There’s always a place for Holiday Celebration

cofI’ve been here in Jubail, Saudi Arabia for quite long years. The month of December is a tight fist fight among expatriates. Everyone wishes to be in their own country to celebrate either Christmas or New Year holiday, whatever religion he is believing. Perhaps not all wishes are to be granted by the bosses. Someone should be left to work as normal day to keep other guys enjoying the celebration back to their countries.

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Jubail Industrial City, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is purely an Islamic country. Christmas has no place in the calendar. I saw those flashing lights decorating some of the shops. It looks like holiday lights but they even don’t know that it was. It serves normally as lively decors to attract those choosy customers waving for them to visit.

There is no public displays symbolizing Christmas and New Year but we celebrated it in our own way hidden from the sensitive eyes of the authorities. Everyone knows that such celebration is never allowed. In there, stood a Christmas tree decorated with lights and colorful ornaments. There was a party according to our culture and tradition. Children happily received gifts wrapped in unfamiliar store packaging. Their innocent smiles didn’t even recognize holiday wrappers.  We don’t want to skip those happiness from their childhood memory. It was not such grand or even not to be called as party but we know that the spirit of the celebration touches our every souls.

25588148_1928921227136764_7600891687515545501_oWe visited some malls which have huge sale posters. What a joke! I was so surprised that they have this year end sale so low on the same day of the occasion. A shop galore to enjoy and silently ramp pretending that there was a rush hour holiday shopping.

We visited the seaside a few days back and realized that the place is so wonderful and romantic. A beautiful scenery where everyone has no time to appreciate. Beside the sea was a park for a picnic site and rows of restaurants from fast food burger chains to expensive grilled and steak houses. The place is so perfect for a big family because of unlimited feast options. Though not all of expatriates are allowed to bring a family in Saudi Arabia, but there are still ways to celebrate the holidays.

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cofThis is a place where a Christmas song sounds unfamiliar but I strongly sense its presence. It is…….. deep in our hearts!

Happy Holidays!

 

Conservative Excursion in Riyadh

There are two rules which I always keep in mind when holding a camera while strolling in the world’s most conservative culture country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These are both applicable to my handy compact camera, DSLR, and even mobile phone. First, I should not take photos on the government buildings in an obvious method. And lastly, Saudi women should be censored from any types of photography.

I visited Riyadh, the country’s capital city, to meet our relatives and to renew my passport at the embassy. It was less than an hour travel from the eastern region by air flight. My embassy matter was just a few minutes transaction so the remaining hours was taken discovering the capital.

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Riyadh International Airport
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A beautiful building along the road.
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Comfortable bed of Mena Hotel

Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Where I Stayed: Mena Hotel

Buddies: Family

We checked in at Mena Hotel which was located at the famous Olaya Road near King Fahad Library and the Al-Faisaliah Tower. The receptionist’s English accent was excellent just like I spoke to an American in the body of a Saudi local. After a short orientation for our overnight stay we headed to our big and cozy room.

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King Fahad Library and Al-Faisaliah Tower from the hotel’s restaurant.

As promised, we met our relatives who was working for several years in Riyadh. The city was full of expatriates who are visible from streets, houses, shops, and restaurants.

We visited Batha Market, the famous local market for everything. Anything we needed was available in the market but the most attraction there was the gold shops. Our eyes glittered seeing a street of jewelry shops without armed security guards and those hanging wide belts, long chains and plates made of gold. For sure, women will surely love the shining shops to be satisfied from all kinds of jewelries and wide selection of gold accessories. The way of selling was amazing. My relative chose one type of a golden chain and the shop vendor chopped it according to her budget and bargaining influence. They also have ready-made sets and packages as best buy souvenirs. The jewelries here are much cheaper and had more options comparing to the other cities of the kingdom.

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Souvenir from Batha Market
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Kingdom Tower

From Batha, we stopped a taxi but the driver only speak and understand Arabic. There was guilt on my side because I’m working here for many years but I still do not speak the local language. The second taxi understood and brought us to the Kingdom Center, the base of the city’s landmark and a tourist destination.

We headed to the ticket counter to buy entry passes to the Kingdom Tower Sky Bridge. The sky bridge was accessed by paying 60 riyals per head. Children under two years are free. Two high speed elevators brought us to the bridge and let us witnessed the movement of the city at 360 degrees view, 300 meters from the ground. Unfortunately, camera was not allowed and our only option for memory keeping was to avail their photo booth service. The best time to stay is few minutes before sunset but it was already 7pm when we reached the tower.

After few minutes of staying at the highest part of the city, we took a delicious and heavy dinner at Tokyo Restaurant. The Japanese cuisine and its ambiance refreshed our taste buds from Arabic foods and our owned made menus. We continued the unending story telling which was paused after dining at the hotel to end our joyous day.

 

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Dining at Tokyo Restaurant

Riyadh is not just a deserted land. Aside of being a modernized and developed city, it has a unique culture. Additional to this is the strict rule requiring women to have their hair covered aside from wearing traditional abayas. Compared to other cities like Khobar and Jeddah, head covering is not seriously required for non-Muslim women expats.

The next day, after our buffet Arabic breakfast in the hotel, we prepared our things back to the Eastern Region by road. We did farewell to our relatives thanking them for sharing  and spending their hours with us.

The surrounding red sand dunes was the best sight while traveling from Riyadh. It took us more than five hours to reach the Eastern Region.

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