Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia

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    • Day 56

      Strand von Salwa

      November 6 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

      In Hofuf besuchen wir den Ibrahim Palace. auch dieser soll für den kommenden Tourismus als Highlight hergerichtet werden. Da der Souk (Basar) kaum besucht und die meisten Stände geschlossen waren, haben wir uns auf den Weg zum Golf gemacht und wieder am Strand ein schönes Plätzchen gefunden.Read more

    • Day 299

      Saudi Arabia first Impressions

      February 18, 2020 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

      First impressions of Saudi Arabia

      During my first 2 days travelling through the desert and desert towns from the UAE border to Riyadh I did not see a single woman. Not on the roads, not in shops or restaurants. The ones I visited did not have any family rooms, which are reserved for families or women only, and still no women.

      Once in Riyadh I was right away welcomed by 3 working women, recognisable on their safety vests in full hijab. One preconception I had to unlearn already in Iran was that full Hijab does not equal shy. Very forthcoming women, very happy to hear where I am from and that I as a woman I came from so far all by myself. They mentioned with great joy, that now they are permitted to drive: “Now we can do it!!!”

      Later on I met two highschool girls, one in full hijab, the other wearing an abaya, the black overcoat, only but no head covering. When asked I was told that since a few months ago not only tourist but as well Arabian women are allowed to wear western clothing and move in public without head covering. She would only wear the Abaya as she is used to it and she feels more comfortable wearing it.
      Today I saw two SA women in western clothing and open hair.
      Saudi Arabia appears to be moving forward with big steps towards a more liberal society.

      I always pictured SA to be a very rich country. My first impressions contradict this assumption. On the road to Riyadh a lot of petrol stations and the shops around them were deserted and partially overblown by sand, the shops at the outskirts of the townships either deserted or fallen to neglect. Rubbish is collecting everywhere, very visibly stuck at the camel fencing that has been erected all along the highway, all in all giving a very neglected impression. I guess this is particularly noticeable after having been in UAE and Oman, where everything is well maintained, clean and extremely prosperous.
      Is this just avery poor region?

      I had to visit the dentist today. Chipped tooth.
      At the practice all the assistants were male: at the reception as well as in the treating rooms. My dentist was a woman, I saw several other female dentists all assisted by males. I would have loved to be treated by one of the male doctors dressed in the sheik garb. Very exotic. But no such luck! I forgot to ask if females can be treated by men?

      Walking my cat hating dog in this city is near impossible. This is a cat empire! Cats everywhere: sleeping curled up on lawns, park benches, behind walls, in bushes, on trees, under cars, in gutters, alley ways! Everywhere!!! My dog is totally frantic, pulling on the leash like a maniac! Get me out of here!

      When standing on the edge of the street waiting to cross the cars stop! Just so! No pedestrian crossing, no traffic light, they just stop! No idea why! I am baffled! This is amazing!
      21.2.20 I have to make am amendment to that last observation: that must have been a coincidental that the cars stopped just so. This wasn't repeated.
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    • Day 301

      A Dream Come True

      February 20, 2020 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

      My big dream before commencing my trip into Saudi Arabia was to experience some family life. One hears or reads so much about this country and particularly the hidden life of the Saudi Woman however how much of it compares to reality?
      So often during my trip I have experienced that what we learn from the media about a country is more about the politics and the fall out to the normal people than real life experiences. At the end we don’t really know much about the day to day lives people are living. Let’s take Iran: peoples’ perception of this country is one of mullahs, terrorists, fully veiled and locked away women, however the society I experienced showed me an incredible friendly, hospitable, very open minded, well educated and cultured people.
      Now I am so curious to experience the life in the KSA, particularly the life of women.
      This opportunity presents itself on my way to the historical town of Shaqra. After being overtaken and me overtaking a family car a few times, waving at each other, they hail me down in Shaqra and invite me to their home.
      And what a lovely family it was: parents with 3 of their 6 “children”, daughter and son at university and the other daughter with 14or 15 still at school. Very generously they invited me including Rex into their home, offering some refreshments and then taking me to a sightseeing trip to the historical town of Ushaiqer and then later to Shaqra, before turning back home where the rest of the family has arrived to spend the weekend together.
      This is the weekend home of the extended family, and this weekend most of them are coming here from Riyadh. I am not quite sure how many people they were, I would guess around 30-40? And nearly everybody spoke English exceptionally well, even the elderly or the young children. So I was able to find out a lot about their lives and culture.
      This was a for our perception, but I don’t know if of Saudi as well, very closely knit family. The women of this family I talked to were university educated, working as dentist, lawyer or still studying, far from the suppressed women we westerners expect.
      Their clothing in public ranged from full Hijab to open hair, so there seemed to be no pressure of the family what to wear. What to wear appeared to be every woman’s decision depending on preference or religious interpretation and probably as well comfort level in the public eye.
      Everybody, women or men alike seemed to be very happy and in agreeance with the developments and social changes initiated by the crown prince since the beginning of his reign a few years ago. The women don’t need to wear hijab, they don’t need the permission of the head of the family to move in society, they are permitted to drive, cinemas have opened. But the society overall will not be able to change in their attitudes to women over night, particularly in the countryside and in some of the more conservative cities. Women will need to patiently wait and continue to fight for their full rights and acceptance in the society.
      I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to experience family life the Saudi way. Of course this is only one facete, but I am sure I will have some more opportunities to experience Saudi day to day life.
      The next day, after saying good bye to my lovely family I went again into Shakra to have a look at the sights during day light, when a man asked after my wellbeing and took me on a tour through the historical part of Shakra. He turned out to be the Mayor of the town.
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    • Day 307


      February 26, 2020 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

      And on we travel, through a landscape created by fairytales, sculptured mountains, smooth granite cones, however not very photogenic due to a passing sandstorm.
      A bit travel weary I looked for and found a spot well off the road where I could rest for a few days. Here I happened to met up with Jasmin, a German woman, who like me travels by herself with a dog. How’s that for a coincidence? We talked online before to discuss requirements to bring the dogs over the border and now she happened to pass along close by.
      We got along well, the dogs got along well, so we decided to continue our journey together.
      Of course both of us had car trouble, Jasmin of the electrical kind and Lola’s fuel tank made itself known again and started to dribble. So in the next bigger town we looked for some workshops to attend to our repairs. We found them quite quickly but making ourselves understood is always a different matter, but soon we were helped by the towns English teacher. My problem was quickly thought to be found, the screw on the diesel tank was loose (not tightened probably when the pertrol had to be emptied out of my diesel tank in Iran), Jasmin’s problems took some more doing. In the mean time lots of pictures of us women with dogs were taken by lots of men wearing their white thawb (tunic) and their white or red and white head dresses.
      Once the cars were repaired Mofarreh, our English speading friend, invited us to his home.
      This home is situated in a larger compound, that had several smaller houses on it, each house for a wife. Our friend had 2 wives, one of whom he had just recently divorced, and who did not live here any longer; and then there lived as well the 3 of 4 wives of his father who had passed away several years back. Each of the wives had several children between 38 and 7 years old; I forgot how many siblings Moffareh had, it was quite an impressive number. Not all lived here any longer as the married ones have moved out.
      Unfortunately none of the women spoke English, so communication was rather difficult. Even made more difficult as the mothers could not read either, so google translate always had to wait until Sarah, Moffareh’s wife was in the room. But once we arrived Sarah commenced the cooking. Whilst she prepared the entre we were invited to have shower and some tea. Then at about 8pm the entre was served which consisted of the entrails of the lamb. Then we were lucky, or I at least was, Jasmin as a vegetarian did not consider herself that lucky to watch Sarah preparing the lamb. She put the whole the lamb less its entrails in one piece into a huge pot together with lots of spices and all we had to do now was to wait.
      This was a traditional household which means men and women eat separately, normally the men first and the women get what’s left over. However today the women were quite excited; with the guests of honour being women, the women were to eat first and the men got what was left over!
      Once the lamb and the rice were cooked it was all arranged on a huge plate, corpus, head and other things, we all arranged ourselves around the big plate and started picking the meat directly of the lamb. It was delicious. I find this eating with my fingers quite a sensual experience, even though I make quite a mess with the rice. It has to be squshed into a ball shape in the palm of your hand first and then pushed into the mouth with your thumb; this takes some practice and I don't manage this very well. But everybody is very forgiving have they all taught a lot of children how to eat.
      It was very hard to convince the woman that Jasmin does eat absolutely no meat or anything that came in touch with meat, no rice with the meat juices poured over either. Poor Jasmin, it was quite a challenge for her to eat the rice that had seen some meat juices with the lamb’s head staring at her, but she bravely managed to empty her plate.
      Once we were finished eating the leftovers were nicely arranged on a fresh plate and delivered to the men.
      Of course, I was very interested to learn about the marriage arrangements. Unfortunately we only got the male version, due to communication restrictions.
      Men can have up to 4 wives as long as they can provided for them. I of course wonder how the peace is being kept between all those wives. I imagine it as extremely difficult to put up with another woman sharing a man with me. The secret I am told is in treating all the women the same: the same amount of nights spent with every woman, same amount of money, same living standards. Simple! But what if you love one woman more than another? Simple too: this does not happen, you can love them all the same, but not fall in love with one. And when you don’t love one at all or she causes too much grieve, you can divorce her. Easy peasy! And can she initiate divorce as well? Apparently yes.
      So now we know! I just wonder what is the female version. But somehow it seemed to be working, at least in this household on that evening: the father’s wives seemed to get along well with each other, had a lot to chat and giggle, so I guess this is a good sign?
      And he is happy with his one wife? Yes he is, but he is looking for another wife nevertheless. But she asks him sometimes if he loves her, or will ever love her… Lovely, sweet Sarah!!
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    • Day 311

      Rijal Almaa

      March 1, 2020 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

      At one stage, as I am following Jasmin in her car, I wonder about her erratic indicating and blinking warning lights. Finally, she pulls over, comes running towards me with a beaming smile and asks me if I saw those monkeys. No I hadn’t seen them but I tell her, there will be more and we continue our journey. All by myself I wonder how I could be so blasé about it, what if there are no more monkeys? But I needn’t worry. Just some corners further down the road, they were roaming the hills. More than 50 of them, a huge family, big boys, kids, mothers carrying babies on their backs and around their bellies. When we stopped, they were running towards us, carefully, noisy, screeching and each fighting for the apple pieces we were throwing towards them. Of course, we were targeting the mothers who were a bit slower than the rest, hampered by the precious cargo they were carrying. At one point king monkey ran screeching towards Jasmin, who could rescue herself into her car just in time.
      Rex did not like the monkeys. I think they reminded him too much of screaming children. So, after a bit of barking he decided to hide from them in his safe spot between the driver’s paddles.
      These monkeys were from now on a daily occurrence. You could spot them everywhere, on the mountain peaks, on the walls lining the roads, in the morning rummaging in the big rubbish bin close to our vehicles and making a huge racket. Quite a nuisance those creatures, picking apart every rubbish bag and leaving an unbelievable mess in their wake.
      But this stretch of road has something more on offer. I have travelled a lot of passes on my 40.000km journey; steep ones, mean ones, pot holed ones, rock plastered ones, every sort you can possibly imagine. But I was not prepared for the Saudi passes! These things go straight to heaven or hell, depending which way you go. Oh man! They are steep! Never seen anything like it!
      After my Kyrgystan experience, where I have fried off my brakes, I am a bit weary. Therefore going down these passes was a heart stopper for me; not for worry of the decline or those really mean, close and steep curves but for worry for my brakes. There were no safe escape routes should they fail, the only way was downhill.
      But when getting to Rijal Almaa, we knew this was really worth it. This is an ancient village, built up a hill, containing multi storey houses, hugging up the hill as they climb up. A place of stunning beauty, nestled into this green valley. What a surprise and exceeding all expectations. I reminded me on those Yemenite architecture which I always wanted to see, but very likely never will.
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    • Day 350

      Saudi Hospitality unsurpassed

      April 9, 2020 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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    • Day 313

      Dinner at Thee AlAin

      March 3, 2020 in Saudi Arabia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

      Arriving at the car park to the "white Marble Village" at Thee AlAin we are right away welcomed by two gentlemen, offering us the Saudi coffee that I have learned to highly value. It has not a lot in common with the coffee we know but is a quite bitter and very fragrant concoction spiced with cardamom and I am not sure what other spices. You only get poured one mouthful at a time and tastes delicious with dates or other sweets.
      No, this was not a welcoming committee, but two visitors themselves, who just had returned from their sightseeing when we arrived. But them having already seen the “white marble village” does not deter them from walking with us and the dogs again and showing us around. Without them we very likely would not have wandered behind the village once we had seen it all, and therefore would have missed the groves and the little gurgling fountain coming out of the mountain.
      Once we came down the hill our two new friends decided it was time for dinner. Jasmin and I locked the dogs in the car and were then chauffeured in luxury in their fancy car. Not needing to drive, sitting in a comfy leather seat and let the world go past… I haven’t enjoyed that since Arman left.
      Off we drove and drove, Jasmin and myself wondering where we were going, but somehow I had gotten used to these oriental “close by” locations that are really quite far, therefore I was not particularly worried.
      Eventually we arrived at a huge car park, cars parked in quite a distance form each other and in between were huge groups of robed men lounging on carpets smoking shisha or eating. I glanced about and found, we were the only women far and beyond.
      In no time a servant arrived with a wheelbarrow loaded with carpets and lounging cushions. He quickly spread the carpets on the ground beside the car, threw down the cushions and ready was our table. We needn’t wait long and the dinner was served. A huge plate filled with meat, goat this time, and rice. The water bowl to wash our hands made its rounds and we could start to eat. It was delicious!
      Poor Jasmin, only rice again with some onions, but at least this time the rice was not contaminated with meat juices.
      Thanks Gents, this was quite a Saudi experience in very pleasant company.
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    • Day 315

      A visit at the Post Office

      March 5, 2020 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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    • Day 389

      Alone in Al Baha

      May 18, 2020 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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    • Day 389

      Pinch me

      May 18, 2020 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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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Saudi-Arabien, Saudi Arabia, Saoedi-Arabië, ሳውድአረቢያ, Arabia Saudí, Saudisc Arabea, المملكة العربية السعودية, ܣܥܘܕܝܐ, Arabia Saudita, Saudi Ərəbistan, Саудаўская Аравія, Саудитска Арабия, Arabiya Sawudiya, সৌদি আরব, སཽ་དྷི་ཨ་རཱ་བི་ཡ།, Arabia Saoudat, Saudijska Arabija, Aràbia Saudita, Saudská Arábie, Sawdi-Arabia, སའུ་དི་ཨེ་ར་སྦི་ཡ, Saudi Arabia nutome, Σαουδική Αραβία, Sauda Arabio, Saudi Araabia, عربستان, Arabii Sawdit, Saudi-Arabia, Saudi-Arábia, Arabie saoudite, Arabie saoudita, Saûdy-Araabje, An Araib Shádach, સાઉદી અરેબિયા, Ƙasar Makka, ערב הסעודית, सऊदी अरब, Sawdi-Arabska, Arabi Sawoudit, Szaud-Arábia, Սաուդիան Արաբիա, Arab Saudi, Sádí-Arabía, サウジアラビア王国, საუდის არაბეთი, Saudi, Сауд Арабиясы, អារ៉ាប៊ីសាអ៊ូឌីត, ಸೌದಿ ಅರೇಬಿಯಾ, 사우디 아라비아, عەرەبستانی سەعوودی, Arabi Saoudek, Arabia Saudiana, Sawudarebya - Buwarabu, Alabi Sawuditɛ, ຊາອຸດິອາລະເບຍ, Saudo Arabija, Alabu Nsawudi, Saūda Arābija, Arabia saodita, Саудиска Арабија, സൗദി അറേബ്യ, सौदी अरब, Għarabja Sawdita, ဆော်ဒီအာရေးဗီးယား, साउदी अरब, Saudi-Arabië, ସାଉଦି ଆରବିଆ, Saudita Arabia, Arabia Saudyjska, سعودی عربستان, Arábia Saudita, Sawud Arabya, Arabiya Sawudite, Arabia Saudită, Саудовская Аравия, Arabbia Saudita, Saûdi Arabïi, සෞදි අරාබිය, Saudská Arábia, Saudova Arabija, Sacuudi Carabiya, Arabia Saudite, Саудијска Арабија, Saudiarabien, சவூதி அரேபியா, సౌదీ అరేబియా, Арабистони Саудӣ, ประเทศซาอุดีอาระเบีย, Arabyang Saudi, Saute ʻAlepea, Suudi Arabistan, سەئۇدى ئەرەبىستان, Саудівська Аравія, سعودی عرب, Ả-rập Xê-út (Saudi Arabia), Sauda-Larabän, Arabya Saudita, Orílẹ́ède Saudi Arabia, 沙特阿拉伯, i-Saudi Arabia

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