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!

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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.

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.

‘Hobbit House’ in Harris.

Eight years ago we took a chance and booked a week in a cottage on the Isle of Harris. We had been to Harris before but never really stopped very long to explore so thought we’d spend more time there to get to know the area better. I can’t imagine we expected to still be returning in 2013! We totally fell in love with, not just the island, but our cottage as well. For me it was definitely love at first sight! And once inside I was hooked and just didn’t want to leave. When we tried to book up for the next year we found we were not alone as it was already fully booked. Since then we get our Harris ‘fix’ every second summer and after this year’s visit we still haven’t had enough! Taigh Sheumas aka Hobbit House.
And here are a few inside images.The wood or peat burning stove for those to so warm days.Very comfy sofa to chill on and watch the world go by.Luxurious spa bath to soak away the aches after long walks!  Or ........:)Very comfortable bed adorned with  Harris tweed cushions:)
And outside this idyllic haven is a carpet of wild flowers called the machair.
Machair flowers surround the cottage.Even on the roof!
And just when you think you will never want to venture far from this heavenly place ……you see the enticing sands of Scarista stretching before you!Scarista beach.
Yes, Harris and Taigh Sheumas have lodged themselves firmly in our hearts and while others jet off in search of beach resorts in the sun, I have a feeling we will be taking the ferry to Harris for many years to come!

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.

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Evening view of the hotel pool.

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Watermelons for sale.

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

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Shop goods are commonly stacked up on the pavement.

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The remains of the ancient city, Ayla.

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Brewing up Turkish coffee for my husband.

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Sand bottle art is a popular tourist buy.

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Parasailing seemed popular this weekend.

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Enjoying a Lebanese mezze.

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

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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:)

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.

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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!

Cloudy skies, cool wind and university English language essay.

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The last few days have been cloudy with some sunny spells and a cool breeze which was a bit chilly if you weren’t in a sheltered place. In fact probably more the kind of weather you’d expect in cooler climes like UK – in the summer!
However, I haven’t had much time to worry too much about the weather as I’ve been trying to focus my thoughts on my next Open University assignment. I enjoy the study part but always seem to get myself into a panic when the deadline gets nearer and what I thought was going to be straightforward turns out to be a lot more demanding. It’s weird how it all sounds so perfect and logical in my head but as soon as I try to start writing it all my ideas become as solid as the clouds that have been in the sky this week!
Anyway, this essay is all about the way English is used in higher education around the world and it got me thinking – how many people writing and reading on this blog site are writing in English as a non-native language? And if they are do they also contribute to another blog site in their first language.
Certainly since starting this course about the place of English in the world today it has made me realise that as a first language English speaker some aspects and opportunities are easier for me but my life would be much richer if I was competent in another language as well. And more than this I am totally in awe of the thousands and thousands of people who every day are studying, working and living using English as a foreign language.