Saudi Arabia: It’s Not Raining Cats and Dogs….But…

Usually when thinking of a rainstorm the typical image is of a soft and gentle rain which is refreshing or perhaps a cold drizzle which chills the bones.

Rain in Saudi Arabia is an event residents in the arid Kingdom generally receive with happiness and excitement.  A light rain is an occasion to go out and have a dessert picnic while the soothing rain falls upon you.

A typical question most Saudis may ask when meeting someone from another country is, “How often does it rain in your country?”

Therefore, I can only imagine the shock and surprise residents and visitors in Makkah must have felt when they experienced the hottest rain shower on record in the world on Tuesday, 05 June.

What began as a toasty hot and arid day with temperatures at 113 F  (45 C) transformed to a thunderstorm with rain.  During the rain fall, hot rain at a temperature of 109 F (43 C) fell down upon surprised residents caught out in the storm.

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Sandstorm of 25 February 2012

It’s ironic to me…the entire time Abdullah (my late husband) and I were in Riyadh there was not a single sandstorm.  Yet after we had departed Saudi, there has been at least one or more sandstorms each year thereafter.  However I am grateful that we did not have to experience a sandstorm.

I remember when first arriving in Riyadh, Abdullah sharing with me his experiences of sandstorms towards preparing me that they were something I’d have to contend with at some point.  He described how he got caught in a sandstorm going home from work one time.  He saw the great roll of sand clouds approaching similar to a tidal wave obscuring everything in its path.  When the waves of sand engulfed his car the day went dark and he felt the sand whipping around, through and in his car.  He removed his smaugh and wrapped it around his face for protection from the sand particles.  In spite of his efforts, he felt and tasted the sand as it made its way into the crevices of the car.  When he finally arrived at his house rather than enter the house in his now brown thobe, he removed all his clothes rather than drag even more sand into the house.

The windows of his house had splotches of sand sticking to them.  In spite of the closed doors and windows and towels which had been placed in front of exterior doors, the sand managed to make its way into the house.  The floors, curtains, carpets and furniture had their own frosting of sand.  Much cleaning would need to be done.

Abdullah said he went immediately to the shower to get the sand off of his body and out of his hair, nose and eyes.  When he finished his shower, his eyes were bloodshot from the sand particles.

The recent sand storm which took place on the 25th of February engulfed our former neighborhood.  I can only imagine the clean up whoever now occupies our villa had to undertake.  Yes…I’m glad Abdullah and I did not experience a sand storm during our time together in Riyadh.

The following are pictures which were shared with me of the 25 February 2012 sand storm in Riyadh.

 

 

Saudi Arabia: Would It Be a Mundane Job?

I was thinking about jobs in Saudi Arabia and realized that the one job I would not want would be as a weatherman.  It seems to me that would be a mundane job.  The weather basically stays the same day after day after day!

When there is the rare rain or sandstorm there is advance notice.  Those times are probably the most exciting moments to be a weatherman in the Kingdom.

I remember watching the news and when the weather came on, the weekly forecast would be the same for months…sunny and clear.  The only difference would be the rise and fall of the temperature.

It makes me wonder just how many weathermen the Kingdom requires?

Saudi Arabia: Winter Wonderland With Abdullah

I’ve been taking another trip down memory lane with many of my fond memories of life with Abdullah.  I have written previously about his adaptation to life in America when we were living outside of Washington, DC.  As I watch how so much of the United States continues to have harsh winter weather I’m reminded of Abdullah’s initial reactions of snow.  During his first snow storm he was mesmerized with his eyes locked to the window watching the soft flakes floating down.  As the snow started falling faster and thicker he was like a child impatient to go out and play.  He liked how the snow was covering up any trace of where the yard ended and driveway began.  At that point I reminded him that someone would have to shovel the snow the next morning if we were to get our cars out from the garage.  Oh how I remember how he laughed that confident and joyful laugh of his and assuring me not to worry.  He would be happy to have the experience of shoveling snow.

Sure enough the following morning after a hearty breakfast with a big cup of hot coffee he put on his heaviest jacket, woolen neck scarf, gloves, boots and Atlanta Falcons baseball cap he set outside with a smile on his face and snow shovel in his hand.  After about fifteen minutes he came back into the house for a short break.  When I asked him how he liked shoveling he told me, “Well…now I can say I have shoveled snow. It was fun for the first minute or two but I’m ready for it to melt away now.”  However, he assured me that he would finish the job he started and did not want my assistance with the driveway.

The next time snow was in the forecast Abdullah made sure we had a snow blower in the garage ready and waiting to be put to use.

Saudi Arabia: What do the Teens do?

 

The choices and options for social activities teenagers have in Saudi Arabia depends greatly on who they or more importantly, who are their parents and what is the parents mindset.  I’m referring to Saudi teenagers in this context and not the expatriate teens who are in the Kingdom due to their parents employment.

It is not as if there is a lack of activities in Saudi Arabia for teens.  There is horseback riding, golfing, sports activities, swimming, dancing lessons, art classes, bowling as well as the numerous activities one can do out in the desert.  However who gets to enjoy each activity depends on their location, gender and viewpoint of family.

There are facilities in both Riyadh and Jeddah where teens can enjoy horseback riding.  In Riyadh teens can also watch and likely learn how to play polo.  Some Saudi parents may allow a teenage boy to horseback ride but not give permission to a daughter viewing the activity as unsuitable for a girl.

Not a lot of Saudis have picked up golfing as a hobby.  My husband was one of the rare few but he learned to enjoy the sport outside of Saudi Arabia.  In Riyadh, the Intercontinental hotel offers a 9 hole golf course.  Arizona Compound has a 9 hole golf course too but it is not open to Saudis.  Other golf courses are available for those in Riyadh but these courses are outside of the city.  Golfing is a great activity and test of patience and coordination.

There are numerous sporting opportunities for the male Saudi teenager with soccer as the most popular.  Sporting activities for teenage girls are limited and in some corners discouraged as unsuitable for a young woman.  Most teenage girls in Riyadh are active in sports if they attend an international or other private school in Saudi.  However if a group of Saudi teenage girls are at an estraha or out in the desert there is no reason they could not have their own soccer or volleyball games.

The diplomatic enclave in Riyadh has facilities which offer a variety of enticing and fun classes for female Saudi teenagers such as swimming, dancing and art.  Many expatriate teens attend these activities too.

There are bowling alleys in Riyadh!  One is located and for females only in Al Memlaka ladies mall and the other is at Al Khozama hotel.

As compared to elsewhere in the world at first blush it does seem that activities for teens in Saudi Arabia are more limited.  However, simply by digging a little deeper in the sand more activities will surface.  The best place for a wide variety of activities and to interact with a large group of teens is to be associated with the International School of Riyadh.  Many of the activities are not gender specific or segregated but not all Saudi parents would be in favor of those factors.

Are you a teen in Saudi Arabia?  If so, share your gender and your favorite activities.  What would you like to see as new activities for teens in the Kingdom?

Saudi Arabia: Please HELP Jeddah Flood Victims!!!

 

nb:  continued and up-to-date information on where and how to help Jeddah flood victims can be found here.

Jeddah flood victims need your help NOW!!!

Dear Friend,

Please forward this request to your friends and respective organizations.   If possible please sms or call and inform them to donate now.

Several NGOs and YIG (Young Initiative Group) have been tirelessly helping flood victims since Wednesdays’ devastating rains.  YIG is asking for your help and donations.  Please donate, water bottles, food, clothes, blankets, flashlights etc. Please bring your items to AL-Harithy Exhibition Center also known as  Jeddah Center for Forums and Events which located on the corner of Hera Street and Madinah Rd.  ( http://www.acexpos.com/company/venue/by-road/index.php) See driving directions below.

Al Harithy Exhibition center is open for everyone!  So if u want to volunteer or donate it is open from 9am-9pm. Starting today Friday January 28, 2010. They will continue to take donations at this location for a few more days.  But today it is imperative you get your donations there now.

Females are needed for buying, receiving, sorting & packing the donations received.  They will be working inside the Exhibition center and Males with cars 4X4 are needed on the field. Gentlemen are asked to be available in the Parking lot and be there in the morning or as soon as possible to register and be assigned in the groups to head to a specific area for delivery and distribution and to support the groups which they are assigned to.

Females are more than welcome anytime to participate inside the exhibition center to help sorting & packing the donations received.

Please do not forget to register once you enter, YIG would like to  keep track of everyone volunteering. If students need community service hours please make sure you indicate that upon signing in.   If you are younger then 18years of age, you must have your parents approval to volunteer.  YIG and all other organizations involved do not take any liability for damage to vehicles, or individuals during their volunteering work.  Please be aware of this disclaimer.

For further info plz join YIG  (Young Initiative Group) Face book group page for constant updates.

Thank you!

Best Regards,
Zulikha Hussain
Independent Consultant
Interfaith Activist/Youth Activist 

Increase awareness + Increase tolerance + enrich ourselves and others. = Peaceful world

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Directions to Al-Harithy Exhibition Center
From the City

Following the signs for the airport or for Madina, leave Jeddah City on Madina Road going north.
Prepare to leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit. Pass the Aramex offices on your right and go  straight ahead at the traffic lights, then with the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.

From the North

After passing the airport, leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit and make a U-turn under the Flyover.
With the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.


From the East & South

The roads from the Jizan & the south and Riyadh & the east join the main highway from Makkah and the Jeddah Ring Road. Once on the Ring Road, follow the signs for the airport and Madina. Ignore all signs for the city centre or the port.
Leave the Ring Road following the sign for the South (Saudia) Terminal of the airport, then with the airport on your right, follow the signs for Jeddah City. Do not take the airport terminal slip road.
At the intersection with Madina Road (options for Madina, Corniche or City Centre), follow the City Centre sign to join Madina Road going south. Leave Madina Road at the Hera’a Street exit and make a U-turn under the Flyover.
With the exhibition centre on your right, take the first right turn.

Saudi Arabia: It’s Time to Buy Mink Blankets

This is the time of year for many residents of Saudi Arabia who live in Nej’d Province and including Riyadh, will find that the weather has started to get cooler.  During the day the temperature will likely continue to be quite comfortable but once the sun has set it gets chilly, if not downright cold, very fast.  Not all homes in Nej’d or even the capital city of Riyadh will have central heating or even a furnace.  When the weather is cold many families will use individual space heaters to warm up a home.  Additionally, most Saudis and long term expatriates families have also found that the mink blankets which are sold locally provide significant warmth and comfort.

These mink blankets come in all sizes – twin, full, queen and king.  The blankets are four times heavier and thicker than an average blanket.  One mink blanket on the coldest night in Saudi can make a huge difference between feeling quite snug or shivering like a bug.  (okay…I just had to make that rhyme…)

The most popular places in Riyadh to buy a quality and reasonably priced mink blanket are either at Al Butha souk or Kuwaiti souk.  My recommendation is to buy one NOW rather than waiting until January or February when the colder weather sets in as the prices of the blankets would increase during prime season.

Saudi Arabia: How to Beat the Heat

By this time, many Saudis and expat residents of the Kingdom have already taken off on summer holidays.  There is always a mass exodus from the Kingdom at this time of the year.  Everyone wants to beat the heat.  But what about those who do not or can not leave Saudi Arabia for the summer?  What can they do?  Where can they go?

If you find yourself in the Kingdom for the summer, do not take it as a time to be dismayed.  Yes, the days may be hot but that does not mean activities shut down.  The summertime is a great time to explore local museums.  Each city and even small towns usually have some type of museum or a gallery to explore.  These facilities are air conditioned and provide a joyful and informative respite from the heat.

Riyadh has enough museums and galleries that one can keep occupied for several weeks.  I wrote an earlier blog post which included a number of links for information about museums, galleries and other activities.  I would encourage those who find themselves in Riyadh and wishing to beat the heat, read my earlier post where you may learn about some enticing activities.

The summer can also be a good time to travel and explore other areas of the Kingdom such as Abha, Asir and Taif.  These locations are in the mountainous and cooler regions of the Kingdom.   An overall recap of Saudi travel destinations for consideration can be found in this post.

Don’t let the summer doldrums and the heat get you down.  Get yourself out and explore more of the hidden treasures and beauty of Saudi Arabia!

Saudi Arabia: Earth Hour Jeddah

When I received the following email, given its importance, I had to share it immediately with American Bedu followers.  It is not too late for your participation in this noble event. And my sincere thank you to the two friends in Jeddah who are regular visitors of American Bedu!!

Dear American Bedu,

Hi! We are regular visitors of your awesome blog, and we are aware of how many people read you worldwide, especially in Jeddah, which is why we are asking for your help.
We are two friends living in Jeddah, and we have been trying our best to raise awareness on energy consumption and conservation, climate change and global warming. This year, Saudi Arabia will be participating in the Earth Hour event for the first time, which will be on Saturday, March 27, from 8:30 to 9:30pm local time. Individuals and businesses will be turning off their non-essential lights for one hour. We believe that this is the best opportunity to let people know about this cause.
Sadly, a lot of people still don’t understand, or even know, about this. This is why we have started a temporary blog to encourage everyone to participate in the Event. Our blog is:
The blog has all the information on Earth Hour Jeddah that anyone would need. Our main goal is to motivate everyone, and to do so, we have been asking everyone to participate, and to take pictures of their Earth Hour and the activities they did with their friends and family in that hour, so that we can feature them on our official website and show everyone that it’s not that difficult. In fact, it is effortless.
Many businesses in Jeddah have spoken to us and they have agreed to turn off their shop/restaurant signs in that hour to show their support. All Al-Baik restaurants, Sheraton Jeddah, Le Meridien Jeddah, Rosewood Corniche and Saudi Gazette are just some of them.
We are hoping that you will check out our blog, and possibly even participate in the event. If you do, we would love to feature you on our website. It would also be great help if you could just post the link on your blog, so that more people will hear about it.
We’re only a day away from the actual event!
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read our email. We will be awaiting your response.

Jeddah and the Hidden Treasures of the Red Sea

Yasmin is among one of my dearest friends in Saudi.  Jeddah has been her home for many years.  I always enjoy hearing about her experiences and discoveries in Jeddah.  It is my pleasure that she has shared one day of her life in Jeddah with American Bedu.

Last Valentine’s my plans for an “Un-Valentine’s Day” dinner out with my friends fizzled before I could even make a single reservation. In order to save the day from total oblivion, I welcomed the chance to go to the beach with my friend Laila instead. It was one of those mornings when the water is nearly smooth as glass and just at the temperature to give you 10 minutes of shivering before the water feels like your own skin. It was so clear we could look down and see the white sand below us. I brought a picnic of chicken salad and bread and hadn’t had time to have breakfast. The dip in the sea would give me just the right edge of hunger that makes one feel they deserve their meal.

There are two strings of floats across the lagoon and I always said to myself that “one day” I was going to swim out to the first string. They are maybe 150 yards out and in real nautical terms hardly worth mentioning but for someone who usually splashes around near the surf it seems a distance. Since the water was so clear and we both had noodle floats I just started kicking out across the water. The floats are a little unwieldy but give you a sense of ‘take your time’. As I swam out over the water I passed a group of coral and looked down. I saw surgeon fish and striped zebra fish as well and multiple kinds of coral. I’ve been out before but with a snorkel and goggles. This time it was just me and the noodle. This was the halfway mark and usually I stop a few yards after the coral. I kept going and all of a surprisingly the bottom got much deeper which created the illusion like I was flying over a cliff. In this open water all of a sudden there were blue fish about the length of a hand swimming together as a school. It was thrilling to see them because of their color and unexpected appearance.

I started to wonder if I really and truly wanted to continue the trip to the floats as by now the distance behind me was much further than that ahead of me. Laila didn’t seem to mind too much so I kept working slowly forward. Most anyone who knows anything about the sea knows that sharks have nearly disappeared from our waters but the thought that one might somehow have come to join us for the morning swim was still in my mind. Having Laila there with me was added encouragement.

When I got to the string of yellow floats I saw that the net underneath them was festooned with white objects about the size of my fist and what looked like seaweed. If I had been a little bit braver I would have put my face under the surface to make sure what they were, perhaps some indigenous form of oysters?, but now I think they were stones to weigh down the net. Laila had already turned back by this time but I thought I didn’t come all that distance not to touch the floats so I pushed forward a little bit more to do exactly that. I am one to see something until the end and not stop before.

I then turned to go back to shore and worried a little about getting my feet trapped in the slimy net so I tucked my knees under my abdomen and used my arms to move away from the net. It took quite some time to get back to shore but the water felt wonderful and I had this sense of meeting a challenge I had set for myself. I didn’t look back once for a fin or any other imaginary thing I just enjoyed the movement of my body with slow, rhythmic strokes through the beautiful blue water.

I was in no real hurry to get out of the water but started to feel a chill, probably due to having skipped breakfast, so I came out and rinsed off and served lunch for myself and my friend. As I settled down after the meal it would have been even more delicious to nod off in the chaise lounge under the umbrella but something caught my eye. There was a large mass in the water where there never was coral before. It had to be 8 feet across and seemed to undulate. I walked down to the beach to have a better look. It was changing shape. I looked up to see if there were any fluffy clouds overhead to cast a shadow and was rewarded with an absolutely cloudless sky. I looked again into the water and noticed that it had changed shape to look like a manta ray. Since it was about 15 feet out from shore I really didn’t get a very clear look and I wasn’t overly convinced to wade in and have a closer one. I shouted for Laila to join me in case I was imagining this blue shadow under the water.

We looked again and noticed it was a cloud of small blue fish. I brought some bread and we started throwing some into the water. Up near the surf a bunch of juvenilia shaor started nibbling the bread; they were as thick and as long as a finger. We haven’t seen them for months and I thought they were all gone. Laila threw some soaked bread (which can be thrown further and more accurately we discovered) into the mass of the small blue fish. She then went back into the water and was soon surrounded by them. They swam around her without touching her once in the shape of a crescent and another time a jiggly donut. Meanwhile the silver shaor followed the bread up to the sandy gravel at the water’s edge. I thought they might be stranded in their enthusiasm to eat the bread.

It was a rare and beautiful day and I thought one of the best Un-Valentine’s I had ever had.

Jasmin in Jeddah

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