2015- what will it bring?

Beautiful way to start the year:)

Beautiful way to start the year:)

10 months ago today I repatriated to the UK. It still doesn’t feel real and I don’t think a day goes by without thinking about Saudi in one way or another!

So now it’s time to definitely look forward more and less to the past. Here’s to new ventures and enjoying the freedom of retirement!

I hope you all have a 2015 filled with peace, joy and health.:)

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First signs of winter.

Living in the north of Saudi and 2000 feet above sea level we experience a few cold months usually from November through til March. This year, the temperature has stayed unseasonably high but now there is a definite chill in the air and signs of the approaching winter months are all around.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.


The mandarine oranges are ripening.

The mandarine oranges are ripening.


And in the downtown shops the traditional Arab coats, called Farwa, are on sale.
This year's range include some bright colours.

This year’s range include some bright colours.


I went with the intention of buying 1 to take home and ended up buying 2!
My bright Syrian farwa.

My bright Syrian farwa.


And the back view.image
And also from Syria a more conservative farwa.image
I doubt that I will ever wear them out and about in UK unless it’s to a fancy dress party but for summer evenings in the garden they will be great to keep any slight chills at bay:)
So how cold does it get in Tabuk? Today it was a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 19, but later in the week they’re forecasting 0 degrees! Time to put the sandals away for a few months I think!

Cross country to the canyon.

Using a Bedouin desert track we travelled from the Sharma road to the Duba road. I have no idea how long it would take driving non-stop but with all our stops it took us all day. It’s been a year since we travelled this route and whether it was because the weather was a bit overcast but it was like seeing some of the scenery for the first time, so I ended up taking lots of photos. Our first stop was at a huge cavern where I have placed a Geocache. The last people to search for it had been unable to find it so I wanted to check if it was still there. As soon as I got there I saw the problem- a Bedouin had decided to store some sacks of feed in the same place! Luckily, I could just reach the Geocache and rescue it. It is now in another hidey hole, close by.

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Coffee time.
From there we continued to an amazing rock art site. I believe these figures are representations of deities, but from which era I have no idea. I have found a lot of rock art in the area, but the workmanship of these is exquisite. I just wish I could find out more about them and the people who carved them.

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3 deities or the 3 spacemen as we affectionately call them!
Next we stopped at a large rock pinnacle attached to a huge rock massive. The view from the ‘saddle’ between the two was beautiful.

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We decided it was lunchtime so headed to another rock art site to have our picnic.

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We were just packing up when we had a very strange experience. A vehicle with 2 young Saudis came driving up to us. However, they didn’t get out to chat etc. but the passenger started taking photos and or video of us on his phone! As we started to drive away they pursued us with the passenger still standing up out of his doorway, taking photos!

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We now know how animals in safari situations feel!
‘Our friends’ headed off after a while and we continued our trip to the canyon, passing some amazing rock formations on the way.

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We named this one balloon rock, as one of our group flies a hot air balloon and reckoned it looked just like one.

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A striped tailed lizard.

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Desert apples.
And finally to the canyon!

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Another truly enjoyable trip which will be reminisced about when we leave Saudi in a few months.

My first visit to a mosque.

Last week I visited a mosque for the very first time. So what? Say any readers who don’t know my background, but I have been living in Saudi Arabia for 28 years and am never very far away from these places of worship. However, as a non-Moslem it is forbidden for me to enter a mosque here. Last week, I spent an interesting 6 days in Muscat, Oman and before I went there one of the must dos according to a few friends was to visit the Grand Mosque there.
We organised it as part of a city tour and were lucky to meet Abdullah, our charming and knowledgable Omani guide. He made us feel very relaxed, told us many interesting things, answered our questions and gave us space and time to enjoy the different venues. The mosque was, for me, of special interest. As a woman I had to be vey respectfully dressed and before leaving the car park Abdullah made sure my hair and neck were all covered by my scarves- it was at this point I thought how silly of me to have left my abaya in the car in Jordan as that would have made my dilemma of suitable attire a bit easier that morning. Anyway, it was an amazing experience and like some of the magnificent cathedrals I have visited in Britain and mainland Europe I felt very humbled and experienced a great sense of peace whilst walking around inside, both the woman’s hall and the much larger men’s hall.

20131109-223319.jpgthe inner courtyard and one of the 5 minarets.

20131109-223435.jpgmy shoes in the rack outside the men’s hall.

20131109-223542.jpgchandelier and stained glass window in the woman’s hall.

20131109-223728.jpgMe, suitably covered, with Abdullah.

20131109-223841.jpgthe magnificent chandelier inside the men’s hall.

20131109-224136.jpgKoran niche.
At the end of the visit we went to the hospitality area, where I met an extremely friendly and informative young woman called Marwa. We had a lovely chat over Arabic coffee, ginger tea and dates and at no time did I feel like she was trying to convert me! I would happily have stayed longer, but had to move on if we wanted to fit in a couple of other things before they closed at lunchtime. My first mosque was certainly no ordinary mosque but it will be long remembered just as much for the people who made the visit special rather than just the magnificent opulence and architecture.

Saudi Desert Trip.

Friday dawned with a perfect temperature for a desert trip. The area we are enjoying exploring is about 1 and a half hours drive away and although it’s a familiar route it’s always interesting to be on the lookout for birds of prey soaring over the desert or nearer to town see how various building projects have progressed since last time. Being the holy day in Saudi most people have the day off so there’s very little actually being done and until after the big prayer at noon not a lot of movement of people on the roads. This trip we turned off at a rocky outcrop which was covered with script. There were also a few petroglyphs and the writing looked Arabic but I haven’t had that confirmed by an Arabic speaker yet.

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From there we tried to navigate to a way point one of my husband’s associates at work had given him. It was supposed to be a really beautiful rockscape. However, we are not very good at staying focused and continually have to check out things on the way. Today we never actually got to the waypoint- we came very close, but the area was definitely worth another trip as the landscape was breathtaking.

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We found another spectacular arch.

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But for the first time in many trips we got a little stuck in soft sand:(

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I was still amazed at how green everything is in many places and found a spiky yellow seed pod that I’ve never noticed before.

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I can’t believe we were close to where we’ve been a few times before as everything looked so different and more impressive.
Of course I had to set up a couple of geocaches- one at the big arch and the other at the lovely spot we had lunch at.

20131022-123614.jpgWe are truly blessed to have this opportunity to experience such an amazing place.

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.

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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.
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One of my passions is finding some rock art. I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of good sites.

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

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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.

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

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