Posts Tagged ‘Expats in Saudi Arabia’

I happen to notice a small fire in the woods by a few scores of lumberjacks in the forest where I live as an expatriate. This is an incident occurred in the heritage village of Ushaiger which is situated 200 km from Riyadh. Ushaiger is one of the oldest towns in the Najd region. According to social media and few websites including Okaz, a model named Khulood walked the village in a short dress breaking the strict dress code implemented by laws in the Kingdom.
Although I see nothing wrong with a girl wearing a short skirt and traveling to any sites (besides religious places). But I have to forward few of the points towards the incident happened in the heritage village.
 
1) KSA’s strict dress code on women has to be applicable and under such law, she should be treated as per the law. And let me clarify that this is not my opinion.
 
2) Like seriously, who wear short skirts on historic places??? This is absolutely silly and beyond any common sense! Tourists in Arab countries like KSA and Jordan wear track suits, track pants, long shorts etc. Even the female Westerners travel to such places wearing an abaya (loose over-garment) to maintain the dress code as per the law.
 
3) The reactions on the social media sites are mixed. Some have demanded to arrest her or kicking her out of the country. Few considered her act as brave and there is some number of people who consider it welcoming with freedom of expression. Those who want to read the reactions on Twitter can hashtag with the name Ushaiger in Arabic.
In a country where the women are not allowed to drive, the coming years can meet the demands of change and accept the freedom of expressing. But will take a lot of time to accept this.
 
Being a staunch supporter of personal freedom, my opinion is that the local sharia laws have to cut loose the grip, ease the environment and make it welcoming. There was a time back in the 80s and 90s when the ladies in the Kingdom have to hide their hair and wear plain abayas. Now it has become a fashion and has nothing to do with the religion. Gender mixing is already seen in the public places. So the social environment is not to be confused with Islamic principles. You cannot judge on the basis of the dress if the lady is provoking and abusing her religion or if she is a Muslim or not. What about the mannequins in the shopping malls displaying much shorter dress than the one in this incident?
 
What happened in this incident was a silly display of show-off but this act will raise a lot of eyebrows on the Ifs and Why-Nots across the Kingdom.
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Al Wahba Crater

Being a globetrotter, there have been various trips I diary-milked your reading efforts. I have always felt blessing that the nature of being roady-piper became a source of understanding the secrets of marvelous sites in this kingdom which is by some range long remembered as dry and desert area. Reaching the altitudes or losing the grip down towards the surfaces made me realize that this Kingdom has advertising cards enough to send to the invitees around the world to treasure their experiences. With all the practice of longing the trips somehow, there was one trip which promised to give the unsharpened axe to hit my own head and butt. This trip was expected to be the mega-road-trip event within the kingdom covering almost a week but turned out to be the omen’s curse. Today I am sharing you a painful, embarrassing but a funny trip in six parts.

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This occurred in Mid-2014. Holy month of Ramadan was ending in July end and I requested almost 1-week internal vacations from my office on the last day and to my exuberance, the request was accepted. Google Map was the binocular of treasure-hunt and more than 35 sites were marked. Participants were approached and succeeded to take three of them.

There were four characters in this road trip:

  1. Gandalf – He had a vision, a road-trip map and stuck on it. Plans had been penned and God’s will was hoped for a peaceful trip.
  2. Alien – He was the first to be approached by Gandalf. He was the co-pilot of Shadowfax. (Old myth confirms, without their mutual understanding, trips wave in the clouds of daydreaming.)
  3. Caesar – This Roman cowboy had an unfinished business but he did join on a condition that he was to be allowed to complete his work. Approved!
  4. Deadpool – This unarmed sidekick had never experienced a road-trip. Teen by age and legal expat by document was making his traveling debut.

 E01 – AAAAAND FUN BEGINS

Gandalf had bought a new backpack from Jarir Bookstore. Alien assisted him. Deadpool had his packing done and by plan, the four creatures left Jeddah after final prayer of the day. As usual, things didn’t work and delayed in wait. The chosen Shadowfax was Hyundai Veloster 2014. All four left by midnight and ate dinner at Raheli station with Arabic rice & chicken dish ‘Matghoot’.

Petrol was filled and left for the first mark. The first mission was to reach Al Wahba Crater which is 367 km drive from Jeddah. But before this, the vehicle stopped at another station, this time for the sake of nature’s call. Deadpool had his embarrassment as he wasn’t used to of not using toilet seat. Toilet partitions were suspicious because few had no locks and water pressure in the hand shower was terribly low as compared to the residential units. Three travelers were done with the cleaning but Deadpool wasn’t coming out as he had his more frustrating adventure debut. The toilet unit he chose had no shower but a small bucket lol. Gandalf checked all the units and found the last one with the toilet seat lol. As Deadpool was washing his hands, he pointed at the unit and he took all his chance to that unit. The sidekick took time again and this time there was no water lol. It was just the beginning and left the station for Al Wahba Crater.

This Al Wahba crater is almost similar to Barringer Crater located in Arizona desert of the United States. Al Wahba Crater according to Wikipedia source is 250m (820ft) deep and 2km (1.2mi) in diameter. It is so deep that if you throw a stone from the top, you will listen its end in 6 seconds. There has been much speculation about the origin of crater. Many believed a meteorite hit the place. According to Wikipedia, many geologists agree that Al Wahba Crater is a Maar crater which is caused by a phreatomagnetic eruption. That is an explosion caused by groundwater coming into contact with hot lava or magma.

There was less but enough time to enjoy the site. The car was parked and stood on the top from where they can view the whitish surface of the base in the dark. All four travelers lied on the rug and focused on the falling stars. It was so exciting to look above the sleeping sky with millions and millions of stars and counting the one moving from its edge. Sun oped its eyes on the surface to bring beauty on the surface and time arrived to move the vehicle towards the spot where the hikers were to descend down.

Gandalf decided not to go down because he knew that once all climb back, then all will be dead exhausted and journey towards the next mark will become questionable. So he saved his energy and the rest descended down. It was a silence in the alfresco. After every 10 minutes, Gandalf used to check from the corner if he could view anyone’s feet touching the surface. In 20 minutes, he finally watched two small ants Caesar and Deadpool on the floor. Like I wrote above that the crater is 250m deep so the microscopic expectations are high from such altitude. Alien was exhausted and had told both the hikers to reach the surface by themselves as he will take rest. Was that rest going to ease his exhaustion? Here began an unexpected change of fortune.

E02 – MISS CALL FROM OMEN!

While lying in his shadowfax with the bags and snacks, Gandalf got a call from Deadpool and updated him that the Alien was in trouble and cannot climb. Before going down, Deadpool called him again informing that they somehow are trying to climb and reach. When they came back, they further informed that he had vomit and excreted loose motion. They had no remedy but Gandalf did know that by distance of 50kms, there is a general hospital in Mahad adh Dhahab. According to Wikipedia, this Mahad adh Dhahab is a gold mining area of Madinah province.

The driver tried his best to reach the spot asap and kept asking if he was feeling better. They reached the hospital and Caesar took him to emergency ward while Deadpool and Gandalf rushed towards the toilet to clear the hours-long unfinished business. Deadpool had finally used a comfortable toilet with a convincing hand shower lol since that stop before Wahbah. The alien informed the clinician that he has a history of lactose intolerance. He had his treatment for the next couple of hours and there was confusion over the ill state of the patient and time of recovery and all the landmarks they were planning to reach on this trip. There was a huge question mark and time was running. Mahad adh Dhahab was the next mark after Al Wahba Crater but from Mahad, they had to reach Al Shahanah Historical Tower in Ar Rass town in five hours by the time 4pm. But it was 12pm already.

Gandalf noticed there was a partition in emergency ward for each gender. Male and female ERs were separate by some distance and located in opposite directions. Surprisingly there was neither water in any dispenser nor tissues and water in the toilets near ERs. Plus, there were no chairs for the patient’s people in ER. So either they sit on his/her deathbed or stood firm staring hither and thither. There was a very old patient who wasn’t able to walk properly. He wasn’t provided a wheelchair; instead his son told him to sit nearby and didn’t help him sit!

Hours later, the doctor had passed him and allowed to take him with them. At this moment the travelers had mixed emotions. Caesar proposed the idea to return back as it was not safe to go ahead with not-fully-recovered Alien. But Gandalf argued that the next stopping is over 500kms from Mahad to Ar Rass, and when they reach the destiny, Alien will take all his rest and fully recover. With the series of useless arguments, they took the risk and the plan went ahead.

E03 – TIRANT & TIRANNY

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Shadowfax: First Blood

Within 10 minutes after leaving the hospital ad driving towards Ar-Rass, the vehicle suffered when one of the tires hit a huge pothole which further reduced the chances of reaching the landmark at time. Not only the tire was punctured but they had doubts over the rim. In the middle of the silent road and extreme sun-heat, the tire was replaced with the stepney small enough to limit the speed below 80kph. The new tire was the demand of the situation but more to the misery was that shadowfax had low-profile legs (17 inch rims) and availability of such leg in a small town was very low. It was 2pm already when most of the shops were closed at that time and if any shop by chance was open, they could not have arranged that particular tire.

Alien was dead sleeping, Caesar was sleepy but Deadpool was very dehydrated because the source of drinking water had also became an issue. This trip was becoming an unexpected curse as nothing was going right. After all these miseries, Gandalf changed his plan to reach Madinah instead of Ar Rass only if the low-profile tire is not found in the coming stations on the road. Caesar was insisting to abandon the trip and return back but he was convinced that the issue will be resolved in few moments. Gandalf crossed Mahad area, long broad road was inviting more exhaustion over patience as every next tire shop he checked, he found no such tire to restore the faith in completing this journey. Every time he stopped, he had to drop all the bags from the car boot to take out the dead tire to show and ask the worker if any life can be restored. And he got the same response that the new low profile tire had to be bought and won’t be possible to locate on the next stop. Finally, Gandalf made his mind to reach Madinah and buy a new tire.

All were dead slept and there was no sign of life during the destiny as the stepney-bound vehicle was driven at not more than 50kph to avoid further more obstacles and reach Madinah safely which was 200kms away.  The current scenario was exasperating Gandalf as the vehicle wasn’t able to gallop. All what he saw was a range of mountains stretched at lengths on both sides. All he could do was pray to Lord to avoid further curses and not to involve in any intrusion. With remaining distance dropping, the color of sky changed with the hailing darkness inviting the four retired veterans of hope to Madinah. Caesar woke up and witnessed the Holy Mosque. He forwarded his wish to visit the Holy Mosque but Gandalf refused to take him at the site due to the fact that the visit will cost hours and waking up early in the morning for the next destiny will become impossible due to reckless sleep in late hours.

After the tire recovered from a shop, the travelers quested a suitable hotel and found an acceptable shelter with only one room and a toilet. For Gandalf’s misery, the toilet had no lock but was bound to take bath while holding the door from one hand, embarrassing. The alien was taking a much proper rest and it raised Gandalf’s hope that his co-pilot will be all fit and on his legs by morning. For dinner, Gandalf and Caesar looked after a possible restaurant and to their huge surprise; there was a Pakistani restaurant open in late hours. The demanded food was getting prepared and took almost half an hour and while returning back; the pilot lost his way and took further half an hour. Indeed Gandalf had breathed an ill-fated day.

Before all fell asleep, Gandalf and Caesar restored their argument over hopeless future of lengthy trip. Caesar’s incomplete work had no ending as he was supposed to submit his work via internet that very night. He wanted to go an internet café nearby to finish the work but there was no such place. Then he decided to look for available flight seats, go airport and give up the trip. Somehow he postponed this decision. Yep that was Day 1.

E04 – GOOD MORNING BAD DREAM!

No special dreams were arranged for few hours as everyone woke up with best hopes and high spirits. Due to exhausting schedule and collapse of timing, Gandalf altered the plan and skipped the plan of driving towards ar-Rass town and Uyun al Jawa city which were the sites to be reached after Mahad adh Dhahab. His next stopping was Hail city which was landmarked on Gandalf’s original treasure-hunting map. Alien was still not fit and worried Caesar was still not confident to precede the next mark. Gandalf was determined with high hopes. They checked out from the hotel wearing backpack and bags in hand. Dropping from stairs of the hotel, Gandalf was informed that the condition of kidney patient had deteriorated again; I mean the new tire of vehicle had lost all the blown air. It was a major shock, sudden punch on the lurking face, start of another hopeless episode of lengthy trip and beginning of bad morning with uninvited curse.

The faces were dropped to meet a new low. They didn’t have enough money to checked-in the same hotel nor can they all sit in the car to increase chances of further problems in the vehicle. It was hardly 6 in the morning and to injure further expectations, it was Friday; so the chance of meeting a mechanic in an opened shop at this time was also very low. So the refugees took their bags out from the vehicle, and sat in the waiting area and let Gandalf drove the effected vehicle in hope to spot a mechanic in any part of the…. city.

Gandalf drove the vehicle hardly at 10kph. Embarrassment was that a lot of people were staring the vehicle and its driver. In fact some labor-class Pakistanis were smiling at his fate and whispering the case to the others. It was very awkward experience, in fact more annoying when he was at traffic signal and had to hark horns of crazy drivers behind despite the fact that he had turned on the hazard lights. He drove in this fashion for 20 minutes and to his surprise, he found a Pathan mechanic in one shop working on the other vehicle. Sigh of relief!

The mechanic’s verdict was dispiriting one and he declared the rim to be more problematic than the tire. He advised him to drive slow and safe but change the rim asap. Gandalf returned back to hotel to see sleepy faces. He was still positive to overturn the curse and proceed towards his plan. When they came to know he was still reluctant to return back, Caesar insisted to him to reconsider his courage.

Then the silent Alien, his best-man in all the trips, requested to drop him at bus station so that he will return back home and the rest may continue their journey. His illness had seized him to bring any positive intention for this trip. He had given up. This was the moment when Gandalf lost his edge and realized the highly promising trip is meeting its unfortunate conclusion. His determination met a severe low and dropped all the plans. It was finally concluded that they were collectively giving up the plan and returning home. Alien’s giving up was the only way to overturn his decision. It was a very sad but acceptable end of the trip. Taking a chance out of this concluded bad luck, Caesar humbly asked in soft tone if he could now let him visit Holy Mosque!!! He still refused and left Madinah city.

E05 – THE FASTEST SLOTH TO PENINSULA

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Shadowfax: Last Blood

The time was hardly 8 in the morning and the vehicle was driven at mere 40kph. It was a huge drop in speed to escape any remaining curses. The temperature was heating high and all were dead sleeping once again. It was a very ugly traveling debut of Deadpool who had toilet and dehydration issues the whole time. He had given miserable updates to his family at home during the whole trip and this time he had informed that they were returning back.

Distance between Madinah and Jeddah is roughly 450kms and the cars at normal speed reach the distance in 4 hours and 20 minutes. But in their case, the calculations and expectations were painful. Gandalf had to play his random songs to normalize his mood because he was still enraged of this terrible fate. Caesar was excited to return back and that excitement was infuriating him. So whatever random song he asked to keep it play, he tuned to the next song and behaved like a sheepish child. After some time he was back to normality because it was foolish to depict sadness on the concluded one.

Less than 100kms were left when the rim changed its mind again and decided to irritate the travelers by excreting air from the tire. It was noon and sun was above their heads on a highway full of running trucks. It was easily the unluckiest trip ever suffered and the stepney tire was fixed again. The vehicle in most part of the journey was at pace lower than the heavy vehicles but faster than any of Terrence Malick films. They finally reached home in almost 7 hours. More than half of the duration was taken in driving the vehicle at 40kph which forcibly turned into max 80kph later. Gandalf was physically done and dropped himself to bed with body ache. He was not in his senses and all his ears heard were from his father in the other room saying “Perhaps God had not accepted this plan”.

The remaining days of the short vacation were also spent mostly in pain as Gandalf suffered loose motions on long run. Perhaps he was lucky to return back on time to suffer this at home instead of the places he had never been too.

This unforgettable incident happened in 2014 but I began to write somewhere in Oct.2015 and is now finally completed by the end of July in 2016. I don’t know if I should thank the participants to make this trip unforgettable (for sad reasons) but I would like to apologize to them for rude behavior caused from the events full of misfortunes. The real identities of four characters I named in this blog will not be disclosed.

May you readers and travelers not face the obstacles and enjoy the trip with excitement, Amen.

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The Four Principle Characters of The Story

The place where I open my eyes… The place where my father was allowed to earn his livelihood, to bring his spouse and make his family…. The place where their people allowed to have my own national school and complete my education….

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The place where Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) was born… The place where Islam was born and the God’s message revealed… The place where earth’s two of the three holiest mosques Masjid al-Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi are protected by those who call themselves it’s custodians…

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The chosen nation whose chosen leaders not only serve their people but the entire Muslim brotherhood by providing you the best possible service in your Umrah and Hajj… Whose leaders invest billions and billions of dollars in holy mosque expansions to facilitate our prayers and worships…

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It has been 85 years when King Abdulaziz announced the country as a kingdom. There is no such example where the religion and its followers are served in that massive capacity with token of respect… And today we celebrate this day with love and respect…

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Saudi National Day 2013

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May God bless my Kingdom of Saudi Arabia….

May God bless my King, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ibn Abdulaziz al Saud

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