Saudi Arabia: Abdullah and It’s Garage Sale Season

The weather here in North Carolina seems to be stabilizing and one can tell that not only Spring has arrived, but Summer is shortly behind.  As a result on the weekends, the roadsides are becoming proliferated with ‘Garage Sale signs.”  For those who may not be familiar, garage sales are basically when an individual or family decides to hold their own sale.  Many individuals will spend a week or more in advance preparing for such a sale by cleaning out their closets, drawers and cupboards and choosing to get rid of the items no longer needed or desired.  Instead of giving or throwing away these items, they will be marked (priced) and set up on display in a garage sale.  The garage sale may either be held in one’s yard or in one’s garage.  Tables will likely be set up with the items which are on sale are displayed.  Some items may be in boxes and others may stand alone or clothes may be hanging from a portable rack.  I’ve always enjoyed garage sales and especially so as I am an avid reader.  I read too much and too fast to keep buying books from the bookstores which can become expensive.  Whereas at garage sales I can typically get paperback or hardback books for as little as twenty-five cents (or less)!

Garage sales are not seen too often in Saudi Arabia except on some of the compounds or at times some of the international schools will have sales.  I believe that the segregation and the desire of privacy make garage sales less than popular in Saudi Arabia.  Additionally, it is out of context with the culture and customs for a Saudi family to openly sell items from their home where anyone is allowed to come by during specified times.  The closest I’ve really encountered to what could be classified as a “Saudi style” garage sale would be the Second hand souk, Haraj bin Gassem (Princess Souk) where one can find thousands of second hand (used) items for sale.

When we were living in the States, Abdullah and I held a garage sale prior to our departure to Saudi Arabia.  Before we had our own garage sale, I introduced Abdullah to the American garage sales.  It was pretty easy to do, we only had to take walks in our neighborhood on Saturday mornings and there would be multiple garage sales for us to visit and browse.  Abdullah remarked not only on the quality of items being sold and the cheap prices asked, but also how friendly the people were.  He was surprised to find that individuals who were in very good positions would hold a garage sale.  And yes, he found himself enjoying going to different garage sales and he managed to find multiple items he chose to purchase.  Like me, he was also an avid reader and between the two of us, we’d end up buying boxes of books!  We also found items we liked for our home too.

By the time we were preparing for our departure to Saudi Arabia, we found we had quite a collection of stuff that we did not wish to take with us.  We organized our garage sale two weeks in advance.  Due to the number of items we had (we overflowed out of our two car garage into the yard) we chose to have an ad placed in our local newspaper.  The ad stated we were moving out of the country and had much to sell.  We were deluged with “customers.”  Although our “sale” was not to start until 0800 hours, we had individuals knocking on our door at 0700 hours!

Abdullah enjoyed our sale.  He interacted and chatted with everybody who came.  For those who bought a lot of stuff, he helped carry and load the items in cars.  One woman bought an adult swing we had for sale.  He disassembled the swing and followed her to her home where he in turn reassembled it!  He insisted that it was not proper for a woman to do such work.

Abdullah liked how neighborly and friendly the people were.  He was surprised by some of the stuff that he considered ‘our old junk’ that other people viewed it as exciting and new treasure.  And being the kind, gentle and generous man that he was, he encouraged each person to pick out another item that was in our sale, as their gift for coming.

So now it is garage sale season in North Carolina.  I plan to start going to some to try and find new reading material.  However it will not be quite the same without having Abdullah at my side and our hands interlocked together.  May he rest in peace.

Recap: Monthly Saudi Travel – Discover Saudi Arabia

While there remain many places to explore and discover in Saudi Arabia, in order for those who have not been with my blog from the beginning, I’d like to take the opportunity with the January 2010 post of Monthly Saudi Travel in recapping some of the places which I have covered.  I may have gotten a little bit carried away for as I did searches within my own blog, I also chose to add in some links of things to do too.  I have not included every single link on travel and things to do so I encourage those who are interested to use the search bar within the blog and go back to early posts since I have been maintaining this blog since mid-2006.  And in turn, I solicit your requests for locations I’ve not yet covered and that you wish to know more about.

Would NASCAR Work in Saudi Arabia?


I am presently near Charlotte, North Carolina which is a beautiful part of the United States.  The area has rolling hills, mountains, working dairy farms, culture, Southern hospitality, old Southern plantations full of charm and secrets, history, heritage, one of the largest lakes and is a popular home of NASCAR.  Now when I first arrived to visit my son I had no idea just exactly what NASCAR was.  I have since learned it is an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.  In fact, NASCAR is now one of the most popular sports in America today.  The NASCAR vehicles are built from the ground up as “pure racing beasts” and based on four-door American made cars:  the Ford Fusion, Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Toyota Camry.  NASCAR Sprint Cup cars have fenders which are important because they allow side-to-side contact between cars without allowing the wheels to hook causing a big wreck.  The NASCAR Sprint Cup series features 36 races on 22 different race tracks. 34 of those races feature all left turns on ovals or D shaped race tracks. Two races are held on road courses.   The Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the most popular NASCAR tracks in the Charlotte area.  Thousands upon thousands of fans turn out to spend a day and evening at the tracks cheering on their favorite driver and enjoying all the camaraderie of the event.

So as I read about NASCAR it makes me wonder that perhaps instead of drifting, would something like NASCAR work in Saudi Arabia?  George Gillette Jr, majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports thinks it would be a good idea.  With the right partner a vast expanse of desert right outside of any metropolitan area could be easily converted to a state-of-the-art NASCAR track.  Saudis could have their own favorite drivers with prestigious sponsorships and who are avidly followed.  And perhaps like the tracks near Charlotte, North Carolina, on days when there are no races, some of the tracks are open and allow individuals to either ride along the course with a NASCAR driver or even drive by themselves in a NASCAR race car!

Bird Feeding in Saudi Arabia


While I am visiting my son and family in North Carolina a favorite activity for me and my little Grandson is to look out the window together and watch all the different birds that come to feed at the bird feeders my son has mounted all around his home.  He has differing types and sizes of birdfeeders so we get to see a variety of differing kinds of birds from finches, robins, blue jays, red cardinals to the smallest and fastest birds of all, the hummingbirds.  The birds are so accustomed to being fed and eating from the feeder that if the food in the feeder starts to get low some of the birds will actually peck at the windows to remind my son to refill their food!

birdfeeder 1 Now by comparison I was speaking with one of my friends from Jeddah.  She is also an American and married to a Saudi and like me, enjoys watching and feeding the birds.  However she has noticed that while birds will come to her yard they will not eat from the feeders.  Instead the birds will pick up and eat seeds from the ground.  This made us wonder whether the birds were reluctant to come to the hanging feeder due to the lack of trees and foliage.

As a follow up to our conversation I became curious about bird feeding and bird watching in Saudi Arabia.  Were there any special places or areas to go to and if so, what kind of birds could one expect to see?  To begin with I learned that there are more than 450 different species of birds in Saudi Arabia.  I guess that should not have surprised me but it did.  I had become accustomed to seeing maybe four to five differing kinds of birds around Riyadh so had not given much thought that there would be so many different species!  In fact I discovered that Saudi Arabia is an ideal venue for eco-tourism.

Saudi Arabia’s birds are among the best studied aspects of its wildlife. The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia (ABBA) project has been in existence for more than ten years and has accumulated much valuable information on the status of the Kingdom’s breeding birds. A publication by BirdLife International of Important Birds Areas in the Middle East, lists 39 sites in Saudi Arabia and acknowledges that this may not represent the entire picture since over 100 sites have been ear-marked by NCWCD for protection and many of these are not well known from an ornithological viewpoint but may merit inclusion at a later date.  This link provides a chart of where to go to watch birds and other wildlife in Saudi Arabia.  Birdwatching

If you are a newcomer to Saudi Arabia and interested in bird watching but not sure where to go or how to get started, you may enjoy the Birding Pal web site where individuals can sign up and be put in contact with others in the Kingdom who also enjoy bird watching.

And I’ll end this post sharing a very personal story.  All of my siblings enjoy birds and all of us have some kind of bird feeder at our homes.  My sister who lives in Florida has many different bird feeders and hummingbird feeders.  She is fortunate that where she lives she has many colorful plants in bloom and hummingbirds are abundant.  Now at one time my mother was staying at my sister’s home.  Although my mother and father smoked until late in life, neither me nor any of my siblings ever smoked.  My mom was still a smoker at the time she was at my sister’s home so my sister advised her that the house rules were any smoking had to take place outside of the house.  My mom was not a very good morning person and first thing she liked to do when she got up in the morning was to have that “wake up” cigarette.  She would put on her pinkest of hot pinks bathrobe and go outside to the yard to have her morning smoke.  Well, one morning she happened to be spotted by the hummingbirds who must have thought they hit the mother lode.  My sister advised at least a dozen hummingbirds were literally swarming around my mother and pecking at her bathrobe while she had one hand cupped around her face to smoke her cigarette and the other hand was trying unsuccessfully to shoo the hummingbirds away!  On the positive side, it was not too long after that incident that my mother finally gave up smoking.


Something New and Different to do in Saudi Arabia

riyadh weekend

Has the weekend come along in Saudi Arabia and you are not sure what to do?  If you live in or around Riyadh one suggestion for consideration is a day or weekend at the Safari Club.  The Safari Club is a short 30 minute drive from Riyadh to an area called Droma.  At the Safari Club one can enjoy all kinds of sports, activities, relaxation and comfort in a private and secure, safe area.

For example, activities at the Safari Club include camping in beduion style tents, football fields, volleyball courts, cycling, tennis courts, horseback riding, camel rides, sightseeing tours, billiards, swimming, hiking, shisha (hookah) and much more!  A family or group can even rent their own VIP palace equipped with luxurious furnished rooms, private swimming pool and gymnasium center which includes its own Jacuzzi and sauna.

A collection of old cars in pristine condition from the 1940’s are on view for enjoyment as well.

Among the rules at the Safari club is that ladies CAN drive inside the Safari Club property AND abayas are restricted.  In other words, women are encouraged to shed their abayas on entrance in to the Safari Club.

The Safari Club offers both single and family annual memberships.

For more information from within Saudi Arabia call:  055.742.7530 or 056.969.7489.  email:

Safari Club

Where to Stay in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

hyatt hotel 1

I’m sure all of us have that yearning once in a while to just escape somewhere nice and relaxing over a weekend.  For anyone in Saudi Arabia, one place I’d like to suggest is the Park Hyatt Hotel Jeddah Marina.  This looks like an ideal location for a get away by oneself or for a married couple to escape for a nice romantic weekend – even if they already live in Jeddah.

hyatt hotel 2 There is a selection of fine dining establishments inside the hotel as well as lounges in which to relax.  The hotel   Concierge can arrange personalized activities tailored to the specific interests of guests.  In addition to the historical and cultural sights of Jeddah, such as Al Balad (the Old Town) or the museums and parks, modern Jeddah is well known locally for its luxury shopping outlets.

The spa and wellness facilities at Park Hyatt Jeddah will offer an impressive 2.5-acre  (10,000 square meters) complex for an array of sports and leisure pursuits divided into separate ladies’ and gentlemen’s areas including the region’s first Hydrotherapy center.

The hotel offers a variety of different packages and room rates.  Of course the most regal room of all is the Royal Suite, hyatt hotel 3ideal for the honeymooning couple or the married couple that wants a romantic get-away.  The Royal Suite is located on the Top-floor and is a 200-sq.-metre suite which offers every possible amenity for comfort, convenience and luxury. Enjoy the king bedroom with walk-in closets and five-fixture master bath with walk-in rain shower and separate tub, plus living, dining and work areas and guest toilet. Elegant French doors lead to a balcony with unrestricted views of the Red Sea and famous King Fahd fountain.

hyatt hotel 4

For additional information, contact the Park Hyatt Hotel directly at:  Al Hamra District , Southern Corniche, P.O. Box 5863, Jeddah , Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 21432 Tel: +966 2 263 9666    Fax: +966 2 263 9777

hyatt hotel 5

Saudi Entertainment – Let’s Play Balut


Although the game balut originated in India it is now hands down the most popular card game played in Saudi Arabia.  While played predominantly among men, women are also known to enjoy themselves playing this game too.  Balut requires four players which pair up as partners of two.  For those of you who have either played “500” or “gin” there are some similarities in that one makes bids and has suits.  For some reason balut also seems to stir up strong emotions among the players and the partners themselves.  Balut games can get started and go for all night long or in some cases even all weekend long.  It is typical for young Saudi men to go to a favorite estrahah and end up playing balut all weekend long…unless there is a favorite soccer match showing on tv.  However it is not only the young Saudi men who enjoy weekends of balut.  The senior Saudi men enjoy it just as much.  Many Saudi men who have retired will regularly get together with other retirees for heated Balut matches.

Here is one video (Arabic) which illustrates not only how much Saudi men may enjoy playing Balut but also how heated these games can also be!

Working Hours and Days Off in Saudi Arabia


I think one of the more challenging aspects of adapting to life in Saudi Arabia is perhaps getting adjusted to the differing working hours and days off. Many businesses will work what I refer to as split days. A prime example is a mobile phone company, like Mobily. Mobily will have working hours from 0800 to 1100 hours and then close until 1630 hours at which time it reopens and remains open until 2200 hours. Talk about having a split day of work…

Banks are another place which I do not care for the operating hours. Now remember, if you are female, you are expected to go to a women’s branch. The women’s banking hours are generally 0900 – 1530 hours. If a woman also works, that can make it a challenge in getting to the bank if necessary for a transaction.

Even the shopping malls will have split hours where the mall shops will be closed for several hours during an afternoon.

And of course all shops, businesses, restaurants, etc., will close four times per day for 30 minutes for prayer (most businesses are not open yet at the time of the first prayer hence the typical 4 closures instead of 5). As a result, many who reside in Saudi will find themselves trying to run errands between prayers and hope not to get caught out with an errand unfinished before the prayer time.

So in arriving to Saudi Arabia from most other parts of the world, one must first adapt to the differing type of working hours. That’s number one. Secondly, at least in the majority of the Kingdom as of yet, the official weekend days are Thursday and Friday. This is pretty comparable to the Saturday/Sunday weekends experienced in the western world where most families run errands on Thursday (Saturday) and then attend religious services on Friday/Sunday (jumah prayers at the masjid/church services in the west).

However there are also some key disadvantages to having the Thursday/Friday weekends. As a result, Saudi is shut down for two days while most of the rest of the world continues doing business and financial markets remain active. Then when Saudi reopens for business on Saturday in many times some transactions are delayed and have to wait until Monday for the rest of the world to restart business.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry though has decided to be a trailblazer and began a Sunday – Thursday work week with Friday’s and Saturday’s off for the weekend. It remains to be seen though whether many other business and organizations will follow suit or not.

Activities ALL Can Enjoy in Saudi Arabia


Geocaching is a popular past time in Saudi Arabia. It can be viewed as a modern day treasure hunt in some ways using today’s modern technology. Through geocaching, one can spend an enjoyable day or afternoon in Saudi Arabia seeing new terrain and sights while also learning how to navigate through the use of a GPS and then that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when the cache has been successfully located.

For those who are not familiar with the term geocaching and still a little confused, this is when someone has placed some items in a weather proof container and then hides that container in a disclosed location. However to add challenge in the quest to discover this container the geo-coords are usually the only information given to identify the location. One will then take the geo-coords and use a GPS to direct them to the area of the container. Once they know they have reached the exact location of the geo-coords then they might have to do a little bit of scavenging to specifically locate where the container was hidden. Now once the container has been found, it is not removed or taken. Instead the individual who finds it will likely sign a notebook inside with their name and date they found this cache. They may also, depending on the size of the container, add their own unique item into the geocache container, similar to leaving ones personal mark. And then the container is replaced back in its location for the next individual to discover.

It is common for geocaches to be placed in areas of historical or archeological interest such as within a cave or within a crevass of an abutment. The route to a geocache is also usually scenic and allows for many photo opportunities.

Towards getting started, this link identifies 32 geocache sites in and around Riyadh.


Now if geocaching has whet your appetite, you will likely also enjoy spelunking which is exploring caves. Now I know many of us think about Saudi Arabia as vast desert and oil and may wonder what do I mean by explore caves in Saudi Arabia? Yes; in fact there are indeed a number of caves in Saudi Arabia which are well worth exploring. Many of them will have hieroglyphics from centuries past and other cave drawings inside. This link provides excellent information about some of popular caves worth exploring in Saudi Arabia. In addition if one is not familiar with how to explore a cave, the site provides guidance on what to expect and what to take along for this adventure.

Some Activities in Riyadh – But not for Saudis

There are some excellent organizations in Riyadh which can give individuals additional opportunities to see and enjoy the Kingdom. These groups are the Hash Harriers and the Riyadh Rovers. Both groups have been active in Riyadh for years and are well established.

hash-riyadhThe Hash Harriers are an international organization. I belonged to the “Hash” in both India and Pakistan and thoroughly enjoyed the social networking, the physical activity and how through “running the Hash” I was able to see more of both India and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia also has several hash groups which are very active and its organizers will plan hash treks outside of the city into the desert areas offering an enjoyable experience. And permission is in place for the hash that women who participate are not expected nor required to wear an abaya or head covering. The Hash is an opportunity for those to enjoy some “normal western” activities in Saudi Arabia without the social or cultural constraints of the abaya. Now while exceptions have indeed been made, if anyone asks, Saudis are prohibited from participating in the Hash Harriers. This is interesting for elsewhere around the world, the Hash encourages locals to be part of the Hash as they know the area and can assist in organizing interesting hash treks for members. If you ask why Saudis are prohibited from the Hash here the answers given are twofold: because the cultural norms for women are not followed and therefore the Hash does not wish to cause any offense and the other reason given is security! When delving further on the issue of why Saudi involvement in the Hash is a security problem the response is that the hash treks usually take place in areas which are isolated and away from urban areas. Therefore Hash organizers do not want Saudi nationals having knowledge where these treks may take place as there will be a large gathering of foreigners. However in my view, on the other hand, wouldn’t there also be an advantage to having some locals as part of the hash who do know the area, know the language and could be counted upon in the event of any emergency? Rather than arbitrarily say Saudis cannot participate, wouldn’t it be possible to put some additional measures in place when approving a Saudis request than just deny it outright? There are several hash groups in Riyadh. One follows the rules stringently in not allowing Saudi participants. The other one does have a few Saudi hash members.

Another group which offers great opportunities to explore and see more of Saudi riyadh-roversArabia is Riyadh Rovers. Riyadh Rovers has been in existence in Riyadh for a long time and is for those who have SUV’s and enjoy getting out into the desert as well as drive across rugged terrain. Riyadh Rovers members plan both day and weekend excursions. They will typically travel in a convoy/caravan style as they explore throughout and beyond Saudi Arabia. In addition to their excursions they will have regular meetings where they share information about past and present excursions and will often present slideshows of recent excursions. They also maintain a (closed) member only web site. Similar to the Hash Harriers, Riyadh Rovers is reluctant to accept Saudi members. There are some Saudi members but new Saudi members are discouraged. Again the reason cited is security stating that Riyadh Rovers members will be in isolated areas and do not wish to have Saudi nationals apprised of where they will be fearing their personal safety. This can be a double-edged sword. There are many benefits to having a Saudi national present when traveling in remote areas of the Kingdom from language to what to do if there is a problem.

I can see both viewpoints here on for as well as against having Saudi participation. I tend to lean that Saudis should be allowed to participate. In my view barring Saudis from activities in their own country and on their turf can fuel anger and dissent. And if there are security concerns in having Saudi nationals having advance warning where groups of foreigners may be located in remote regions, then I am equally confident in the ability to put stringent security measures in place for both vetting membership of any Saudi nationals as well as active security during any event. While the areas the respective groups go to may be remote that does not mean they are not populated or frequented by bedus who in turn are curious when seeing large groups of foreigners. Therefore a calculated risk still remains in having a group of foreigners out where trouble can arise.

Some may say due to my marriage to a Saudi that I am biased and I’ll readily grant that. I know I always feel more secure when out and about with my husband beside me. In fact during our travels to Maidan Sa’lah we traveled with a group made up predominantly of expats. The group appreciated having a native Saudi present and particularly when various questions arose at points during the trip. I’m interested in your views. Do you think having Saudi nationals participate in western-oriented events creates a greater security threat or not? And why or why not?


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