Archive for December, 2013

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Couple of weeks ago, the blogger was in al-Khobar. I visited Jarir Bookstore in al-Rashed Mall to look for a proper reading masterpiece but failed. My eyeballs glanced and paused at an eye catchy handbook. The handbook was about ‘Madain Saleh’ with scores of attractive pictures and detailed account over its history and civilization. I was already planning my expeditional tours in upcoming vacations and had visited the place TWICE before but couldn’t complete the whole site in exploration within a frame of limited time. This time I attired my expeditional vision to finish the unfinished business in the city of al-Ula where the history and ancient civilization speak and where Madain Saleh is nearly located.

I have finally taken the vacations to avoid my mental adversity of working and the plan has been framed. My fellow musketeers are ready for a 2-day trip to the city of al-Ula.  The chosen transport of legitimacy is my Hyundai Veloster 2014. The plan is simple and fair. We will leave our city at midnight, reach al-Ula by morning and visit few historical sites. We will stay in a hotel till next morning and at last visit Madain Saleh before we depart back to Jeddah.

By road, there are two ways to reach al-Ula from Jeddah. Either you reach the mark via Yanbu, with a travelling distance of 692km and reaching in approx seven and half hours if driven at an average of 120kph, OR you chose reaching the destiny via Madinah, with a travelling distance of 750km and reaching in approx eight and half hours at the same average speed. The choice is yours, just set the navigation and choose your route which ease you more. I preferred the Yanbu one.

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Driving at 120kph, things didn’t look normal to me for a long run. My hand palms were tickling to press the accelerator hard and cross the limit. I knew that Saher ‘the vehicle speed detector’ was installed in our way but where exactly? I guess we crossed the Saher and I should break the 120kph barrier. So once I increased the speed to 140kph, mr. Saher welcomed me for a photoshoot -_- FML!

Our destiny forwarded towards the beautiful night-view of Petro Rabigh and futher on Yanbu Industrial area where the immense use of lighting in an absolute dark night attracts. We stopped by a side to take pictures of Yanbu factories.

Another embarrassing moment almost to happen was that my car began losing all its petrol. We had crossed more than 300km and realized that something conjured my understanding that I will regularly find petrol stations. I was trolled by a huge absence of the stations and speed from 160kph was brutally cut to 40kph at around 5am. The weather was cold and pleasant, the temperature dropped from 27 to 19 degrees celsius , but our blood temperature almost broke the mercury.

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At the last hiccup, we finally saw a closed station on our opposite road with a masjid and store. It was Fajr prayer by then. Temperature had further dropped to 14 degrees celsius. One musketeer slept in the car and the other decorated the dinner at the engine of car. We had butter chicken and a packet of bread to eat. Two more guests joined and waited for their turn with shivering meows to grab the attention. The petrol was filled and ran towards the destiny.

The sun rose, street lights got off, beautiful landscapes brought freshness to me and the mountains as usual touched the heights of sky. A lone warrior ran towards the mark early in the morning with unwelcomed speed breakers at the entry of each small towns and villages. Shops began to open. The smoke revealed from the laundry shop, customers were seated in the cafeteria and ful tamiz (fava beans and Afghani bread) shop, salon opened with the barbers sitting on customer seat watching TV, septuagenarian Yemenis and Egyptians sat on their bamboo bed and goats ate grass.

We now have entered the city. Let me brief you about al-Ula. The city is Saudi Arabia’s northwestern part. From Madinah, it is located north 341km far. The city is the closest to Madain Saleh (22km). Al-Ula is very much about God-gifted natural mountains. It has many sandy mountains bordering from the east such as Mount Almojder and Arezikea Mountains from the west.

Al-Ula is 825m above sea level and the climate is moderate. The temperature doesn’t rise more than 45 degrees celsius in summer but is very cold in winters existing in December and January with the temperature of 9 degrees celsius. The average rate of annual rainfall is 250mm.

To more attraction of interest in knowing Al-Ula, the word “Dedan” used in Bible Old Testament is the biblical name of Al-Ula as well as used in Assyrian and Arabic writings. Dedan means ‘low ground’ and people belonging to Dedan were called Dedanites. In Bible, if you read all 36 verses of The Book of Ezekiel – Chapter 27, you will understand that the chapter was about the roster of trading routes and partners of the city of Tyre. Tyre is modern Lebanon and Dedan were their trading partners dealing in precious clothes used in chariot as referred in verse no.20.

If you visit Madain Saleh and ancient historical places, there is huge probability of confusion over the mentioned Kingdoms in very informative plates installed on the sites i.e. Lehyanites, Dedanites, Nabateans. Let me try to clear the confusion which I suffered the same on my own primary attempts of research. Actually the Kingdoms of Leyanites (Lihyans) and Dedanites (Dedan) are the two who ruled the city as Lihyans were the original settlers to Al-Ula. According to Arab genealogists, Lihyan tribe are from the Adnanite Arabs (west and central arabians and opposers of Qahtanites of south arabian) from Ismail. This tribe is still surviving, settled in the desert between Makkah and Madinah.

This ancient city was capital of Kindoms of Dedan and Lihyan from 6th to 2nd century BC. From the 2nd century BC, the Nabateans took charge of the city until 106 AD when the Romans conquered their capital, Petra.  So the Nabateans made Hegra (the modern Madain Saleh) their second capital and we musketeers first stepped to the oldest town of the city before booking a room in hotel.

Like I said before, this is the 3rd time I travelled this city for research and exploration which has become my passion to know what lies beneath the country where I was born. The significance of travelling by road towards the city is rare and strange mountains. Your eyes are always forced to stare at them. Most of the mountains are of unusual shapes. I am precisely not into orology and due to the fact I have no words to describe the nature of mountain. I didn’t even know if I am supposed to feel blessed or in contrary, considering a wrath of Allah with the understanding that a sound wave struck the region by Allah on the idol-worshipers of Thamud region according to the Holy Quran?

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The plan to first check-in hotel was abrupted as the old al-Ula town known as Deira District appeared to the screen first. So we made our mind to explore the world of Deira and then move to hotel. So what is all about Deira. This Deira district (which was once a city) is nearly 700 years old. According to wikipedia sources, “The city of Deira was built with the re-usage of stones of the Dedan and Lihyan ruins. al-Ula now became the major settlement of the region again until the modern times. A railway station was built for the Hejaz Railway in 1901-08. The railway line was built through the western part of Al-Khuraiba some twelve kilometers to the north of the old medieval town which is believed to be the site of the old Dedanite and Lihyanite town. In the 20th century, the new town center was established besides the old town and eventually the people left the old buildings. The last family is said to have left in 1983, while the last service in the old mosque was held in 1985. Both the ruins of the medieval town and the site of the Liyhanite settlement now lay within the limits of the modern town.”

Exploring Deira city was exactly like our trip to Thee-Ain village in Al-Baha. You may click here for the details of our trip.(https://saminaik.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/rocky-doodle-in-centuries-old-ville/) A very quiet place with renovation work under process. Glad to see Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities working with local contracting company for the development of cultural heritage to attract the tourists and create awareness. The cement is supplied from Tabuk Cement Company.

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No humans to shelter, no stopping of helter skelter. There is easy foot stepping towards the 1st floor and ceiling in many of houses. As similar case like Thee-Ain village, ceilings are made of bamboos and juniper trees. When we entered the city and walked inside the streets, we felt little creepy and mysterious place. Stiff walls and few small store rooms. Numerous walls are arrowed and doors are numbered. Passages are broad. 

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Walking through the passages and streets, I separated myself from my fellow musketeers and tried to focus on the language of silence of 700-year-old civilization. This place was once a trade route to Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. I could listen the truck lorries and labors shouting, lifting heavy sacks and shifting materials. With the understanding that it was a proper Arab community living scores of years here, this place dramatically went wild and alive. An Arab social and cultural fantasy was in front of my eyes and all of a sudden, it was ‘Sami in the Arab wonderland’.

My mind played Shayne Ward’s “Breathless”. Near my sight sat an old sexagenarian Yemeni drinking a traditional huqqa (hookah). I turned my head towards the other side. Two meters far, I saw a bamboo table decorated with dominoes game and two Ismaili Egyptians sat on their wooden chairs playing the game. From the door close to the game, entered a teenage boy with a wooden tray carrying traditional koshary shai (tea) and a plate of ful medames with sliced hard-boiled eggs. The boy’s friends shouted at him to join the gang who have found a snake and were eager to tease it.

My clothes got little wet by the vapours dispatched from the garments handed by the old ladies standing on the ceiling in order to dry it. To the bottom of very same building, oped a wooden door and came out two young Syrian girls in their twenties in black veils going to a madrasa. One carrying school bag was plumpy but the other one was attractive with two copies in her soft hands decorated with coiled bangles. She placed the copies on her upper chest, kept an eye on me. When I gave her the same look with a paroxysm of smile, the fatty began whispering in her ears and both laughing. That Syrian schoolgirl surely was daughter of that old lady on the top, who caught me staring her and all of a sudden began shouting with agony :S In panic, I edged towards the wrong way and hit with a milkman and his bicycle. I dropped my mobile and ‘Breathless’ met an end with a pin drop silence…

In very few houses, I saw old Lihyanite and Arabic scriptures. More to a mystery were very weird looking graffitis specially star of david with a minaret :S Weapons were also graffitied on the walls. After wandering like a vagabond, I found a large wooden gate. Entered and I found a masjid. It was in extremely shattered shape. Don’t know how old was that masjid but I found a ‘Tat’ fan hanging on ceiling.

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Overall, this old town is consisted of 1032 houses and is formed of two lanes named al-Hilf and al-Shaqiq. Each house carries two storeys. Each first storey was built out of stones carried from the ancient site of al-Khuraybah and allocated to receive the guests. While every second storey was built out of mud brick and used as living area. The whole town was designed to make the defense easy. Many houses were built attached to each other forming fortification around the city. The town originally had fourteen gates that were opened in the morning and closed in the evening.

Al-Ula was a major station along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Makkah. Pilgrim caravans used to halt at al-Ula in order to obtain provisions and water. Some of the pilgrims used to leave a portion of their baggage with people of al-Ula and then collect on upon their return. Those were the golden days because one cannot expect or rely on a person you don’t know to leave his property and receive it back from him. Syrian merchants used to travel as far as al-Ula to sell supplies to pilgrims.

To be more accurate with the history, Islamic history compulsorily lies here. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) during his ghazwa (war fought by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.) against Tabuk, made a temporary stay in this town and prayed in Masjid al-Izam. Izam means bones and is known due to the fact that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) designated mihrab using a bone.

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This heritage village is not only a town of 1032 houses and a masjid from Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)’s era. This ancient town also has a castle. The castle was built back in 6th century BC to defend the town and renovated many times. Lihyanite inscriptions and Nabatean coins were found in its archaeological strata. The area is 180 square meters and 45 meters high above the town level. Till 2009, it was difficult to ascend the top of castle due to deterioration of stairs. Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities implemented the project to restore the stairs. Now there is an access to reach the top of the fort and enjoy an amazing view of the whole ancient town of al-Ula and the farms in the surroundings.

Now the castle is known as Musa bin Nusayr Fort. According to the historians, famous Islamic commander of 7th Hijri, Musa bin Nusayr, lived and died in it. The castle has walls covered on the top surrounding the top of the mountain with the openings to monitor and shoot in the wars fought in the past. Many informative plates are installed for timeline education. The water could be supplied to the castle from a well dug in the rocky area down the mountain. We found that well close to the graveyard. 

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It is almost 2pm here and temperature wasn’t touching 20 degrees celsius since we arrived the city. It was impressive and very convincing to observe that renovation of half of the town has been almost completed. The passage and streets have been cleaned and lanterns are hanged on the ceilings. Electricity work has been done and signboards are installed on the streets. That specific half, most of the wooden doors have been closed. So in near future, I see that happening in the remaining half. We are lucky to enter the rooms, use the stairs to go to the upper floor and ceiling of many houses. We even sat on the top boundaries and also jumped on the rough surfaces. We walked on the bamboo and juniper trees used for ceilings. These exciting stunts might not happen but I am glad to see that Deira’s Old Town will be alive with a lot of tourist attraction very soon.

Off from Deira district hungry and exhausted. Time to look for a hotel and eat lunch, so we can reboot our system and hunt for more sites. To our major surprise, we have found a hotel for a day for only SAR.120!!! Gosh rates in winter in al-Ula are cheaper than expected. About to look for food and have just found that I forgot to bring the charger of my laptop -_-

Would love to read your feedback below and you may ask me questions related to my trip. Stay tuned for the next chapter under ‘The Breezing Ula’. Until then, good-bye.

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Al-Rashid Mall (Al-Khobar)

This was my 3rd trip to the Eastern Region of the Kingdom. My previous visits in the Kingdom were boredom as work was consisted without perk. Had no idea what to enjoy in this silent and dry place. I just had designed my framework to this region for the month of December with the understanding that this region will please you with a cold weather. I saw that coming and that did happen.

To the exact opposite of Al-Rashid Mall is Rotana Hotel,  where I stayed for couple of days last time. The cornered rooms of all the three floors had the plus of a panoramic view of Al-Rashid Mall. I wished to see happen that again. Soon as I reached the mall, I straightly went to the hotel to test my fate. My wish came true when I got the very same corner once again. Room environment was sound with a big passage, couple of bathrooms and accustomed kitchen.

Food serving in hotel was fair as the food ordered would reach within an hour. Net service was extremely slow and limited. I forgot to bring 2-pin connector and paid the price. One night, I lost my laptop’s battery and left only 15%. Now mine is 3-pin plug but all in my place was 2-hole sockets. I found one luckily but that too in bathroom -_- It was midnight already and had no solution but to connect and let it charge.

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Workers in the hotel were very multinational. Receptionist and dealer were Syrian, cleaners were a Bengali, Tamil and Filipino each. A very quiet passage of hotel with workers itself watching TV lying on the sofas. My colleague, who came with me, was a Filipino and he was glad to see his native working here. Like I said in my previous blog, they are very friendly to each other and often get very open in first encounter. So it was convincing for him to sit and talk with him all the night down the passage and do skyping with his relatives.

Working and staying in Dammam will always be a blessing with enjoyable weather this time and company’s 3 shops out of 4 located in this Rashid Mall (the other is in Dahran Mall). Once I visited Dahran Mall and as usual I began scanning the displaying standard of my company’s showroom. Then I noticed that one of window display of Charriol brand had a backpanel featuring a lady with seductive eyes hiding her face and displaying one of advertised watch. It was further stickered with a small piece of Charriol page.

I felt pretty strange that a lady with her face veiled, qualified to install in any shop in particular region of Saudi Arabia as human faces in many malls are not allowed due to strictness from religious officers of the ‘Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice’ (CPVPV). To their bad luck, the office of CPVPV in mall was also located opposite to the shop. I asked the salesman in charge the reason of further stickering. He replied that they (CPVPV) further objected the model’s hair and forehead -_-

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The salesman Mr. Baraa of TagHeuer boutique in Rashid Mall was frustrated of lack of sales. But I became blessing for him, he sold 2 expensive watches in consecutive days in both my visiting attempts. He became a good friend of mine who assisted me in most of my work in Al-Khobar. He asked me if I like drinking hookah (sheesha in Persian). My joys knew no bound as I had no knowledge of existence of hookah in the Eastern region. I replied my definite YES.

Baraa is from Palestine and is son of our Showroom Manager for Eastern region. Born and raise here like me, enjoys a good but limited life. I did ask him if he has time enough for me to gather and enjoy sheesha. He was like me, enjoy without tension at full scale. There is a cafe at the outskirt of Al-Khobar, Ole’ Cafe. A huge cafe expanded like 40-45 meters with at least 100 seats and a dozen TVs. Now the most important aspect was quality service and quality flavor of sheesha. That surpassed my expectation. Baraa told me that double-apple is the best flavor of sheesha and he was correct. The moment I sip my first, I felt like if I ate a red apple with smoke gasped from the chewed part.

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Ole’ Cafe

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Inside View of Ole’ Cafe

 

Sitting and drinking, my brain began sinking. But the brain cells started half-flourishing when MBC 2 showed Robert Rodriquez’s ‘Machete’. I had never watched the movie but do wanted to. Aaaah! watta movie. Baraa is an old customer there, drinking for years. So a good service from workers was expected. That day, a new worker had joined. He was from Bangladesh. Very scared of his first attempt and confound. His senior was shouting at him to serve quickly. That wasn’t enough. Even customers had their loud say when he could not settle down the charcoals on the top of sheesha.

Same charcoal story in my side. He decorated 5 small charcoals and I was stunned. He lost his edge again and expected the shoutings from my side now but I politely told him to place 3 big charcoals and I will do the decorating. He apologized to me by saying he is innocent and new in the Kingdom, and poor guy looking for work to feed his family in his country. A story of millions spoken by one I encountered. I was helpless to help and just a keen listener of his dismays.

Once I finished my work in Rashid Mall, I had an hour to check out from hotel. So I intended to go Jarir Bookstore to check any interesting findings. Recently arrived Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography was available at SR.130. First time I got so disappointed with the collection of books I saw. Most notably I was enraged to see the West’s nowadays darling Malala’s book ‘I am Malala’ in two different corners. I checked the book and saw few pages. It was like reading a 10-year-old baby’s diary -_- That book wasn’t enough. There was a small corner under Kid’s section. Believe it or not! there were around 5 different books on Justin Beiber -_-

Checked out from hotel and with all due respect, the workers in hotel delivered a proper goodbye and well wished me. Baraa did his final serving by favoring us to drop at airport through his friend. Reached the airport and my tour ended. That wasn’t enough because few stories are more to write you.

I met my brother’s friend Omer Shahid. I am not a lot into hi-hello with him but met at a rare moment. We shared our talks and opinions about living in Saudia, working environment stuff and presently dipping performance by Manchester United. His flight was late by 30 minutes but still 30 minutes on board before mine. While waiting our turn to drop our luggage, the man in uniform told him to stay on thin red line and wait for his turn. Our turn was after him and when I reached to drop my luggage, two Arab boys stood on my extreme back :S I told the officer to keep them stay on thin red line, he avoided -_-

There was an old Arab couple in their 70s. The good thing about them was that they were smiling and goofing instead of murking.  The handbag carried by man was seized by his lady and vice versa. In sitting area, they were the only odd talking aloud. The talkative lady checked her boarding pass by every half a minute. She all of a sudden wanted to go toilet when boarding was on. But she want to go with her handbag :S Her hubby won’t let her do that. She ran like a penguin and returned within couple of minutes. The man was laughing.

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Travelers in queue as gates were opened. People from every walk of life and miscalculated sizes stood in one line to show their boarding pass. My turn came and the officer stopped me :S Hiccup! The computer wasn’t accepting my boarding pass. He made me stood aside. A moment of embarrassment! Then I checked the date on boarding pass and realized the pass belonged to my previous flight from Jeddah to Dammam. I had presented wrong boarding pass and the correct one was in my bag. Now all is fine.

Entered the plane. It was A320 -_- Plane gets smaller with my travel I guess -_- Even in this flight, air-hostesses carried same boring faces to face the unlucky travelers. Time to sit on my booked seat but hello! some buddy already placed his ass on my seat :S I had my second thought over legality of my boarding pass instead of checking his. Then I forwarded and cleared my throat to seek his attention. I requested him to off from my seat and check his number. He kept staring me until the air-hostess came to settle. He was off to my seat.

The flight and service was ordinary. Ate the same food I had in my previous morning flight, cheese sandwich -_- I was expecting a dinner to serve for me, not the same repeated breakfast for dinner -_- This time it was a little better sandwich to chew and pass my esophagus. Plus, I asked for a coffee and enjoyed reading Babaji Ashfaq Ahmad sahab’s “Zaviya”. As I told you in my previous blog that I began reading this masterpiece, but I went so deep in reading babaji’s stories that I realized how distinguished personality was he. The plane landed safely with a temperature outside double of Dammam’s one. The nights in Dammam were in tens but returned here in twenties.

Babaji’s take on the world, his philosophies and heart touching incidents circulated my deepest thoughts in brain. I wasn’t feeling normal for once at all. From departure from A320 till arriving home, babaji’s chapters on life made a remarkable full stop. It actually was like ‘travelling with a zero’. I was like Lucky Ali’s album ‘Sifar’ or Ronan Keating’s “Life is a Roller Coaster”.

Being so mystic with life circle, I entered the bus with more stories. There were two wheelchair travelers with different problems. One entered with a Bengali helper was an octogenarian Yemeni who suffered with old age. He wasn’t able to walk and lost his temper every second. When the helper made him close to the bus door, he began shouting on his helper and protesting his entry because of the height of door the wheel chair was about to lift inside. I was forced to smile when the old man snatched his stick from him to hit but failed. All of a sudden, entered the second helper and lifted the wheel chair and entered the bus with ease. He kept shouting at the entry but then he turned silent. Being silent, he stared every traveler with rage.

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Sat on the other wheel chair was a disabled teen, to whom I was observing from Dammam Airport sitting area. He spoke nothing and wore casual dress with a careful eyesight under his normal specs. I never dared to ask his helper if he was paralyzed or not able to speak also. But his hand movements and finger alignments weren’t normal.

How thought provoking was his behavior under my observation! The travelers, almost 20 meters far from him, walked towards joining the queue on board. He stared their legs and his left hand middle and index fingers made movements like walking. That was speechless!!

Then in the bus (dropping to Jeddah airport) I saw him again. This time his eyes caught a few months old baby crying under his mother’s lap. They were Sudanese family I guess. With intention to stop his cry-bullying, he struggled with his right hand to finger-snap. He wasn’t using his index finger a lot and his middle and ring fingers looked more crook and close. So he struggled to finger-snap with his thumb, middle and ring fingers. Within half a minute, the baby actually stopped crying.

What a nature of Allah!! Babaji’s reading really made me take more careful observations of earthlings. Both wheelchairs were together with a tremendous and strange on-the-spot chemistry with no match but different stories mixed altogether. I was noticing his finger-snapping and the baby. Once the baby got silent, I wanted to observe the baby more but avoided because yet again in the bus, the lady (the mother of kid) began staring me like if her eyes recognized the murderer of her husband -_-

The wheel chair stories weren’t enough. Entered a lovely young Arab couple in the bus. Precisely in 20’s and hand in hand they stood in the bus. I don’t think if the girl’s left hand and boy’s right hand ever ever untouched each other’s skin. Their love had a scent of jasmine and their innocent behavior to each other made sense of their new relation was a bed full of roses. To her bad luck, no seats in the bus were empty (fully occupied by ladies). Her man of honor made her stood holding the bar. That wasn’t enough. When the bus ran, he hold the supporter with his left hand and she pressed his shoulder from her right hand. Their other hands were still tightly grabbed to each other. The boy was in his casual dressing, a sporting cap decorated on his head behind. The girl was veiled with beautiful eyes decorated with decent black eyeliner. They were whispering in each other’s ears. All the time smiling to each other every few seconds. Ahhhh love!!! Love is a gift of Allah to mankind indeed…

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I have landed Jeddah and time to pee. Entered the male toilet and there is no hanger to hang my bag and suit. An Indian cleaner offered me to hand him my handbag and suit. It was risky but I took it. He kept holding both my stuff until I finished my toiletivity. Babaji’s worldly simplicity mashed again. I felt a lot for his service. He surely was poor guy like I met that Bengali worker in cafe, have to do nothing here in life then only cleaning the toilets. My heart humbled and gave him money for his service. He didn’t expected this and stared me with innocence with a million-dollar thanks and regards. I felt a spiritual comfort performing a good deed. My soul was well satisfied till I went colorless when no one stood to receive me. The message was conveyed on call that my brother and his friend are waiting outside airport :S Vow what a reception.

Returned home. My all 4 cats stared at me :S I began sneezing. Drinking water not available as water supplier is absent for days. Water even not coming in bathroom :S Welcome back to Jeddah Mr. Naik!!

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My work is my decision and my division is my provision. Multitude of harkness or gratitude of happiness. I am not familiar with ‘my selfish diary’ or ‘e-notebook’ but one thing I know about me is I am too awesome in O TWADDI (desi FML).

I borrowed a peace of time from my local librarian of colorless books and informed them my plan for almost a week stay in Dammam-Khobar with my fellow colleague of justice league.

First reaction: What? -_-

Second reaction: Why? -_-

Anyhow, things went right for me and my fellow. Packed the bag and off we go. Good morning at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah and goodbye to my brother (who dropped me). When I go to airport, I have a special feeling. Walking around and wandering hither and thither. Emotional faces all over (specially South Asians :P ). We witness to see different class of people related from all walks of life altogether. Travelers like business class and some professionals never have more than a luggage but families (specially South Asians :P ) travel with dozens of luggage (roughly taped and using marker to write their address), with a f***ed up radio tuned to baby’s 99th symphony and scores of zamzam cans.

There are two groups usually to be seen in my almost every short-stay at airport. A) Bunch of beautiful and ugly air-hostesses B) Indonesians :P Admittingly in my case, I see a decent staff when luggage is to be thrown for cargo but a three-cent staff when I and my handbag are about to be scanned. I am not a lot into the airport daily/regular affairs but for me is a hiccup of ‘What’s next?’. I feel like if I am desi version of Viktor Navorski in Spielberg’s ‘The Terminal’.

Last time the man who checked me this January (when I was going to Riyadh) told me to off my shoes and keep my belt on. This time, my shoes were not penalized but the belt was crucified :S The guy who checked me wore a Ted-Turner moustache and eyes staring on every passenger like a complaint letter. There was no thin red line on the floor to statue before my turn. He rudely stopped me thrice to wait for my turn (3rd STOP! he looked pretty stupid because I never moved even an inch, probably his English slipped from Move to Stop).

Moving from a bookstore for me is like scent of a woman. But witnessing a Justin Bieber book in that collection is like a sudden heart attack in public place. Then comes the sitting area which I had a second thought because it was like a sleeping area where most of travelers had their faces bent down. Then I realized that they all were committed to their toys.

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My colleague and I did our breakfast at a French restaurant La Cuisine with a chocolate donut and espresso. Such a quiet place and waited for our turn to come. Then gates of heaven opened to meet our virgins. I was the last man to enter the bus. With all men standing and all women in black sitting. I unintentionally had a glimpse of a fatty for a second or two. In response, she in veil was like if she recognized the rapist :S Witch please!

The chosen aircraft to destination was A330. I knew my seat because I had done the boarding pass work last night. As usual, I began staring air-hostesses. Most of the products were Manila but not Vanilla. Few non-Manila (Arabs) were surprisingly aged with a make-up more than a clown. I always thought if PIA (Pi**ed In A**) were the only to recruit such aged ladies with a death certificate. A330 began moving like a roller-coaster going towards the top.

All air-hostesses began a Marcel Marceau. To be honest, when they were giving instructions, they looked like a fade-up constable. They had no facial expressions and body language. Poor Manila babies! I always expect them to give instructions by dancing on ‘One Night in Bangkok’. The plane flew with ease. It was my first traveling when mobiles were allowed to use while touching the sky. So I began playing words-finding game app.

All of a sudden from the back, 2 demons came with an offer of forbidden tree. The trolley was full of Caesar juices. The Arab air-hostess with a huge nostril and Groucho Marx eyebrows asked me my choice. It took me less than couple of seconds in choosing until her eyebrows grew more hair and reached to the nose tip :S Before I launch my new FML chapter of getting embarrassed by a lady shouting at me in front of all, I politely asked for a cup of Caesar juice of orange. Next question by Hatima Tai was about sandwich. The options were flora and fauna. I swiftly chose cheese instead of tuna. What a rude rodent!! she never smiled on any traveler and duration service to every person was like approx 15 seconds because she took a lot of time in picking a cup from the packet and placing tissue paper below it.

I noticed the a-hostesses in both rows and calculated an unmatched comparison between an Arab a-hostess and a Manila one. The Arab one had began serving the travelers way before her but ended up 2nd to her with a huge-margin. It was not like if Tagalog beauty was quick to end serving every traveler by throwing and attending the next. She served every traveler mere 6-8 seconds with pluses like smiling and “enjoy your breakfast”.

Ahh leave it!! let me concentrate on my breakfast. Vowww what a breakfast!! This sandwich wasn’t kept in an oven or warm place but my guess is Greenland’s igloo -_- The bread had just arrived from the Robben Island, produced 40 years ago to serve the prisoners (even ignored by that time). What’s inside? aah yes! how come I forgot what I ordered? exactly ‘Cheese’ that’s it -_- nothing else. Every bite of this sandwich, chewing and crossing my esophagus literally took 5 minutes -_- I felt I was deceived of the unexpected service (‘trolled’ is an applicable word here).

02

Book reading was my hobby which now has become my weakness. Had somehow finished reading the remaining half of Andrew Crissell’s “An Introductory History on British Broadcasting” in last couple of days in Jeddah because I made up my mind to start a new book in my new destiny. Now in plane with half destiny reached, I began reading ‘Zaviya’ by Mr. Ashfaq Ahmad. Ashfaq sahab is one of Pakistan’s finest writer, philosopher and critic, hugely responsible for writing memorable stories and plays in Pakistan Television’s golden era like ‘Man Chalay Ka Sauda’. This is my first experience of reading an Urdu-language book.

Time to lose eardrums with 3rd degree pain -_- I tried to focus on Zaviya stories but minute after minute, a curmudgeon angel hit a needle on my eardrums -_- The children began crying in pain -_- We landed safely and got unseat with ease when most of travelers had left. Reached King Fahd International Airport (min 25 kms away from the main city). A very quiet airport with no busy routine like Jeddah’s one. Took our luggage, bought a 15-Riyal-ticket for bus to Al-Khobar. I knew it will take minimum an hour in reaching the spot with a bitter truth that the driver was a Filipino, so I began reading ‘Zaviya’ where I left.

Driving at max 100 kph, he was listening hits of Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. The ticket I got from the conductor had four blanks to fill with no idea what the ticket asked me to do. So I filled this way…

03

Depending on my limited resources of the whereabouts of popular place Al-Rashid Mall, I kept staring at many of malls crossing from my sight. The bus kept going for 40 minutes. After that, I told my colleague to speak in his Tagalog to his kaibigan (friend in tagalog) to make him understand. The moment he spoke to the driver, all kept staring at him (don’t know why). One thing is good about the Filipinos, their nature is very friendly and well communicative to everyone. In their first encounter, they get in touch with their fellow natives so deep that ‘rude’ is not a word in any dictionary then. I used the word ‘Rude’ because mostly in my fellow Pakistanis, I don’t see that coming. In first encounter, they will ignore you at the time of knowing where actually you from. Rudeness is harked when the two don’t meet at the smallest point in agreement.

If you really want to see the cultural difference between Pakistanis and Saudis here in the Kingdom, just witness the minor vehicle accidents. If two Pakistani vehicles get hit here, the national assembly (of Pakistan) will establish without a speaker. The two parties will blame each other, begin shouting and respecting each other’s mothers and sisters, cursing and sparingly coming on for a one-on-one. As contrary, many incidents occurring between the two locals first meet with a proper handshake and exchange of regards, smiling and calling the traffic police to finish the matter with ease. Besides few of incidents of extreme heated exchange of words, you usually will see them apologizing and talking politely.

And now we reach the spot, off from the bus but the luggage door is not opening from us -_- Anyhow we have reached our destiny, got the hotel opposite road to the Mall. It is a comfortable place. Alhamdulillah for a safe flight, nice hotel and a lovely weather. Nowadays, it usually is not more than 25 degree by day. Nights are cold like approx in the 10s. The ordered food has arrived with the doorbell ringing now. Time to eat and burp…

04