At the Border

After the 2 and a half hour drive to the border between Saudi Arabia and Jordan it’s always nice to be able to get out and stretch your legs while the paperwork gets sorted out. As a people watcher it’s always interesting to check out the other travellers. Usually it’s a mix of Saudis (often petrol running as petrol is so much dearer in Jordan ) lorry drivers and at certain times of the year teachers returning home to Egypt. This time we had the added interest of the Jeddah Chapter of the Harley Davidson Club. The downside was that motor bikes are not he norm to be crossing the border, plus there were about 12 of them, so their paperwork took ages and we were behind:(. This meant that instead of our usual 30 mins it took us an hour to clear both sides. The positive was I had some interesting photo ops to while away the time. Here are a few of my shots-





Sea Fever

I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide……wrote the poet John Mansfield in his poem Sea Fever. Maybe because my heritage and family have always been related to the sea after a few weeks of living in the desert I begin to crave the smell of the salty air in my lungs. On Wednesday I will get my ‘fix’ when we travel the 3 plus hours to Aqaba in Jordan. Although Jordan is also a Muslim country it is more liberal than Saudi Arabia which means – churches, alcohol, pork, women are allowed to drive and you don’t have to wear an abaya and cover your head.

Sitting on the balcony of the hotel in Aqaba I always think how fascinating it is to be looking over at Egypt and Israel -amazingly close but 2 countries I have yet to visit! One day- Inshallah as they say in this part if the world:)
Roll on Wednesday for a little r&r and hopefully a nice sea breeze as the forecast is for 44degs C!!

Fish in the desert?

Yesterday, I went exploring in the desert with some friends. It was a bit hot but the area we went to had lots of high rocks so we were able to find some good shady spots for our coffee and lunch stops- very important! 🙂

We hadn’t been to this exact area before so were pleased to find some new rock art panels, interesting rock formations and a purpose built water storage tank. Obviously, sited in an area that collected the runoff from the rocks, apart from a grid and a small access hole, it was completely covered in to prevent evaporation. We were delighted to see it was full of water. There was a hosepipe to remove water to fill a trough at the front- I should think to water animals and when we looked closely there were the expected mosquito larvae, some red thread worms and what we hadn’t expected some tiny fish!! Well that’s what they looked and swam like!

Small fish creatures in the water.

Quite a large lizard kept us entertained at lunchtime on the rocks nearby.

Tired of posing it makes its escape.

A wheatear feeding it chick with a tasty locust.
Talking of locusts- a few weeks ago there was talk of Saudi getting a plague of them – well on the drive back into town one area of road was covered in small yellow locusts hopping across the road. Many hadn’t made it and there were lots of yellow splodges on the road. Perhaps there won’t be quite the plague as they were predicting!
That’s the great thing about our trips in the desert- we just never know what we’ll see or find and no two trips are ever exactly the same:)


Today I took my class (yes , in my other life here I am a primary school teacher!) to see some spider webs in a garden near the school. For nearly 2 years we’ve had a spider web frame in our school garden and its failed to attract a single spider to spin a web for us to observe. One of the mothers knowing about this had noticed lots of webs in her neighbours garden so arranged for us to walk over and take a look.
Now although I am very keen on nature and encouraging a love of it into my class spiders just aren’t my thing- I tell a lie – there are one small jumping type that we get here that I think are quite cute and don’t fill me with panic like most if the others.

Our visit was very successful, I don’t think I showed any fear at all to the children! The only spider I saw was quite small and delicate and in fact I was so fascinated watching it wrap up its prey and then squirrel it off to its ‘spider cupboard’ to the back of the plant that I didn’t really think about feeling anxious at all.
Some of the children were a bit uncertain about getting close to the webs or spider but although I was happy for them to overcome their fear I was also keen that they remember that some of the spiders they may encounter may do them harm.

The red back spider is one of the spiders that is most likely to cause injury. Many have been found in people’s gardens and luckily no-one has been bitten. Interestingly, some of the children at school have been the ones to spot them and warn others- including some adults who were unaware of the danger lurking in their garden!
The infamous camel spider- which isn’t technically a true spider, aren’t that dangerous- they just look threatening, can be as big as a hand and totally freak me out! They’re nocturnal so unless I’m out in the garden after dark there’s little chance of an encounter, thankfully.

The dreaded camel spider!


20130522-234733.jpgthe cute little jumping spider.

The end is in sight!

Lovely sense of relief this evening as I’ve just submitted my 6th assignment for my Open University course:) If I had access to some alcohol I think I’d be having a wee tipple!

I now have 2 weeks to get the ‘biggie’ together. A mere 3000 words about bits of the course I haven’t covered in the 6 assignments- well I think that’s what it basically entails as I haven’t really read the question yet!
This last section included the topic of translation. Being only an English speaker myself I can’t really appreciate the extent that some things just don’t have the same meaning when translated, but there’s definitely something ‘Lost in Translation’ on this sign I saw at the local zoo!

With no alcohol to hand I’m going to celebrate the completion of my essay with some extra knitting time:) My new project is a pair of socks for my niece. Hoping she’s going to like the bright rainbow effect.


Socks for my Dad:)

Well They’re finished!:)

My Dad’s new socks.
The last thing I knitted for my Dad was a scarf, about 50 years ago, when I first learnt to knit. It was a long colourful thing in whatever wool scraps my mum had so it widened and narrowed depending on the thickness of the wool. Despite sounding pleased he never wore it so the next time my uncle came home from the Merchant Navy the scarf was recycled to him! I doubt he wore it but as he was away at sea for months on end my feelings didn’t get hurt in the same way! So 50 years later I wonder if my socks will be appreciated? If not maybe I’ll be doing the prince in Cinderella thing and trying to find someone with size 9 feet!

I used Regia 4ply wool for my Dad’s socks and loved the way the pattern evolved all by itself. I am now hooked on knitting socks and just have to decide who the next lucky recipient will be before I cast on the stitches.
I’ve also been checking out some other sock patterns on the Internet. Very inspiring and some will need a lot more concentration than this last pair but definitely a challenge I’m very keen to try:)

T.A.I.W! (Thank Allah it’s Wednesday)

It’s Wednesday and for many expats (and Saudis) it’s the end of the working week and a welcome couple of days off:) Saudi is one of the few Middle East countries that take Thursday and Friday as their weekend. Most other countries here take Friday and Saturday and there has been talk of Saudi changing too, but so far it doesn’t seem to be going to happen soon. In business terms this means that Saudi is out of line with companies and banks not just with Europe and U.S. but also with its neighbours which narrows the days that transactions can be done.
So what to do with 2 lovely, free days to oneself and one’s family?
That depends very much on where in Saudi you live and also what kind of people you are. In a city there are more opportunities for shopping and eating out- which seems to be a popular weekend activity for many.
Here in the smaller town of Tabuk a visit to town is still a popular activity and a bit of a necessity to stock up with food items. Not very exciting but teamed with a visit to a fast food outlet is a Thursday morning must for many people I know.

Venturing further afield a visit to the beach is a common weekend trip for families and divers. The Red Sea is about 2 hours drive away and many popular camping sites are dotted over a couple of hundred miles of the coast.
And then there’s my favourite- exploring the nearby desert. A lovely feeling just being at one with nature and enjoying the peaceful feeling I always seem to experience there.
However, this weekend there’s no trip for me- I have a university assignment due and I need to do some serious study- so my downtime will be watching a DVD and getting a takeaway from the compound restaurant.
Enjoy your weekend whenever it happens:)

My favourite place to be at the weekend.

Fast food street.

A plague of locusts.

A regular event in my childhood was the Sunday mornings spent at church and Sunday School. So before coming to the Middle East my idea of this part of the world was based on the impressions I had made from reading the Bible. Stories such as Joseph and his coat of many colours and John the Baptist’s time in the ‘wilderness’ were brought back into mind this last weekend when I took a trip in the nearby desert.
The area of massive rock structures, sand dunes, sparse trees and after the recent winter rain bushes and desert flowers has a certain beauty and wildness about it. Initially, it seems there is very little wildlife about, but if you take the time to stop and listen and watch it becomes apparent that you are not as alone as you thought. I have been amazed at the different birds we have spotted on different trips but one bird always seems to be about- the raven- friend to John the Baptist, bringing him food when he was alone in the wilderness and there was nothing for him to eat.
On the way home I spotted 2 birds of prey and we pulled off the road to get a closer look. However, something else caught my husband’s eye- the ground was alive with small hopping things! We stopped and were amazed to find they were hundreds of baby locusts! They were only about 1-2 cm. long and I imagine they had only hatched out and would technically be called ‘hoppers’.

A few weeks ago we had travelled 150km further south and while exploring the desert there had driven through a couple of swarms of yellow locusts – I’d never seen yellow ones before!

Soon after that I read in the newspaper that Saudi Arabia was to experience plagues of locusts after the recent rains.

However, unlike the Egyptians in the story of Joseph, many local people are happy for there to be an abundance of locusts. That is because locusts are regarded as a delicacy and can be found for sale in the market.
So, thousands of years after the events in the bible are supposed to have happened I find my local surroundings could still provide a backdrop to them which appears virtually unchanged by the passing of time.

It only rains on the good people!

There is a saying in UK and probably in other temperate countries that ‘the sun only shines on the righteous’! Here in Saudi Arabia the locals say that it ‘only rains on the good people’.
I arrived in Saudi in 1986 and it was a regular winter occurrence to have the most amazing thunder and lightning storms accompanied with torrential rain and water flowing in the wadis. Obviously, we were all living very wholesome lives! However, since then the winters became much drier and despite prayers for rain and some cloudy days not much precipitation occurred.
This last couple of weeks the weather forecast has sounded hopeful that we have seen the error of our ways and we waited with anticipation for the ‘heavens to open’ and give us some long awaited rain. The newspapers have been filled with reports of floods in areas north, south, east and west of us but not a spot fell in Tabuk! This afternoon it seemed like things were to change. The clouds built up, the sky darkened and a few rain spots became a heavy shower.

Alas, it didn’t last long and the sun soon came out again.
I suppose, us Tabukkies still have to reform our characters and to push to point further- I had just had my windows cleaned 2 hours before!