Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com Expat destinations off the beaten paths Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/wp-content/uploads/logo-2-161x150.png Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com 32 32 68156955 Tourism in Saudi – Dhee Ayn in the Baha Region http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/saudi-tourism-dhee-ayn-baha-region/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/saudi-tourism-dhee-ayn-baha-region/#comments Mon, 11 Sep 2017 16:39:48 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3873 Did someone actually say “Tourism in Saudi”? Is that even possible? Yes it is true that the country has been closed to tourists for many years but it is starting to open up…. slowly. OK very slowly but that doesn’t meant there is nothing to

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Did someone actually say “Tourism in Saudi”? Is that even possible? Yes it is true that the country has been closed to tourists for many years but it is starting to open up…. slowly. OK very slowly but that doesn’t meant there is nothing to see, quite the contrary.  Believe it or not, Saudi Arabia is a country with many hidden secrets and Dhee Ayn is one of them.

Dhee Ayn

Inside the ancient village

Over the last vacation, we decided to  finally explore this country and we opted for a road trip. Our main objective was to reach the Farasan Islands but as it is so far from Jeddah, we thought we would make use of the pit stops we would necessarily have to make to discover more than just one place. One of the planned pit stops was Dhee Ayn or the Marble Village as it is sometimes referred to. I chose this spot quite at random really. We had been invited to spend the night at a friend’s house near Baha and I simply looked on google maps for something interesting to see before we would arrive at our first destination. And I am very glad I picked Dhee Ayn. It turned out to be an incredible place, in many ways.

How to get to Dhee Ayn?

Let’s start with the location. Click HERE to access the google map pin and get some driving instructions from where you are. From Jeddah,  we followed the coastal highway –Route 5- to Mudhaylif, then the mountain road –Route 246- all the way to Dhee Ayn. This is the fastest and shortest way and it is very easy to get there this way. The other option via Route 15 may be more scenic but it is much longer. Also during the Hajj season, the roads around Makkah are blocked and you will have to make an even lengthier detour.

Dhee Ayn

Road 246 leading to Dhee Ayn is a mountain road.

What is Dhee Ayn?

Dhee Ayn is basically an old traditional Saudi village with houses built of flat stones using an ancient technique that required pretty much no mortar or cement. What makes Dhee Ayn even more interesting is that the entire village has been preserved! This is really unique because most, if not all, of the ancient village structures of Saudi Arabia have long since disappeared. Ancient houses and old villages have been destroyed to make room for newer constructions or have been left to crumble down. In fact, as you keep driving towards Baha, you will see many remains of old watch towers, houses and walls.

Only the people of Dhee Ayn seem to have understood the importance of preserving their history, their ancient craftsmanship, and some memories of time long gone. They all agreed to not only keep, but maintain all the old houses as well as the luxuriant gardens below the village in which they still grow bananas, lemons and basil among other things.

Dhee Ayn

Let’s start exploring. Up we go…

Is it worth it?

Totally. It is worth the long and tiring drive. It is totally worth the small entry fee. It is totally worth the leg cramps you’ll get from climbing to the top of the village. It is worth it big time! Just check out some of the pictures I took.

Dhee Ayn

Last bend before you arrive in the village. The view over the “Marble Village” is amazing.

Dhee Ayn

You start the climb into the village from the car park. A small hut offers cold bottles of water for sale. You WILL need them.

Dhee Ayn

View over the luxuriant gardens of palm trees, banana tress, lemon trees and aromatic herbs. The new village is visible in the distance.

Dhee Ayn

Visitors are allowed inside the ancient houses.

I also made these videos:

Baha Region (3) Baha Region (11) Baha Region (15) Dhee Ayn (2) Dhee Ayn (1)

After we finished walking around the village, climbed up to the highest house, went down to check out the two small waterfalls and the lush gardens, we stopped to picnic. They have set up some family size picnic “huts” with a clever car park space right next to each hut and a central playground area for children. The little huts are clean and shaded. Perfect picnic spot.

Dhee Ayn

Car park and picnic area

After that we went back on the road to our friend’s house near Baha. This time we took the scenic mountain road. Very long and difficult drive but OH MY GOD we were treated to the most spectacular views. Panoramic mountain scenes at every bend. We kept oooohhhhing and ahhhhhing all the way. The whole area around Baha is amazing and the road itself is worth the trip.

Dhee Ayn

View from the top of the mountain road on the way to Baha.

Dhee Ayn

Baboons live in those mountains and they often come to the side of the road hoping to get food.

We arrived late at our friend’s house and were received with the legendary Saudi hospitality. We were made to feel right at home and the whole family came to meet us. They even took us for a drive around the area. They knew the history of every small village and family. They showed us what we would have missed on our own. If you are lucky enough to know someone in the area, try to get an invite. It won’t be hard as it seems to be in the nature of Saudis to make people feel like welcomed guests. This would give you a different view of things and will make your trip even more amazing.

The next day, we left our hosts to continue our road trip. They recommended we keep following the scenic mountain road down. They call it the tunnel road because there are more than 20 tunnels. The road is spectacular but also dangerous in some places and it is better to avoid driving there at night, especially if you are new to the area and/or not used to mountain roads and their very sharp curves. We reached Abha a few hours later and there too, some surprises were waiting for us. But that’s another story…

Would you consider visiting Dhee Ayn? What else is on your Saudi bucket list? Let us know in the comments.

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10 Best Online Resources for Expats in Saudi http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/top-10-online-resources-for-expats-in-saudi/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/top-10-online-resources-for-expats-in-saudi/#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 12:39:56 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3803 Despite the Internet being widely available in Saudi Arabia to government agencies, businesses and individuals, I find that there are not enough online resources for expats, especially if you are non-Arabic speakers. You may have more luck on the Arabic web, but as an English

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Despite the Internet being widely available in Saudi Arabia to government agencies, businesses and individuals, I find that there are not enough online resources for expats, especially if you are non-Arabic speakers. You may have more luck on the Arabic web, but as an English speaker, you may find that very little online resources for expats is available.

Looking for opening hours of this or that place? They don’t have a website! or it was last updated in 2001! Want to discover the city and need tips on where to go? The tourism websites are a joke: no up-to-date info, no dates of events, no links to organizing bodies, no contact details. The results is a LOT of frustration and many many missed opportunities to discover Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a rich and varied country, with cultural, natural, and historical assets that go way beyond what you would imagine when first coming here. Yet, many expats end up living here and seeing nothing. I have been here more than 3 years now and I feel like I haven’t seen anything. Not that I didn’t try… but many times I made the trip, booked hotels, drove with the kids for hours only to find out that what we wanted to see was closed in the winter or that it was only open on the weekend or every Tuesday after 5pm…! It took me 2 years to finally visit one of the most famous museum in Jeddah. I know, right, ridiculous!  But don’t laugh, the vast majority of comments on Tripadvisor read something like that: “been living in Jeddah for 30 years and never knew that place existed!” or ” have drove past this place many times, never seen it open, didn’t know what it was!”.

The list below is not exhaustive of course but those 10 online resources for expats have helped me a lot over the years. These are my go-to places when I’m stuck. If you don’t know them already, check them out:

Immigration:

Saudi Ministry of Interior – aka Absher

online resources for expats online resources for expats

https://www.moi.gov.sa/wps/portal/Home/Home

There is no doubt that sooner or later, you’ll need to use this link. All your information is stored on the MoI portal and you can access it all. You will need first to register (there are a few steps to follow, including fingerprinting, but it’s easier than it sounds) then you will be able to complete many procedures online such as ordering visas, renewing your iqama (residence permit), adding children as dependents and much much more.

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs

online resources for expats online reources for expats

http://www.mofa.gov.sa/sites/mofaen

This could also be useful if you plan for instance to invite people in Saudi Arabia under a family visit visa. As you can see if you click on Ministry Services, there are loads of things that this site can help you with.

Visa Services

online resources for expats

Visa Validity Website

https://www.eserve.com.sa/VVSWeb/

Once you live in Saudi, you will need to apply for exit-reentry visas in order to leave the country and you may want to check on the status of your visa. This website is where you check whether your visa has been processed or not and how long it is valid for. Absolutely essential link. Save it somewhere!

Facebook Expat Groups

Of course, there are loads of them and you can simply google them. However, those 2 groups – along with their associated websites or blogs- have proved the most useful to me over the years.

Susie of Arabia Facebook Group

online resources for expats

Susie of Arabia Facebook group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/susieofarabia/

 It currently has over 17K members, all expats or future expats to Saudi Arabia. Many of them seem to be based in Jeddah, but the main cities of Riyadh and Dammam are also discussed regularly. No matter what you are looking for, simply ask in the group and someone is bound to have the answer. It is my number #1 go-to place for any specific questions about a place, opening times…. anything really. What is great about this group is that you get up-to-date answers to your questions.

Jeddah for Kids Blog (+ Facebook group)

online resources for expats

Jeddah for kids blog – Home page

https://jeddahforkids.wordpress.com/

If you have children in Jeddah, then you need to check out this blog. It has been running for many years and the people running it are very thorough in their research of anything kid-related in Jeddah. This means that they have long lists of places to keep the kids busy, schools, kid-friendly activities… Probably the most comprehensive website of the sort. They also have a Facebook group for specific request such as recommendations for a particular school or nursery.

Culture & Tourism

Saudi Tourism Official Website

online resources for expats online resources for expats

http://www.sauditourism.sa/en/Pages/default.aspx

I was happy to realize when I checked the link for this post that they have a brand new website design and layout (BETA version) and I do hope the new site will be more useful than the old one. Unfortunately, as tourism is just emerging in Saudi Arabia as an economic sector in its own right, the online infrastructure is still poor. The good new is that KSA is investing a lot as we speak to develop this sector and we should see some improvements in the near future.

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre (+ Facebook page)

online resources for expats

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre – Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/CulturalExchangeCenter

Located in central Jeddah, the centre is home to Arabic classes, cultural adaptation workshops, even an English language book-swap. They also have movie nights with children’s classics or documentaries on Saudi Arabia. They also organize trips and visits in and around Jeddah. Definitely worth checking them out once you’re settled a bit.

Tour Guides / Groups

Saudi Arabia is a country that has long been closed to tourism and as such it is not easy to explore it on your own. You will need the help of some guide or group to make the most of all the amazing sights this country has to offer. Be warned that those trips for expats don’t come cheap so plan ahead.

online resources for expats

Amazing Tours Website – Home page

http://www.amazingtours.info/

online resources for expats

NomadArabia Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/nomadarabia

Tripadvisor *Things to do in Jeddah* Page

online resources for expats

Tripadvisor Things to do in Jeddah page

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g295419-Activities-Jeddah_Makkah_Province.html

This is a bit of a given but you may very well be surprised to find some interesting place or activity to keep you and your family busy.

News in English

Saudi Gazette (+ Facebook page)

online resources for expats online resources for expats

https://www.facebook.com/SaudiGazette

I have to admit, I’m not the type of person who reads or watches the news seriously. Too much negativity for my taste but I do like to know roughly what’s going on. If you’re like me, then Saudi Gazette is perfect. You’ll get all the news of Saudi Arabia, you’ll hear about big news, official announcements from the King, changes in the law that could affect you as an expat and so on… Oh and they have those really funny cartoons that are usually spot on to describe cultural aspects of Saudi.

 

Like I said, this list is far from exhaustive but it should get you started and help you with many issues. However, if you know others, feel free to add the links in the comments.

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The Noodle House Jeddah – Restaurant Review http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-noodle-house-jeddah-restaurant-review/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-noodle-house-jeddah-restaurant-review/#comments Fri, 30 Jun 2017 05:00:01 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3824 One weekend,  I was supposed to go to Tahlia Street in Jeddah so I looked in my “The Entertainer” coupon book for some Asian restaurants and found The Noodle House Jeddah. I looked up a menu and reviews online. I was warned: “delicious but expensive”

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One weekend,  I was supposed to go to Tahlia Street in Jeddah so I looked in my “The Entertainer” coupon book for some Asian restaurants and found The Noodle House Jeddah. I looked up a menu and reviews online. I was warned: “delicious but expensive” but I thought with my BOGOF coupons it would be ok, so off we went.

Where is The Noodle House Jeddah?
Ground floor – Teatro Mall on Tahlia Street (aka Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz St)

When we arrived we saw a beautiful mall, truly lovely setting and the restaurant too was really nicely decorated, creating a peaceful, cosy place.

We asked to be seated in a family area and were taken towards the end of the restaurant (with a view over a backstreet with construction works). Seating is comfy on cushioned wooden benches and the space is quiet.

The menu are placed on the tables with funky noodle shaped pens to tick boxes to order what you want. First thing I noticed was that the prices were basically double what I had found online. We even considered leaving but the waiter arrived with cutlery and some kiddy colouring things. Waiter was polite and welcoming but a bit too pushy for my taste. He kept pushing the very pricey appetizers and salads and drinks on us.

the noodle house jeddah the noodle house jeddah

We ordered some main dishes of noodles (Pad Thai and chicken and prawns) as well as some spring rolls and prawns crackers and a large bottle of water. While we waited, the waiter brought an assortment of sauces and dips and explained what each one was and once again spent too much time at our table before leaving.

When the food arrived what we immediately noticed were the biiiiig plates and the smaaaaall portions. I mean when you pay an average of 80sar for a main dish, you expect to be full and we knew straight away that wouldn’t be the case. As for the taste: well it was “ok” nothing more. The noodles were nice but the prawns and chicken were hard to find and even harder to share as we had about 3 pieces each in our plate. Lots of a sort of fried egg thingy that we didn’t know would be there. All in all not impressed.

the noodle house jeddah

This is the main dish plate!!! Bonus point if you can spot a prawn. Magnifying glass not provided!

My husband was in a hurry to get out and forget about this place so we quickly asked for the check. The waiter once again tried to make us order some desserts (at insane prices you have guessed) and we refused.

The check came… and went back. For a total of 174sar we had calculated we owed (thanks to our BOGOF coupon) we were charged instead 380sar including some drinks we certainly never ordered. We had told them from the minute we sat down we would be using our BOGOF coupons and they had said fine but the reduction didn’t appear on the bill. They of course rectified the check but we were left with a bitter taste anyway. As if charging us too much for tiny portions wasn’t enough!!! They also inflated our bills (mistake or not we are not sure).

In conclusion: if you’re looking for a hype and trendy place to celebrate an occasion, some fancy place to impress a loved one and you don’t care about value for money then by all means, The Noodle House Jeddah is perfect. If you’re hungry for Asian food and/or on a budget then forget about it. You’d need 150+ sar per person to eat well ( and enough).

Will I go again? Nope. Once was enough. I like nice restaurants and I’m happy to pay the price for really nice food and service but this felt like it was all wrong and a bit of a ‘rip of’ to be polite.

Have you been to the Noodle House? What was it like for you?

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Fun Facts #7 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-7-expat-stories/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-7-expat-stories/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 14:23:34 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3801 There are some things about living abroad that you can never learn from a book or even from checking for facts online.Expat stories are the way to really get to know about expat life. It can take months, years even, to realize how things really

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There are some things about living abroad that you can never learn from a book or even from checking for facts online.Expat stories are the way to really get to know about expat life. It can take months, years even, to realize how things really work and to understand practices that may appear strange to newcomers or foreigners. I always like to select the funniest ones to share with you guys.

Get ready for some giggles and don’t forget: everything is TRUE!

Fun Fact #1: What’s in a name?

If you live in a Muslim country or get to spend time with Muslims, you may well be aware that the name “Mohammed” is probably the most common name given to Muslim baby boys. In Saudi Arabia, you will meet a lot of boys and men named Mohammed (spelling may vary). This leads to a very common practice here in KSA whereby people trying to get the attention of a male stranger (usually at the shop, the restaurant and other public places) will simply call out “Ya Mohammed”. It doesn’t matter that the man in question might be wearing a name tag, he will often be addressed as Mohammed. Listen for it next time you’re in a food court for instance.

expat stories

Ya Mohammed!

Fun Fact #2: The “shop and stock” technique

OK! I admit, there is no such technique. I just made the name up. But the practice is very real! When you shop in Saudi Arabia, you should get into the habit of stocking up whatever goods you really like. Think wartime stockpiling. It so happens that common goods tend to disappear off the shelves without any warning. You buy your favorite brand of strawberry jam every week for months and then suddenly you don’t find it in the shop that week. Neither the following week. Not even in another shop. You keep looking, you keep hoping… but it’s no good. For reasons unknown, the product will no longer be sold in Saudi Arabia! There you go. No more jam (this is true for almost everything) for you! If you’re a creature of habit or a fussy eater/shopper, this is bound to drive you mad.

expat stories

Better safe than hungry

Fun Fact #3: Lost in translation

Yes again! So many expats could tell you stories about translation mistakes. Please people with broken English, please, pretty please keep writing signs!

Here is my latest find. Seen in Balad in one of those narrow alley.

expat stories

Anyone interested?

Fun Fact #4: Good sense

Like many modern countries, Saudi Arabia is a consumer society… maybe even more so than most countries. Saudi people also have ancestral traditions towards food and serving guests and many travelers are accustomed with “Arab hospitality”. The downside of this is the huge food waste that happens on a daily basis. Finally, a large scale solution is now offered to people visiting the food court of all the Arabian Centers malls such as the Al Salaam Mall or the Haifa Mall. You will now be able to leave your untouched food in one of those “Rescue Fridges”. There are usually more than one in each food court, so next time you don’t finish your food, don’t leave it on the table or throw it in the bin. Instead look for one of those and do something good!

expat stories

Picture taken recently in the AlSalaam Mall. Look out for them…

Fun Fact #5: Customer service

via GIPHY

Enough said…

So which one of those do you like best? Have you encountered funny signs or practices during your travels? Share the fun in the comments please…

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Best Restaurants in Jeddah http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/best-restaurants-in-jeddah/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/best-restaurants-in-jeddah/#comments Sat, 15 Apr 2017 14:44:58 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3760 Ok that’s always gonna be a very personal choice but in the 2 years I’ve been here, there are a handful of restaurants that I always long to return to and I want to share those with you. Jeddah is full of restaurants of all

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  • Ok that’s always gonna be a very personal choice but in the 2 years I’ve been here, there are a handful of restaurants that I always long to return to and I want to share those with you. Jeddah is full of restaurants of all kinds, for all tastes, and for every budget and no matter what your favorite food is, you’re sure to find a restaurant for it in Jeddah.  A quick look online will give you hundreds of options and with new restaurants opening up every so often, the choice is almost unlimited.
  • My three favorite places to eat are quite different. I can’t name ONE the best so in no particular order, here are my best restaurants in Jeddah:

    The Palm Garden / Al Nakheel 

    Al Nakheel is a Middle-Eastern type of restaurant located in the North of Jeddah, on the Corniche. It is a really big place and most of the dining areas are outdoors which is one of the reason I love it so much. They have those big traditional outdoor “sofas”, it is comfortable and it feels great to be outdoors rather than in one of those AC-freezing restaurants.

    The food is mainly Middle-Eastern / Mediterranean . The menu is not very big but all their dishes are excellent. You can really see that they use fresh products, everything is made fresh (including their delicious bread). The seafood is excellent and highly recommended. I also love their lasagna: it’s got a nice creamy pasta taste but with a Middle-Eastern twist to it. Surprising but totally delicious. Don’t forget some Moroccan tea at the end.

    This is not a fast food or budget restaurant but neither is it expensive. I would recommend this restaurant for eating out once in a while or if you have guests you want to take out for dinner. There is no need to book ahead (unless it is Eid or another special day of the year), and every time we have been there, we have been pleased with everything from the setting, the food, and the service.

    Side note: There is a small playground for children with slides, trampolines, and bouncy castles (you need to pay for that), as well as prayer rooms (including for ladies).  The bathrooms are clean and well maintained.

    Orient Pearl Restaurant

    Now this is one of the best restaurants in Jeddah and a little hidden gem that I’m sure only a few people know about. Indeed, if we hadn’t been guided there one night by a stranger, we would have never found it. It is not on the road, and the little sign to indicate it’s there is easily missed. You got to go to the Corniche Market (not the big Corniche Center, not the shopping mall) and climb the stairs to the second floor. Don’t be put off by the fact that most shops are closed or that you have to use what looks like maintenance stairs. I can guarantee you won’t regret it. You can ask anyone of the shop/stall keepers for the Indonesian restaurant, THEY know exactly what you mean and will help you find it.

    The restaurant serves all kinds of Asian food, mainly Indonesian style. The servers are friendly and polite and will help you choose among the many delicacies offered on the menu. Everything we have tried so far has been delicious. The products are fresh and cooked perfectly. I highly recommend the seafood in their various presentations. The mixed fried rice is a must, and so is their Tam yam Soup. I don’t usually like soup but this one is irresistible. If you’d like a refreshing drink, order a pitcher of their iced tea, you won’t be disappointed.

    The price range is very reasonable for a once-in-a-while dining or when you fancy eating out with friends or guests.

    best restaurant in Jeddah best restaurant in Jeddah

    Side note: The restaurant is quite large and they often hold (wedding) parties there. There is one screened off sitting area for more privacy and even a separate room to eat in with a large group. The view over the seafront over Al Balad is very nice. The bathrooms are basic but clean.

    best restaurant in Jeddah

    View from the Pearl Orient Restaurant over the main road of Balad. Even more beautiful at night

    Applebees  (Salaam Mall)

    OK this is a little more conventional but still one of the best restaurants in Jeddah. Located in the food court on the top floor of the Salaam Mall (also available in the Red Sea Mall, the Mall of Arabia and others), the Applebees restaurant serves high-end American, Tex-Mex food that is simply amazing.

    I keep going back again and again for the food, the impeccable service and the sheer friendliness of the staff. I highly recommend the salads, the burgers (a world away from fast food burgers) and my all time favorites: the cocktails! Try the banana and mango smoothie; it is to die for… well maybe not but once you try it you’ll crave it! I really like that they easily accept to make small changes to the dishes: you can request a different dressing, more or less spices, a specially made mix of fruit juices… they will accommodate. And with a smile!

    best restaurant in Jeddah best restaurant in Jeddah

    Prices vary depending on your order obviously and it will be more expensive than the other food outlets in the food court but still quite reasonable for a really delicious meal. Mind that ordering steaks and other meat dish will seriously increase the total bill but it’ll be worth it.

    Side note: Ask them about special promotion days and offer. One time, our 2 kids ate free with our adult meal orders. They also have special promotions during some days of the week.

    This list is totally personal and far from exhaustive. Add your favorite place in the comment…

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    The Problem with Jeddah Schools http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/jeddah-schools/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/jeddah-schools/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:10:28 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3737 Jeddah Schools. I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while now. Indeed, it completely baffles me how hard it is to find a children’s school in Jeddah. When we were in Libya just after the revolution in 2012, we were expecting to have

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    Jeddah Schools.

    I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while now. Indeed, it completely baffles me how hard it is to find a children’s school in Jeddah. When we were in Libya just after the revolution in 2012, we were expecting to have troubles finding a decent school for our kids. It turned out it was very easy and we found amazing schools in Misurata and Zawia. When we moved to Jeddah, we never ever imagined it was going to be a nightmare! Not in a million years did we imagine that Jeddah, the 2nd largest city in a huge and rich country like Saudi Arabia, would be giving us any trouble.

    Jeddah Schools

    Super cool school bus in Misurata, Libya

    Schooling young children is proving to be a huge challenge. Not just for me but for every parents I have talked to. Basically, while Jeddah has tons of schools of various kinds (Saudi schools, International schools, religious schools…) it is far from easy to get your kids into them.

    There are so many constraints such as transportation, costs, waiting lists, entry exams, languages, location… Jeddah is a very big city, that spreads over 70 or more Kilometers from north to south. Depending on where you live, you may have to send your children far away to school. Some school offer a school bus for children who live close to the school, but of course you have to pay for that and it is quite expensive. And if you live far, not only will it be (very) expensive, but children will need to be picked up quite early in the morning. My children currently have to wake up at 5am every day so that they can be at school on time to start lessons with their class.

    It’s crazy!

    I can hear you… “why is she sending them so far?” Well, it’s not that simple. Where I live, they are only local private Saudi schools. We tried them last year and it was a disaster. The level was basically 2 years below what my boys were supposed to learn. Out of 5 hours of school, only about 1 hour was dedicated to learning, the rest was for various activities and playing. To give you a concrete example: when my oldest was 5 years old, the program for maths for a WHOLE YEAR was the numbers from 1 to 20. That’s it!!! The level for literacy was not better as he was only supposed to learn the letters of the alphabet. My child himself could feel it was all wrong, and he would come back from school everyday, totally dejected that nothing exciting or challenging had been offered to him. We got them out of there after only one semester and they went back to being home schooled.

    If transportation or the education level is not an issue, then there is often the challenge of meeting the huge financial demands imposed by Jeddah schools. Between registration fees, monthly fees, school material fees, uniform fees (I was asked to pay 500sar for 2 polo T-shirts), educational outings fees and so on… many families are left with a very limited number of options to choose from. Many schools are simply too expensive. I know, I have a good salary but still, the cost of private education in Jeddah is very very high. And in case you’re wondering, government schools in Saudi Arabia are only opened to Saudi children.

    If these are not a problem for you, you’ll still have to work around the waiting lists (up to 2 years for some popular British or American International schools). Some international schools have entry exams and only admit the top children. Some even base their waiting lists on results of such exams. So parents can never really know if or when their kids will be able to get in. That is so hard when you have a 4 or 5 years old. How are they supposed to deal with the pressure or understand what is at stake? Finally, if you are not sending your children to  a Saudi private school, you need to chose a “language school”. Jeddah has got LOADS of possibilities in that regards. If you wish to register your child in an English speaking school, you’ll have loads of options, but it turns out we don’t want an English school as we are headed (as some of you know) to Tunisia next so our children must become fluent in Arabic and/or French. Yep, you gotta add that the list of factors to consider when you choose a school.

    Basically, it’s not a piece a cake. And then when you have finally registered them, be prepared for a very different approach to parent-school communication. They don’t seem to understand that parents must be informed of things that happen. They sometimes also forget to ask for permission for very important things (such as vaccination – true story!). You will need to be very patient with the teachers or you will simply lose your mind.

    A nightmare!

    Insider’s Tip:

    If you’re looking for a school for your kids and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend this blog/Facebook page. It is called Jeddah for Kids and for many years, they have worked very hard to list everything regarding kids and families in Jeddah. This is their list of private and international Jeddah schools on their website: https://jeddahforkids.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/private-schools-in-jeddah/

    For their Facebook page and support group, click the picture below:

    Jeddah schools

    Click to visit their Facebook page

    It is annoying to think that finding a school was easy in Libya. It is unsettling to think that it would be easy for us in Tunisia. You have no idea how many times we talk about moving to Tunisia for the boys. And when I think that next year, the fees will be even more expensive, and that they will rise every year… really makes me think hard. I actually know a few families who have left Saudi Arabia because of the problem of Jeddah schools. And who knows… maybe this is what will push us out too. That or the many other measures that Saudi Arabia is currently implementing against expats.

    Have you had any problems finding a school in Saudi Arabia? What is your solution for schooling children abroad?

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    10 Tips to Spot an Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/10-expat-facts/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/10-expat-facts/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:29:05 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=635 What is an expat, a traveller, an immigrant… everyone has their own definition of those words, but here are some aspects of our Serial Expat lives which, while they may not define who we are completely, gives you an idea of how we live. If

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    What is an expat, a traveller, an immigrant… everyone has their own definition of those words, but here are some aspects of our Serial Expat lives which, while they may not define who we are completely, gives you an idea of how we live. If you’re considering taking the plunge and moving abroad, either for long term travels or as an expat, you’ll probably become familiar with at least some of the following totally weird but all too common expat facts:

    1* Where are you these days?

    Conversations with family and friends sometimes start with “which country are you in?” Honestly, some of our family and friends sometimes have a hard time keeping up with our travels and current location. You can’t blame them, really. Just think, I travel on average to 3 or 4 different countries every year and over the summer holidays, it can be 3 countries within a month.Those are the main countries I’ve lived in and visited regularly since 2012:

    serial expat expat facts expat facts serial expat expat facts expat facts

     

    2* What’s Your Address?

    I don’t have an address to put on forms or give to family. I use some friends’ address and FAO all the time when a bank or something like that asks for an address. An old friend (old= known him for a very long time + he is now past 80 years old) once told me that he had to buy a new address book (see i told you he was old) just for me. He used to send me holiday cards every year around Xmas, but he crossed out and amended my address so many times he ran out of space. I’m sure many expats can relate. Other friends have (jokingly) suggested I buy a camper van as it would suit me better than a house.

    3* Where is Home Anyway?

    The other day, I saw a poll online asking people where they felt safer, whether it was in their current location or “back home”. That got me thinking. Not about safety or security but about the concept of “back home”. What is back home, if like me, you keep moving forward? “Back home” is a concept that is only declined in the present tense for me, the here and now is Home. Wherever I decide to drop my suitcase is home. Where I live, where I work, where my kids go to school is home. The rest? The other countries I’ve been to and lived in? I guess we can call that background, a part of my history and something that shaped the person I am today, but none of those are Home or “back home” since I have no plan to move back to any of them. I’m still not 100% sure where I’ll be in a month time but most likely it won’t be Home forever either. We are already talking about at least another 2 countries we may move to in the future.

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    My oldest son was 3 years old in this picture. That suitcase is gone. He’s got a bigger one now…

    4* Time Zones

    It is sometimes difficult to remember the exact time in all the countries where my family and friends are, so my computer shows 5 different world clocks at the moment. After I’ve skyped people in the middle of the night or at 5 o’clock in the morning, I decided it would be bad for my relationships if I kept doing it. On top of that, when you are job hunting internationally, having all the world clocks right there on your screen makes it easier to schedule interviews and so on.

    serial expat

    5* International Dialing Codes

    You can easily spot an expat by looking at their phones. In my phone, all the phone numbers are listed with the international dialing codes, even the local ones: they won’t be local forever. Before becoming a serial expat, I had trouble remembering international dialing codes. Now it’s like currencies and exchange rate, I know quite a lot by heart.

    6* Currency Converter

    It is quite common for people to have at home a little box with some coins and notes gathered from traveling abroad, and of course I have one too. In fact, mine came in really handy not too long ago.

    Shortly after starting work in Libya, we found ourselves waiting and waiting for that first salary to come in. Having just moved in town, our expenses were many so we were totally counting on our salaries to keep us going. Unfortunately, those didn’t come and we found ourselves completely broke, with a capital B! So we thought “money is money”, no matter where it comes from. We started looking everywhere around the house for notes and coins and gathered quite a lot of them from Bahrein, Qatar, England, France, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia… My husband went to town to try to exchange the money into Libyan Dinars. Well, what do you know? They accepted ALL our money (even coins) and we ended up living on the money for a week. Not bad, right?

    Ohhh and next time you need a currency converter, ask your expat friends. Living abroad, and keeping relationships going in many different countries means that I also know quite a few currency exchange rates from memory. I also currently have bank accounts in four different countries that I keep just enough money in to keep open. It helps when travelling there: I can simply transfer some money that I can withdraw on arrival.

    7* TCK (Third Culture Kid)

    Talk about TCK, my children are somewhere at the fourth or fifth level by now. I was born in France, my husband in Tunisia. My oldest child was born in England where he lived just over 2 years before moving to Libya with us. My youngest son was born in France, where he lived for only 2 weeks before we took him back to the UK where we were living at the time. He turned 1 year old in the UK, 2 years old during our holidays in Tunisia after we had moved to Libya. Who knows where my children will be next time they have a birthday?

    As for languages, well, English is our main language at home: first language for my children and second language for my husband and I. Outside the home, since we live in Saudi Arabia, Arabic is the main language here (Arabic is the lingua-franca in Libya too), my children’s second language and my husband’s first. The children currently attend a Franco-Tunisian International school, where they learn English as a foreign language. Finally, our holidays are often split between France, where French is the main language, and Tunisia, where the Arabic spoken is quite different from the one they picked up in Libya and the one spoken here in Saudi.

    I gotta say I feel totally blessed that I can offer this to my kids and I consider it one of the best gift I could ever give them.

    serial expat

    Libyan school in Zawia

    8* Long Term Friendships

    I’m not the right kinda friend if you want me by your side every day, that’s for sure. But I am very loyal in friendship and no matter the distance or the years in between our meetings, I’m the kinda friend that never forgets you. Living a life of travel has many advantages but keeping strong long-distance relationships is not always easy. It takes the right kind of friends and of course social medias. I still have the same friends I met in my first year of university, the friends I met along the road in all the different countries are still my friends but of course I don’t get to see them much. Last summer was incredible as I got to visit France after a 2 year gap, and my old gal pals from uni were kind enough to fit me in their schedules so we could meet and spend some amazing time together. One of them I hadn’t seen in 5 years, the other in 15 years!!! And you know what? It was like those years had never happened! We laughed, and talked, and joked just like we had done the last time we were together.

    Making friends and keeping them is one of the most difficult part of socializing as a serial expat. The fact that we move so much, that we start again from scratch many times means that when we meet new people, we know from the start that this new relationship has a (often short) use-by-date. I think maybe we have less friends than other people but I think our friendships are much more intense and strong. With our families, the relationship can sometimes be awkward as we miss so much of what makes family life: we are not always there for celebrations, births, weddings and all. They cannot always relate to us anymore because our daily lives are so different but all this means nothing if people keep an open heart and an open mind. The gap can be filled quite quickly and the little time you get to spend with your loved ones is ever more intense and amazing that if you saw them everyday. There is no boredom, no pretense or “love-you-by-habit” between us and that’s pretty good for sure.

    9* Tell me What you Own and I’ll Tell you Who You Are

    What does it say about me that I currently own more suitcases/travel bags than pieces of furniture. Honestly at one point in my life in Libya, I had at least 7 suitcases packed in just one room and only 2 pieces of furniture: a mattress (no bed) and a “wardrobe” put together with sticks and some kind of cloth. I guess it means I am not ready to settle just yet but I do love some comfort in my life. Suitcase or Wardrobe? That’s a really tough choice to make for someone like me.

    serial expat

    Trained from the youngest age

    I don’t own much (that’s freedom too by the way) as travelling tend to teach people that experiences are worth more than possessions. Besides, what’s the point of buying everything if you are going to leave it behind? I prefer to wait until the day I settle down for good. In the meantime, most of what I own and cherish is stocked up by my friends and family in different countries. I have some boxes of books and papers in Zawia, Libya, my parents in France are keeping a few things and in Tunisia, my husband’s family is storing all the things we moved from Libya when we left in 2014. Some days, I can’t wait to have a house to get all my stuff together again in one place, most days I don’t think much about it. Do you know what I miss the most? My books! I’m a bookworm, I love reading, I love books but with my lifestyle, I couldn’t keep buying books as it used to break my heart to part with them. For now, I make it do with reading on a Kindle but building up and stocking a proper library is somewhere at the top of my list once I move into a house-for-keep.

    10* Treasured Possession

    The one thing that I own and that I cherish above all is my passport. It is the key to my lifestyle and the key to freedom as far as I am concerned. Unlike some people, I know exactly where my passport is, when it expires and how many blank pages are left on it (not much). My kids have had passports from the youngest age. My oldest had one made when he was 2 months old so we could take him with us on a trip to Cairo, while the youngest had his passport made when he was ONE WEEK OLD. In fact, when we took him to the photographer for his ID picture, the poor guy didn’t know how to handle it: It was the first time in his career that he had to take ID pictures for a 5 days old baby!

     

    Expat life is made of up and downs like everyone else’s but I wouldn’t change it. When I look back at all the things I’ve learnt abroad, how it all shaped me into the person I am today… yeah I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.

    Who can relate? What would you add to this list? Does this all sound scary or exciting?

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    Fun Facts #6 – Life in Saudi Arabia http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-6-life-in-saudi-arabia/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/fun-facts-6-life-in-saudi-arabia/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 04:00:55 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3630 A lot has been written about Makkah; Islam’s Holiest City, but some things you can only find by yourself. And this is what expat life in Saudi Arabia can give you: true insight into a culture that is not well known. Here is what I have discovered about

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    A lot has been written about Makkah; Islam’s Holiest City, but some things you can only find by yourself. And this is what expat life in Saudi Arabia can give you: true insight into a culture that is not well known. Here is what I have discovered about Makkah:

    #1 – The ClockTower

    The famous building called the ClockTower has been designed with many useful features in mind. The first one is to help people travelling in and around Makkah to easily locate the Kabaa in the Holy Mosque. Indeed, the ClockTower is so tall that it can be seen anywhere within the city of Makkah and even further away, like in Mina for instance. People performing Hajj (the Muslim Pilgrimage to Makkah) will necessarily make a stop at what is known in Arabic as the Jamarat (the Stoning Pillars). There, after casting their stones against the three large pillars, they will take a few minutes to remember God and ask for His blessings and forgiveness. Muslims like to offer supplications in the direction of the Kabaa and at the Jamarat, nothing is easier since the ClockTower can clearly be seen, day and night, just beyond the mountains as can be seen in the picture below:

    life in saudi arabia

    Day or night, the ClockTower (on the top left hand corner in the picture) makes it easy for people to locate the direction of prayer. Picture taken in Mina.

    Another one of its features, that I only recently discovered, is to announce the time of prayers. I have been to Makkah many times since I moved to Saudi almost 2 years ago now, but it’s only a few weeks ago, as I was waiting for the night prayer on the ground floor of the Holy Mosque, that I noticed that the top part of the ClockTower was actually glowing a deep shade of green during the whole time of the Adhaan (call for prayer). It then occurred to me that it was another way to tell people that the time for prayer was getting close. Not sure why this additional feature since the Adhaan is really loud and the traditional way to call Muslims to prayer.

    life in saudi arabia

    The whole ClockTower is illuminated at night.

    #2 – Inside Masjid Al Haraam

    It is walked on by literally millions of feet every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can be sure that when they built the floor of the Holy Mosque, they put some serious though into it. Do you know that there is a cooling system underneath the white marble tiles? Indeed, the white tiles, which also helps to define the limits of the mosque’s ground, are never hot. And that’s saying something in a city where temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius all year long! Since Muslims take off their shoes to enter the mosque, and that circumbulating the Holy Kabaa is done in the scorching sun of Makkah, the cold floor comes as a real blessing. Indoors, they also have AC and huge fans every meters or so. Those can also send a very refreshing spray of cool water in the air. Basically, don’t worry about visiting Makkah, summer or winter, you won’t be bothered by the heat as much as you would imagine.

    life in saudi arabia

    The limit of the mosque’s floor is unmistakable thanks to the white tiles

    The white color also serves another purpose; that of making it easy for pilgrims to know when they are stepping onto the mosque’s floor. It is customary for Muslims to remove their shoes upon entering a mosque. In Makkah, the mosque is both indoors and outdoors, which would be confusing if it were not for the white tiles.

    While it is fairly well known that the floor is kept cool, did you know that the floor is also perfumed? I already knew that the giant cloth covering the Kabaa (called Kiswaa in Arabic) was sprayed with perfume regularly and that this is what people can smell when going close to the Kabaa but it wasn’t until my most recent trip to Makkah just a few weeks ago that I discovered that the floor is also sprayed with that same perfume. I was sitting on my praying mat on the ground floor of the mosque, a few minutes before Sunset prayer, when men arrived and sprayed some perfume just in front of me on the floor. The distinctive smell immediately became obvious and I was very pleased to noticed when I got home that my praying mat had retained some of that fragrance.

    #3 – A New Train for 2017?

    A brand new train line is currently being built to link the two Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The train is actually already operational as we speak (December 2016) but it is not open to the public yet. They have made test runs, and some dignitaries have been allowed to ride the train but it is not quite ready for public use as some stations still need to be completed. What’s the big deal about a train you ask? Well, for one, it is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. It won’t just be a train, but a bullet train that will allow people to travel between Makkah and Madinah in about 90 minutes!!! It’s a 475km journey which currently takes about 5 to 6 hours by car. So yes, a 90 minutes ride will be totally welcome and will make life in Saudi Arabia much easier for a lot of people, as it means that the trip to Madinah could be done in just one day instead of a weekend (big savings on hotel nights and all).

    #4 – No Jokes Please

    I’ve always enjoyed the ‘lost in Translation’ situations and foreign signs are always great fun. I have recently spotted those and while the translation is OK (I assume, as I can’t read the other 2 languages apart from the English) it’s the silliness of the sign itself that made me laugh. I couldn’t help but ask myself why there was a need to put up this sign? And in three languages? Are people so dumb that they don’t know how to use a toilet?

    life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia

    To stay on the same topic (I don’t think I have ever talked about toilets so much and it’s probably the last time), you might be surprised, the first time you use the bathrooms in the malls, to hear a bathroom assistant ask you, in Arabic ” ‘arabi aw kursi?” That means that she is giving you the choice between “kursi“: a toilet cubicle with a toilet seat (western style) or “‘arabi” a sqating toilet, very popular in this part of the world. Now you know…

    #5 – Size Matters

    If you’ve been following this blog, you may know that life in Saudi Arabia and shopping in particular can be somewhat frustrating. Be warned! When you buy shoes in Saudi Arabia, you had better double check the size. No matter that you have been wearing a size 38 or 5 all your life. In Jeddah, you may need a 39 or 40… you never know. Shoe sizes don’t seem to be consistent at all. I have no idea why this is, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that your usual size will fit you. The same goes for clothes. I recently bought 5 house dresses, all the same size… on the label that is, because in reality two are my size, one is larger than I expected and two are way too small for me and have now been given away.

    Another issue is that salespeople tend to be quite lazy. If you ask for a different size, they’d rather try and convince you that what you are holding/looking at is perfect for you, rather than actually move around the shop to get you the size you need. Believe me it’s true. Happened to me a few times. I now have an abaya that is too small for me and that I never wear. And if I had listened to that one guy at the shoe shop, I would now be wearing a size 43 pair of shoes instead of my usual 39!!! Yep the guy handed me a pair of size 43 shoes and when I asked for a size 39, he tried to convince me there was no need, that 43 would be just fine. It’s only when I stood up to leave that he reluctantly moved his a** to go get me a size 39!

    Now I know! I never buy anything without double checking 🙂

    Do you have any funny anecdotes from back home or from your travels? What is the funniest things you have seen recently? Share in the comments so we can all have a good laugh.

     

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    Expat and Muslim in India http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-india/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-india/#comments Sat, 29 Oct 2016 15:23:48 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3522 India is notoriously difficult to define or understand, so perhaps more than in other reviews, this piece is a reflection on my experiences rather than an overall judgment of the nation. India is, in theory, a pluralistic, democratic and secular state where the population is

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    India is notoriously difficult to define or understand, so perhaps more than in other reviews, this piece is a reflection on my experiences rather than an overall judgment of the nation.

    India is, in theory, a pluralistic, democratic and secular state where the population is overwhelmingly Hindu, but at least 14% are Muslim. This may sound like a small percentage, but with an overall population estimated at around 1.2 billion, this means around 180 million Muslims. Not surprisingly, Muslims feature heavily in the national psyche, and some of India’s most famous icons (such as the Taj Mahal) were built by Muslims.

    expat and muslim in india

    Taj Mahal, Agra

    Islam in India

    Islam was first introduced to India in the 7th century AD, when Arab merchants intrigued the locals of southern India with their faith. In the 8th Century Arab invaders crashed into the northwest of India, in the area now known as Sindh, a province of Pakistan. These two events (and the histories that followed) shaped the experience of Islam in India today; in the south, people see Islam as being woven into the local fabric of life, a sense of ‘adopted’ religion, while in the north, it’s not uncommon to hear of Islam referred to as somehow foreign, and ‘forced’ upon the locals.

    Whatever the perception, Islam is undoubtedly central to the idea of the modern Indian identity. Gandhi himself is known to have taken inspiration from, and to have held admiration for the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and many of his family. One of India’s scheduled languages, Urdu, is a kind of Persianised Hindi, written in a modified Arabic script to aid recitation of the Quran for young learners. Music and films often lovingly hark back to the lavish, cultured Mughal Empire, the Muslim dynasty that ruled parts India for centuries.

    No discussion of Islam in India would be complete without mentioning Sufism, the mystical practice of Islam, that largely aided the spread of Islam in the region. Sufi practice was quickly adopted by many, perhaps due to its parallels with existing Indian philosophy and spiritual practice.

    India has also been the crucible for much Sufi thought, and thousands of shrines exist to pay tribute to these spiritual philosophers. In such a diverse and broad community, it’s inevitable that other groups would emerge, including Bohra, Khoja and Ahmadiyya, all with their own understanding of Islamic teachings.

    Expat and Muslim in India

    Being expat in India (particularly a white-skinned expat) is an identity unto itself – I was afforded special treatment while there, and religion was never really part of the discussion. I guess it was assumed that I must have been living a lavish life where God played no large role.

    I occasionally had to explain to people that I was Muslim, or that my Hindi was inflected with certain Arabic words because it wasn’t Hindi at all – it was Urdu, the language of Muslim India. The reactions I would get were usually accepting, but uninterested. I got the feeling that was the general feeling towards Muslims from non-Muslims; “it’s fine to be Muslim, but I’m not, so no need to talk about it!” On one occasion I was told to say the Hindi “danyavad” for thank you, instead of the Urdu “shukriya”, because “this is India, and we hate Muslims”, but this was on just one occasion, and it didn’t escalate into anything more. I wonder if he would have said that, had he known I’m Muslim.

    Additionally, there seems to be an assumption in some quarters that a white Muslim is simply a typical foreigner going on a temporary spiritual experience while on holidays (like so many do). I got this feeling from some people (who thought Islam was my “interest”), including men at mosques, who talked to me like they had “seen it all before”.

    On the whole though, my experience of being expat and Muslim in India was one of being left alone, to “do my thing”, and not given much attention other than for the fact that I was a white-skinned foreigner.

    Jama Masjid seen from Meena Bazaar, Delhi

    Jama Masjid seen from Meena Bazaar, Delhi

    Being Muslim in India is…

    I often hear various slogans expressed about Muslims in India; “they’re free”, “they’re just as Indian as anyone else”, “they’re persecuted”, “they’re restricted”, “they’re oppressed”. All of them are true to some extent, however the level of acceptance or oppression seems to depend on a variety of elements, including level of society, level of education, region, city, part of the city, and the political climate of the time. Very occasionally discrimination flares into violence, although considering the demographics, this is less of an occurrence than the media would have us believe.

    Sometimes India could be the easiest place on earth to be Muslim, because the number of Muslims and the lack of government diktat on religion allows each person to explore the religion themselves. Halal food is widely available and religious holidays like Eid are protected and celebrated. However, without the backing of a community, Muslims may find themselves discriminated against in Hindu-dominated areas.

    On balance, it’s safe to say that being Muslim in India is a widely varied and complex experience, and there is probably one different definition for each Indian Muslim that exists.

     

    Thank you very much Tim for sharing your experience and helping us understand the Islamic culture of India a little better. To find out more about Tim’s expat experiences, travels and awesome photography, go over to his blog Urban Duniya.

     

    More Expat and Muslim stories HERE.  I would love to hear about other countries, so if you’d like to share your experience as an expat and Muslim get in touch right now!

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    What to Wear in Jeddah http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/what-to-wear-in-jeddah/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/what-to-wear-in-jeddah/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2016 13:54:10 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3577 Everybody knows Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and we have all seen pictures of Saudi women, clothed from head in toes in black, their eyes the only visible part of their body. Jeddah is supposedly a ‘liberal’ city compared to the capital Riyadh,

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    Everybody knows Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country and we have all seen pictures of Saudi women, clothed from head in toes in black, their eyes the only visible part of their body. Jeddah is supposedly a ‘liberal’ city compared to the capital Riyadh, but I would take this with a major pinch of salt. Men and women, Muslims and non Muslims still need to adopt a conservative style while in the Kingdom. Nobody expects foreigners to dress like locals, still most expats in Saudi Arabia tend to ‘blend in’ clothe-wise. While officers of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (known as the Hai’a) are much less intrusive in Jeddah than in Riyadh, it is still best to err on the side on conservatism.

    Before we start here is a quick glossary, so you know what we are talking about throughout this article. A big thank you to Nancy Abaya for providing pictures of ladies’ outfits. Nancy Abaya is a well known shop in Jeddah so you can shop there (you can shop online too, they ship worldwide) without any worry, you’ll be spot on!

    This is what men wear in Jeddah. I also recommend you check out this very interesting article on the traditional clothes of men in Saudi Arabia.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Traditional headgear worn by men in Saudi Arabia.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Saudi men of all ages typically wear a white thobe and a head cloth (red or white) to protect them for the scorching sun of Jeddah.

     

    This is what women typically wear in Jeddah: A long black abaya (a loose over-dress), a hijab (head scarf) or shayla (a long gausy kind of headscarf) and a niqab (face veil) which is optional, even for Muslim women.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Most Saudi women wear a black abaya, a headscarf and a face veil.

    wear in Jeddah

    A niqab is a face veil. Only the eyes are visible. Most Muslim Saudi women wear the niqab.

    wear in Jeddah

    The shayla is a kind of head scarf worn by ladies in Saudi Arabia. It is made of a soft, gausy, flowy material and very popular in Jeddah.

    wear in Jeddah

    The abaya is a long dress worn over your clothes. It is typically loose fitting and is meant to cover up women’s body shape. While black is the most popular color, the abaya comes in many different colors and shapes too.

     

    Now that you know what people wear in Jeddah, here are some tips on what YOU can wear in Jeddah:

    Before you travel

    You may need to shop before you arrive in Jeddah. If this is your first trip to Saudi Arabia, you will need to make sure you have some clothes that will be suitable to wear as soon as you leave the plane. You can always stock up once you’re settled but everyone is expected to dress appropriately as soon as they land in Jeddah. Ladies: make sure you buy a black abaya and keep it, along with a headscarf (any color) in your hand luggage. Before the plane lands, you will need to put on the abaya. Non Muslims are not expected to cover their heads but it’s best to have a headscarf at the ready anyway. Men are expected to wear clothes covering their shoulders and going down below the knees.

    Dress code for women

    If you plan to come to Jeddah (for work or to live here) you probably already know that women have to adopt a more Islamic style of clothes but don’t believe everything you read though. What applies to Riyadh doesn’t always apply to Jeddah. What applies to big cities doesn’t always apply in smaller towns, especially in the north of Saudi Arabia.

    In Jeddah, all women are expected to wear a black abaya when they go out. Colors are not forbidden but you’ll soon catch up on the color scheme out there: black, dark grey, maybe dark blue… nothing flashy, nothing that stands out basically. Black abayas can be covered with patterns or have sparkly details (see examples below). Non Muslim women sometimes just slip on the abaya, without closing it properly all the way and that seems to be OK. With regards to head covering, non Muslims are not obligated to wear the hijab, and definitely not the niqab. Muslim women should wear a hijab and the niqab is optional. In terms of colors, anything goes with the headscarf (hijab) and you’ll see all sorts of colors out there, so feel free to splash some colors if you like.

    wear in Jeddah

    A black abaya with some colorful patterns is totally OK in Jeddah.

    wear in Jeddah

    You will also spot some taupe colored abaya every now and then. You need to draw the line at flashy colors though.

    Dress code for men

    OK so men have it quite easy really. They can wear whatever they want as long as it doesn’t show too much flesh. Men should be careful to cover their shoulders, and wear long shorts/trousers that go below the knees. Apart from that, men can choose between Western style or Saudi style. If you wonder why some western expats are wearing the traditional white thobe and covering their heads with a piece of cloth instead of their blue jeans and shirt, wonder no more. It is HOT in Jeddah! When you live in a very hot country like Saudi Arabia, the thobe is probably the most comfortable outfit there is. Try it out one day and you’ll see.

    Dress code for children

    Young children (under the age of 10) are usually free to wear whatever they like. You will see children, boys and girls, at the mall dressed in all kinds of fashion but like in all big cities, people tend to dress up rather than down when going out. Little girls in particular, are quite often seen with “princess” outfits or dresses that would probably seem “too much” somewhere else.

    Inside expat compounds

    It is common knowledge among expats than the rules inside compounds are different and way more relaxed than in the outside world. If you choose to live in an expat compound, you’ll soon understand where the boundaries are. However, it is important to remember that despite the very Western feel of the compound, you are still in Saudi Arabia and while you can certainly do without the abaya and hijab, you may want to avoid sexy clothing or anything that reveals too much skin.

    Don’t forget that you came to Saudi Arabia under the sponsorship of someone (person or business) who is Saudi and any unseeming behavior on your part reflects on them. Saudis are a very proud people and they would not take lightly that someone they are responsible for (who is under their sponsorship) behave in what they an deem inappropriate manner (and I’m not just talking about clothes). If your sponsor is your employer, in the worst case scenario, you could lose your job and consequently, your visa or residence permit would be taken away. Just be mindful of your surroundings, and if you’re unsure, ask another expat in your compound.

    Expats or not, once you step out of compounds, you are expected to be fully dressed according to the Islamic code we discussed above.

    What to wear at work

    If you don’t have to wear a uniform, keep your attire smart, clean and neat at all times. Saudi people take great pride in how they dress and they would tend to trust someone who is equally well dressed while they may look down on someone whose clothes look sloppy. You don’t have to wear designer clothes if you can’t afford them, just make sure that whatever you wear looks new and spotless clean.

    what to wear in Jeddah

    Even barefoot in the desert, Saudi men still wear spotless ironed white thobes.

    Dress to chill

    To fight the heat and the humidity, stick to cotton. Any other fabric will be very uncomfortable and may even cause some serious rashes on your skin. Having said that, any place indoors will be fully air-conditioned so if you know you’ll be staying inside you can wear anything you want.

    Dress to impress

    If you ever get invited to someone’s home, you will need to make a real effort. While it may appear to outsiders that Saudi fashion is nonexistent, you’d be surprised to realise that Saudis actually love clothes. Both men and ladies love to shop for clothes, follow fashion from the Gulf and the West, go nuts for designer brands and even high fashion from Paris and New York. So don’t make a fool of yourself, dress to impress: look sharp, don’t be afraid to use vibrant colors, sparkles, high heels, jewelry… you name it. The norm around here is elegance. Women wear very feminine and classy outfits in private, and men also like to dress up.

     

    As a general rule, men and women should dress conservatively while outside and follow the examples of others inside expat compounds. Finally, don’t feel like you have to dress like a Saudi to fit in. The city of Jeddah counts more expats than locals according to a recent survey so Jeddawis are totally used to be around foreigners. Just show respect for the traditions and culture of the city and you’ll be fine.

    If you have any question, just leave a comment below or contact me by email anytime.

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