Saudi Arabia – 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 Saudi Arabia – 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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    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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    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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    Historic Jeddah Festival http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/historic-jeddah-festival-2016/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/historic-jeddah-festival-2016/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 08:36:20 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2993 I’m on holiday! For the first time since coming back from Tunisia last summer, i’m off work. What a semester it’s been: between a heavy work schedule and a pretty difficult school run routine I found myself doing nothing but work, look after my kids and

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    I’m on holiday! For the first time since coming back from Tunisia last summer, i’m off work. What a semester it’s been: between a heavy work schedule and a pretty difficult school run routine I found myself doing nothing but work, look after my kids and sleep and I couldn’t wait to be off. Anyway now is the prefect time to be off work in Jeddah because the 2016 edition of the Historic Jeddah Festival is on, it’s winter (temperatures are cool), I got family visiting and my kids are still studying every morning so i got to enjoy a few hours of 100% grown up time. Perfect!

    What to expect at the Historic Jeddah Festival

    So, the Historic Jeddah Festival. You can look up all the details online (official website in Arabic only) but basically it’s 10 days of festivities to celebrate Jeddah’s culture, history and traditions. It’s a pretty big event, with over 40,000 people showing up in the first 3 days. You need to head to the old city in Balad to find out what’s going on. From the 7th of January until the 16th, from 5pm to 11pm, the old madinah comes alive. There are shows, exhibitions, tours and visits of old houses, arts workshops, food stalls and much more.

    Historic Jeddah Festival11

    Arriving at the gate of the old city in Balad, Jeddah

    So the whole family went to see what the fuss was all about. We really wanted to see the old houses but didn’t know what to expect beyond that. We started our tour at the main gate, and were welcome by a group a traditionally clothed men who sang songs in Arabic. According to my youngest son, that was the BEST part. Beyond the gate, an old neighborhood has been reconstructed so show how old houses looked like, and people were enacting old, traditional tasks and jobs. It was kinda nice but didn’t feel right, a bit too theatrical, not quite the authentic feel of the old Jeddah we were looking for.

    After that we continued to walk the little alley ways, deeper into the old city and we finally hit gold. Real old houses that have been standing for ages, traditional buildings, beautiful mosques, some of them listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, food stalls selling hot-from-the-oven bread and other simple delicious food. We also found our way to the House of Traditional Arts where we tried our skills at making and coloring Islamic patterns. We stayed almost an hour; adults and kids had a lot of fun. If you want to try, they will hold a series of workshops from February to June 2016. Check out their website for more details (in English and Arabic language).

    Historic Jeddah Festival6 Historic Jeddah Festival7

    We finished the evening wandering (and wondering too sometimes) in and around the souk with its hundreds of stalls, smells and noises. I’ve always loved getting lost in old souks, I don’t know what it is that I like but it’s kinda exhilarating to be among such a huge crowd, walking pretty much aimlessly from little street to even narrower lane, hopping from shops to stalls, and above all I love the mixtures of smells of food, incense, clothing, perfumes….

    Enough about me, just check out some of the pictures I took:

    Historic Jeddah Festival In pictures

    Historic Jeddah Festival

    The entrance gate to the old city and the festival

    Historic Jeddah Festival1

    A recreated old town within the actual old city of Jeddah

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    Historic Jeddah Festival4

    Old meets new

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    One of the oldest buildings we have seen

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    Photo exhibitions are held at various location within the old city

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    These houses may look old but they are still in use (check out the electricity meters by the doors)

    Historic Jeddah Festival9 Historic Jeddah Festival2

    It looks like I won’t have time to go back before the Historic Jeddah Festival ends but one thing is for sure: next year I’ll be there again inshallah. And I will be going back to Balad more often too from now on as I’ve discovered a part of the area I never knew existed and I’m looking forward to see more.

    Have you been to the festival? Do you think they’re a great way to re-live the past or are they just tacky?

     

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    I Love Expat Life & I Love Holidays! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/life-in-saudi-arabia-holidays/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/life-in-saudi-arabia-holidays/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:49:50 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2939 What do you do for your holidays when you’re an expat? I mean aren’t we technically already on holidays, since we’re abroad and living in the sunshine all year long, surrounded by palm trees with the beach nearby? To be honest living in Jeddah feels

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    What do you do for your holidays when you’re an expat? I mean aren’t we technically already on holidays, since we’re abroad and living in the sunshine all year long, surrounded by palm trees with the beach nearby?

    To be honest living in Jeddah feels a lot like being on holidays. I’ve been trying to describe what living in a compound feels like to my family and friends back home and the closest I can explain is by comparing it to living in a holiday village.

    Life in Saudi arabia

    Where I live at the moment (my employer provides me and my family with free housing on their compound) looks like a gigantic holiday village. It’s self contained for one and it’s got everything you need so you don’t actually have to get out unless you want to.

    Then there is the Jeddah weather, awesome weather, summer all year round with temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius at the moment (July 2015).

    There are some swimming pools in the compound to cool us down, hundreds of ACed shopping malls not far to while away the hottest hours and spend our hard earned salaries.

    life in saudi arabia

    When daily life looks like you’re on holidays.

    And just look at the place! With the clear blue sky, the palm trees everywhere… it’s hard to feel like I’m going to work when I walk to my office in the morning. And at night when I look over the roof tops from my windows, I am still totally overwhelmed by the view of those rocky mountains.

    life in saudi arabia

    Walking to work or relaxing outdoors – Hard to tell, isn’t it?

    Still, summer is the time for holidays so let’s talk holiday plans then. Life in Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer for a family like mine which is why we decided to spend the majority of our holidays in Jeddah. From here we have made quite a few days trips to Mecca and we plan to visit Madinah next, maybe next week.

    After that it’s finally time for the “real” holidays as we are flying to Tunisia. If you’ve been reading this blog a while you know that Tunisia is my favourite country in the world and that we have been travelling to Tunisia for our holidays for years. But this year, our holidays are gonna be much more than just holidays…

    holidays in Tunisia

    A few years back (flashback) my husband and I started dreaming of Tunisia, not just for quick visits during the holidays but as the place we loved the most on this Earth and where we could see ourselves settling down.

    This is Gabes, where my husband is from and where most of his family lives:

    life in saudi arabia Tunisia in pictures life in saudi arabia

    Well, thanks to our life in Saudi Arabia and the big fat salaries they are paying us here to teach English, we have managed to save enough money to build our dream house. It’s hard even for me to truly comprehend how fast it all went. All it took was 10 months of savings the best part of 2 salaries to afford to build a house from scratch. Can you believe it? Sometimes it feels insane! In the UK we were struggling to make ends meet, we couldn’t afford to dream let alone make our dreams happen, all the while leaving a very comfortable life.

    And now, on our very first holidays since we signed a contract in Saudi, we are going back to Tunisia with enough cash (yep cash, no mortgage) in hands to start the construction of the house of our dreams.

    This is terribly exciting, exhilarating and a little overwhelming. I feel (almost) like a grown up now with that whole building-a-house thing, and there will be challenges ahead of course and grown up decisions to make…

    So this holidays, besides the family reunions, delicious food and trips to the beach, there will be meetings with some architects, the construction team, we’re gonna be talking budget and deadlines and materials, floor plans, planning permission and a lot of other things, which up until now I had only ever heard of and wasn’t sure what they meant.

    So here we are, about to embark on yet another incredible adventure and once again the line seems blurred between our daily lives and our holidays. I don’t want to throw a big fat “I love my life” and rub it in your face so I’ll just say that I’m very grateful that the life choices we’ve made a few years back are allowing us to live life to the fullest and make our dream come true.

    What are your plans this summer? Tell us about what you’re doing and where you’re going? Any exciting change coming your way?

     

    The post I Love Expat Life & I Love Holidays! appeared first on Diary of a Serial Expat.

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