Sandstorm in Riyadh

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There are many times I feel like Saudi reminds me a lot of Vegas...in regards to the weather that is.  ;)  Two days ago we had some wicked winds.  (Vegas is known for its strong winds as well)  The difference between here and Vegas is that there is A LOT more sand here.  (and unfortunately it gets much hotter...sigh)  
Our home is situated where the wind whips through pretty good, but there isn't as much sand about.  Don't get me wrong, we have a nice coating of sand over everything in our yard and a couple of windows flew open wide enough to deposit sand all over the girl's bathroom.  Our friends have homes in areas that are a bit less developed and therefore more sand tends to fly around.  (lets just say hanging your clothes out to dry here can be a bit risky!)  
I knew the sandstorms here were pretty bad that day, but it was nothing compared to what Riyadh saw.
Check out the photos below...I don't know who took the pix.  They were emailed to my hubby at work.  As much as I love taking photos, I sure wouldn't have wanted to be front and center for this!
(boy am I thankful we're not living in the capital city!)



Saudi Grad Party

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I was lucky enough to get invited to a local Saudi girls' college grad party.  My friend is a teacher at the college here and she asked me to be her guest.  I was stoked...not everyone gets invited to Saudi get togethers.

Now, in case you're not up to par yet on Saudi parties...let me fill you in a bit:
Men and women do not mix.  Period.  Even at wedding receptions.  Women have their party and men have theirs.  No man will ever see these ladies uncovered...aside from their immediate family (fathers, brothers, sons, husbands)  You are also not allowed to take any photos of the ladies (unless you have permission and usually you don't.)  You'll see them taking photos of each other, but, well, they are all Saudi...me, not so much.    
Parties are a big deal here (you know, cause there is just so much to do) and most of the time they go all out.
I walked in to the room of the party and saw beautiful decorations.  Her theme was Tiffany's and she even had a three tired cake styled like Tiffany's boxes.  Pretty lights hung from the ceiling and light drapery along the walls.  But the highlight was seeing the ladies.

Now, these women walk around all day covered head to toe in flowing black cloth...perhaps, you'll glimpse their eyes.  So, when they have the chance to shed the black...well, they want to look their best...even if it is just for other women.  These girls had on a variety of fancy dresses of all different styles.  The 80's fashion scene seemed a pretty popular choice, including the haircuts.  I was told that high heels are something a bit new here (at least in Yanbu) and the girls did look a little wobbly on 3 and 4 inch platforms!  Hair and makeup were done to perfection.  (and consistently throughout the night hair and makeup were checked for said perfection.) 
A bonus of spending the majority of your life covered is that you end up with the most beautiful skin.  Most of the ladies had skin many women will shell out big bucks to achieve..and even then, they can't get close to the Saudi ladies.  (so, yeah, I was totally envious)

The invitation said to arrive around 9pm.  We thought we were late....getting there nearer to 9:30.  At 11pm ladies were still trickling in to the party.  There were chocolates on the table, some sweet-fruity drinks, and Arabian coffee.  The best part was watching the girls dancing.  (okay, yes, I got up too..but just for one song...dancing...not my thing)  It's nothing like you would see in the States.  Nothing like it...at...all.  I think the style of dancing seen in most clubs in the States would be considered extremely lewd here (and possibly banned).  These girls dance with a beautiful grace (okay, not all of them were perfect dancers, but the majority certainly were) It's similar to belly dancing, but softer...hips moving, little dips, arms and hands moving along with their bodies...all to Arabic music.  It was really fun to watch.  They did play a couple of American dance songs, but the rest were Middle Eastern.  At one point, the graduate left and came back making a grand entrance wearing her college robes and took pictures with friends and danced a few songs...proud of her accomplishment in school.

Later, a few of the girls had to leave early.  I know you shouldn't stare, but I couldn't help but watch as these girls (whom I just sat and watched dance and talk with friends) put the black back on.  
There they were in fancy dresses with hair and makeup done so pretty...and then...they were gone.  All I saw before me were eyes peering out under a mass of billowy black fabric.  So surreal.  

Around 12:30am I was pretty pooped.  (yeah, I know...old fart and all)  However, they hadn't even brought out the food yet!  Saudi's could hang in Vegas with no problem at all (of course, they never would, but that's not the point) There was a nice buffet of food laid out and I know that after dinner, there would be more dancing.  Parties usually go into the wee hours of the morning.  Maybe I'll stick around the next time.  ;)

They told me it was okay to snap a few pix of the decorations...just had my iPhone, but they turned out okay.  :)



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It's one of those things:  so close, yet oh so far...

Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. (population around 3.2 million people)  It is the port and gateway to the holy city of Mecca.  According to Wikipedia: "For over one thousand years, Jeddah has received millions of pilgrims of different ethnicities and backgrounds, from Africa,Central AsiaRussiaSoutheast AsiaEurope and the Middle East, some of whom remained and became residents of the city."  Therefore, "Jeddah is one of the most cosmopolitan, diverse, and tolerant of all Saudi Arabian cities, hosting expatriates from all over the world who have made Jeddah their home."  Jeddah has it's high end areas where you can find shops such as  Dolce & GabbanaGucciBurberryChanelGiorgio ArmaniVersaceMassimo Dutti, and Tod's.  Huge malls sporting all sorts of shops, jewelry stores, and indoor play areas.  Plus monster homes and villas (hidden behind large walls, of course...this is where Google Earth can be fun!)
It is a major city and therefore there are the good areas and the bad.  (when you see my photos, you'll have no trouble guessing which part of the city we were in at the time)  You'll find sub-standard housing, as well as struggling stores and restaurants. 
Jeddah is known for very heavy traffic and considering the extremely lax driving laws, well, a drive around town will cause white knuckles and multiple near heart attacks.  (I am still beyond amazed that there aren't accidents every 20 feet...seriously)

That being said, I'd still love to live in Jeddah.  See, Yanbu (our home) is a bit like small town USA.  We have one mall, two major grocery stores, and a couple of workout facilities.  I think I'd suffer through the perils of traffic just to have the variety of options available to those living in the big city.  The hardest part is that Jeddah is a good 3.5 to 4 hour drive...one way.  Back to my original statement...so close, yet so far away.  Making a trip to Jeddah a special event, not to mention it requires careful planning if you want to get any significant shopping done.  
Remember, the weekends here are Thursday and Friday.  Most people get a hotel room for the night so they don't have to make a 8 hour round trip drive in one day.  You can shop all day Thursday (minus the five times a day the store closes for prayer), but on Friday...nearly everything is closed until at least 4pm.  (or till they feel like opening up)  So, instead of a whole weekend of shopping your limited to basically one day...unless you want to drive back wicked late on Friday...which my working husband does not want to do.  (neither do my kids)  So, you factor in where you want to shop then add in the travel time between malls/stores (which can take anywhere from 30min to over and hour just to go a few miles.)  If you're lucky you'll be able to hit up Ikea and maybe a whole mall...maybe.  ;) 

All in all, it's a fun experience and I enjoy seeing all the sites while we are there.  These are just a few photos.  (you have to be careful taking pix here)  But I will try to get more as time goes on.  If you click on the slideshow, you can view each photo separately and see the captions where I have typed info about each pic.  :)
I apologize about the quality of some of the photos...moving car, windows, etc...


Well, this is a first...

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We went to Jeddah last weekend (more on that later...) and spent some time (okay a lot of time) at the Mall of Arabia.
Can you guess where in the mall this was taken?

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