Welcome to Saudi...A first impression

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What do you think of when you hear the words Saudi Arabia?  Camels?  Tents?  Sand?  Women covered head to toe? Third world living?

Yeah, a lot of those thoughts were my own.  Luckily, before I moved, I was able to talk to some people currently living here and see their photos.  It really put my mind at ease a little.  I think as American's we know so very little about this country and only what we've heard from the news.  So what was Saudi like for me? 
(here are a just a few photos I've taken of our town, the Red Sea, and home...many more to come)

I was so anxious about moving here...even after talking with families who live here,  I was still so worried that I would do or say something wrong and offend someone.  
My first time on Saudi soil was in the Riyadh airport.  And, of course, the first thing you focus on are the Ladies in Black.  They are just fascinating...to me at least. :)  
We had to go through a couple of security check points to get to our next gate.  Men and women are separated and within an enclosed room, I was checked over with the wand (the girls too).  It seemed weird, but every time the ladies were very friendly and had big smiles for my girls.  :)  Then I would meet Matt on the other side and off we'd go.
We had a very long layover in Riyadh and I had the chance to really observe the people.  (I couldn't sleep)  I found a lot of the stereotypes I was told about just didn't exist.  I saw men and women holding hands.  I saw Saudi women (Ladies in Black) wearing sandals and their wrists would show a little.  I began to relax.  Even more so when I realized no one was staring at ME.  I wasn't offending anyone by not covering my hair or face, I didn't get any dirty looks, and everyone adored my children.  (more about that in a later post)

When we arrived in Jeddah, Matt had a car waiting to drive us (he was worried about being too tired for the 3 hour trip home)  I walked outside and saw.....SAND.  Miles and miles and miles.  My heart sank.  I immediately missed Cali more than anything.  We piled into the car and headed off.  I tried to stay awake, but it wasn't going to happen.  Besides, there really wasn't much to see...the drive between the two cities is like the drive between Vegas and California...miles of open land.  (Matt said they went through a couple of nasty dust storms and the girls saw some camels...)
As we approached our town,though, I perked up a bit.  I saw green trees!!  Yay!  To be honest, as you drive around the neighborhoods, you won't be overly impressed with the outer upkeep.  It's nothing like in the states where people have sprawling lawns and gardens.  At least, not that you can see from the street.  Almost all the homes are surrounded by high walls.  This way, women can be outside in their yards without having to wear an abaya.  So they could have a virtual paradise back there...who knows.  Our home is the same way.  So, you're initial impression is...well, okay, not so bad.  

We got settled into our house and then Matt took us out for a drive around the town.  He showed me the stores, our friends homes, and the local McDonald's and Pizza Hut (yes, we have those!).  Then we headed to the Red Sea.  All I can say is...Wow.  It's so beautiful.  Parks and grass and playgrounds all along a lovely boardwalk.  Palm trees swaying.  Just gorgeous.  So yeah, there are bits that look rundown and others that make your jaw drop (huge mansions)...but all in all, I like it.  

One other thing to mention about my first impression of Saudi...the driving.  Good lord...these guys are just nuts!  Not necessarily speed...though that can be a factor at times.  It's the sheer lack of respect for the laws of driving a car!  Matt says he doesn't even blink and eye now at the craziness.  It's pretty amazing...and I'm very thankful I brought the girls' car seats with me!  (and that Matt got a nice sized SUV for our family car)  Gotta be on your toes around here!  :)

My first impression of Saudi....it's no where near what I thought it would be.  It's better.  I like my house, I like where we live, and I'll just deal with the groceries and shopping.  Even wearing the abaya isn't so bad...kinda nice to just throw it on and head out!  No worries about matching, fit, if it's in style...yeah, it's not so bad.  (course, ask me that again come summer time and you make get an earful about wearing it...)  
Welcome to Saudi...it's good to be here.   


Lindsay RC Wilson

Next time you are driving (riding in a car) somewhere and you think of how crazy the driving is, imagine everyone is on a camel rather than in a Toyota Landcruiser. All of a sudden, the craziness makes a little more sense. I mean, what camel would bump into another one. It knows the other camel is there. I guess they haven't realized that Landcruisers can't think, and it wasn't that long ago they were all riding camels.

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