Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hajj / Eid

Very recently was the Hajj which is the Muslim annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime.  If you are interested in more information about Hajj, Wikipedia has some good info  We are currently located about an hour north of Jeddah and Mecca is a little east of Jeddah.  Due to the Hajj and the corresponding Eid holiday, Mark and the kids had the week off of work and school.  Since we arrived early in October, we really didn't have time to plan a trip during the holiday so we stayed on campus.  Most people left on vacation for the week which I'm sure we'll do next year.  It was very quiet here on campus during the week - even quieter than normal.

Our sea shipment arrived on the Monday of our holiday week so that was nice since we got the kids bikes and a lot of their other belongings.  We still haven't unpacked everything but I don't have bookshelves or very many places to store things here.  I'm glad to finally have my kitchen equipment though (tupperware mostly).  Since Rachel's bike didn't get shipped over, we decided to head into Jeddah to get here a bike.  Just Mark and I and the girls went since we needed to have room to put the bike in the car.  So off we went about 5:00 in the evening.  You don't go in during the day when it's a holiday because most stores don't open.  The shops and malls are packed and traffic is crazy in the evening with all the visitors to the city.  As we were driving into Jeddah, it became prayer time (Muslims are commanded to pray 5 times a day and the times are very specific).  One of the most interesting things that we saw was the people that would pull over to the side of the road, get out their prayer mat and say their prayers on the side of the road.  Since we're driving through the desert and there aren't a lot of places to stop, you often seen men stopped on the side of the road "using the restroom" also :-) 

So we went to the Roshon mall (one of the many malls in Jeddah) because it has a Toys R Us.  Before we looked for a bike though, we spotted a Chili's and craving something American, we went in to have dinner.  If there weren't women dressed in Abayas, you would have thought you were in the states.  The menus were in English - no arabic to be found - and the food was pretty much the same.  There was also a Fuddrucker's right next to it.  Here's a picture of me and the girls in front of Chili's - Megan and I are wearing our abayas.  Mine pretty much looks like a black graduation robe but I've included a picture of the back of it so you'll see that it's not so plain.  A lot of abayas are decorated with designs and stones and they now have white abayas that are becoming popular in Jeddah.  I think I've said this before, but Jeddah is more liberal than other cities in KSA, such as Riyadh.  We still do see women with their faces partially covered (you can see just their eyes) and some even with a full veil where you cannot see any of their face.

We also looked for a dishwashwer that same night.  The dishwasher that is provided in the home is really just pathetic.  If you talk to pretty much anyone on campus, noone uses it.  Now, doing dishes by hand, is probably my least favorite chore in the whole world.  And there are 7 of us, so there are a lot of dishes and cups.  I think I told Mark that if I didn't have a good dishwasher, I was going to go back to the states :-)  So the next night, we went again to Jeddah to look for a dishwasher.  This time we took everyone but Spencer - he's not a shopping fan!  We were looking for a few other electronic things also - a transformer (convert 220 to 120 so we can use our American applicances) and a mouse for Spencer's MacBook.  We did a little shopping and then prayer time started.  At this particular store, we did not have to leave, but they dim the lights, you can still shop, but you can't check out during prayer time.  We needed to talk to someone about the dishwasher so we waited through prayer time and then got my new Bosch dishwasher!!!  Yeah!  It even fit well in the car with all of us so we could take it home that night.

After we did that, we headed to the attached mall to get some dinner.  We ate in the food court at a place called Al Baik (pronounced al bake I think) - it is a chicken place - comparable to KFC but not really the same.  Mark likes to call it "al beak" because it's serves chicken - hahahaha.  After dinner we went in search of an iPhone for Megan.  We still have yet to track one down - the iPhone 4 is still new here and kind of hard to find.  We made one last stop at a place called Ice Land.  I was hoping that it would have a nice rink and possibly someone that could work with the girls for skating.  I was pretty disappointed - it's another mall type place with an ice rink in the middle - it's not very big and not even as nice as some of the other malls.  So I don't think we'll take them there to skate.  There are other malls that are closer that have rinks for the girls to try out. 

On the drive home, we stopped at what would loosely be called a rest stop near the secuity checkpoint outside of Jeddah.  It is really like a shopping area with little restaurants and shops - some open air and some in buildings.  I do not like driving past this rest stop in general because there are no on and off ramps for it. You just pull off and on directly from the freeway and when it is crowded, it is absolutely nuts.  Well at Ice Land, we had gotten the kids a treat for the ride home and they were all thirsty and I had no water in the car (which I should have all the time).  So Mark stopped at this area to get some water bottles.  He pulled up to this area that looked like a parking area - there are no lines for parking and people just park anywhere but there were 4 or 5 cars in a line so it looks like a parking spot.  We stayed in the car while he got the water.  In front of us there was a lane for cars that were leaving to get through.  This guy pulls up in front of us in this lane, stops, puts his car in park and gets out of his car to shop, effectively blocking the 2 or 3 cars behind him that were leaving.  They all started honking and this guy just totally ignored them.  I was just cracking up but what's funny is that kind of behavior doesn't seem to be out of place.  Anyways, I could tell tons of driving stories (they have way too many round-abouts here) but I won't bore you with them.  In general, if I never had to be in a car in Jeddah, I think I would never miss it.

One morning during the break, Mark got up early and headed out on the road to Madina because he heard that there were baboons out that way and he wanted to get some pictures.  Lizzie wasn't feeling well and I didn't want to get her up early and the other kids didn't want to get up early either - although later Spencer said he would have gone - oh well.  So here are some of the pictures. 

Someone in another car had given this baboon a bag of potato chips.  He liked them and was not going to share with the other baboon. 

Momma and baby

A baboon crossing sign

Another morning of the holiday, we took a breakfast cruise on the Red Sea from the KAUST marina.  We didn't go very far, but it was nice to be out on the water and we got a nice view of the campus and neighboring Thuwal from the boat.  I was surprised at how shallow the sea was so far from shore.  The boat had to be very careful to go on a specific route to avoid all the sand bars that were in the water.

 The KAUST Beacon

A view of our beach

A silly picture of Spencer (he doesn't like to have his picture taken and
he'll probably be mad that I posted this one) 

 KAUST Campus

The marina building - there is a good restaurant here too!

I think that catches you up on our life over the past month.  The kids are back to school and Mark is back to work.  We're looking forward to spending our Christmas in Athens, Greece.  I am excited to see all the history in that city.  Thanks for reading!!


  1. LOL!! I love the "rest stop" story, very Saudi I must say :-)
    Well with a new dishwasher and kids back in school I think you will be on your way to great adjustment here.Don't forget to call me if you need some excitement during the day :-)

  2. SO jealous of your experiences. Keep writing!

  3. linking to your blog. Thought you should know~