Return to the desert.

At last the weather has cooled down and we had no weekend commitments so it was time for a long overdue desert trip.
We headed to an area that we have explored quite a lot but its amazing how driving round a different rock or heading down a wadi the opposite way can result in some interesting finds or beautiful scenery.
As soon as we headed off the Tarmac road we noticed a bird of prey soaring above us. One of our friends has a powerful zoom lens so he took this shot.

We later identified it as an imperial eagle.
Soon after we found a secluded shady spot for coffee where we were entertained with the calls and aerobatics of at least 3 sooty falcons. Again I have to thank my friend for this photo.
One of my passions is finding some rock art. I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of good sites.


And of course there’s the camels! We still can’t resist a photo stop when we see a herd.

We were amazed to see how green some areas still were after the long hot summer. It certainly make you think that under the wadi there is still some moisture to be reached by the well adapted plants. We found this amazing plant growing up the rock face inthe spring and were interested to find that it was still as green now as then.

And of course I found somewhere to set up a Geocache- in fact I hid 2!

Roll on next weekend when we hope to get out again.

What will I do today?

As a teacher I am blessed with a lovely long 8 week holiday in the summer. Interestingly, that’s usually when others envy my job- at other times of the year they don’t want to know! My husband isn’t a teacher so he gets a lot less holidays which means that very often in the summer we will spend a month in UK and I will spend the other month chilling in the villa. I love the freedom this allows me to begin most days with the luxury of ‘what will I do today?’. One thing that I never get is bored, but I suppose I know that my time is limited and the school year will begin again and I will be once more back to fulfilling the National Curriculum and all the ‘paperwork’ that goes with the job.
So how have I filled my days so far?
I’m still hooked on knitting socks. My latest ‘victim’ is my brother, Billy. So far, all my sock knitting has been using Regia 4 ply and following the free pattern I received when I mass ordered a selection of wool awhile ago. I love looking at the wool I have and thinking about the person I am going to knit for. This is my choice for Billy:-

I usually knit while I’m watching T.V. which tends to be for about an hour in the evening, but as I’m on holiday I’ve been able to go to the Ladies’ craft morning on Mondays and this has given a boost to the speed in which the socks have grown:) it’s also to great to catch up with some of the other women in the community and meet some ladies who are relatively new and I would probably not have the same opportunity to meet when I’m working.
Normally, I wouldn’t regard myself as much of a baker but today I excelled myself by baking a banana and walnut cake and some Stilton and walnut scones.
The banana cake recipe was in the ‘Landlove’ magazine that I brought back with me from UK. It required 700g bananas and as I was weighing them out I began to think there had been a misprint as this seemed a LOT of banana to me! However, it seemed to turn out fine and tasted good.

After the sampling it got sliced up and put in the freezer- probably to be used on a couple of desert trips once the weather cools down next month.
I made the scones to use up some Laban (sour milk) that I had bought to make cheese scones at the weekend. I love cheese scones and usually buy some from a friend who makes them to sell in the compound community shop on Thursdays. However, she has gone on holiday so I thought I should give them a go. They turned out a bit thin but tasty and didn’t last long.

I also had some Stilton in the fridge so googled Stilton scones and found a few recipes. I used one from the UK magazine ‘Delicious’ which also added walnuts. It was interesting as instead of rolling and cutting out circles it said to roll the dough into a fat sausage shape and then slice it to make the individual scones. Again, mine didn’t rise much but as they’re just for my husband and me and they taste good I won’t worry too much about that. Perhaps I should ask my friend for some advice when she gets back, but then again it’s just so much easier to get her to make them!

So that was today- what will tomorrow bring? I have few ideas but when I wake up in the morning I know it’ll be my choice whatever I end up doing- how wonderful:)

Back in the Kingdom!

So after a lovely, busy, enjoyable month in Scotland I’m back in Saudi. Lucky for me I have a whole month to relax before school starts again:) so I’m anticipating some serious crafting, book reading and relaxing before that happens!
One month seems like a long holiday for those at home but it flies by and is usually a bit hectic as we always seem to try to pack 5 or 6 months activities into the time. I suppose that’s natural as we have a definite deadline for getting things done or they just don’t get done until the next time. This time we managed to catch up with a lot of friends and family which is always enjoyable. One of my old school friends I hadn’t seen for many years. She lives in the south of England and was up visiting her mother. She brought her son along, who is now 27 – I’m sure he was about 8 last time I saw him! Time certainly zooms past these days. I don’t know if its different for people in other parts of the country but I find that most of my family and friends especially those who went to university just don’t return home again unless they still have parents in the area. This means that the chances of meeting up with them are limited and many years can go by without seeing each other. Another reason I am so glad for – the love it or hate it- Facebook, as at least there is a bit more interaction with each other than the annual, hastily scrawled Christmas card.
When I left Saudi Ramadan had just begun. Now it is Eid holiday and party time for the local people for a few days. This means that my husband doesn’t have to go to work til Tuesday, which is nice to have some time to relax together after travelling back. It’s traditional to give chocolates at Eid and yesterday on the Saudia flight to Tabuk we were given these little boxes of chocolates:) such a lovely thing to do and I thought – now why doesn’t BA do that at Christmas? – or a choccie egg at Easter?

Now that I have a much more reliable Internet and a bit more time to myself I hope my blogging will get back on track again and there will probably be a lot of back tracking over my holiday. – please bear with me:)

Another week bites the dust!

It’s the weekend again in Saudi:) this week seems to have flown and now our lovely relaxing weekend in Aqaba seems ages ago. This week has seen a return to school and the dreaded report cards to write. My class is the biggest in the school so I have the marathon task of writing 11! Compared to being a teacher back in UK a dawdle but here I envy those with 6 or 7 children in their class.
Anyway before last weekend fades into the dim and distant past here are a few pics of ‘in and around’ Aqaba.

Evening view of the hotel pool.

Watermelons for sale.

Nets around the dates to stop the birds having a feast!

Shop goods are commonly stacked up on the pavement.

The remains of the ancient city, Ayla.

Brewing up Turkish coffee for my husband.

Sand bottle art is a popular tourist buy.

Parasailing seemed popular this weekend.

Enjoying a Lebanese mezze.

Camel on its way to the public beach to give ‘rides’.

Travelling to the ferry.
So and what of this weekend?
Finish my reports. Relax. Catch up with some knitting and reading for pleasure and on a sad note go to a ma’asalama party for a friend. (ie leaving party)
Enjoy your weekend whenever it comes:)

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.

New sock:)

Chuffed with completing my last pair of socks I’ve wasted no time in starting a new pair. The lucky recipient is to be my Dad. It’ll be 13 weeks till I’m next home so I hopefully won’t fall by the wayside like before. I’m actually finding the knitting process very relaxing and a great way to wind down my brain after the slog of study and writing university essays!

Escape to Jordan.

As a non-Muslim living in Saudi can be a bit restricted at times so it is thankful that only 3 hrs and a border crossing is the more relaxed beachside resort of Aqaba, Jordan. A few times a year we make the trip for a weekend of r&r i.e. a few alcohol drinks, some nice food and if I wasn’t a vegetarian that would not doubt include some pork products.

The first evening it’s just so lovely to sit on the balcony with a wee drink and watch the sun set over the Sinai. Aqaba is in an interesting locality with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all within view!

Although the hotel is a lovely place to spend the day lazing on the beach or by the pool we always take a walk uptown to check out the couple of food shops that tend to stock some imported goods that we often can't get in Tabuk. This time I also hoped to bag a new Geocache that had been set up in a very public park area in the centre of the town.

20130406-224055.jpgIt proved impossible to find as there were so many people in and around the water feature area and sitting on the benches eating and drinking late breakfast, early lunch or just snacks. Being the only non-Arabic people in the whole park we were a bit of a novelty and were well observed by everyone!


I love the sand bottle art that is so much a part of the tourist scene in Aqaba. It is quite skilful and although the coloured sand isn’t natural after visiting Petra and seeing the amazing range of colours in the rocks there it is quite believable that many of the colours could be found in nature.

In the evening we enjoyed a mezze style meal in the hotel Lebanese restaurant. It's ages since I had tabbouleh, moutable and stuffed vine leaves and they didn't disappoint sooooo yummy:)

After a stroll around it was getting a bit chilly so it was time to head back to the room and crash out after an enjoyable day.

Enterprising community!

Living on a compound in the north of Saudi Arabia means that I don’t have access to any of the facilities that might be available in bigger cities like Jeddah or Riyadh. Only a few wives have work visas as nursing and teaching tend to be the occupations that women can be employed to do. Other women who have talents that can be utilised by the community set up small private businesses and thank goodness as without them the community would be a poorer place to live.
Yesterday I enjoyed a very relaxing facial from one of the Thai wives, the day before a British woman pampered my feet with a pedicure and next week I will have a neck and back massage from a Philippina woman and my hair cut by a British woman. And then there is the food providers- 2 Thai ladies cook Thai and Chinese type meals, a Lebanese woman offers Arabic food, a Brit cooks chips and burgers at the weekend and many women bake cakes and savouries or make jams and pickles for sale in the compound shop.
Various talented arty women make handmade cards, take commissions for paintings and stained-glass and create stitched and knitted items for sale.
So, yes our community has much to be grateful to these women who make our lives a bit more like living in a small village than a soulless compound with few facilities:)

20130402-235113.jpgyummy spring rolls and delicious Thai curry for sale.

20130402-235400.jpggarden grown oranges that get turned into marmalade!

20130402-235501.jpggreen tomato chutney coming soon in the shop using home grown tomatoes.

90 minutes of bliss!

90 minutes- the time is takes to play a football match ….OR……. a fantastic top-to-toe body massage from the compound masseuse. I certainly know what I would choose. I had regularly had shoulder and back massages from Aeysha but today was my first body massage and it was truly fab-u-lous! She certainly found all my tense, knotted areas- some of which I was totally unaware of. I enjoy a firm massage and appreciate that this means a little pain from working on the very tight places and there were a few times I found myself resisting the pressure. But, despite this I felt sooo good all over…back, legs, arms, feet, shoulders, neck, head, tummy …each area felt renewed and much more relaxed than I can remember when. ……And did I mention the hot stones- a fantastic addition to the whole experience.
I’ m addicted and will be going back for more in a few weeks when Aesha returns from her 3 week holiday.