitely challenging to trying to do the drive. It's definitely challenging to do that right now, for sure.
Ashley Giordano: Have you seen any, um, changes or challenges since more tourists have been allowed to come in Saudi or do you think it's been mostly positive?
Luai Alsheheli: It is definitely 99% positive. And this has all been here. I'm sure some people have had some issues at some point. Uh, it could, you know, I mean, it happens everywhere, but, uh, for my perspective, I would love to leave [00:49:00] everything as is just so that you know, us who like to travel and see things the way they are, uh, would appreciate it more, uh, without having fences and things like that.
Ashley Giordano: Because of the changes are coming.
Luai Alsheheli: They are. Right. And especially Tabuk is going to, because that's now Neom. So there's a huge city that's being built there. You've got the line, which is another city that's going to be built without any streets. So that, that whole city is going to be buildings on one line. Uh, so it's a crazy concept. You can check out videos of it on YouTube what they're planning to do with it, but..
Ashley Giordano: We did a lot of construction for Neom.
Luai Alsheheli: Like, what's going on? Yeah. I mean, we traveled there first time for me to go there was like 2011 or 2012, I think. There was nothing there. And it was just so nice because you know, even me traveling there as a local, people are like, what are you doing here? And you're not, they know they don't recognize this type of [00:50:00] vehicle to be there. So, um, it was really nice. And I would encourage anybody who wants to travel here to make that maybe one of their first priorities to go and check out that area before the full development happens. Of course, that's going to be amazing from, you know, from having, uh, uh, you know, big cities and everything. But if you want to see deserts, that would be the perfect place to start, especially the beaches and all that is just so great. Yeah, so, yeah, it's, uh, it's great. And then, um, you know, the mountains that are in that region, I think as more people start to live out there, you're going to be starting to see more traffic and you're going to start seeing more people that are traveling. We were already running into people that are doing basically what we want to do. So if you want that isolation that you can, I think you could still do it for the next few years, but then after that, it's just going to be really busy.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, change is coming, you can feel it.
Luai Alsheheli: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, you know, besides that, I mean, uh, you got, of course you can go south, you [00:51:00] can go someplace near Riyadh, uh, that are really nice. Uh, we go, you know, some of my friends were into rock crawling, so the nearest place that we'd go to is like 15 minutes away from here. Yeah. And we're like in the middle of the city, it's in a valley. So, uh, you know, it's just, uh, but that area now is going to be a new. Um, which is called the Gudiya project. So that project is going to be like a complete entertainment. Uh, so Six Flags is coming. They've got like really, I think, I don't know if there's near one other big, you know, entertainment company is going to be there to, uh, Formula One is going to have a course there as well.
Ashley Giordano: Wow.
Luai Alsheheli: So they're doing really, uh, you know, uh, big things in that area. So my rock crawling trail is unfortunately going to be gone, but, but there's a lot of things that are, you know, they're, they're bringing into, uh, into the country. So yeah, it's, it's, it's fun. Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: [00:52:00] Um, there's a question that I ask everybody and it is, if you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go, and why?
Luai Alsheheli: Ooh, it's tricky. Maybe I'd love to go to Namibia.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Luai Alsheheli: I'd love to do that. I've never been there, but I I've, uh, I've seen a lot of, uh, videos and it's just so interesting too. I love deserts. I love mountains. And, um, uh, I don't, I haven't seen mountains in Namibia, but I think that the, uh, there's like this, uh, it just never escapes my mind. That dunes that are on like the ocean. I think it's on the Western side. It's just crazy. It's so beautiful. I'd love to get to go there one day and drive on that coast. It would be really nice. I don't know if I can climb up the dunes, but yeah, it's a, it's definitely interesting. So I'd love to see them and yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Nice.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. Yeah. [00:53:00]
Ashley Giordano: Um, that's awesome. I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned Scott Brady and how he's influenced. Yeah. I don't know if you said you didn't say influence, but you looked at what he posts and what he thinks and vehicles..
Luai Alsheheli: He has been an influence. No, he, um, so I've known Scott for 10 years.
Ashley Giordano: I was going to ask you about that because I was wondering. The audience might not know that you guys know each other.
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah. So, uh, uh, so I, when I was in the US my final trip before I moved out of the country, um, I went west and I used to live in Colorado. Uh, and actually how I got to Colorado was through one of my friends. His mom was from there. And when we were here trying to decide what college to go to she said, uh, she knew that I was into Jeeps so she said, if you feel like Jeeps, there's a lot of trails in Colorado that immediately sold me to Colorado, so [00:54:00] that's actually how I picked Colorado. And, you know, thankfully I met a lot of great people over there and it's, it's just so beautiful. I, right now I hear it's like crazy over populated with new people over there, but, uh, you know, my experience was great. So anyway, I went west, uh, from my last, uh trip, No, I don't know if I would call it overlanding. I mean, to me, it's just, you know, I'm just driving, having a great time and it's just this trip that I'm doing. And, uh, I knew Scott was in, uh, I think he was in Prescott, Arizona.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Luai Alsheheli: And, uh, so yeah, I wanted to stop by and say hi, and I wanted to see their set up.
Ashley Giordano: How did you know that he existed?
Luai Alsheheli: That was through Expedition Portal. That was, uh, that was in 2010 or something like that. So I drove there and I think we were texting or messaging on Facebook. And then, uh, we've we met at his, uh, at his office and then we met Adventure Trailers, AT Overland over there as well. [00:55:00] So one of my axel seals was, uh, leaking. We ended up having to fix it there. So the guys there were totally awesome with, uh, Mary on his team and then we fixed it up and we spent some time with, uh, with Scott. We actually drove a J8 that he had, uh, that was a right-hand drive. So that was an experience that I've, uh, you know, I didn't drive a Land Cru.. or any vehicle that was a right-hand drive before that that was my first experience. I knew it was in the military G you know? Yeah. So, uh, that was fun. We spent that afternoon together. We went for dinner, I believe. And then the next day we fixed the Jeep. Then I go away and we've been friends ever since. I mean, we've been talking, you know, about a Saudi trip that would one day happen. So we try to apply for a visa. This was before this tourist thing that was opened up. So hopefully now we can, we can get him to come out here. So that'll be, that'll be a lot of fun then. Yeah. I mean, [00:56:00] that's, that's kind of what, uh, how, how we met.
Ashley Giordano: Very cool. Yeah. I'm very grateful for that connection because Scott introduced us and now we're here.
Luai Alsheheli: Exactly. How crazy is that?
Ashley Giordano: I know it is pretty cool. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Luai Alsheheli: I appreciate it.
Ashley Giordano: It's great. It's such a valuable insight to the world of off-roading and overlanding on the total opposite side of the world. Um, if people are interested in checking out the shop or anything to do with you where should they find you?
Luai Alsheheli: Yeah.
So I'm on Instagram as Luai4wd. So it's 4WD and then our businesses on Instagram as 4wheelstation. It's the number four. Uh, so that's us then. Yeah. Reach out to us if you want to travel and come and check out Saudi, we'd love to have you. Uh, you know, just don't bring COVID with you, please. Just kidding. Yeah. So, but yeah, I mean, that's, uh, that's where we will find this.
Ashley Giordano: Well, thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure [00:57:00] and thank you all for listening and we will see you next time.
Luai Alsheheli: Thank you. Thank you. It's my first podcast ever.
Ashley Giordano: People are going to love it. Oh yeah.