Currently on my trip from Australia to Europe with my dog Rexelby and my van Lola.
  • Day403

    Back in Jeddah

    June 1 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 37 °C

    ....And, as was to be expected, Lola could not be repaired in Al Bahah.
    Now plan B: move to Jeddah, which is close to 400km away. One of my Saudi friends organised a tow truck, all I needed was a travel permit. Time was of the essence as 2 days later a total curfew was to commence for all of the KSA. Hence back to visit my benefactor, the DG.
    Back in his office he tells me he will now organise for my van to be transported to Jeddah and then he'll help with the repair. I object, organising transport was not necessary, but thank you very much, as that had already been done. The dapper major reprimands me: do I or don't I want the DG to help me? Oh yes, of course do I want! That's how Lola, Rex and me were picked up and driven to Jeddah the next day. For free!
    I just had enough time to say my good byes and have dinner with my friend Mohammed and his family. (He's the one with the large Mercedes Benz for his 10 year old son, who is small for his age. When asked the boy how he finds the pedals, he said he sits on the edge of the car seat 🤞).
    On the 22 May I moved in at an expat compound here in Jeddah.
    Initially I moved in with the other overlander couple Birgit and Steffen and their 3 children. I enjoyed this livly household and their company very much, but after a few days I had my own house to move in.
    Its a strange world, a parallel universe to Saudi with its western living style and dress codes. There is no need to venture into the foreign, everything you need is here: grocery store, hair dresser and beauty salon, medical services, even a vet and pet store. Several swimming and sport facilities, which I, as smuggled through the security, cannot use , and restaurants, just reopening now.
    I start to comprehend why some westerners can live in those far away countries, without getting to know and understand the local population. Being locked away in those compounds with no connection to the real world.
    On one hand I am happy to be here, being able again to speak with people, and have some like minded people around me, but I miss Saudi, its charm, its people, the many smiles and friendly words, the chaos. Once I have Lola again, we can continue to venture out. If it just wasn't so hot, but afterall heat has been invented by the Saudis.
    Even though it urges me to get travelling again, I already dread the day I have to leave the Orient behind.
    One day shortly after arriving in Jeddah, the dapper Major rings me, asking if I could send a voice mail to the Emir, praising the services I have received by the DG. Well I don't mind adding an Emir to my phone contacts; the next stop then will be the King, and after that Allah, but him I let rather wait a while. Later I wished I wouldn't have followed that request so promptly, as this lead the DG to forget all about my repairs that he promised to complete. But in the end I had some other nice people finding the right man for the job.
    Today 8/7, I finally got news the transmission had been fixed, but we still need some more parts for the shaft. So slowly but surely we are getting back on the road.
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  • Day390

    Where there is Light, there is Shade

    May 19 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    From this Saturday the 23rd on there will be total curfew imposed on all regions in KSA. We here in the Al Baha region slipped through the total curfew-net so far, not this time. It will be very strict, going out with permit only for a very restricted time each day (I am not quite sure what the conditions are exactly). My biggest worry are my doggy walks. The boy will go absolutely bonkers if he cannot get out.
    For this reason my Saudi friend Aziz, he is the guy who enquired with the police about the travel permit and told me they will help, and his brother came over today to take me out to do a decent grocery shop, as I don’t have a car. He will not be able to come closer to the curfew, due to working commitments.
    So we done the shop and then went to my place to sit in the garden together and have a nice conversation as normal people do. Man! Did I enjoy this! Two intelligent people to talk to in English! What Luxury! Whilst we were sitting there Awais, the gardener comes in, behaving very reserved and disappears again. We continue our conversation.
    After a while I hear a car pull up outside the gate, Awais is coming back in and motions to Aziz to please come outside. I stay in the garden wondering what was going on, then Aziz’s brother gets up, takes their stuff. I follow him outside. Awais is out there with the brother of the house owner. I just have time to say hello when Aziz and his brother are climbing into their car and Said and Awais are driving off.
    What is going on here!! It already dawns on me: the request not to have any visitors has not only been issued for this “Filistin”, my Palestinian neighbour, but apparently to all males.
    I am fuming, but nobody to direct my fury to. Again I feel treated like a wayward teenager. This is a situation unthinkable and totally unacceptable for Western women! But that’s exactly the point (I guess): I am not in the West, I am in Saudi Arabia. And the Saudi hospitality extends as well to my protection. Even if I cannot fully understand what I need to be protected from, being a sensible and I think as well sensitive person with well developed instincts, the Saudis might see this differently. I am a single woman unprotected in a fenced in yard, behind high walls, alone with two males. As I have been explained previously: when in trouble, for example if I have murdered somebody (don’t scoff, that’s how it has been explained to me) and somebody is chasing me for that reason, I can go to any house and give myself into the protecting hands of that family. Nobody will be able to touch me, the clan will protect me until the law process takes over. I don’t really know what happens if the person I murdered belongs to that clan as well, but I think this fine detail will not have a lot of relevance to my life here in Saudi.
    Therefore: as long as I am guest in this house, I am under the protection of the family. They rather prevent anything from happening to me than needing to throw themselves between me and my attacker.
    Now that I had to think this situation through to write this down, I can better understand what happened today and cope a bit better with this disaster. I just can hope my car will be fixed soon, so I can escape this solitary confinement. And can take my life into my own hands once again.
    PS: After they left Aziz rang me to apologise. For what I am not sure, they have done absolutely nothing wrong. In my eyes. But he might have a better understanding of the situation than I and perhaps have the knowledge of “having done something wrong” in their cultural context. I will ask next time I see him.
    PS, PS: I did not go to Awais for dinner tonight. Had to pay him back, little snitch!!
    And another PS to further the understanding: my traveller friend Daniela told me today, and google helped me to confirm,that up to a few years back the "Vice Sqad" controlled the religious observance and morality in the country and immoral behaviour, like a woman being alone with a male she is neither realated with or married to could be arrested and beaten. So I am nearly tempted to be grateful for the encroaching behavior of my hosts.
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  • Day389

    Pinch me

    May 18 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    So here I am sitting in this office, waiting for the General, when finally the door opens and I get summoned into the sanctum of what I later learn is the highest police official in the province of Al Baha.
    I step into this office, the Director General, that’s his title, an imposing man sitting on his desk, to his right four more highly decorated POs sitting and some other with less decoration on their lapels standing in attention. And here Elisabeth marches in, with at dignified smile on her face and being seated opposite the Director General, DG in short.
    “Salaam aleikum” - “Aleikum Assalaam” - “Kaif haluk?” - “Hamdullah”
    At least I know how to behave by now.
    Thank goodness, as my vocabulary nearly has run out, the DG turns his attention to the dapper Major (or Whatever his rank is) asking what he can do for me. A long explanation ensues, DG nods his head, more questions and answers and finally he turns to me and says in a General’s voice of course:
    DG: your car stays here!
    Me, thinking shock horror: No! My car will not stay here!
    DG: Yes, your car will stay here and I will repair it!
    Me, what! Did I just hear this correctly???: - - - - - ah, ah, thank you very much, but apparently there are no spare parts in all of Saudi!
    DG: I will repair your car.
    Me: I am so very greatful! Thank you so much! (If the police needs a part they for sure will get it! He’s my biggest hope!)
    DG: when the car is repaired we deliver it to you (Ghee, don’t even need to pick it up!) and you will get the travel permit to Jeddah at any time you want. And I will get you a room.
    Even a travel permit when the state is in full lock down again after Ramadan. WOW! That’s amazing news and a huge relief for me. I mean, everything is!
    Me: Ahm, this is really very nice of you, but I have a room.
    DG: No, you will get a hotel room.
    Me: I cannot get a hotel room, I have a dog!
    DG: No, you will get a room and we will take care of your dog.
    You can feel he is not used to be contradicted when he voices a command, but my times as Safety Advisor comes into good stead, so I am not too easily intimidated and I fight for me being allowed to stay in my beautiful place. Of course with Rex. And succeed!
    DG: I driver will come and drive you to your home.
    I am telling him I for sure can organise a pick up, but no way, he has organised somebody already (whilst we were talking! I don’t know how he did that, honestly! No surprise he is the DG of the district, with this efficiency!)
    Some pleasantries follow, everybody in the room wants to know, where I am from, how I get here, Alone by car so far, and how old are you! 65! Hammdullah! Here everone wants to know your age, a very strange concept for us Westerners but it doesn’t fail to surprise them to see a woman my age to travel by herself and they really bend over backwards to accommodate me in any way possible.
    As an afterthought he asks me if I am in need of money! Is there no limit to their generosity?
    Finally I am told the driver has arrived, I, kind of unable to express my gratitude but thanking again profusely, and I am good byed out of the office.
    Totally stunned I follow the Major who hands me on to somebody else, whom I continue to follow down the stairs. Outside the driver is awaiting and the tow truck is already parked beside my car, waiting for my car keys to be handed over.
    And then Rex and I are chauffeured home.
    In the evening the mechanic contacted me to tell me the same diagnosis as I had before, telling me he now has to order the parts. Lets cross all our fingers, he gets hold of them; somehow.
    After getting home, letting everything that happened to me today sink in I am totally baffled, shocked by the generosity and preparedness of these people to help me. They really do anything in their power to help a foreigner in need. They go so far beyond anything I could possibly expect, it leaves me speechless, humbled and utterly grateful. They will always have a very special place in my heart.
    Somewhere in our conversation the DG ordered his phone number to be given to me, so I can contact him any time I run into trouble. This is for some smooth sailing through Saudi, hey? Somebody doing the dirty on me – let me quickly call the DG of the AL Baha district, he will sort you out! Oh, I ran through some red light here? You might want to discuss this with my buddy the … Problem sorted! But you know what? This will not be necessary, there will always be somebody to help me out of a situation. Of any situation, I am sure. I am a guest in this country after all.
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  • Day389

    Alone in Al Baha

    May 18 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    After many long and partially painful deliberations my german friends decided it best to leave for Germany. So nearly 4 weeks ago now they took a flight organised by the Austrian embassy from Jeddah. For me flying anywhere is unfortunately not an option: Europe doesn't allow me in as I neither have an European passport nor a residency Permit. Back to Australia is not an option due to the quarantine restrictions for dogs. I cannot import a dog from Saudi full stop. I have to bring him in from a third country but all borders are closed.
    So I have to stay behind.
    I wave them off early morning in the 22nd April. Black Wednesday!! It was so hard to see them go, leaving me behind!!!
    So for the last nearly 4 weeks I have been by myself. Kept myself busy, had still a myriad of car repairs to complete, some more successful than others. That it is Ramadan does't help, people are tired, hungry, don't feel like it. The biggest job is my damaged crankshaft or parts thereof. Communication is of course a big problem. They cannot get the parts in all of Saudi, due to Corona they cannot order from abroad. My car is gone for a few days, which is quite hard, Rex and I miss Lola, and strangely enough, even though you think you are well prepared you always forget to take some essentials out of the car. I mean, she is my house, right?
    When I go to pick her up, thinking they could not repair it, they tell me they have welded it all back together. The noise is gone, everything working and no Rial paid!!! Good on you guys!! Thanks so much!!
    But there is still another big unresolved problem looming: a slipping"clutch". After a lot of deliberation, discussion with friends, by coincident I drop into a garage who specialises in gearboxes. The mechanic checks it out and his verdict is gearbox damage. I had feared that, so it didn't come as a big surprise. But here as well again, no parts in Saudi and no parts can be ordered in. Bugger!
    In the mean time I am keeping busy, doing some other repairs, sewing, cleaning, washing, some gardening, the usual stuff, but unfortunately my neighbours and the gardener are thinking I am lonely and bored and being Arabs, being hospitable as they are, they cannot help themselves, and beleager me with invitations for dinner. That it is Ramadan doesn't help, I cannot go quickly for an afternoon tea, as they fast, and it is horrible for them not to be able to spoil me. UnsuccessfulIy I am trying hard to defend myself from too much neighborly love.
    To make matters worse, I get smack in the middle of some neighbourly dispute. The gardener tells me, the other men was no good, ("Filistin! Filistinn!" Later I had to read up in google, i knew the Filistins were mentioned in the Bible; they are the modern day Palestinians) I should not let them in the garden. No good man. Not talk to him. So what am I to do?? Well, I can say I am sick, headache or something else.
    I am unable to fully follow his recommendations, I mean, he just rocks up at the gate, brings food his wife has prepared etc. So I receive an email from my host telling me to keep my distance, not to let anyone in. They are worried about my safety. I was kind of set back to my teenage years! But, I am the guest , so no more open gate for this fellow and his family.
    The gardeners family is really very lovely, but no word English is spoken, and as hard as I may try, my Arabic doesn't really stick, so our conversations are quite limited. Even though Awais has a cunning ability to mimic what he wants to express the conversation is exhausting. I am really sorry to say this, but I prefer to have my dinner by myself. At least most of the time.
    But then workshops and waiting for my car to be repared introduces me to mainly young men who speak English. This gives me some time of verbal exchange, time with their families and I have their support when I AGAIN, run into problems.
    But all of this is starting to grind me down. I am longing for conversations with friends, with people who know me, for whom I am not this exotic lady, but just me. I am longing to talk to people who I know, who at least have the same cultural background. Where I don't need to ponder, can I do this, can I say that, how shall I interpret that situation? When after dinner on my way out the door, the Lady of the house presses a 100 Rial note, around $40 in my hand, I resist and put it back into her pocket just to find this money in my bag when I get home. What am I going to make out of this? When I give it back to her, is this a great offence? Why is she doing this? What does it mean? How am I going to deal with this? Why are they not eating the food I bring over? Lots of questions and insecurities that under different circumstances would be very interesting but now are mainly tiring.
    We people stranded in Saud have founded a WhatsApp support group. Only two of its members are still in the country. Apart from me a brave family with 3 children.
    They are in Jeddah at the moment, just moved into a house in a compound with lots of expats. Would I have scoffed at the notion of moving in with a lot of foreigners like me instead of looking for contact with the locals, I am so starved for communication that I jump at Steffen's suggestions of getting a house for me there as well. Again, I never met this man, and he and the other Jeddah people are so helpful and supportive. The only problem I can see is a travel permit as travelbans still prevail due to Corona and that my car has the gearbox problem. So how to get there?
    One of my Saudi contacts makes some enquiries. No problem, he says, the police will help. Yeah, but the car transport? Don't worry! This is what police is there for. But... Just go to the police!
    So today I went into town to the police to get a travel permit to Jeddah. You can complete this permit application on line, but for one is it arabic, and two you need an Iqama number this is the national ID number. After some to and fro finally somebody arrived who speaks English. He is not one of the line police officers, but highly decorated. Still very young! And good looking!
    He compliments me into his luxurious office. There I learn that he has been in Australia for one year, 10 years back. Lucky me! Well, I hope he has had a good time there! I need that now!
    After some more nice small talk he starts completing the application, when he as well gets stuck on the Iqama number. But this problem can be solved as well, we just need to wait for the Captain. He will be there in an hour. So that I don't need to wait in the empty ante room, with possible strange men arriving which could make me feel uncomfortable, I am ushered into another big man's Office. I hope they don't forget me there. It's taking quite a long time, this hour. Enough to write this whole article so far. On the phone.
    I'll send this off now, end of story to follow.
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  • Day350

    Saudi Hospitality unsurpassed

    April 9 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    The evening we decided to leave the next day in search of our safe haven, we prepared for an early start the next morning before going to bed.
    Just when I turned off my light to go to sleep a car pulled up and honked the horn. Until I got up and put on my abaya Olli met the driver and the discussions started with help of Google translate. Our visitor wanted us to leave immediately, did not really have a suggestion where we should go and we did not see a reason for leaving. A lot of mis- or non-understandings followed, and about ½ hour later he drove off.
    Back to bed and trying to sleep.
    This pleasure did not last very long as several cars pulled up, police and some robed civilians got out and the discussions started again. We were not allowed to be outside during the curfew, we have to go to a hotel, that we sleep in our cars was no accepted reason for staying, and on it went. This time we could not talk our way out of it, so we gave in when they offered us to stay in our cars in front of the local police station.
    So getting the car ready, putting in table and chair, stepping on my abaya, losing the headscarf, really testing my patience at that time of day but finally we took off in a convoy to the police station.
    Once arrived there the chief of police was visible relieved that he had us transferred to a “safe” location, showed us the facilities, the kitchen, toilet and gave us the complimentary box of water bottles your are handed in this country wherever you go and you can’t say no to.
    Back to bed. But there is one more knock on my door: it is Olli, bringing fabulous news: they had asked a Saudi family they had met for a very short time only and asked if they knew some accommodation we could possibly use. 10mins later they received the answer: we can use their holiday residence in Al Baha for as long as we need. What an incredible relief!!! And exactly where we wanted to go to as it is nice and cool up in the mountains.
    Up early the next day the plan was to get to Yanbu, do a big grocery shop and then look for some place to stay for the night.
    Once in Yanbu I hit the grocery store, long queues in front, waiting, then donning on gloves and face mask some measurement of my body temperature and I am let into the supermarket. I am about to pack up my trolley as I receive a message from Dagmar and Olli that travel ban will be imposed between the different regions of the country from tomorrow on. As we still have to pass through several provinces, I leave my trolley where it is and we rush out of town immediately. We want to travel as far as we can before the curfew 1900hrs.
    Once it is time to set up camp for the night, we directly drive to the police station and ask for asylum. No probs, over there in front of the school we can stay. Its not a pretty spot, but we are happy to have found a spot where we will not be disturbed after the long day of driving. We did not count on the lack of hand-over information at shift change at the police station, so sure enough, as soon as we were in bed, a knock on my door and the discussions started again. But after some to and fro we were left to our sleep.
    And then, after a long pass from 700m up to 2200m and me fearing Lola’s heat sensitivities, we made it to our holiday residence in Al Baha without much of a problem. And want a surprise this is: a huge house, we can use the ground floor with 3 bathrooms, kitchen, washing machine, a huge garden with trees, not a common thing in this country, and extra little house in the garden, with toilet and carpeted sitting area. What luxury!!! And after the humid heat down at the ocean, we are sitting here in the evenings with socks and jumpers! Wonderful!
    The next day Diddi and Daniela, another German couple that travelled through Africa joined us as well. Now we are complete.
    Finally, after all the frantic activity of the last few days we have the opportunity to clean and repair the cars, to the washing, sort out stuff and, at least we thought, to rest.
    Until our peace was rudely interrupted by an email from the Saudi tourist office that we should leave our contact details should an evacuation be necessary.
    Lots of discussion ensued: if we fly out what will happen to our vehicles? Letters were drafted and sent to consulates to find out the legalities.
    For me the situation is different from that of the Germans: after a lot of enquiry I found out I cannot fly Rex to Australia from Saudi. He will need to fly from another country, but before I can arrange for this, blood needs to be taken for a Rabies titer test, after which we will need to wait for 180 days before I can fly him into Australia. Next option, Germany. No, I cannot fly into Germany as I am neither German nor have a residency status. And Rex by himself, and then after 180 days to Oz? No, flights don’t take any dogs. So, that’s it for me, I will stick it out here in Saudi until some borders open… somewhere.
    In the meantime, we are touchingly cared for. The hospitality and generosity of the Saudis is extraordinary. They do anything in their might to make you feel welcome and happy
    Every morning the gardener provides us with bread and dip and we had to fight hard and gently for him not to bring us some more food goodies, as we really don’t want to stretch the hospitality. Two days ago, a local member of the family surprised us with masses of fruit and vegetables - in addition of the fruit and vegetable we can just pick here in the garden. Health workers were asked by the family to visit and check on our health and providing us with masks and gloves.
    By now the curfew has increased starting at 1500hrs. poor Rex, lucky Elisabeth, only one walk a day from now on!
    None of us want to leave at this stage, but one day we will have to pack up and go.
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  • Day334

    Without a Clue

    March 24 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    From yesterday on Saudi is on partial lockdown: curfew from1900hrs – 0600 hrs. Only food stores, petrol stations and pharmacies are open. Every town a ghost town.
    Regardless of this time frame I have been asked several times by police to please leave and go home. All Saudis would be at home under these circumstances. I show them my home, some shrug and give the okay, others ask me to move on but not before apologetically offering me some water or chocolate bars, but not offering a solution where I can stay. Out of sight out of mind.
    Driving through the country I feel like a thief: every police post, man or car giving me a sinking feeling, fearing they stop me. But no, miraculously they all let me pass.
    I am now reunited in the desert with some German overlanders. I am feeling so much better in their company, not needing to cope with this stress by myself.
    Initially we intended to stay in the desert, well-hidden and safe for a few more days. This morning however we received the news that Jordan has declared full lock down, no more walks to the grocery store. Food rations being distributed to the houses. Wow, this can happen to us as well! Then we are well and truly stuffed!!
    So what to do? Renting an apartment is out of the question with Rex, houses seem to be too expensive, the holiday rental apps are not really a help. So tomorrow we will make our way to the mountains, hoping we will find some property we can stay on, idyllically situated under some date palms would be nice for us romantics, somewhere where we can stay with our vans or at least park them up there as well, with some water and electricity. Where we can wait until the whole mess blows over, whenever this might be. And in reach of food distribution should this become necessary. There just has to be a place somewhere that we can rent for an affordable price. And that keeps us cool over the hot months to come
    We will be leaving tomorrow in search of our safe haven, wherever this may be. And hopefully, find it.
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  • Day328

    Stranded in Saudi Arabia

    March 18 ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Corona. Borders closing. Where to go?
    In Al Ula I had met a few German Overlanders and we were discussing this matter, tossing up options: returning to the UAE, finding our way home this way, me not knowing what or where home is in the first place. Some were thinking of shipping out to Sudan, leaving to Jordan, and what then? And of course the option to stay put in Saudi, or one could perhaps leave the car here and fly home to return when borders reopened. But what will have happened to the vehicles in the mean time? They can only stay for the duration of the original visa? Or can't they? So many questions.
    I decided to stay in Saudi.
    However one morning I wrote up and knew, I want to wait it out in Egypt, at RockSea, my little paradise in the Sinai with my cousin and his family. So I took off towards the Jordanian border. 500km to the border. Rex needed another course of vaccination before crossing the border into Jordan and i took the time to wait for the veterinarian to reopen his practice after the afternoon prayer to sort out some other stuff. It got quite late so I did not make it through the border. Lucky!!!
    I had just found a place to stay for the night close to the border when I received the news that Egypt has closed its borders, and the ferries from Aqaba to Egypt have been cancelled.
    So higher forces have decided about the place to wait until this menace blows over.
    So here I am now. On the red sea. Saudi side. When I look across the sea, I can see the mountains of Sinai and RockSea, where I now long to be. I remember very well, when I was at RockSea I used to look across the red sea, longing to be able to go over there and visit Saudi. Now I am longing to be on the other side again, this time in Egypt. I just hesitated a little too long.
    Soon I will meet up again with the german travellers, once it gets hot we might rent a house together, with a really good AC.
    I had traveled through a lot of countries for nearly a year now, never really time to rest as there were forever visas running out, and so many things to see. Now I will have plenty of time to rest, to digest my impressions, to reflect on my experiences, contemplate a where from here, where to with the years ahead. And pick up on my woefully neglected Find Penguin entries
    And I hope to learn some Arabic, so I can communicate with these lovely people. My new found lady friends gifted me today with an Abaya. How shameful that I can only thank them with a little "shokran"!
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  • Day321

    Al Ula

    March 11 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We stayed in Al Ula for a while, the hole in my fuel tank opened up again and needed repair, the dogs needed immunisations and certificates and Jasmin and I just needed some rest.
    But of course the rest never happens. My planned day of rest was distroyed by a big and unexpected gust of wind which grabbed my annex and folded it over the roof, braking several rods and attachments but thankfully not destroying the metal roof it was attached to. But that was the end of my annexe. What a shame with the summer approaching..
    One day Jasmin left with Zaggy to make her way to the UAE. Rex misses his little friend.
    I further explored the vicinity, having this stroke of luck by meeting my German co- travellers. As Corona was poking up its nasty head by now, we decided to stay in touch to support each other by exchanging information during these uncertain times, before separating again to each follow our planned routes.
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  • Day319

    Al Ula, Madain al Saleh, Hegra

    March 9 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    After a few long driving days we finally reached Al Ula, the base camp for the sights in Hegra.
    Saudi never ceases to amaze me. The diversity of the landscape is for me totally unexpected and the landscape surrounding this town is outstanding. Crops of big round mountains and out of the earth rock formations. This looks really promising.
    After enquiring about the archaeological sites it was confirmed that the next day will be the last until the site reopens in October and that we only can view them with an organised tour.
    Still, we could not believe this so we decided to take a trip through the desert and see if we can get to the sites without masses of people surrounding us. We drove for a few hours and not really getting far due to very difficult sandy terrain but again and again hit the fence surrounding the area. Had still fun driving through the desert in my car together though.
    So next morning we left the dogs behind and jumped on a tour bus.
    “Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The site also features some 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings. Hegra bears a unique testimony to Nabataean civilization. With its 111 monumental tombs, 94 of which are decorated, and water wells, the site is an outstanding example of the Nabataeans’ architectural accomplishment and hydraulic expertise.” (Text copied from UNESCO website)
    And it was worth the while. These tombs, carved into sandstone, well preserved were absolutely fascinating.
    But what took my fancy just as much was the Al Mayara Concert Hall outside of Al Ula, a mirrored cube set in the middle of the desert, reflecting its surrounds, ever changing with the sun moving in the sky.
    I will let the pictures do the talking.
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  • Day315

    A visit at the Post Office

    March 5 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Nowadays it is getting really difficult to find some post cards. So when we were in Jeddah we got lucky and I bought 6 pieces. Unfortunately this shop did not sell any stamps and as we were in a rush we thought we get them on the way, somewhere.
    In Thuwal I needed to get some fuel, so whilst I was refuelling, Jasmin went to look for a post office. She found one and sent me the location for me to meet her once I was done with the fuel.
    When I arrived she had already stamped her card and sent it off.
    So in I go, Salam Alaikum, and could I please have some stamps for my post cards. Yes sure and out he pulls his folder, only to find, the amount of stamps would just be enough for one card and because they are so small denominations, half of the card would be plastered with stamps. I wouldn't have minded that, would this save me a lot of writing, but the amount of stamps for one card is not enough. How can we solve this problem? What problem? There is no problem and he turns to his computer.
    Okay: what is your name? my name? I want to send this card to... yes, your name. can I see your passport please? OK, one moment, my passport is in the car. Out I go, retrieving my passport from the car. He slowly punches in my name.
    What is your phone number? My phone number, I grumble under my breath. Sorry, don't know my phone number, my phone is in the car, Do we really need this? Yes we do. So out I go again to the car, retrieving my phone.
    What is the name of the person receiving the card? I am spelling the name and he, visibly not used to the Latin keyboard searches for the letters to type the name. And the country and the address? I spell this out to him as well, hopefully successfully hiding my growing impatience.
    And with this, we are done! After what seems to be at least 10 mins, he prints out the stamp and we stick it onto the card. He thinks we are done, but there are 5 more stamps I need. We surely can just print out 5 more with this above information? NO! NO, this is not possible.
    OK, next stamp: my name, my phone number, holy shmoly, this is going to take forever! But then he has an idea! He looks at me with a wide grin and he gestures to me that I should get out the door I came in, go around the building and re-enter through the staff door and then I can type this myself.
    Tis is a very reasonable suggestion and so I find myself on the other side of the Postoffice counter. I take his seat in front of the computer. As he moves the mouse and makes the selections at this PO site, as this of course is in Arabic, I type in the information. Now we progress speedily through my stamps.
    In the mean time the office closes, and the office manager is coming in and questioning the activities at this late office hour. He finds this situation quite amusing and serves some tea.
    Jasmin is of course wondering what has happened to me, particilarly as the office has shut it's doors, it surely cannot take that long to get some stamps, and she comes searching for me trough the back door as well. I am very happy about her curiosity, because where would the proof be for this little story if she wasn't there to take a picture?
    Well, as it happens, the cards still have not been sent. With everything going on since, corona and so forth, and not knowing if these traceable stamps are still valid....
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